Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

February 28, 2014

Smith’s heart attack meant change in lifestyle

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Eddie Smith of Angus had his first heart attack in January at the age of 37.

At first, he feared he had a stomach virus, although their theories ranged from flu to food poisoning. It moved up the center of his breastbone, but he never felt the typical symptoms. No shortness of breath, chest pain or arm pain, just stomach cramping.

“I thought it was the beef jerky,” Smith joked.

After three days, though, he was reduced to laying curled up in a ball, so his wife Shanda forced him to go to the emergency room.

Twenty minutes and one EKG test after walking into the ER at Navarro Regional, Smith was in a helicopter headed for Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler where he had a stent put in the LAD artery.

He was out of surgery by the time Shanda arrived in her car.

“It was quick,” Eddie said. “The relief was instant.”

While it saved his life, Smith didn’t have health insurance. Self-employed, he and Shanda make and refurbish furniture which is primarily sold in Canton. He’s a former heavy-machine operator.

“That’s one reason I waited three days,” Smith said. “When you’re a small business, credit is so important.”

The medical bills for the emergency room, the surgery and the impromptu flight came to more than $75,000, and the bills continue because of the medication to keep him healthy.

“But I feel great,” Eddie said, smiling a little sheepishly. “It’s amazing how great I feel.”

Heart disease runs in the family, Smith said. One month before his heart attack, they buried his cousin who was 39 and died of a massive heart attack. Smith’s father had a heart attack the day after Eddie’s heart attack.

“It can happen at any age,” Eddie said.

The close call has also meant a change in lifestyle for the entire family. Eddie quit smoking, and he’s given up red meat and fried foods. Shanda has had to learn how to cook all over again, and their kids, aged 14 and 17, are getting a first-hand lesson in how to live healthier.

“We’re eating turkey and chicken, fish, vegetables and fruit,” Shanda said.

It was an adjustment for Eddie, he’ll admit.

“The doctor said ‘eat like a rabbit,’” Eddie said. “But (I said) ‘I’m a Texan.’ He said ‘You can eat fish,’ and I guess he saw something in my eye and he said ‘No fried catfish.’”

For the past 37 years, Smith has been playing Russian Roulette with his health, but no more, he said. “That’s the motivator when we’re having our cigarette moments — we’re too young.

“One of the worst things was everybody’s eyes when they came to visit,” Eddie said. “The fear in their eyes.”

Now, he walks every morning and the whole family’s in on the program to keep dad and themselves on the right path. Eddie said he always thought that he’d have to get in shape some day.

“With this heart attack, it brought ‘down the road’ to my face,” Eddie said. “It put a lot of stuff in perspective. I used to stress over little things but now you learn to let it roll off.”

A benefit to help the family with the medical bills will take place from 1 to 7 p.m. March 9 at the Remington featuring live music, and an auction. Donations of food, auction items and money are welcomed.

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “soundoff” to this article? Email: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com