Friday, October 30, 2009

The Nature of Mac Tonnies Health Problems

I picked this up from the comments on Posthuman Blues and I thought I would repost it here so you don't have to scroll down the thread.

Posted by Intense
In an attempt at trying to help relieve concerns and answer some of the perplexing questions that have come up regarding how or what Mac died from, I should note, having spoken earlier this week to his mother, Dana, that she told me that Mac apparently had some underlying heart problems.

She mentioned that once, many years ago in high school, Mac had complained about a racing or fast-beating heart, which made him feel somewhat faint. She took him to a doctor, but the diagnostic tests done then did not indicate any obvious or continuing physiological heart or circulatory disease.

Then, about a year ago, Mac again complained that his heart seemed to be going through irregular beats, and intermittently racing faster than normal, which made him feel tired and light-headed, and Dana again drove him to another doctor who ran an EKG on him, which did show somewhat anomalous results.

She said the doctor told Mac that if he didn't know better, the first EKG results alone would seem to indicate he might have had a mild heart attack. Since Mac, when he subsequently underwent additional tests, including extensive treadmill stress testing, did not show further symptoms or problems after the initial EKG, and the later tests seemed to show he was fine, I'm guessing Mac and his mom thought or were advised it was probably a relatively benign, anomalous incident that didn't require further concern, as Mac seemed quite healthy otherwise, got plenty of exercise from walking a lot, was a vegetarian, and the doctor could find nothing wrong after the further testing.

It seems probable in retrospect that his intermittent heart problems may have, over time, led to some accumulated heart muscle damage leading up and finally causing his passing after the arrhythmia symptoms recurred.

I don't know if perhaps his liking for strong espresso, diet, the possible strain from his day job while also trying to complete his book by his proposed deadline of November 1st, or other factors, could have contributed to what apparently was a heart attack, but I've read a couple references on the net that in the few weeks prior to his passing, he again had heart palpitations on a few occasions, and had at times recently felt fatigued or dizzy once more.

Since his last tweet was at 7:49 pm on Sunday, October 18th, which was earlier than he usually concluded sending out tweets or posting to his blog, I can only assume or speculate that he might have felt tired earlier than usual, and because he had to work the next day, might have retired to bed earlier than usual for him.

So, to help put aside some of the more morbid or conspiratorial things I've seen on the net recently, it seems that due to Mac's underlying prior inconclusive history of occasional heart symptoms, the actual nature or seriousness of which may have been mistakenly ascribed by Mac or others to hard work, long hours, maybe too much coffee, or other mundane stress factors and thus overlooked, most likely he simply had an overfibrillated heart attack in his sleep either that night or the following morning, as he was found later that week in bed.

I know it's hard to understand or accept that someone so bright and relatively young could die so abruptly and unexpectedly (and due to the timing, with his book about to be submitted, arousing some suspicions in certain quarters), and with him showing such great promise, it's also hard to wrap one's mind around his sudden absence, but now that you know a bit more about his previously unrecognized serious heart problems, it hopefully will be a little less difficult to let him finally go. It was an unfortuanate but "natural" death, IMHO.

I couldn't believe it at first myself, as some of my initial comments above show, but after having talked to his mom, and learning more about what I have noted above, I find it no less saddening that Mac is gone, but at least more understandable, and I now accept it. I will truly miss him, and what he potentially would have done. He was a real contender. May he happily wander among the stars...

In his blog, Mac says in August..he was lucky to pass teh Jesus year..meaning 33
Most arrhythmias are non-fatal, though extremely upsetting to experience. But, some are fatal - ventricular arrythmia in particular.

Mac may have been pre-disposed to the condition and had very short bouts of it (dizziness/faintness) along with the benign irregular beats. Not until a full blown episode where his heart did not recover, would the severity have been noticed (unless caught on a ekg or holter monitor).

Lots of coffee (caffeine:heart stimulant), along with a relatively lower protein intake (vegan), may have made the condition worse.

No matter what caused his death, it was far too soon.

~ Susan
The doctor did find 2008 a previous heart attack...fifteen years ago
It sounds an awful lot like Long QT Syndrome subtype three, drs are very ignorant of it, I know took them 17 yrs to work it out for me, after 90 blackouts in 3 1/2 yrs and 4 cardiac arrests later, very sad but I have harboured thoughts on his ideas since 1994 and may pick up where he left off
Heres to the truth
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