I'm having a what!!!!!!!!!

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It was nothing special. Just your typical Monday morning at the office. I was checking e-mails and waiting for call backs at my desk when I first felt it. It was if someone tied my chest in a knot and then set it on fire. I had trouble breathing, and as it turned out, trouble thinking.

I went outside to walk and think. What was this mysterious pain? My reticence to accept what was becoming increasingly more obvious is proof once again that "Denial is not just a river in Egypt."

The fresh air failed to provide any relief. As I approached my desk a plan began was beginning to formulate in my brain which was battling against accepting reality. Being a man who appreciates the nuances of the internet, I "googled" heart attack in a laughable attempt at confirming, in my mind, something my heart already knew. Yes, I did have several of the symptoms, but I wasn't expierencing any pain in my left arm. You'll grasp at any evidence, however thin, if it'll help keep you from accepting that which you are not quite ready to accept.

I ambled over to the assignment desk to tell assingment editor ,John Roller, that I was going to run an errand and would be right back. Yeah right!

I then drove -- yes, I drove -- myself to Fire station 20 at Seventh Avenuve and Glendale. It only took a couple of minutes. But in those brief seconds I learned first hand how quickly a heart attack can progress. In those few seconds, I also verbalized what I had been fearing.

I asked the firefighter who answered the door if he could check my blood pressure because I thought I might be having a heart attack. You notice I said "might." I still wasn't 100 percent convinced. I must have looked pretty bad, because the firefighters quickly sat me down, put a blood pressure cuff on one arm and started an IV in the other. Oh by the way, they also called for an ambulance.Only 20 minutes expired from the time I stumbled into the fire station and my arrival at St. Joe's emergency room.

I was about to have one of the most unique expierences of my life but I didn't know it at the time. And to be blunt, at that moment, I didn't care because I was feeling so bad. My diagnosis was so easily confirmed that even I had to accept it. Yes, it really was a heart attack. But things were about to get very interesting.

One of the firsts things they did in the ER was to put the paddles of a difibalator on me. They werre firmly attached as we began, what turned out to be, the wild ride to the cath lab. We were in the elevator when I noticed the concerned frown on the face of the cath lab nurse as she glanced at a monitor to which I was attached. " What does the monitor tell you,?" I asked. "I'm not going to lie to you, she tells me, Its not good."

I got a good idea of just how "not good" when we got out of the elevator.

Everyone started to move away from my bed. It was then, that I knew I was going to get "zapped." We were there in the hall. People moving away as if I had a bad case of body ordor. I heard someone ask,"Are you going to do it?" The cath lab nurse offered a quick terse response, "Yes, I'm going to do it."

I prepared my self, expecting that I would get some kind of warning. I took a few deep breaths. It was deathly silent. I kept waiting and wondering. When am I going to get a warning. It seemed like minutes had passed, though they were only seconds, when I felt the jolt. Maybe jolt isn't the right word. A cup of coffee can give you a jolt. The steam of electricty from a defibilator is not a jolt. It is a major shock. One that raises you off a stretcher. It triggers a reflexive response of closing your eyes. In my case, I saw a bolt of electricity clearly through by tightly shut peepers. But that bolt also triggered a different response. One to this day brings me comfort and peace, especially in light of my father's condition. He is under hospice care.

After the jolt, they rushed me to the cath lab where, in short order, a stent was installed in the clogged artery. That little stent saved my life. You see, the docs describe my heart attack as a "widow maker." Not many people, they say, survive that kind of heart attack. I was fortunate in that I quickly sought treatment after expierencing symptoms. The docs say I had a " massive" heart attack. They were also surprised that I was awake when they "zapped" me. It seems by the time the heart goes into something called v-tec, or v-tac, i never did get that straight, most people are passed out.

I was asked by a colleague, If I ever thought I was going to die? The answer is yes.

Bear with me now because I still struggle trying to explain what I felt. I never passed out. I never saw a "bright light" at the mouth of a long dark tunnel. I never had the feeling of leaving my body. What I expierenced can't be classified as "near death." Right after I was "zapped" I remember thinking, I may not survive this. I may die. But Iinstead of feeling panic, I felt very much at peace. In other words, It's OK. If I die, it's OK. If I live, it's OK. Whatever happens, it's OK.

There was acceptance and surrender. It was not of my own doing. Remember, a few minutes before, I was denying that I was having a heart attack because I was afraid of dying. So,,what happened?

Grace is often a difficult concept to explain and to understand. Interpertation is often dependent on an individual's religous beliefs and tradition. My understanding of what happened to me that day is based on my beliefs. I won't burden you with a long winded treatise on my religion. However, I will say this. I believe God can communicate with us in anyway God chooses. Sometimes it takes a burning bush. Other times it can be as subtle as a cool summer breeze. Or, as in this case, the aftermath of a blinding jolt of electricity.

In a variety of ways, God lets God's creation know that life is OK. Death is a part of life. Therefore, death is OK, too. We don't have to be afraid.

As I mentioned, my father is under hospice care. Soon, death will be part of his life's journey.

We often say when someone we love passes away, Well he or she is in a better place. But do we really know and do we really mean it?

I can say it and mean it because I know it. Even a frightening event like a heart attack, can turnout to be a real blessing.