When Larry Matthews of Robbinsdale was getting ready for work one morning in 2003, he experienced a cold sweat and a discomfort in his chest. He knew something wasn’t right.
His wife, Sue, rushed him to North Memorial Hospital and an electrocardiogram confirmed that he was having a heart attack at age 56.
Within a couple of minutes after being administered a dose of nitroglycerin for chest pain, Larry’s fingers and toes began to tingle and he passed out. Sue was ushered away from her husband. His heart had stopped.
“The people at North Memorial saved my life,” Larry said.
An angiogram found that one of the three main artery’s that supplied blood to Larry’s heart was blocked. The procedure is an X-ray test that uses a special dye and camera to take pictures of the blood flow in an artery or a vein.
“It bothered me at first to have a foreign body in my chest, but it keeps me alive,” Larry said.
The day he was set to be released from the hospital, Larry had a transient ischemic attack – a tiny stroke that doesn’t leave permanent damage.
A retired middle and high school counselor for District 281 as well as a retired U.S. Army Medical Service Corps colonel, Larry said he has always been comfortable talking about feelings and throughout his life has kept a series of journals.
The journals describing the pain and change he went through after his cardiac arrest and heart attack helped in creating a published memoir.
“Ninety-five percent of people whose hearts top don’t make it,” Larry said. “Since I was one of the five percent, I figured that maybe I should tell that story.”
“The Silent Heart” discusses the physical and emotional obstacles that Larry endured through his 10nmonths of recovery.
“A lot of people go through those similar things,” he said. “Depression is common. You realize when you have a chronic illness that can take your life, that can be depressing.
“I just assume there are a lot of commonalities with people that are going through life with heart disease. There aren’t a lot of books out there that deal with the personal and emotional feelings.”
Larry wrote the first chapter as an assignment for a class at Hamline University in St. Paul.
“It was well-received,” Larry said. “After this whole heart attack thing, the idea was bouncing around.”
He began writing the book in 2007, and after years of writing, looking for publishers and receiving rejection letters, Larry came across iUniverse, a self-publishing company.
“I didn’t know about the industry,” he said. “I got really tired of sending out sample chapters and said ‘I want to do this. I’m just going to pay the price.’”
“The Silent Heart” was published in 2012 and is available for purchase through iUniverse, Amazon and Barnes and Noble online.
“With a heart attack, a lot of guys don’t talk that language,” Larry said. “You have to be comfortable dealing with your own mortality. You have to figure out how you can change to live longer. There’s some self-examination that some people aren’t comfortable with, but also humor in the events.”
While writing his memoir, Larry had to revisit all of things that were going through his mind during recovery. He was also able to learn more about risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.
“For chronic diseases, all the preventative measures are the same,” he said. “Watch what you eat, have a healthy weight and physical activity and no smoking.”
The heart attack came as a surprise to Larry. He was a smoker, but that was his only risk factor.
“The last cigarette I had was the morning before the heart attack,” he said. “I now associate that with the pain and my heart stopping. If I want another heart attack, I just have to pick up a cigarette. I can increase my chances to live longer, that’s the conclusion. I would like to be around as long as possible and there are things I can do.”
Larry hopes that the book is a good resource for those who have dealt with a heart attack and cardiac arrest.
“I hope it’s good for people,” he said. “I hope they see it as a pathway to better living after a heart attack. You can’t guarantee your existence for any length of time, but you can come to grip with it. I would hope that a realization people get is that the decisions we make impacts how we live and how long we live.”
Contact Anna Woodwick at [email protected]