As a Mexican American born and raised in the United States, I always wondered what the difference was between annual celebrations that took place on Cinco de Mayo versus September 16. Either way, one thing was for certain, there was going to be a party!
September 16, 2012, turned out to be a little different for me and members of S2C/Primal, during our 2.5 hour team ride in the outskirts of Murrieta, CA. The pace and hills are moderate in the La Cresta area, the weather was mild, yet for some reason I was experiencing a bad case of what I thought was heart burn. Having only had a bagel for breakfast, and none of my typical spicy food for dinner, I found it hard to believe that my “heart burn” could be so severe that I was would be having a hard time pedaling.
Minutes later I found myself on the side of the road, feet up on a large boulder, as I figured placing myself in a “shock” position would alleviate the pain which had now become more of a severe chest pain. Minutes later I felt better, got back on the bike, and like most of us would do, I chased until I caught the group again – lucky for me, they had stopped to tend to a fellow rider who had gotten stung by a bee!!
After a few jokes about me getting dropped, they noticed that my facial color was a little pale so one of my teammates decided to slow pedal back home with me (thanks Aaron). The hillsides of La Cresta make it difficult to make phone calls as cellular frequency is limited but I was finally able to call home and asked my wife to drive up the hills and find me, and that I would be pedaling towards her. However, and shortly after, I recognized that I was experiencing the symptoms related to having a heart attack: chest pain, severe chest pressure and a tingling sensation down my arms. Although I was refusing to believe I was having a heart attack those thoughts did cross my mind.
In a two hour span I went from being picked up on the side of the road by a good Samaritan, to being air lifted to Loma Linda Medical University Medical Center and two stents and a couple of days later, I was released to go home (thank you Loma Linda!). The doctors said I needed to “minimize stress, improve my eating habits (less chorizo and eggs), and ride my bicycle for health and fitness”.
Since that day, I have heard from and spoken to several accomplished and even national caliber cyclists in southern CA-many that I am sure you know. They too have had similar experiences, on a ride, with the same symptoms, with the same outcomes. But we are the lucky ones, I have also read about other cyclists, including professionals who unfortunately did not live to tell their story. A 100% blockage in my Left Anterior Descending (LAD) artery was the diagnosis (also known as the “widow maker”), and no they didn’t find a piece of carne asada clogging the artery, I actually am a pretty healthy eater and well within my weight range.
So…ride safe, eat well, enjoy life, do not stress about matters you cannot change and get your cholesterol levels checked regularly, especially if heart disease runs in your family.
A big thank you to SoCalCycling.com and Bayer. Months after my incident SoCalCycling.com introduced me to Bayer who was looking for a story and my commercial was born! Enjoy and please, take it easy on me at the races, I’m a heart attack victim! And regarding the Mexican Independence Day holiday, I did participate in the traditional “Grito” but it sounded more like “ay, ay, ay” and “hey guys, wait up for me!” Happy Father’s Day everyone!
By Ernie Sanchez – Ernie is a board member of Stage 2 Cyclery, the Tour de Murrieta which enters its 10th year anniversary and is also an owner of Stage 2 Cyclery bike shop in Murrieta.