Me and my Bro Dave about 1 AM on May 17. Not long after angioplasty and stent surgery. Not sure whether his eyes or mine grew bigger as the Crash Cart entered the room!
Merely 16 days earlier giving my induction speech at the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame Ceremony. I never felt particularly well the entire time we were traveling. Now it pretty obvious as to why.
“Working to hard can give you a heart attack, ack, ack ack” Billy Joel.
Well now I have an all new reason to hate that song. I disdained it while having to listen to it on FM radio for too many years and now it has a very special place in music hell for me. Maybe this is self indulgent and frankly I don’t know if it matters if is read or not. In a way its finally getting to clear the air on a day that I will always remember in detail, but would much prefer to forget. I woke up at 5:30 in morning May 16th to something that was just so agitating that I could not rest. This was not typical like a shoulder hurting, discomfort or something of that sort. It was more like a scratch I could not itch. Like so many people my age, especially those in my group who have dealt with issues from spinal cord injury, we just grow accustom to not feeling well, so we plow on. I started the coffee, let the dog out and in general got my day rolling. From there I walked the dog, did my daily house chores, checked my email, rode my bike 10 miles, took 2 scheduled Zoom meetings, caught a shower and tried to go back in my office. I could not focus as the pain in my chest increased with each passing moment. In my mind I just kept adhering to the belief that a guy who had a lifetime of fitness, not really overweight etc, could not be having a heart attack. Laying in my easy chair, watching the Lakers it all came to a head. I was informed that one of those stupid delivery box dinner things was on our doorstep and lamented having to get up as the burning in my chest was ever so slightly subsiding. I unloaded the box and determined I needed to try to get some food in me. A can of chicken soup brought everything into clear sight, and I mean abruptly. Roaming the house like a lost idiot, trying to decide if I was hot or cold, if I should be in my wheelchair of my easy chair, should I throw up or try to chill out…it was just confusion. I called my bro and his wife said to call 911. What came next was just everything I never wanted. The fire truck and the ambulance pulling into the neighborhood with the wailers on, the neighbors all standing in my driveway…what a scene. Four firemen, three paramedics and not one of them got it right. They completely misdiagnosed me and took me to the B-level hospital you go to when you need 3 stitches from cutting your finger. If it had not been for “Biff” the paramedic, (who should have stuck with being a lifeguard instead) giving me 4 aspirin and a shot of nitroglycerin I’d likely not be writing this. I kid you not, I laid alone in an ER room for 30 minutes with no call button. I had seen a Physicians Assistant and a Nurse who started an IV, period. Finally they do an EKG and here comes the cavalry! First time I see the Doctor and he is looking pretty damn concerned now. They peel the EKG pads off me and start putting these large pads over my chest. I asked what it was they were doing as the Crash Cart comes in the room–now I knew what they had attached. Just in case my heart stopped they were ready to paddle me back to life. They shoot my IV with a healthy dose of Morphine for the pain I was in and perhaps also to give me some relief from the notion I was about to kick it. Now I’m in an ambulance with a full medical team on the way to the real hospital. I remember the nurse trying to talk me about my dog, as he saw mine on my phone home screen. I remember telling him it was nice of him to try and comfort me, however I didn’t much give a crap about talking about my dog. Fifteen minutes later we arrived, going into the top secret back hospital entrance, straight down a hallway and into the Cardiac procedure Lab where a fully gloved and gowned surgery team was ready. Wow, mind blown! “Bob, I’m Doctor X, I’ll be doing your procedure tonight–do you have and Advance Directive!” In an instant the surgeons words made it become really real. I recall telling him to take no evasive measures (like life support) and to please give me something to forget the rest of what was about to happen. Next thing I really remember was the pic above of me and my brother Dave in ICU. Rolling up on just over 2 months post event, I still find it hard to believe that this happened to me. Literally thousands of miles in a race chair on Pacific Coast Highway, inches from cars while training, going down hills at 50 miles per hour with no helmet, sky diving, scuba diving and so many other radical moments in my life–it just was supposed to end much cooler than a heart attack. I never had a death wish and could hardly be considered Evel Knievel, but nonetheless I did live my life in a pretty daring way and it all just felt very anticlimactic.
So what the heck is all this about you may ask? I wish I could give you an answer that would sound like a great epiphany had occurred or that some magic answers about the meaning of life came to me but it didn’t. I am fully aware that we all have illnesses and health problems and that I am hardly unique or exempt. People deal with such a wide array of health complications from cancers to failing organs and so much more. But the moment it happens to you, and this may sound pretty obvious, it becomes personal. There is much left to do on the way to a hopefully near full rebound such as dialing in new medications, Cardiac Rehab and much more. I feel well ahead of the curve because I have by and large taken reasonable care of my body, and for that I am both grateful and very lucky. I believe I have another run left in me and I plan to use it the best I possibly can. I guess in the end what I discovered is that health problems do not discriminate. Some of us are luckier than others and frankly, as I reflect– I’ve been a lucky man. Enough said.