Young Houston man survives a widow-maker, shares life-saving info

A young man in Houston wants to share potentially life-saving information, after surviving a serious heart condition known as a "widow-maker". He urges everyone to seek help with any type of symptom.

Will began running years ago and training for marathons, because he thought it was a great way to stay in shape and would help fight concerns about his family history of heart disease.

"My father passed almost 23 years ago.  He passed when he was 51. I do have heart issues on both sides of my family," states 39-year-old Will.

Will was training for his fourth marathon when alarming symptoms started happening.

"I was having like a tightness in my chest, and I felt that my heartbeat was way too high for what I was doing. And I could barely run 100 yards before having to stop," says Will.


Instead of continuing that run, he raced to seek help from a cardiologist at Memorial Hermann.

"I found out that I had a major blockage and three of four arteries in my heart, some were up to 85-90% blocked. Because of my age, my body figured out a way to get the blood where it needed to go, and I literally had absolutely no idea. That was on a Monday and they said, you're not leaving this hospital, you're having surgery on Tuesday, and I was absolutely shocked," exclaims Will.

"The CT scan of the heart showed significant blood vessel disease. He was shocked when I informed him," says his cardiologist at Memorial Hermann, Dr. Jianwei Feng.

"One of the blockages that I had is called the widow-maker, and it's in the left ventricle, and they call it the widow-maker because if nobody is there to give you CPR, adios," says Will.

Typically open heart surgery would be needed to cure this, but Will was relieved his surgeon was able to place three stents through his femoral artery. Now he and his doctor want to make sure that everyone realizes family history can play a big role in this condition.

"Particularly if there is a family member who died or had a heart attack before the age of 55 for a man or woman before the age of 60. This is a significant risk factor we need to keep in mind, and even the very basic treadmill exercise that will prevent certain people from getting sudden cardiac death. It is an important message to send to the community," says Dr. Feng.


Dr. Feng also suggests to prevent heart disease, eat a healthy diet with few processed foods, know your blood pressure numbers, relieve stress, and exercise at least 45 minutes a day. In fact, he suggests we all think of exercise as medicine.

Will has this final advice: "If you have a weird feeling, don't put it off. Get it checked out. Don't be scared to go to the doctor," he says.

The most heart damage happens within a few hours after a heart attack, so seek help immediately with any type of heart symptom, including: discomfort in your chest, pain in your shoulders, neck, and jaw, sweating, nausea or vomiting, lightheadedness, feeling of doom, severe anxiety or confusion.

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