February 8, 2021
An avid outdoorsman and fitness enthusiast, 45-year-old Taft Love is the last person you would expect to have a heart attack. But last September, while hiking in mountains near Steamboat Springs, CO, Love started to experience “heartburn” followed by tension across his shoulders and a sharp pain in his left elbow.
He took an antacid and aspirin, hoping they would help him feel better.
“I thought I had eaten something that didn’t agree with me,” Love said.
As Love’s symptoms got worse, his buddies finally convinced him to get down the mountain and into town, to seek medical help.
Within a few minutes of entering the Steamboat Springs hospital, Love was hooked up to an EKG machine, which confirmed that he was having a heart attack.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Love said. “I thought it had to be something different. There was no way I was having a heart attack.”
Reality ‘Sets In’
Love moved to Cheyenne in the mid-1990s to compete on the Laramie County Community College rodeo team. He liked the area so much that he stayed.
Today, 26 years later, Love is married with three children. He owns several local businesses and serves as a trustee for Laramie County School District #2. Prior to his heart attack, Love also worked out several times a week and spent as much time as possible hiking, hunting and fishing in the region.
By all accounts, and given his active lifestyle, Love seemed to be a healthy 45-year-old.
At the Steamboat Springs hospital, Love was given several medications to help stabilize his condition and was then life-flighted to UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies (MCR) in Loveland.
Love remembers seeing his friends waiting outside for him as he was loaded on the helicopter.
“They were encouraging me and telling me they’d see me soon,” Love said.
During the flight, Love texted his wife and other family members to let them know about his condition and where he was headed.
Love said that as the flight continued and he had more time to think about what was happening, the reality and seriousness of his situation finally began to “set in.”
“It was so unreal,” he said.
At MCR three stents were placed in two of Love’s major coronary arteries to open complete or nearly complete blockages.
Due to a complication, Love spent seven days at MCR and then had to wait several weeks before undergoing additional cardiac catheterizations.
By late December nine stents had been placed in Love’s coronary arteries to open additional blockages, most of them at 100 percent.
“I was pretty plugged up,” Love said.
As to the why, Love noted that his condition may be due to a family history of heart problems. He had a grandfather who died from a heart attack at 65 years and a great uncle who died from a heart attack at 46 years.
Love said his doctors told him that his lifestyle is probably what saved his life: “They said it probably took 10 to 15 years for all those blockages to develop. They think that during that time I was also able to develop other minor blood vessels and extra blood flow to my heart due to being active and because I lived at a higher elevation. Otherwise I might not have survived.”
On the Road to Recovery
Today, Love is on the road to recovery. A vital part of that journey, he said, is taking part in Cheyenne Regional Medical Center’s cardiac rehabilitation program.
“I can’t say enough about the staff there,” Love said. “They watch out for you and make sure you are on the right path.”
Love said cardiac rehab has been a critical part of helping him move forward.
“After going through something like this, you don’t know if you can trust your body again,” Love said. “But in cardiac rehab, they are watching over you when you work out, so you can push yourself—but in a way that is appropriate and safe.”
With the recommendation of his cardiologist, Love plans to continue cardiac rehab for the foreseeable future.
“For me the most difficult thing has been the mental side,” he said. “When you have a heart attack, you feel betrayed by your body. Cardiac rehab is helping me regain physical strength and confidence in my body again.”
Not too long ago, Love’s cardiologist reassured him that his ejection fraction, a measurement that determines how effectively the heart is pumping, is back to normal.
“He told me that it was OK to get back to ‘being you’ again,” Love said. “That was a huge relief.”