February 22, 2010
AUGUSTA---An active 29-year-old who works out every day at the gym, even on holidays, doesn't exactly fit the profile of men who suffer a heart attack. But that's exactly what happened to an Augusta father.
Ryan Paquette is an entrepreneur with everything to live for: a wife and two young kids. "Any time, any day, something can happen," he told News 12.
Last Thanksgiving in a Beech Island field, a heart attack stopped Ryan in his tracks. "You don't dream of these things at 29 years old."
It started while he was in the middle of his favorite sport, hog hunting. Ryan says a hog tried to escape by jumping in a pond. "I went chest deep in water, and I don't know if it was because of the cold weather, but I had a chest pain.”
The pain he was feeling got his attention. "I was coughing, never smoked in my life but I was hacking and coughing, and thought 'Goodness gracious, what in the world is going on?'"
Ryan went straight to University Hospital. Once there, doctors ordered several tests that determined Ryan's LAD artery was 100% blocked. It's a condition so deadly, it's referred to as a widowmaker. "I remember this to the day I die, the worst thing I've ever heard. She looked at me and said 'Honey, you've had a heart attack.'"
But why? "They said a lot of stress," Ryan said. "Working for yourself, being in business, I mean you are going to stay stressed."
Luckily for Ryan, he caught it in time, and a little piece of metal, a stint, saved his life. Doctors put the stint in his blocked artery, and after six days in ICU, Ryan was back home spending time with his eleven-month-old son Payne and daughter Wynsor, who's almost three.
"All the time I take deep breaths," Ryan said. "My main goal in all of this is make sure I’m old enough to raise my kids. Old enough to see them grow, and after that, if it's my time to go, it's my time to go."
To keep going, Paquette lost weight and goes to rehab a few days a week. Admittedly, he still works probably more than he should, and he still carves out time for his favorite hobby, hog hunting.
But he says he is taking more time to slow down, reminded of who and what really matters the most. "A lot of people live like there are a million tomorrows, but now I try taking it day by day," he said. "Just appreciating more."
Paquette wants to remind people not to ignore warning signs just because you think you don't fit the profile. No matter your age, or lack of family history, it could happen.
Ryan says his doctor told him that had he made it through the initial pain and had a beer after hunting as he'd planned, no matter if it was just one or more, the combination would have likely killed him that same day at just 29 years old.