Heart attack a wakeup call for Boggs family
TAMPA - Eight minutes. That's all Debbie Boggs had left to live. What seemed to be a mild case of indigestion two weeks ago turned into a life-and-death drama for the wife of Hall of Fame baseball player Wade Boggs. One of the coronary arteries to the left side of her heart had become fully blocked. Her heart was under attack. Her heart was dying. She was dying. She didn't have a clue, though, because it didn't really hurt and she didn't know what to look for. Fortunately for her, a lot of other people did.There was a quick response from the emergency team, a rapid diagnosis in the emergency room at University Community Hospital, and a surgical team that knew immediately what to do. As she shook off the effects of the surgery to insert a stent in the artery to clear the blockage and restore normal blood flow to her heart, that's when the doctors told her. If she hadn't gotten help, she had eight minutes left to live. Think of the things that take about eight minutes. Boiling pasta for dinner, microwaving a couple of potatoes, or the first segment of a TV show before the commercial break all take about that long. Or eight minutes to save a life. All she had at first was mild discomfort across her chest, spreading to her arms. She didn't know what to make of it. She figured it was something she ate and took some Pepto-Bismol, then went to bed. The discomfort gradually turned to pain, but she still figured this was nothing. "My pain tolerance is extra high," she said. "I've had kidney stones six times." When Wade checked on her, he thought she looked extremely pale. She said she was feeling lightheaded and strange. "I told her, 'Hey, let's go get this checked out,'" Wade said. "I was thinking we'd go to the walk-in clinic or something. She said OK, but then she couldn't get up." Wade decided not to wait any longer and called 911. He described the symptoms to the operator, who told him to have Debbie chew four baby aspirin while the ambulance from Station 20 near Tampa Palms was on its way. It arrived in just a couple of minutes. One of the emergency responders applied an EKG strip to Debbie's arm to get a reading on her heart, then quickly slammed the machine shut. "It was maybe 15 seconds total," Debbie said. "They said, 'Let's go ... now!'" The ambulance lights were flashing as they sped to University Community Hospital; Wade and their daughter, Meaghan, followed behind. After just a minute or two in the emergency room, Debbie was rushed into surgery. Doctors determined she had complete blockage in one of the arteries leading to the left side of her heart. "They're wheeling her to the operating room and I'm just freaking out," Wade said. "I'm signing papers authorizing open-heart surgery or whatever else they needed to do." They worked a wire through her thigh up toward her heart and opened the blocked vessel with a stent. At age 54, Debbie Boggs had suffered a heart attack. "I just couldn't believe it," Wade said. "We go out, we work out, we go dancing, stay in shape, do all the things couples are supposed to do - then boom! Talk about a wakeup call ..." She has a family history of heart disease, so she has been extra diligent with her health. She exercises, swims, runs and has near-perfect cholesterol levels. She had high blood pressure but had been getting treatment. "People who know me know I'm good shape," she said. "We don't eat fast food or anything like that. It's chicken, fish, broccoli, that sort of thing every night. I guess I thought I was invincible." There was a small amount of damage to her heart, but doctors told her it shouldn't be a problem. The rest of her arteries checked out clear and everything else looks good, but she'll continue to have regular checkups. It doesn't take much time for things to change. Sometimes it just takes eight minutes. "It's still kind of foggy to me," she said. "It's scary as hell, but it's really simple. It still doesn't seem like I had a heart attack, but I did."