Joel King is a husband and a father of three children. His father died from a heart attack at age 55.
King was 56 when he had his own heart attack.
“Knowing the history of our family, it made me wonder if it was a heart attack coming on, but because it was different and not really painful, I knew something was wrong,” King said.
On March 5, 2017 King’s family business, Metro Golf Cars, was stationed in downtown Fort Worth Texas providing carts for a horse show the day before the Cowtown marathon. This marathon is a nonprofit program designed to help low-income children receive a pair of free shoes. However, King was not there to run. People lined the streets cheering on the runners and an emergency medical tent was prepared to help any injured athletes.
Around 7a.m. King felt a strange sensation. “Pressure on my chest, and my right hand started tingling,” he said. “After a couple minutes later, I started getting dizzy. My right elbow was achy also.”
At the time, King wasn’t sure what was happening and he even thought about lying down until the strange feeling passed. Fortunately for his family, he decided to step into the medical tent that was just several feet away from where he was working.
As King stepped into the medical tent he was greeted by Dr. Darrin D’Agostino, who works at Medical City Fort Worth as well as the UNT Health Science Center. After connecting King to an electrocardiogram machine, D’Agostino could tell immediately that King was having a heart attack. With this, it become a race to save King’s life.
Once King arrived at Medical City Fort Worth, he died. Dr. Keith Vasenius and nurses at the facility rushed to bring him back using defibrillator paddles, giving him a second chance at life.
King said he remembered a doctor standing above him when he regained consciousness. “I don’t remember much, but I do remember her saying that I had died.”
Dr. Alana Snyder was the attending medical director at Medical City Fort Worth.
Snyder said that had medical staff not been stationed at the marathon, things would have taken a very different turn. King suffered from what is called a “widowmaker” heart attack. This particular type of attack is almost always fatal.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 610,000 people die from heart disease each year.
Dr. Mustafa Ahmed, a cardiologist and director of Structural Heart Disease at Princeton- Baptist Hospital the heart attack becomes fatal when the main artery down the front of the heart is totally blocked or has a critical blockage, right at the beginning of the vessel.
This means if King had decided to lay down and let the strange feeling pass, his children would not have a father and his wife would not have a husband.
“If that artery is blocked right at the beginning of its course, then the whole artery after it goes down. This essentially means that the whole front wall of the heart goes down,” Dr. Ahmed said. “As far as heart attacks go, this is a big one, with big consequences if not dealt with appropriately.”
Now more than ever, King stressed the importance of maintaining a healthy heart. “If you eat healthy, stay active, and feel something that is different or strange, it would be good to get it checked out.”
Knowing heart attacks are genetically a part of King’s family history, he said he wants his children to stay healthy and aware as well as listen to what their bodies are telling them. King said the importance of exercise and eating the right foods was to preserve strength in your heart.
After recovering from his heart attack, King said it has forced him to put things into a different perspective and to adjust his previous way of life.
“I am eating a lower sodium diet and I exercise three days a week, cardio therapy,” he said. “I don’t have the stamina I used too, but I still have a fairly normal activity schedule.”
For the first time King was not at the Cowtown marathon to run.
His family joked around saying that next year King would actually be running in it. Now on February 24, with his family alongside him, King plans to walk the exact marathon that a year ago could have killed him.