Mike Cole, a construction worker from Estill County, suffered a heart attack in 2019. He is now using his experience to help educate others.
Cole said he lived his life like everyone else. He got up, went to work and then came home. He said that he didn't really watch what he ate.
Because of his high activity job of construction work, he was physically in good health.
But despite that, on Oct. 1, he passed out while at work. Cole explained, at the time, he shrugged it off and came home thinking he just needed to rest.
"My wife wouldn't hear it," Cole said. Both Cole's wife and his sister insisted he get checked out, so he went to the hospital. Cole explained they ran an electrocardiogram (EKG), and everything came back OK. However, when the blood work came back, the doctors knew something was wrong.
Tyler Arvin, an RN with Baptist Health in Richmond, worked on Cole's case and explained his troponin levels came back as elevated. Arvin said, when a patient presents like Cole did, without the EKG showing issues, the patient is taken to the catheterization (cath) lab.
Arvin explained the process of checking for blockages once the patient gets to the cath lab, saying the cardiac catheter is either placed in the wrist or the groin. The catheter then is directed to the heart, where it inserts dye so doctors can try to pinpoint the exact area where the clog has formed.
Cole said his clog, which was 90%, was in the area known as the widow maker -- an alternate name for one of the main arteries that leads to the heart. Arvin said, if that artery gets blocked, it can easily lead to death.
"The good lord was looking out for me," Cole said.
The doctors were able to find the blockage before it had done any real damage and were able to fix the issue. Arvin explained that often times, if the blockage isn't too severe or if there aren't too many blockages, doctors will put a stent into the artery, made out of cylinder mesh pieces, to help to expand the artery and let blood flow easier through it. If the blockage is severe enough, the patient is sent to the University of Kentucky for open heart surgery.
Arvin said one of the causes of clogged arteries is high cholesterol. He suggested that to try and lower one's cholesterol, they should eat less foods that are high in salt and lower fat foods. However, foods that are high in good fats are okay, such as fruits and vegetables.
Thankfully, Cole was able to be helped with a stent and did not have to undergo open heart surgery. Arvin said the healing process for stents either includes a pressure device, kind of like a watch, around the wrist where the catheter was inserted or a belt like pressure device around their groin. For Cole, the healing process was quick, and three weeks later he returned back to work.
Cole explained that it took him a little bit of time to bounce back, but he can now tell a difference in how he feels. He is trying to better watch what he eats so it doesn't happen again.
"I just need to live as long as I can to enjoy life," Cole said.