How It All Started
I had an angina attack (blocked artery to the heart) that became severe and could have killed me. Here is my story of how it all began and how Georgie alerted me that I was having an attack.
I publish the HazletNews.com a website dedicated to helping not only those that live in my town, but to others who needed information on how to maintain their homes and garden. Each year I give away plants to neighbors from my garden and even offer my help when needed.
A young couple had purchased the house across the street from me and thought they could flip it and make some money. They had done some other flips and actually lost money on them. So this flip would be their last one. I could see they were making mistakes and decided to help them. You can read my article about neighbors helping neighbors.
They Ran Out Of Money
You see they were now low on funds for this renovation and it still needed a lot of work. I felt bad for them so I offered my help. There was still something missing from the front of their house. It was the shutters on their front windows. They had unpainted shutters so I volunteered to paint and install them.
I had already helped with landscaping their front and donated plants from my garden and the owner and I put together a nicely planted area to dress up the front of the house. In selling a house it has to have curb appeal. We worked for hours digging, planting and putting up the shutters which I did myself.
The Next Day I Started To Feel Worn Out
I just couldn’t get to sleep that night I was overtired. The next day I decided to mow my lawn because my lawn was also neglected.
Now the neighbors were going to be out-of-town and asked if I could mow their lawn while they were away, I agreed. I didn’t realize that the grass was almost 12″ high now and they had received a warning to cut it or they would be in violation of our township code.
Mowing Their Lawn
So once again, I went over to their property and started to weed wack their lawn. Because the weeds and grass were so high this was necessary the lawnmower would not be able to cut it. I then spent hours mowing the lawn and bagging all the cuttings. By the time I was done I was dehydrated and ready to pass out.
Bagging the cuttings in five 55 gallon plastic bags was a big job because each back was so heavy. I had to then dump these bags as well.
Tightness In My Chest
That night I started to feel a tightness in my chest, some shallow breathing and some aches, but never gave a thought that it might be a coronary issue. The next day still not feeling great, I called my doctor who was able to see me that day.
My EKG was OK, but he explained from the symptoms it could be a heart issue. He would treat me as an outpatient for now and send me for a chest x-ray. I made an appointment to see my cardiologist who could only see me the following week, nothing sooner.
The following day, Wednesday I wasn’t feeling well in the morning and called my wife at her office and asked her to come home and take me to the hospital. I did some searching on the web to see which was the best in our area for cardiology and Jersey Shore Medical Center came to the top.
I decided that the best hospital in our area was Jersey Shore, it had a full cardiology center that could do what was necessary.
On Our Way To Jersey Shore
I wasn’t feeling any real pain just a bit strange and drove to Jersey Shore Medical Center. At their Emergency Room, I explained that I was having chest pain. I had my doctor’s information and brought my EKG with me.
They advised me there would be a wait before anyone could see me, the ER was quite busy and it could be an hour or longer. We decided to wait. After an hour, they called me into the ER area.
They took another EKG and it didn’t show any issues, however, I am told they often won’t. An EKG won’t show how your heart is working under stress and won’t show a clogged artery.
We Waited 3 Hours For Treatment At Jersey Shore
We waited and after three hours, nothing was being done. They told me it might take another hour or longer before a doctor would see me. I decided not to wait and we left.
The hospital emergency room was overrun with patients and they couldn’t handle the load. They had drunks cursing and one was actually handcuffed to the gurney. It was a crazy house, similar to what you would see on television.
I thought I made the wrong decision going there. If I had listened to the advice of friends and called 911 I would have gone directly to Jersey Shore. If you arrive by ambulance they would have taken me in immediately.
Because I wasn’t having an attack at that time, I never thought to do this. Word to the wise..call 911 if you have the symptoms.
Out in the parking lot, I called the Monmouth Cardiology Associates and set up an appointment for the following day to see one of their doctors. Still feeling OK at this point.
I Might Be Having A Heart Attack – Georgie Alerts Me
We got home and my lawn was now late in the day and my lawn needed to be mowed. My wife had never cut the lawn, ever, in the 40 years, we have lived here. I told her it was time she learned in the event anything happened to me.
I began the lessons and walked with her around the lawn and emptied some of the bags in the garbage. We went into the house and I realized I was in trouble. I broke out in a cold sweat, I had tremendous pain in my chest and my back and my left arm.
Georgie Knew I Was In Trouble
Now on my chair in our den, Georgie started barking and was staring at me. He never did this before. He jumped up on my lap and started to lick my face. Again something he had never done before. He wouldn’t leave me alone.
He must have sensed something was wrong with me and his action, plus a call to a friend of mine, convinced me this was for real and I might be having a heart attack.
Racing To Bayshore Hospital
We felt it would be faster to drive over, it only takes 4 minutes and calling 911 would have taken longer. We pulled into the Ambulance door at the ER and I told my wife to get out and tell them “My husband is having a heart attack”
I got out of the car and into a wheelchair and then onto a gurney where they administered oxygen, took an EKG and into the emergency room.
Nurses, doctors, and staff were now taking care of me. Two IVs into my right hand, oxygen to my nose, wires all around my chest, meant to monitor my heart and a visit from Dr.Richards who stands in for my regular doctor when his patients go to the hospital.
Massive Angina Attack – The Widow Maker
The ER attending physician told me that my symptoms were typical for Angina. This is a heart condition when the heart doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood. It is usually a symptom of coronary heart disease and is the narrowing or blockage of the artery to the heart.
AT 11;30 PM I was finally moved to a room. I was fine in the ER. receiving the proper attention, but now in a room, they were able to stabilize me. During that night I was awakened every three hours as the IV’s delivered Heparin which is an anticoagulant so I wouldn’t experience any clotting that could lead to a stroke.
They drew blood a few times, monitored me carefully through the night. The team at Bayshore was the best I have seen in years. The attention I received was 5 stars all the way and I felt I had made the right choice. Of course, if Jersey Shore was on their game, this attack could have been prevented.
My Main Artery Was 99% Closed and Bleeding
The next morning I was told that there was a major blockage in my artery.
They said a cardiologist would do a cardiac catheterization. However, Bayshore Hospital couldn’t do the procedure nor insert a stent if necessary. Bayshore wasn’t licensed to do this procedure.
On To Riverview Medical Center
So now the plan was to move me to Riverview Hospital in Red Bank the next day by ambulance. However, if I needed surgery, that would be another problem since Riverview was not authorized to do any open heart surgery which might be necessary.
If I did need bypass surgery, then I would have to send me back to Jersey Shore. However, from all the tests they took, they felt that wouldn’t be the case.
Once again we were off in an ambulance to Hospital number 3, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank.
On arrival, their team was ready to prep me for the procedure. Then to the operating room where I was told I would receive a light anesthetic and I would be awake but wouldn’t feel any pain.
Intensive Care Unit
I awoke in the intensive care unit at Riverview and was greeted by their pleasant staff. My nurse and her assistant would take care of me through the night, administering necessary meds to thin my blood and make sure it didn’t clot.
Many people who go for this procedure go in as an outpatient and go home the same day, but I needed to stay because of my dire condition.
Cleared To Go Home
I was to be released the following day, a Saturday and my wife went to the pharmacy to get my meds that included blood thinners and other necessary medication
I realize now after speaking to friends and relatives that also have stents, some of them with 5 or 6, that I will be able to resume my normal activities in a short while, so I am happy I had this done.
Lose Weight If You Are Overweight
I learned a lot from this experience. Here are some of the things I have learned that I would like to pass on to my readers.
If your diet is full of carbs and fat and you are overweight, STOP and take control of what you are doing. You are headed for a heart issue, diabetes or worse.
Get Regular Blood Tests
Have your doctor run blood tests and see what your cholesterol and triglycerides are. If they are high, he will recommend a statin medication that will help control it and will also suggest a healthy diet and exercise.
My numbers were so good on my diet that my triglycerides came down from 280 in three months to 88. My doctor simply couldn’t believe it.
If you are on a statin medication, stay on it, even if your numbers are good. I was stupid and stopped taking mine and reverted to my old eating habits and I am sure that is why I had the blockage in my artery.
They are finding that these statin drugs are a great way to stop the build-up of plaque in your arteries and will also remove any that is there.
Follow The Doctors Orders
Follow your doctor’s orders. I loved my doctor, Dr. Lehaf, who passed away because he was tough with me and honest. I remember before I went on my diet he said to me in his accent “Leonard you are too fat”. You need to lose weight or I will start you on diabetes medication” That was my Ah-Ha-Moment.
He gave me a sheet of paper on one side it said Low triglyceride Diet, on the other side Low Cholesterol Diet. It didn’t really have a diet, but it did tell me what to avoid. No sugar and nothing white…easy to remember.
I cut out any foods that were white. Rice, potatoes, white bread of any kind and began to eat veggies and multigrain bread cut out beef and started to eat fish. Chicken and fish became my main protein source and I tried to get three meals in a day. I also got on our treadmill and did a brisk 30 minutes each day.
I Lost 40 Pounds
In three months I had dropped 25 pounds and I felt great. I visited Dr. Lehaf and when he turned around to see me he couldn’t believe it was me. He was so happy for me and congratulated me on my accomplishment.
He had never seen numbers like mine from my blood test and told me in all his years of practicing medicine he never saw the Triglyceride levels go down 200 points.
I kept on the diet and dropped another 20 pounds in three more months. Forty pounds in 6 months just cutting out certain foods. It really wasn’t hard to make the right choices even in restaurants either.
I had lost weight so fast that many people thought I was sick…you know Cancer. I had assured them it was just my diet. For three years I maintained a healthy weight and began to slip back into old habits.
So, back to my diet to lose weight again. I have maintained a healthy weight for a number of years now and promised myself never to let myself go back to those bad habits.
Exercise is important and I need to pay more attention to this part of my health. Walking on my treadmill daily and doing pushups each morning has helped me gain strength too.
Don’t Take Your Health For Granted
Try to take care of yourself. For me, I understand the importance of watching myself. Now that I am older and parts start to wear out, I do want to be around to not only enjoy my family and to continue my work at the International Press Association.
I know that not everyone will understand why I reach out to people and have always helped others when I could, it was just the way I was brought up. The “Hazlet News” my publication for the town I live in. I also write for our travel agency’s website Travel Pavilion so I am always busy.
I will continue to try to educate and advise my readers on how to improve their lives.
Georgie Saved My Life
Trained To Be My Service Dog
After this ordeal, I realized that Georgie had helped save my life. Over the next months, I worked with a trainer and did a lot of research on how to train Georgie properly as a service dog. It wasn’t that difficult because Georgie was already a certified therapy dog through the Monmouth County SPCA.
We would visit nursing homes and hospitals where he brought patients so much joy. So taking this next step with him was easy.
It didn’t take him long to know when I was going to have a medical emergency. You can see in some of my photos that Georgie is always looking at me and always with me.
Georgie Goes Everywhere
We now take Georgie everywhere we go. Restaurants, hotels, when I cover events at the convention center, parades, to the doctors and much more. He is well behaved, a truly kind and sweet dog and one that sleeps in our bed, and sits with me on my lounge chair as I watch television and as he watches me.
He keeps me company in my home office as I work on my articles for our publications and sits on the desk next to me and the window. We don’t go anywhere without Georgie. Everyone that sees him comments on how special he is. Now that he is my service dog, he does get a bit spoiled because he gets rewards on a regular basis.
I know that a service dog can also be a companion. Georgie is mine and is at my side 24/7. No one has ever refused to allow him into their establishments or at the many shows and events we attend. Costco even took a photo of me and Georgie for my Costco card and all the staff there yell out “Hi Georgie” when we go through the store.
More About Service Dogs
Some people think that all service dogs can’t be touched, it truly depends on the service they perform for their owners. We allow some, including children to pet Georgie when we are at some of the stores. This doesn’t mean he isn’t always alert to my needs, certainly no different than the times he has to go and pee or poop. A service dog for my condition doesn’t have to be on a constant watch.
Distracting a service dog from performing certain tasks for disabled individuals. A seeing-eye dog should not be distracted as well as others that are always “on the job”. In my situation, a small distraction will not stop Georgie from his mission to alert me if I am going to have a medical emergency. He is constantly watching me.
I Am Disabled
I am able to visit all U.S. National Parks at no cost. Georgie travels on airplanes and other public transportation with no issues at all.
Museums, restaurants, and all the events we cover all allow Georgie to accompany me and I have never been challenged. He is well behaved and is always welcome.
I hope I won’t have another heart failure in the future, but I know that Georgie will be there to alert me if I am about to have another medical emergency.
Some History….Army National Guard Officer At 19 Years Of Age
As I young man, I kept myself in good shape. At 19 I was a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army National Guard, during the Vietnam War.
As I aged I tried to maintain my weight and always had a battle doing it. So I do understand the challenges. Now that I am older, I realize the importance of doing so.
I Am Now 77 Years Old…Still Active
Some people tell me I don’t look my age. However, at 77 years of age, I am starting to feel my age.
Good genetics maybe. My father had heart disease for many years and lived with a pacemaker until his death at 93.
I have had a number of surgeries over the years, including 10 hand surgeries, arthroscopic knee surgery, cervical spine surgery, lower back surgery, and some others.
I Continue My Work
With my writing, photography, gardening, and other activities I try to do as much as I can to stay active. My wife and I still travel to visit new countries, get invited to inaugural cruises, visit museums, cover trade and consumer shows, parades, festivals. Our four online publications require fresh content so I am always busy.
Now I can continue to enjoy my friends, family, and wonderful grandchildren for many years to come. After all my father lived to 93, his sister passed at 100, so who knows, you may be reading my articles for years to come.
Georgie is known by thousands that have seen him on the internet
Georgie has become a bit of a celebrity as well. About 7 years ago we started to make our own fresh dog food called Georgie Meatloaf. Our article and videos now have just under 400,000 views and you can read our article and see our updated video on this website.
He has become a very popular little boy and everywhere we go people love to see him. They may not remember my name, but they all yell out “Hi Georgie”.
I hope this article helps to explain the importance of good health and the vital role a trained service dog can be.
Many people, as we have, can train a dog to become a service dog. It depends on the dog of course and your ability and knowledge. You may not need to hire a trainer, depending on the service he has to perform. There is a lot of information on the internet that will show you how.
With all the years of writing articles and doing research and my wonderful educational and business opportunities, I knew it was something we could do. I love Georgie and he loves me.