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Heart Scare Was Only a Warning for Vasquez

February 16, 1988|BILL BILLITER | Times Staff Writer

As a habitual distance runner, Orange County Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez is unusually attuned to the beat of his heart.

So the 33-year-old Vasquez knew something was seriously wrong Friday morning: "There I was in Disneyland with my wife and son--there oddly enough to get some relaxation--and my heart starts beating abnormally and just doesn't go back to normal. I've been a runner for 14 years, and I knew something was wrong."

Fortunately, the episode that led to Vasquez's being hospitalized for a possible heart attack turned out to be what he called a "health warning" and not a coronary or the onset of a lasting health problem, he said Monday.

"I'm doing fine now; I'm feeling much better," he said from his Mission Viejo home.

"I'll be back at work tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. I've had a whole lot of hospital tests, including a treadmill, and I've passed them all with flying colors. The bottom line is that there was no heart attack. There's no damage to my heart."

Nonetheless, Vasquez added, the episode was no false alarm. "My heartbeat was very abnormal, and it stayed that way from about 11 a.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday," he said.

By that time, he was in a special heart unit at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, where he had driven himself from Disneyland and had been admitted Friday afternoon.

Vasquez remained in the hospital a full day. "I left the hospital Saturday night about 7 o'clock," he said. "They told me to take it easy at home, and that's what I've been doing."

The hospital tests revealed no permanent health damage, and he does not have to take any medications, Vasquez said.

The apparent cause of his heartbeat irregularity "was many things," he added. "I'd been suffering with a chest cold. I'd had a week of high-paced activity. And then a cold drink I had at Disneyland seemed to set off a reaction--the abnormal heartbeat."

The one-time Orange police officer runs three to four miles at least three times a week. He immediately sensed the irregularity, he said: "My heartbeat felt like I'd just run four or five miles. And, you know, normally a runner's heartbeat goes back to normal after four or five minutes, but my heartbeat stayed fast."

Thinking a rest might help, Vasquez said he left his wife and son at the amusement park and went to the nearby Disneyland Hotel, where he checked into a room.

Lying down for a few hours did not lower his heartbeat, he said, "so I went back to my wife and son at Disneyland and told them I was going to drive to the hospital."

When doctors confirmed the irregular beat, they ordered him into the coronary unit, where he stayed until Saturday.

Vasquez has been involved in the fight over three building projects proposed in the county's 3rd District, which he represents.

Over strenuous objections of building contractors, Vasquez on Wednesday was able to swing a 3-2 vote of supervisors to delay the projects, which would add about 17,000 new homes. At the time, Vasquez said he wanted to be sure before a final vote that new roads could still be built to ease traffic for the pending new homes.

But on Monday, Vasquez would say only that the health problem occurred after he had let himself become generally worn down by work in recent weeks.

"It's been a lot of work," he said. "I'm a very intense person, the kind who's got to be doing something all the time. The (supervisor's) job is, for me, a seven-day-a-week job."

While he looks forward to returning to work today, Vasquez said the heart scare has taught him something. "I've been going at a pretty fast pace," he said. "The advice the doctors gave me was to get in some relaxation. . . . Learn to take it easy."

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