Bill Fitzpatrick, Haymarket Media’s senior producer of podcasts, is a 42-year-old married father of three, an award-winning audio engineer and a long-suffering fan of the New York Mets.
Starting in September 2022, Fitzpatrick begins experiencing acute chest pains that he tries to shrug off until he can’t any longer. Months go by without answers from his clinical team but the symptoms remain and escalate in nature.
While others ring in the New Year by popping champagne, Fitzpatrick is recovering from receiving a stent to address an artery that is 90% clogged.
Throughout 2023, Fitzpatrick manages a life-changing heart disease diagnosis and tries to reacclimate to a world he once knew.
MM+M, in conjunction with Cardiology Advisor, a Haymarket Media publication, presents Me and My Heart, a special four-part podcast series delving into Fitzpatrick’s turbulent patient journey, the persistence of heart disease and issues surrounding access to care in America.
Note: The MM+M Podcast uses speech-recognition software to generate transcripts, which may contain errors. Please use the transcript as a tool but check the corresponding audio before quoting the podcast.
To listen to the other episodes in this series, click here.
Read the full episode transcript here
The first of the I call them episodes because they happened a couple of times a day.
about 30 to 40 seconds each
It happened when I was sitting at my desk at home editing a podcast. I’m Marcus editor large and welcome to the mmm podcast. It was a strangest feeling I’ve ever had and I’ve had panic attacks before.
Bad panic attacks the type of panic attack that has sent me to the hospital.
This didn’t feel like a panic attack.
This wasn’t a panic attack.
It like there was someone’s hands spread wide open inside my chest pushing outwards towards the front of my body. What is that? It’s sort of paralyzed me momentarily.
Pausing my work with my hands coming up to my neck.
The pressure spreading out along my shoulders.
Up my throat.
Causing me to hunch over in a strange wave of uncomfortable pain for about 30 to 40 seconds.
Then it stopped.
venting heart disease early
Diagnosing it before it develops. The number one killer of men
and women in this country
hold it can cause locked on a race too in young men.
Well, I was lost in my thoughts of what the hell is this? What could it be
your guidelines? She should be receiving high-dose statins. We just need to make sure cholesterols under control arms back that told me that I know my body because I was having problems and nobody could find that he found freaking out knowing that I have.
I think when most people think about someone having a heart attack.
It’s an obese man who is smoking a cigar and eating a lot of steak and and just living the life that is headed down the wrong direction, but that’s not exactly the case.
Dr. Suzanne steinbaum
Preventative cardiologist and a national spokesperson for go read through the American Heart Association. Well, you’re about to hear is a four-part podcast series mmm’s first four reigned narrative podcast storytelling and we decided to go with something that hits close to home inspired by our podcast producer Bill Fitzpatrick’s patient Journey. We’re delving into heart disease from symptoms to diagnosis to living with the disease to raising the profile of a disease that affects millions of Americans on a daily basis.
Like Dr. Steinbaum said we have an image in our head of what heart disease looks like. However, it’s important to remember that millions of people suffer from heart disease including famous. People have been treated for it names that come to mind include Larry King Bill Clinton Elizabeth Taylor. Tony Braxton. The list goes on. It’s also important to remember that heart disease Remains the leading cause of death according to a report released by the American Heart Association last month still as they discussed in the report fewer than half of adult survey knew it was their biggest Health threat. That’s what this podcast in some small way is setting out to correct heart disease affects millions of people across the country and Bill Fitzpatrick is one of those stories
Was important for you the audience to get to know him better and understand how this all came to be.
That’s why bill is going to tell you his story in his own words from childhood to Young adulthood to Parenthood to those first symptoms and thatful day that landed him in the hospital. I’m Jack O’Brien digital editor at mmm.
Eminem in conjunction with Cardiology advisor a Haymarket media publication presents me and my heart.
my name is Bill Fitzpatrick. I am 42 years old and I am the senior producer of podcasts here at Haymarket media.
The parent company to MMM and Cardiology advisor among many others. I started here at this company on Valentine’s Day back in 2022.
And know my wife didn’t mind after six and a half years at Fox News and a crazy stressful yet extremely fun broadcasting career before that.
I grew up on Long Island in a town called Levittown the first ever mass produced Community developed after World War two small houses three bedrooms and I am the youngest of six kids. So we Brady bunched it up in that house three girls in one bedroom three boys in the other and Mom and Dad downstairs. It was crazy in that house. I actually as a grown up now.
I have no idea how the hell my parents did it. I have three little kids at home. Not six.
and it’s insane and sometimes I feel like I can’t handle it. So respect little too late, but respect to the parents that are parenting a half a dozen people out there and as a stereotypical long Islander, I’ve got an unhealthy love of Billy Joel the beach the New York Jets the New York Islanders and the New York Mets which explains my health problems, right? I am a former Smoker smoked cigarettes for about 15 years, I think but I haven’t picked one of those up in a long time. I quit about 12 years ago. I enjoy an adult beverage from time to time maybe even over enjoy and up until last year when this all happened. I was definitely a meat and potatoes person cheeseburgers sausage chicken steaks.
So I haven’t been the healthiest person in the world. I don’t think I’m that much different than anybody else at least before this.
was sitting at my desk on a beautiful September Day editing podcasts.
Nothing out of the ordinary when all of a sudden this strange pressure built in my chest. It really really overcame me.
I had to stop what I was doing and I felt this pressure pushing out of my chest across my shoulders and up to my neck.
Just pushing like nothing I’ve ever felt in my life.
And then after 30 or 40 seconds, it stopped.
and I was like
what the fuck was that?
And what did you think it was at that point? I mean right away.
thought it could have been a new form of panic attack.
Because I’ve had them sporadically for years since I’m in my late 20s.
I haven’t had anything to Extreme as of late, but
You know, it was a thought.
I also thought it could have been just from like the way I sit at my desk and we sit at our desks all day anybody that sits that at a desk, I’m sure has some sort of a back pain neck pain chest pain. So that was also a thought as well and the chair that I use isn’t even a real desk chair. I’m basically using a spare dining room table chair. So it’s this hard wood chair, so I thought it was that also and I didn’t really brush it off, but I was like, wow that was weird.
Kind of put it in the back of my mind and said, okay, it’s done moving on and then the day goes on and I’m sitting in my computer as we do all day editing podcasts.
Taking meetings and a few hours later. Another one happened. Was it worse?
Just as extreme.
But that second one. It was probably three hours later.
Freaked me out even more because I was like now this is really starting to make me nervous. Like what is this? Mmm
But even then I was like it could be anxiety if it happens more. I’ll go down that road and I’ll see what happens.
So it happened a third time that first day I was a little freaked out but I didn’t know what it was. I don’t automatically jump to
oh, maybe it could be my heart. I have no idea.
that happened for about three or four days three or four times a day where I was finally like
I probably should call my doctor because I don’t think this is normal.
I called my doctor my primary
care physician in the PA was the only one there.
I explained my symptoms to her and because it was chest related. She actually said don’t even bother coming in here if it’s your chest and possibly your heart go to the ER.
Just to make sure you’re not having a heart attack. So I hung up the phone and I mold it over. I was like man do I really want to go to the ER? But then of course, you know, like I was having the symptoms every few hours I was and it was happening for days.
So like I probably should do this. I probably should take a trip to the ER just to get checked out. How long could it take?
What was that experience? Like I assumed that your wife accompanied you or you just went alone? No,
I drove myself. Actually. I feel like not that I know what a heart attack feels like but I didn’t think I was having one. I wasn’t getting that arm pain that left arm pain and I wasn’t wasn’t like that.
I didn’t know what it was, but I didn’t think it was a heart attack. I told my wife I’m like listen, I’m having these symptoms and I don’t want to ignore them just in case I’m not trying to be over dramatic here, but I
Also, I just don’t want to ignore them. So I’m gonna go to the ER I’m gonna go get some blood work done. No biggie. I’ll be back in a few hours hang out with the kids. Love you.
She didn’t really know how to act it. It’s a weird situation like it’s a weird. It’s just a weird situation.
She knew I wasn’t overreacting and that I was concerned about the strange symptoms. So she was kind of like all right, do what you think you should do. I’ll be here. Call me when you get there.
I checked into the ER and because I told him I was having chest pressure. They pushed me right to the front of the line. They plugged me into the EKG take some X-rays and blood give me a strong dose of this disgusting medicine for heartburn just in case that’s what it was.
Put me in the hospital bed and I wait for the results.
And what was the waiting like it was just long and you know nurses coming into check on you the EKG looked. Okay. I was lost in my thoughts of what the hell is this? What could it be still having those episodes every I had an episode at least one time when I was at the hospital too and I the nurse was there too. She’s like you feel it was you feel like then I explained what it felt like but then you yeah, you just wait.
They bring you their Hospital tuna sandwich or chicken salad sandwich, and my wife life was FaceTime with my wife telling her I was okay.
And then they come back with the blood work and say the good news is you’re not having a heart attack. We don’t see any of the heart attack proteins in your blood the X-ray didn’t show anything either but an x-ray is not really gonna show enough anyway, so you’re not having a heart attack and then they just make you follow up with a cardiologist when you check out
so as far as you knew I didn’t have a heart attack, but I’m still having these things. I had it at the hospital.
No answers. No answers.
Getting a cardiologist appointment proved to be more difficult than I initially thought and why was it difficult? Because apparently they’re just all backed up especially at this practice it is that one of the top practices in, New York.
especially on Long Island
and they were just I couldn’t get an appointment until like
I think a month down the road.
That doesn’t sound like long but when you’re having symptoms of something I was like, what do you mean? I can’t and I got so nervous because it kept happening and happening. I had my my cardiologist appointment scheduled for a month down the road after this all went down that I called up. My primary care physician again was like, I’m still having these like, what do I do?
And he’s like you can make an appointment I guess but I can’t really do anything.
Which again is like what?
what are we doing here? I’m supposed to wait. So I just had to wait I went to the dot. I went to my primary care physician again. He’s like honestly, you’re EKG looks good. There’s nothing I can do. You have your cardiologist in a month? You’re just gonna you know.
And again, I’m sure it’s nothing. I’m sure you’re fine. Just go home and
All right, great.
See, do you just wait for a month had to I couldn’t do anything else. I could have gone to the ER game, but they wouldn’t have found anything. Anyway, yeah, so would have just been more nothing. So I had to wait
80% of the time heart disease is due to Major risk factors the American Heart Association, cause it the essential eight and it’s blood pressure cholesterol elevated sugars or diabetes being overweight or obese smoking sedentary lifestyle bad diet and the eighth one is sleep poor sleep.
We also have to talk about family history, which is a really relevant part of the story. So if you have a family history and any of these risk factors, your chance of developing heart disease goes up.
No you what’s up Dad?
what he is doing
getting ready to go out to BJ’s.
Wow. What an adventurous Friday.
We just need to go get some stuff.
It’s spelled. Oh no. Yeah, what’s up?
Did you ever have?
Symptoms like this when you were in your 40s
not in my forties. I didn’t have any problems till I was in my I guess mid-fifties
and that wasn’t even a blocked artery. Was it?
Well, I didn’t know if I had a blocked out of me or not, but I ended up with heart failure.
Where I couldn’t get my feet into my shoes because my feet all swelled up it took me about 20 minutes to get them on and then I went to work and work the whole day and Mom called the doctor because she thought it was crazy. I was going to work and when I came home we went to the doctor and the doctor said you’re going in the hospital.
And called call the head and had me go when I came here. I would start going to the VA and they did some tests and they said I had a blockage in the back of my heart that they couldn’t get to
had they fix it.
They didn’t they just give me medicine.
Is it still there?
Well, I doubt it. I had open heart surgery. They give me new plumbing and stuff.
Like gosh there’s a blockages you can’t get to
that’s what they said back then.
I went somewhere else after the VA because
I was having all kinds of problems and they couldn’t find it.
And then I went to Mom’s doctor because she had the cardiologist.
And they did a stress test on me and they saw something and they did the angiogram.
And I ended up with three steps.
In your 70s.
Yeah. Yeah three years ago, but six months later, then I ended up with open heart surgery. So distant sitting last long.
Month goes by I get to the cardiologist.
It’s my first time having a cardiologist. So, you know, you do the initial thing. They run all your vitals and he did the EKG. He listened to my symptoms. He was also a little bewildered about the symptoms that I was explaining to him. This guy. I really do like though. He seems like a very intelligent very good with patience cardiologists.
That’s why it kind of worried me. See I’m sure he’s very intelligent when I was explaining the symptoms. He’s like
those aren’t traditional symptoms of
But I would love to schedule a nuclear stress test.
and I have to warn you.
A lot of health insurance companies decline nuclear stress tests, but I’m going to put in for it. Anyway with your health insurance. We’ll see what happens. So he puts in for it.
Gets the client.
insurance company thinks that my EKGs looked good. The last ones that my primary care physician did and that I’m young and healthy enough. So I’m freaking out because I’m like, I just need to get a test now we’re into October. He’s going back and forth with the insurance company. I feel like everything is taking forever. Like all right. Well, I’m putting it for this test. Let me see what we can do and then there’s waiting and there’s still me having my pains while we wait.
There’s this test getting declined while I wait.
There’s him saying all right. Well, let’s schedule this test in the meantime. So I scheduled an exercise stress test, which I’ve had before. Yeah, when you run on the treadmill with the thing
as a patient, how do you not get nervous? You’ve got to get nervous. You’ve got to keep calling. You’ve got to keep pushing never stop calling. I don’t feel well. I don’t feel well if I got to go to the hospital, I’ll go you do whatever it takes to get the help you need.
Because sometimes it’s might be your doctor not understanding. Sometimes it’s the insurance company.
But it doesn’t matter who it is.
It’s all about you and it’s about you getting the help. You need speak up speak out and advocate for yourself.
So I scheduled exercise stress tests. Did the stress test God in my car and as I’m driving home from the stress test still sweating catching my breath. I get a phone call.
Hi William, I’m reading EKGs today and I came across yours and during rest. It looks abnormal.
Following the abnormal EKG results bill was scheduled for a
CAT scan. I never gotten that done before actually, it’s
a weird experience, isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s strange man. It’s not even like the claustrophobic. I didn’t realize that you get injected with whatever that contrast is and I’d never gotten that before I’m allergic to that contrast. Apparently. Oh they injected it in me, right?
And then they put you right in the machine and then as I’m in there I’m like, oh, why are my sinuses closing up right now and then my throat and tongue started to get itchy and I as soon as they pulled me out. I started sneezing uncontrollably.
So I sneezed about six or seven times in the nurse practitioner was like you okay?
Like I don’t know I’d like sneezing a lot right now.
And my tongue is itchy. Like oh my gosh, you might be allergic to the contrast. Can you breathe? Can you breathe my yeah, I can breathe. I’m fine.
So it was really just like an allergic like that type of an allergic reaction. So they just had to pump me up with some antihistamine what I didn’t realize though is that that allergic reaction would actually get worse later on as the any histamine wore off?
And as the contrast kept pumping through my veins.
So I drive home and get back to work and await the results, which I get about five hours. Later.
Seems as though you have an 80% blockage in one of your arteries. You have heart disease.
What everything is such a blur because he explained all that to me. And I I and I’m just like
my brain is going that way when he’s trying to talk to me. I’m like what is happening? So he explained all of it and as simple terms as he could
when you talk about it kind of going blur was it a blur of fear, was it that anxiety that obviously you’ve had your entire life. Yeah
was scary because it’s the heart.
And same thing would go for any other organ. I guess if somebody told me I had a kidney thing.
or a liver thing, but it’s the heart. I can’t have one heart as common as blocked arteries are at this point. I’m 41. I have a as far as I know an 80% blockage in an artery. I don’t know how deadly that could be. I don’t know.
Anything about stents. He he mentioned that on the phone too. We’re gonna have to probably put a stent in there. I don’t know anything really about any of it because I never had to worry about it even with a family of heart disease. It doesn’t really affect too many younger people in my immediate family grandfathers. Yes, maybe but that’s back in the 70s, you know 60s. My dad has a couple of
stents. He didn’t get until he was 72.
So you’re just thinking like maybe that’ll be something I have to deal with when I’m older exactly my grandfather.
Yeah, exactly. Now when I’m a 41 year old father of three young children under the age of seven.
So it was scary. Yeah, it was it made me nervous. I was shaking a little bit but also I found this out later I wasn’t just shaking because the nerves the allergic reaction to that contrast that was still within my body was actually causing the shakes. So shaking on top of it
on the same phone call Bill’s doctor had an urgent message for him. He had to schedule a cardiac cafeterization in two days time.
Crazy talk what the hell is happening?
Was there a concern that there would be other arteries that were clogged in addition to this one? He didn’t see any other issues on the CAT
scan for any other arteries. They all looked good but he needed to get into my heart just to make sure because the cat scan is good as it is.
You’re not in there. You’re not in the arteries. So then you have two days of like.
Knowing that this is coming. I can’t imagine that’s the easiest time.
No, it’s not and I was freaking out the night before my heart was racing really fast. I was taking my blood pressure. It was it was through the roof. I think it was all pretty much. I mean, I’m sure there was a little anxiety but it was all just mainly probably the allergic reaction to that contrast.
but then yeah like the next two days. I worked through it. I didn’t tell anybody at work yet. Why not? I didn’t tell anybody until like the day of I think I sent an email at to our boss here Steve Madden and and had him forward a long to human resources and whoever would need to know just because I knew I’d probably be out of commercial. I don’t know. I actually didn’t know what the hell the deal was. I didn’t know if I’d be out of commission or not.
Did you ever think like
I should just take the day or you know, or take the time like, you know, they’re people that I’m sure they’re people that are listening to this that any small inconvenience though.
take a day.
No, I wasn’t out of commission yet. I was freaking out a little bit.
But I I could get through what I had to get through. I caught up on some work. Actually that night that I got that diagnosis and was shaking a bit. I was upstairs on my computer finishing up work. I remember what it was too. I was doing voiceovers as well.
Freaking out one of our sister Brands if you listen back to the best of 2022 podcasts that we released the last week of December of 2022 those voiceovers and that podcast I had cut edited assembled produced and voice all freaking out knowing that I have a blockage in one of my arteries this week the pr week takes a look back at its best interviews of the year.
On the next episode of me and my heart in the face of increasingly severe symptoms Bill seeks emergency care and
brings us into a frantic Hospital scene and you see the stent in the image actually expand because it’s a balloon and then they pull the balloon out.
The burden of Health Care is so enormous that if we don’t become a preventative driven Society this treatment driven is not working at all. How can we get like that buy-in from a patient to
actually keep up with something if cardiovascular disease is something that’s really palpable until it is anxiety
people at covid no matter what age
Their risk of heart events clotting has gone up exponentially.
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