[SCA-Dance] How dancing saved my life

Animesh Karna animeshk at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 16 15:50:43 EST 2009

In early October, I underwent quintuple heart bypass surgery.  I was lucky in many ways.  The surgery went well and my subsequent recovery went very well (I was able to return to work after five weeks, for which I was thankful as sitting at home was driving me nuts).  If I had not had this surgery, one of the doctors speculated that within a year I would have had a heart attack.  Given the state of the blockages I likely would not have survived.

How did we catch this?  How did I know something was wrong?  Because of dancing.

I suffer from chronic lack-of-rhythm, and as such I didn't dance for a long time.  A few years ago, looking for an activity to share with my kids, I started dancing.  I am ever thankful that I found groups that didn't object to my two-left-feet!  One day, something clicked and I realized how much I was looking forward to dancing.  It is, indeed, possible to love dancing despite not being any good at it!

Last summer, I took part in a rather vigorous dance, and I needed to stop early because I was experiencing chest pains.  I downplayed this: I felt fine otherwise, after all.  I even went to Pennsic, where I managed (not deliberately) to avoid anything that moved too quickly.  I felt fine.  The chest pains were surely a fluke, I decided.  That September, I revisited the vigorous dance, and the chest pains returned.  I pushed a little more than I should, and I stopped when I realized I was feeling light-headed.  As I sat to catch my breath, I did a quick web search on my phone: what were the symptoms of a heart attack?

My doctor gave me a prescription for a stress test.  It took a half hour, and the doctor said that the results were abnormal.  Without a doubt, he said, I had blockages.  The next step was a heart catheterization, after which the doctor told me that I needed bypass surgery.  The surgery was a week later.

What still gets to me about all of this was that right up to the day of the surgery, I felt fine.  Even when I took the stress test and the doctor saw that my heart behavior was abnormal, I felt fine.  The ONLY time I felt any pain was when I danced, and even then ONLY when I danced vigorously.  They call heart disease a "silent killer" for good reason!  I have since become a "stress echo" evangelist, nagging everyone within ear-shot.

So, that was how dance saved my life.  

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