Jamall Petty feels like he’s gotten a second chance at life after a health scare which thankfully did not pan out to be a worst-case scenario – a heart attack. He was instead diagnosed with inflammation of the lining surrounding his heart.
Three weeks outside of his initial hospitalization, Petty, 43, said he’s feeling brand new.
“By the time I got out of the hospital there pretty much was no trace that anything was ever wrong with me. They told me that the treatment they gave me while they were taking a worst-case scenario in the event that I had a heart attack was the treatment they would give for inflammation, so by the time I got the last test it was like ‘Jamall you can go home’. Brand new!”
Inflammation can occur for any number of reasons.
Petty, who exercises, felt an uncomfortable pain in his chest three weeks ago which he chalked up to probably having over-lifted during a workout session. The pain lingered for approximately a week and he went through the gamut of excuses to explain it away which included something he ate, and even gas. He finally sought medical attention after the pain intensified.
From his symptoms, medical personnel told him it could be one of two things – he was either having or had had a heart attack, or it could be inflammation.
“I was like ‘heart attack?’ How does a person who eats relatively well, exercises, do all of these things … how do I have a heart attack?”
He was admitted into hospital where he stayed for a week being treated for the worst-case scenario, a heart attack, while also undergoing a battery of tests to rule it out.
“[The doctor] was saying to me that I would have to completely change my life and be a much healthier person. He said I had to eat very healthy, things I had to cut out and adjustments I had to make to my diet and life, because if I had a heart issue, I would have to be a healthier person if I was going to actually be able to live and have a good quality of life. Otherwise, I would have a worse problem. I said okay, I have to avoid junk food, canned food, red meats, high sodium, high-processed foods – all of that stuff that generally we know we shouldn’t bother with or have as much in our diet, but now I had to make a concerted effort just to preserve my life.”
A chef by profession, Petty said he was relieved when his diagnosis was inflammation and not a heart attack.
But it did not take his recent health scare to get him to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
A year ago, Petty had made the switch to a healthier approach to his life and adopted a mostly plant-based diet.
“I’d wanted to have a different kind of life. I wanted a healthier life. And I do practice very healthy living. So, when the doctor said that, it made me think – because I laid down in that [hospital] bed every single day feeling like I was in a prison. Because for a person who is used to always going … always doing stuff, to put me in a bed for days was like prison.” He could not fathom having to be bedridden at all.
“I felt like I actually got a second chance at life,” he said upon hearing his diagnosis.
Three weeks outside of his initial hospitalization he said he’s feeling brand new.
Not so lucky
With empathy, he recalled a young man who came into the hospital the same time as him experiencing the same symptoms, but who did not get the duplicate good news. Petty even shared a room with the patient, who he also said was in his 40s.
“When they were giving us the information as to what would be the next step for us, and what our results were looking like, this man was actually getting the exact opposite of everything that they were telling me. So, when they were telling me they would cut down on the blood thinners and everything they were giving me in the event I may have had a problem, they were increasing his dosage. When they came and told me my ultrasound came back and I didn’t have a heart attack, they went over to his bed and told him he did have a heart attack. The operation they said they might have to do with me, they were telling him they had to do with him, where they would have to go through the leg to run a tube up to the heart into which they would pump dye to determine which artery was clogged, and that’s before the surgery to open the artery, to put in a stent so the blood could flow properly.”
Petty recalled the second-hand trauma he endured hearing his roommate’s diagnosis.
“I was in the next bed reeling and bawling because I had to listen to what they were saying to him, and he’s calling around to his family members begging and asking if any of them could give him money for this surgery. Come to find out, everybody broke. He’s like ‘I can take every single cent that I have now and I still won’t have enough for this.’ What’s the other option?
“They’re telling him, ain’t no option. This is what you have to do. He’s like ‘I don’t have the money.’ I was in shock.”
While being thankful for his continued health, Petty said the experience has taught him that if you don’t have money, a person could probably die, and that the things that Bahamians have normalized in their diet is actually killing them.
“I heard so much more of these same kinds of stories while in there that it made me realize that Bahamians generally, from a diet perspective, we eat and we live very dysfunctionally. We allow ourselves to come to the precipice where we fall off, and try to climb our way back up. What they would have given me as instruction because they were in fear that I suffered the worst-case scenario is what actually should be normal.”
While he’s happy he recognized and made an intentional switch to be healthier months before his scare, his recent hospitalization he said has solidified for him the fact that people need to be intentional about the things they consume and how they treat their bodies.
“Unless we live intentionally with how we handle our bodies, all of us at some point would be daily almost like laying-a-way for what is the worst-case scenario, making small incremental deposits in our worst-case scenario,” he said.