My Story

David Matthews

Founder, HeartsFlow Healing

It’s the summer of 2007. My chest hurts every day. It doesn’t take much exertion to bring it on. The hospital’s not an option. I have no health insurance. Finally I manage to get the insurance and I head to the hospital. Badly blocked arteries! I'd suspected that. I’m a little scared. “Put in the stents”, I tell the doctor. He puts in one and says to come back in a month or so for another two.

What do I know? I assume this is my only option. The doctor doesn't offer any other choice. Besides, I am scared. I’ve already outlived my dad by several years. He had died from heart disease at forty- five years of age.

I'm determined never to go back to that hospital. So what if I have severe coronary artery disease, I wonder. There's got to be something other than falling into the clutches of medicine! Surgery! Suffering! And following further in my dad’s footsteps!

I seek and I find that something! So, without returning to have two more pieces of metal inserted into the arteries of my heart I find the way to end to my suffering.

- I lose over 60 pounds! I look better than I have for decades.

- I have more energy than I know what to do with.

- I am not taking any of the many medications I am prescribed.

- My blood work dramatically improves.

- My exercise is far more prolonged without suffering that deep chest pain.

- And most importantly...I'm not afraid. I'm in control of the disease that killed my father.

So several years pass. I feel good. I'm thinking I can return to some of my old habits and be just fine, though I know better . I’ll have a little of this and do a little of that...I gain a little weight and feel a little worse.

Then I’m sitting in a restaurant with my wife, my mother, and my brother when something happens...a big something!

My heart stops beating!

I calmly get up from the table and leave to sit quietly, alone, around the corner, unseen by my family. I don’t want them to see me like this. Everything feels lifeless in my chest. It gives me a strange sensation of calmness and quiet. Yet, I'm hoping my heartbeat starts back up. It does and I'm relieved. But before I stand and return to the table, it happens again...and then again. I get up and go outside and walk the strip mall sidewalk thinking a little exercise might cause my heart to keep beating. Little by little I get some confidence and return to the table and pretend all is well.

It happens again! My heart stops beating!

“Hey guys. I think I need to go to the hospital,” I say calmly.

“My heart’s not beating.”

It seems to me just moments pass and I’m in the emergency room. I'm in a bed with wires and needles and all that common stuff.

I’m still having these no heartbeat episodes. There must have been six nurses looking at the monitor. I calmly tell them, “my heart’s not beating, right?” They'd never seen this before. How was I so calm? Why wasn't I dead?

I don't understand why I wasn’t afraid. Years before, I had been very afraid. I had no idea I could do something about this mess I found myself in. I remain confident that, no matter what, I can resume lifestyle compliance and return to a safe place. I've developed a belief that as long as I'm still breathing I can keep healing.

To finish this part of my story...I get the other two stents and the doctors never figure out what caused my heart to stop beating. Other than a few episodes of arrhythmia, my heart keeps on beating. I think of that as a good thing.

But...the story doesn’t end there.

I'm still breathing. I decide to start healing again.

I quit hurting myself with bad choices. I get back on the path. I'll die another day, but not from heart disease. That would just be stupid. Instead, I'll just go to sleep and never wake up on my 120th birthday. That sounds good.

I leave the hospital with renewed resolve. There is such power in the path I, and so many others, are on. Again my body responds to the nurturing I give.

I decide to share my story and help others who find themselves sick from this disease. Besides, it's time I share my journey with some other folks. I start writing and planning and learning and deciding what steps to take. I know I'm here to benefit others and help them avoid some of the pitfalls I've fallen into.

I'm having doubts. I'm very strong willed but maintaining compliance day by day, month by month, year by year has been a challenge even for my amazing capabilities. (Just a little tongue-in-cheek. Please forgive me.)

I dream, and I imagine, and I so strongly want to help carry this message. However, life has a way of swallowing up one’s hopes and dreams, if even for just a little while. I apologize to myself and to all the many I could have benefitted through the years that have passed since I laid the framework for my offering of service. I really mean that! Surely, someone could have had their suffering eased through the hearing of my story and choosing to take control of the disease that is killing them. I am sorry for the delay.

But I am here now, and I am on fire. So...Hear me out! But first...

I have one more detour.

Decisive compliance...again several years. Again feeling great. Again, weaknesses return, even if in moderation. Moderation...That's important. More on that later.

I let myself down once again...

It’s Halloween night...I'm in a deep Halloween forest. It’s a little chilly. I’m walking along and my chest pain starts. Then it gets worse. I have to stop and I keep telling the people I'm with to keep going without me. They wouldn’t. I get to a haunted cemetery where this guy has a chain saw and is chasing people in the darkness and he has his eyes on me. I’m trying to rest under a tree being attacked by a guy with a chain saw while I’m having, what I later learned, was a heart attack! Both attacks sucked.

I eventually get the guy off me. By now, my family and friends have told the owners of the event about my problem. They get me in a golf cart and take me to a waiting ambulance. By then, I'm feeling better and just want to go home. The ambulance personnel want to take me to the hospital, but I refuse to let them. I tell them my wife will drive me there and I honor my word.

The hospital finds I had had a heart attack. The arteriogram shows the cardiologist that further stents would not be an option. The only thing they have to offer is to send me to another hospital and be sedated on a table, my rib cage cracked open, veins cut from my legs and sewn onto the arteries on my heart, stapled back together, and, if I lived, await my next cardiac episode.

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? This is the unnecessary fate of so many people.

I hadn't heard the expression "against medical advice". I heard it that day. I’m not normally stubborn. It's just that I know I simply have to get it right and keep getting it right. I know that if I allow the surgery, I would no longer expect myself to get it right. But I want to be of service to others in need of me and my experience. I will get it right. I leave the hospital, "against medical advice".

So, compliance is my getting it right, yet again. Remember, I mentioned moderation earlier. A chapter in one of my favorite books is titled, "Moderation Kills". Get rid of the idea of “everything in moderation.” Those of us with Coronary Artery Disease have severely damaged our endothelial cells. We simply cannot afford the luxury of "moderation."

Notice, I didn’t say that my arteries have “been damaged severely?”

I did this...

Not my father’s genes...

Not the environment...

I did this.

I am responsible! It’s up to me to fix it.

It’s been over three years since they wanted to carve me up. I lose the excess weight I had gained. Though the disease progressed during my “moderate” times, I again look good. I have limitless energy. And again...I do not live in fear. I said earlier...

I dream and I imagine and I so want to help carry this message. I am sorry for the delay. But I am here now, and I am on fire.

What exactly is it that I have returned to each time that brought with it a renewed confidence?

I invite you inside my world and the world of many others who recognize that the condition of coronary artery disease, though unchecked is indeed a vicious killer more deadly that all other chronic illnesses worldwide, is, as my mentor and greatest inspiration calls it, a paper tiger. It has no teeth and can be tamed regardless of severity.

The answer is really quite simple, though, as my story shows, can be quite the challenge, especially when walking the road alone. We need each other.