The morning of Wednesday April 30, 2015 time slowed down. It started like any other typical day. I usually wake up around 6am visit the bathroom and go back to bed for a little more sleep before starting the day with an hour walk. On this morning an unusual sensation hit me. I frantically sought a way to resolve this feeling? I began pacing. I tried lying down. Nothing worked. It slowly dawned on me: something was seriously wrong. I needed help. I woke my wife up and she called for help.
She was clearly startled by what was happening but quickly grabbed the phone and dialed 9-1-1. She told the dispatcher about my symptoms: chest pain, and difficulty breathing. She followed his prompting and gave me baby aspirin. Interestingly enough the aspirin was so easily accessible because I had put it close to the bed only days before.
By now it felt like the hands of time had slowed down dramatically. Although the first responders probably arrived within 10 minutes, it seemed like an eternity. Immediately they did an EKG and confirmed what we all suspected: I was having a heart attack. One of the men made a comment about heart surgery. It was at this point that I started a mental countdown to what I thought would be relief in the form of general anesthesia. Not only did that not happen, the journey to treatment was painfully slow. I was hyper conscious of every single moment, every simple movement, and every painstaking step in every process on the way to the treatment that would save my life.
I was taken from my bedroom, in an evacuation stair chair, down the steps to the first floor, and then outside to a waiting stretcher. Again it felt like forever waiting as the Medic administered nitroglycerin and established an IV line. Inside my soul was crying out: “why aren’t we moving yet?”
Then finally! The siren sounded and the ambulance pulled away. I could see a couple of curious bystanders outside the window sporting looks of concern. Though time seemed to creep by, I sensed that this was not the end of my life’s journey. I did wonder how long that awful pain would continue and when I could finally rest.
As the ambulance made its way through early morning traffic, I felt way too aware of every street on the way to the hospital. I noted the roundabout leaving my neighborhood, the boulevard and the exit to the interstate. The speed increased a little more on I-85. Fortunately we were able to zip through, even along areas where traffic had come to a standstill. As we weaved through the heavily congested ramp to I-77 South, we slowed down a little but fortunately never stopped. What seemed like eons later I glanced out the window again: still on 77. I told myself “we’re almost there”. We moved to the collector lane to get on the final freeway. Three more turns and we’re there.
I expected quick preparation for surgery and felt anticipation building for the anesthesiologist to ‘put me under’. Instead I found myself in a strange lab with heart monitors and other equipment. One of the men told me “we’ll have you feeling a lot better in just a few minutes.” Next I was warned to expect a sharp stinging sensation on my wrist. He also mystified me by saying I was about to get a local anesthesia. LOCAL? Isn’t that for the dentist office? Thankfully, that was one of my last conscious thoughts. Sometime later, I woke up in ICU to learn I had had a stent installed to restore circulation to my heart. My crisis was over.
This “adventure” was certainly not what I expected just days away from my 50th birthday. But I am thankful for God’s hand of protection, the quick response from my wife, the first responders and the medical team.
There was never a question in my mind that my assignment on earth is not complete. I will be intrigued to see what unfolds during Act II, as the clock has returned to normal speed.