Cheating the Widow Maker

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. ~Mark Twain


The Human Heart

The Left Anterior Descending Artery (LAD) is known as the Widow Maker. The artery has earned the nickname because heart attacks borne in this artery have a kill rate around 90%. Once the artery is full occluded (blocked),  the owner has about 5 minutes before a massive heart attack and what amounts to almost certain death.

When the Doctors went in to give me an angioplasty, they found my Widow Maker artery to be fully occluded. Most likely, it had been that way for the past couple of months. I lay there wondering why I was still breathing.

If I had to pinpoint the time when the reaper missed collecting my soul, I would say just after midnight on 25 December 2012. Ironically, I was passed over by death on the same day I celebrate the birth of the Christ child, the Savior that conquered death and opened eternal life to man, to me.

I was laying in my bed comfortably nestled in the arms of my girlfriend following a scrumptious fish dinner at Bob Chinn’s when I experienced a severe burning in my esophagus, a burning that would not relent as the milder burns had done in days previous. I jumped into the shower so the hot steam would relieve what I believed to be pain triggered by bronchitis/asthma and tabasco laden clam chowder soup. According to the Doctor, it was highly likely I was experiencing a heart attack.

Dad Fishing in Canada

Dad Fishing in Canada

For all practical purposes, I should be with my dad in Heaven fishing for monster pike , or making oak creations to decorate God’s kingdom while we talk and I brag about my children and the amazing adults they have grown into which is, in large part, to the loving guidance I received from him and my mom. Instead, I am musing on my heart, wondering why I was allowed to cheat the Widow Maker, to cheat death, to cheat the cruel bitch to which my grandfather succumbed in his 40s.

Unfortunately, this is not the end of the story. Death does not slink away never to be heard from again. Death played it’s first hand, and lost, but it’s a sure bet that Death will be lurking, seeking any opening to take advantage. My current goal is to ensure the tool Death uses is not the Widow Maker. I must now be ever vigilant, ever cognizant of my life style such that I don’t unknowingly succumb to the Widow Maker to fall for her alluring whispers hidden in bacon and fatty marbled filet mignon and rich pastries and so many of the other foods that I relish.

In short, I must undergo a life style transformation. I had a life practice that vegetables and fruit are what food (ex. Cows)  ate so I ate both food groups grudgingly generally as an afterthought. Now, I must make them a central component of my food repertoire.

I asked the Doctor why I was still alive when he talked to me after the procedure being that my artery was 100% occluded stopping blood flow. He said that it was because I have a history of exercise which created blood pathways around the occlusion. The body had created for itself an alternate means of transporting oxygen to my body. It was not nearly as efficient as the LAD but it was enough to prevent a massive heart attack.

Luckily, sport and exercise have been an aspect of life that I enjoyed. A couple of summers ago, I was riding my bicycle regularly and was fit enough to participate in a 100 mile ride. This past summer, I was still refereeing 90 minute soccer games.  During the past year, however, I became engrossed in my work so the fitness activities tapered off.  As much fun as I have at work, I need to schedule in fitness meetings with myself that get me out of the office and into the gym at least three days a week.

I would have loved to see my dad again. Still, I am not overly saddened by the delay because one day I will see him again and then it will be for eternity. In the mean time, there many people on Earth that I love and am not ready to leave behind.

My dad lived for more than twenty years after his quadruple bypass, twenty years during which he touched the lives of many as evidenced by the seemingly never ending stream of people paying their last respects at his wake.

The question before me now is; How will I honor my fellow man with this extraordinary gift of my remaining days?

29 comments on “Cheating the Widow Maker

  1. Also.. How will you honor God with this new lease on life that he gave you….


  2. I’m very thankful that this was not your time!


  3. […] heart surgery in less that a week. After the first surgery, I discovered that I had unwittingly cheated the Widow Maker despite my LAD (Lower Anterior Descending) heart artery being 100% blocked.  This occurred just […]


  4. […] few vegetables). Per doctors orders, I am now much more conscious of my portion sizes. The scare of cheating death undergoing heart surgery does wonders for one’s […]


  5. David, I am also now a proud member of the “I survived the Left Anterior Descending Artery WIDOW MAKER;s club” my surgery was Monday July 29th. I came home from the hospital Saturday August 3rd to begin my new journey. Your story reads Identical to mine … couldn’t figure out how I survived also other than the grace of god, and thank god, a history of exercise.


  6. […] the passing of Dan, the finiteness of my future was thrust into my face. The silent heart attack I had in the early morning hours of 25 December 2012 and the two heart surgeries I underwent the […]


  7. This is very interesting as I too also survived the widow maker with a 99% thrombotic occlusion that occurred in mid air. I flat lined no less than 5 times and survived with no permanent heart damage. I have a stent now and am on very minimal maintenance medications. The after effects of CPR (broken/cracked ribs) are more painful than the actual heart attack. I cheated death 5 times last Monday night with the help of many talented professionals.


    • Hats off to you! May you live a long a full life. 🙂


    • Dear Michael,

      My son Michael is in the Hospital today in Peoria, Illinois. He also survived the Widowmaker and also has cracked/broken ribs. He was “gone” for 21 minutes while the staff in the emergency room worked on him. My granddaughter drove him to the hospital early Thursday morning in full cardiac arrest. The Widowmaker happened after he arrived at the hospital. My granddaughter is only 17 and hasn’t had her DL that long. My son is only 44. I am so thankful he is alive. He is supposed to be released today. And my granddaughter is my hero.


  8. […] was supposed to leave in mid March. However, due to medical problems (two heart surgeries requiring four stents in late February and the first week of March) the trip had to be postponed by […]


  9. Im only 37 years old and just went through the same thing. 4days ago. I guess the excercise I get from being a mechanic wasn’t all bad. My dad at 56 just died of a sudden heart attack 2 years ago and his father (my grandfather) just last year. I can say I wish I had a warning but it was there. It doesn’t matter what your age is. Take care of your ticker or else…


  10. Wow David….Your story was well written and It is very close to my story of what happened to me this last Thursday night. I survived a LAD 100% occluded Widow maker. It was right at two hours full blocked. On the hour long ambulance ride and until the angioplasty/stint (blockage was so bad it pushed out the airbag three times) worked I focused on breathing and staying calm. I knew if I was still breathing I wasn’t dead. I am 51 and yours and my idea of eating are Identical….Oh yeah, I almost forgot I was in on Thursday and Went home Saturday afternoon…I was discharged directly from the ICU and not even on Hospice…..Thanks again for your story and letting me share mine….Andy Winningham Sr


  11. David it was amazing to hear this story. I am 52, and in July 2013 went through the same thing. My Dr. said that my heart had made it own bypass due to my LAD being 100% occluded. Funny thing is when I did exercise I felt the tightness, but when I stoped it went away. So the day I did expereince my heart attack, I simply got up out of a chair and felt like a eleaphant was sitting on top of me. I too tried to do something other then call to get help. Tried to walk it off, then sit taking in deep breaths. By the time I drove myself (dumb) to Emergency I was so light headed. Thank my luck stars everyday that I was able to come through this. Change in my liefstyle is a must. Now our job is to just stay happy, eat our fruits and veggies and live another 30 to 40 years!
    Thanks for you story.


    • Hi Jolene,

      I am glad to hear you are still with us.

      My food habits were fairly easy to change because I moved to India. Keeping up with an exercise routine is a bit more difficult for me.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to share your story.

      Good Luck to you! 🙂


  12. At age 63 I’m a member of the lad club and my story is so much like yours. I had a burning esophagus but I’d earned it by eating a half dozen slices of peppercorn bacon a few hours before. My indigestion finally subsided and I put off going to the doctor for 10 days. Terrible nightsweats and insomnia are what got me there. I exercise regularly and had mowed 2 acres, walked the dogs a mile and knocked out 75 sit-ups the day of my surgery

    My dr did an ekg in his office and I was on the operating table within 45 minutes with 100% blockage. The stent appears to have been successful although my cardiologist is concerned about a blood clot and I’m on 3 kinds of blood thinner right now, including lominox, which must be injected twice daily into my stomach. I’m also wearing a portable defibulator vest.

    Same story about diet but I’m a changed man now. God just wasn’t ready for me yet.


  13. David,
    I too have survived the widow maker.
    On June 7, 2014 I finally allowed my wife to drive me to the emergency room in a small town (pop. 3000) hospital near our fishing cottage. Not feeling well and experiencing chest pains I still felt that I could not be experiencing a heart attack since no one in my family ever had heart problems (arrogant huh?). Fortunately my wife drives extremely fast and the ER was able to restart my heart after 5 minutes of total blockage. I was then transported to University of Wisconsin Hospital which is 90 miles away. Flight for Life was unavailable due to in climate weather. On the way, I suffered another attack, but was again brought back to life by the EMT’s. At the hospital, the Cardiologist, Surgeon and my son were waiting for me where my son was encouraged because the EMT’s did not bring me out in a body bag and the doctors rushed me into surgery to install a stint.

    I am a man of faith and am extremely thankful to not only God, but all the hands that passed me on to survival. I am currently in the process of contacting all who treated me on that fateful day in order to thank them and let them know that because of their skill, faith and persistence, I am alive and rehabilitating with a focus on normalcy.

    Praise God and all those in the health profession.

    P.S. I constantly thank my wife who started the process by quick thinking and a lead foot.



  14. i too had a widow maker heart attack, burning & pain in both arms & both sides of upper chest. 5 days intensive care & walked out with sent & lots of persciptions! i was in pretty good shape & active which probably saved my life! that blood found a way around the artery until i went to the hospital, i am 60 yrs olf & havent done near in life i want which mainly peace & being stress free & finding myself & enjoying whatever i can.


  15. April of 2000 I turned into the driveway @ 4 PM. Got an unrelenting case of indigestion. No pain, no numbness. Could belch 20x & get some relief. Had heard at work that nitro tablets helped indigestion (?) & since I had some I took 1. It helped. So this was my routine from 4 PM until @ 5 AM. Indigestion, nitro tab, relief, etc. By 6 AM I felt okay so I went to work. Worked that day & the next, plus 1/2 day more. Went to cardiologist that afternoon. Can’t remember what, if any, tests were done, but I wound up in an ambulance heading to hospital in Atlanta. I had a stent put in some few yrs B4 this, but it was an old school one w/o any protective coating. My body rejected the stent by growing through & around it causing the Widowmaker blockage.
    I was lucky in many ways. Only had 1 bypass using the mammary artery. I have a heart w/ a 47% function. My new cardio says bypass grafts have a shelf life of @ 15 yrs. My research seems to bear that out, but hopefully the meds I’m on will prevent any need for further surgeries. In 2012 I had a bout of endocarditis which necessitated having my mitral valve repaired, using pig grafts, & the aortic valve replaced w/ a Ony-x artificial valve. So now I’m on Coumadin. I envy you lucky folks who can eat salads & green veggies. The process of trying to figure out how much of anything green I can eat & adjusting Coumadin mgs is just too much, so I avoid green things altogether. But you can see why neither my doctor nor I want to contemplate cracking my chest for the 3rd time. I’m celebrating my 69th b’day this weekend. Not bad for an old gal.
    So when I tell folks I’m giving things a half-hearted try I mean it. My standing joke is that I’m in good shape for the shape I’m in.
    I hope all of you continue to have good health!


  16. I too cheated the widow maker…had a 90% blockage.
    while playing soccer I Collapsed. My soccer mates were quick in the CPR process while the ambulance arrived.I have a stent placed and feel a lot better can’t wait to wear my boots.I had never felt any pain ,my cholesterol sugar and blood pressure had been normal.though heart disease runs in my family I was taken by surprise….lucky to be alive you can say…


  17. My widow maker, January 10, 2015, 100% blockage as well. But, God decided He could wait for me. For that, and many other things, I am grateful.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. My husband had the same thing (only at 99%) and a friend sent me a link to an article in the Journal if Cascukar Disease Management entitled Protandim® Found to Prevent a Process that Causes Blood Vessel Blockage in New Peer-Reviewed Study From The Ohio State University
    Luckily, he was already on this herbal supplement and his heart muscle was very strong, much bewildering the doctor
    If you’d like to know more about this if be happy to share
    Robin Tapp


  19. A few years ago at age 45 with two young children my widow maker became 95% blocked. I thought I had walking pneumonia. I couldn’t get a good breath. I went in for a chest x-ray and it was negative. An EKG revealed the real problem. The doctors were shocked during the subsequent heart cath because I was extremely fit. Fortunately, they were able to stent me. During those 20 frantic minutes after initial discovery and doctor freakout, I feel like I lived two lives. In fact, I got PTSD from the event which took about 6 weeks to diagnose. Three months later after and after a round of Prozac I was cured. During the heart event, I asked God for my health back. He asked for currency in exchange which he described as “small acts of compassion” in the future. Since then, I have been paying him back by treating my fellow humans in much this way. This whole episode was a significant life changing event for me.


  20. 7 Weeks ago death passed through me, decided it didnt want me yet, all due to a widowmaker, 3 main arteries blocked ( L A D 99%), no I am not the man I was, no where near, even with 3 stents, but owing to the local paramedics, police escorts, surgeons, nurses, ward staff tea lady and the rest of the guys in the band, I am still her to enjoy life, I am to them forever grateful for saving my life.


  21. […] most ever read blog, Cheating the Widow Maker, has reached 13002 since it was first posted in 2013. I don’t consider the writing much more […]


  22. […] more than most people my age. It is because I skirted death in 2013 thanks to four stents opening severely clogged arteries. My grandfather died in similar circumstances in the days before microsurgery and miraculous, […]


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