"Not Mike Holt!" Those words were echoed repeatedly when friends and colleagues learned of his sudden death on July 4, 2005. Further astonishment followed when it was discovered his cause of death was a massive heart attack. Mike was only 50 years old. He was a vegetarian, had normal blood pressure and cholesterol readings, was of average weight, and had no family history of heart disease. How could this have happened??
There were warning signs. Three months earlier, he had been running on the treadmill at the Fitness Center. Shortly into the run, he began experiencing classic heart distress symptoms: chest heaviness, shortness of breath, nausea, radiating pain down his arm. According to friends Don and Peggy Grigorenko, who witnessed the attack, his color was ashen and his lips were blue. They encouraged him to allow the rescue squad to be called, but true to his nature, he refused and shortly recovered. However, his wife would prove to be more persuasive and the next morning he was in the internal medicine physician's office. Both his blood pressure and EKG readings were normal. A stress test was scheduled for the next day at Kettering Hospital, which he passed with "flying colors". He was told he was "okay". Three months later he was gone, the victim of the "widowmaker", a massive occlusion of the left descending coronary artery.
While dwelling on regrets is not particularly helpful, there are things I wish we'd known and done differently. I can now only pass these warnings on to our much loved Cedarville University family. Not all heart blockages can be detected on thallium stress tests (most notably, the "widowmaker"). Perhaps if he had not been assured his heart was fine, Mike wouldn't have ignored subsequent symptoms, however subtle. Maybe the heartburn wasn't from too much Mexican food. Maybe the fatigue wasn't related to workload. Perhaps if we would have insisted on a cardiac catheterization or a referral immediately to a cardiologist, Mike would still be alive. Perhaps if we would have understood one can have an extremely low traditional risk profile and still have heart disease. The link between stress and heart damage is strong. Should those stress symptoms (headaches, insomnia,) have given us warning?
Mike loved teaching at Cedarville University. He genuinely cared for both his students and his colleagues. Even though we rest in the confidence he now abides with the Lord and Savior he so loved and served, we miss him and can't help but struggle with what we view as his premature death. It is my prayer his story may inform future choices you may make.