To paraphrase Mr. Clemens, “the report of my death [in Arizona] was an exaggeration” — but not by much.
Yes, it’s true I spent a few days incarcerated in the local ICU four weeks ago. No, it’s not true that one of my disgruntled rellies bashed my head in.
For those of you with ADHD, here’s the Twitter version: Heart attack, cardiac arrest, stent, 4 days in ICU. Now home and on a truckload of meds. Otherwise, doing better than expected.
For those who want all the gory details, trek onward:
Mind you, having a semi-private nurse and staff at my beck and call 24 hours a day wasn’t too bad — except the ICU has zero privacy (the door is all glass and my room was across the hall from the elevator, placing me at center stage; thus, the disguise), no bathroom, and I had more cables and tubes tethering me to the bed than a console in a steampunk studio.
Vampires visited me several times a night, leaving my arms (and belly) with more tracks than a meth-head.
The cadre of medical pros controlled everything that went into my body, and monitored everything that came out. With all the hovering about, I felt like a queen about to give birth to the royal heir, and the family gathered around to ensure no skullduggery takes place.
But I am not complaining. I don’t see how I could have received any better care. And I managed to give the nurses and doctors a few chuckles now and again. (Sorry, I can’t help my bent toward gallows humor.) I even got a cool pair of red socks. (For which I’m sure the insurance company was billed an exorbitant price. After all, the socks do have that non-slip stuff on them.)
One nurse dubbed me Mr. Lucky.
All the pieces fell into place perfectly for me to be writing this missive today. I shudder to think about the alternative. Especially after I called 911 (no, I did not play the macho man and lie down, thinking I’d feel better in couple of hours) — and got a recording: “You have reached Verizon Wireless. We’re sorry, but you have tried a number that cannot be connected as dialed. Please try again.”
I was home alone — Janis was birding in Arizona — and so weak I could barely lift the phone. But not so weak I couldn’t curse Verizon. I hit redial (same recorded message) and got a realization — when punching the numbers, I had hit 8 and 9 simultaneously, so it went out as 8911. One would think Verizon might have an error-correction algorithm to intercept and correct such things.
I got through on the third try. And the dispatcher put me on hold. But only for a moment while she transferred the call.
The EMTs arrived in about 3-4 minutes (giving me time to pack an overnight bag; yes, the paramedics rolled their eyes when I asked them to bring it along). They had me at the hospital in about 15 minutes, the trip being accelerated with the aid of the siren.
Good thing. The ol’ ticker stopped tocking a few minutes after the medicoes had me laid out in the ER and wired up for an ECG.
In case you’re wondering, I did not see the proverbial “white light” — only a swirling black hole. As I drifted closer to the vortex, I fell into a sleep-like state and dreamt that a troupe of midgets were using my chest as a trampoline.
When I awoke, I had a number of faces staring down at me, all breathing sighs of relief. I looked at the clock on the wall and noticed that several minutes had elapsed in what seemed to me like a few seconds.
A nurse asked me, “Does your chest hurt?”
I took a deep breath. “Not really.”
“It will tomorrow,” she said.
I shot her a quizzical look and she added, “We did CPR and defribbed you — twice.”
Then they wheeled me into the Cath Lab, jabbed my arm with Bowie knife (hey, that’s what it felt like), and implanted a stent in my RCA (right coronary artery).
Yes, my arm, not the groin. It’s the latest thang. Speeds up patient recovery. As soon as they had me in the ICU, I could sit up rather than lying on my back, sandbags compressing my bladder for 8 hours.
This “event” seems so odd, because my GP gave me a clean bill of health less than a year ago. I’ve never smoked, I have exercised fairly regularly my entire life, I pretty much quit eating red meat and saturated fats 40 years ago (yes, I cheated now and again), and Janis and I eat so much kale and chard we’ve created a global shortage. My family has a history of long-livers and dying of old age or cancer, but not heart disease. My biggest fears were skin cancer and macular degeneration.
Even the doctors were mystified. So I asked the cardiologist, “What’s the deal?”
He said, “I’ll explain it to you in precise medical terms: Bad luck.”
Turns out that a piece of plaque had broken loose and a clot formed around it, plugging up the artery like Hoover Dam.
As Archy McNally says, “One never knows, do one?”
“What’s to stop it from happening again?” I asked (the cardiologist, not Archie).
“Medication, diet and exercise.”
“Exercise?!” I said. “That’s what got me here in the first place.”
My attempt at humor did not elicit even a hint of a smile out of him.
But it’s partly true. I had been hiking in Tecolote Canyon, and the myocardial infarction began as I trudged, uncharacteristically out of breath, up the last half mile of what I now call Heart Attack Hill. By the time I reached the house, the other symptoms emerged. (Luckily, I had cut the hike short, for no other reason than I was feeling lazy that morning. Had I done my usual, longer route, my first attendants would most likely have been of the furry, four-legged variety, yipping at their good fortune.)
Not to be out done by my light-heartedness (please excuse the pun), the cardiologist said, “It is true that you are something of an anomaly.”
“Oh?” I replied.
“Yes, you are the first person I’ve ever seen with coronary arteries occluded by Ranch salad dressing.”
Touché. (OK, I made up that last bit. But I know he was thinking it.)
I confess, I do have a weakness for Ranch dressing. I blame Costco, which sells the stuff in large bottles as a twin-pack. Hey, it’s a bargain! And I challenge you to name one thing that doesn’t taste better (especially kale and chard) with a dollop of Ranch dressing on it. Or course, we say that about butter, too — and bacon.
Now doing well, all things considered. (I returned home looking — and feeling — like a punching bag. I will spare you those images.) Resting, reading, taking walks and regaining my strength. While Janis monitors my every breath — for which I am grateful. As the love of my life, she certainly gave me something to live for.
I used the opportunity to tune out the world for a few days, enjoying the foibles of Archy McNally and his “discreet inquiries” (for the third or fourth time) before returning to work. (You do know about my asshole boss, yes?) My sternum and rib cage have recovered to the point that I no longer feel as if I’m being knifed every time I sneeze or laugh or roll over in bed (no broken ribs, fortunately).
As a bonus, I shed 10 pounds while in hospital. But I don’t recommend this as a weight-loss program.
One more thing: the ER doc? The one who trampolined my chest? Turns out he’s also an author — and, heaven help us, a fiddler. Best of all, at least from birder Janis’s perspective, the doctor’s surname is Thrush. More items for the Small World Dept.
Now, where’d I leave the bowl of oatmeal?