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Feb. 2007: I am recovering from emergency open heart surgery. I'll tell you more about the effects of cannabis on the after effects of a heart attack and update you on studies about cannabis and the heart soon. Thank you for your patience. Kay Lee

It's now June of 2009. I can tell you much more about heart disease and the after effects of surgery than I ever wanted to know.

Heart disease runs in my family. Three of my four grandparents died of it. My father suffered many heart attacks over the years from the age of 36, lived off Nitro, and died at the age of 79, a year after being partially paralyzed from a stroke. So I don't know why it never entered my mind that I, too, might one day suffer the same fate. I've always been pretty active and much more healthy than most folks my age. I hadn't seen the need to visit a doctor for maybe 15 years when, at the tender age of 62, it happened to me.

I lived in Atlanta but was visiting my daughter in Wisconsin at the time. I saw no forewarnings, but then I had no idea what the signs and symptoms of heart disease were. Even the day I felt my heart skipping beats all day long didn't warn me. When I woke up in the middle of the night with indigestion and nausea, I made my way to the bathroom and with a quickly growing pain throughout the trunk of my body, I sat on the toilet and had severe diarrhea while vomiting violently into the sink. I was sweating in a very different way, like my pores were wide open... Large droplets pouring from my face. I could taste and smell a chemical, and since I had been cleaning all day, I thought I had chemical poisoning, which I'd lived through before.

I don't know how long I was in the bathroom - a long time, because when I knew I was finished with the diarrhea and vomiting, I was so weak I had to think about getting back to bed. Finally I made it, dropped on the bed and immediately my legs began to spasm violently. Then I grew very chilled, finally I fell asleep.

When my daughter woke me the next day, I was so weak I couldn't stay away, let alone think about getting up. I kept thinking I'd regain my strength if I could just lay there and sleep long enough. But five days went by, my daughter grew more worried about me and above my protestations, called the hospital. They insisted I could have had a heart attack, I kept insisting I had a chemical reaction to the cleaning fluids. They finally talked me into coming to the emergency room where they determined without a doubt, I had had a major heart attack. In fact, my heart hadn't been beating for the last five days, but rather 'rolling' around in my chest. I could have died at any moment. When I described the chemical I smelled and tasted, they explained that when having a heart attack the body sets off certain chemicals and that some people can taste it. So I finally accepted I had indeed had a heart attack.

They did an angiogram during the middle of the night, during which I literally died. They revived me and early the next morning they took me into surgery, where they did a quadruple bypass, leaving a damaged valve alone because I was not in stable enough condition to risk more.

The healing was extremely slow.  Heart surgery is like the third hardest on the human body and it takes a long time to recover.  You can't breath well, lift your arms, and you experience strange and painful sensations, like doctors left tools inside you. After weeks of concern over these feelings, the doctor finally explained that it was nerve endings waking up. At the time, I'd have been happy if they had stayed 'asleep'. LOL

I did a few weeks in rehab, walking the treadmill and rowing the little boat thing, but it became boring, so I took up a wellness karate class. I wore the white, yellow and orange belt and earned a certificate for "Top Student" for diving in so soon after surgery.

Somewhere in that period of time, I developed pneumonia and the constant coughing ripped a hernia just below the long surgical scar down my chest. I wasn't smoking anything since the heart attack, but the coughing was really hurting me and keeping me from resting.  So, I checked with Dr. Grinspoon as to the danger of smoking Cannabis so soon after surgery.  He said Cannabis briefly raised blood pressure a very small degree and then leveled off. I figured that was what the exercise the doctors were pushing me to do accomplished, so I rolled a joint and took several very tiny puffs. Immediately, the mucus, nasal drip and draining down my throat quit. Everything dried up and I slept the first peaceful night's sleep I had had since surgery.

The doctors said my heart attack was due mostly to the amount of salt I used plus the tremendous amount of water I drank to quench the thirst the salt left me with. I've altered my diet a bit, less salt, no trans fat (soft butter instead of stick) etc.  I use too many prescribed meds and of course, my Cannabis.  The average life-span after such surgery is 5 years.  I'm heading into my third year and doing quite well for a person who already died once already.  I'm still alive and kicking and, other than shortness of breath with little physical activity, I feel pretty darn good these days.

With the baby boomers coming through, there's lots of heart disease out there, so that's why I went searching for research on the subject to share with you.  Pay attention to your heart.  You sometimes don't get a second chance.  Kay Lee


Marijuana Chemical Fights Hardened Arteries

The endogenous cardiac cannabinoid system: a new protective mechanism

Cardiovascular pharmacology of cannabinoids.

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol protects cardiac cells from hypoxia

Does Cannabis Hold the Key to Treating Cardiometabolic Disease? (may need free registration)

Cannabinoid Offers Cardioprotection

Heavy Cannabis Use Not Independently Associated With Cardiovascular Risks

Marijuana use, diet, body mass index, and cardiovascular risk factors (may need free registration)

Cannabinoids and cardiovascular disease

Cannabinoids as therapeutic agents in cardiovascular disease

The in vitro and in vivo cardiovascular effects of {Delta}9-tetrahydrocannabinol

Cannabinoids prevented the development of heart failure in animal study

Cannabis use not associated with risk factors for diseases of heart and circulation

THC protects heart cells in the case of lowered oxygen supply

Medical marijuana: study shows that THC slows atherosclerosis

Cardiovascular Effects of Cannabis

Changes in middle cerebral artery velocity after marijuana

Cannabidiol protects against myocardial ischemic reperfusion injury.

Function of cannabinoids in heart failure]

EMAIL  Kay Lee

Kay Lee's Cannabis Research