So, on Saturday, August 13, I began to die.
The death process was complete by 6pm on Monday, August 15, when the docs at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento wheeled me into the operating room.
I’d had a heart attack.
A doctor friend of mine said that the type of heart attack I experienced is what they called, in the old days, a “widow-maker”. In medical lingo I had a 95% blockage at the top of the proximal left anterior descending artery (in addition to blockages in other vessels).
I was lucky. And blessed.
When the pain came about on that Saturday I reported it to my wife. She wanted me to go to the ER. Of course, being a Guy, I pawned it off to muscle tension – but I promised to call my doctor on Monday morning. Sunday wasn’t too bad, so I was optimistic on Monday – until I walked a flight of steps and the pain returned. My Doc got me right in…
…and then to the ER. After doing blood work and a panoply of other tests, the ER nurse (a tough and wonderful woman named Krista), balled her fist and said she could just punch me for not listening to my wife. She had good reason to say that – my troponin level was at 0.8 (normal is .04 or less), and was rising (this is the protein that tells them damage is present in the heart). So they wheeled me into an ambulance and I made the 40+ mile trek to UCD Medical Center.
The docs didn’t wait to admit me, they just said, “Hey, why wait. Let’s go for it now!” I agreed and off to the races we went.
I awoke in my 6th story room at 10pm, a lovely stent in my artery and hooked up to a plethora of monitors. Over the next several hours I met no less than three cardiologists and two internal medicine specialists. Each one told me how lucky I was. When I was more lucid in the morning I asked one cardiologist if I had an actual heart attack.
“We don’t like to use those words, but, yes, you had a heart attack.”
How bad was it?
“Well, let’s put it this way…had you waited another day or two, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
This was confirmed a week later. I met with a different cardiologist, a very direct, older Doc. When he met me, shaking my hand, he looked into my eyes and reported that, “Not that many years ago the way we would have treated this was to hook you up to morphine and wished you well. You’re one damn lucky man.” And then my friend, who is a very seasoned ER doc, told me that the artery the blockage was in is nick-named, “the Widow-Maker”.
And so I died on August 15…and then was re-born.
I believe in the God of Second Chances. He has granted me a reprieve from my past stupidity of cheeseburgers, pizza and unrelenting stress. He has given me a chance to re-design my life, to focus on what is important – really important.
I’m only a little more than a week into this second life. I am beyond grateful for my wife, daughter, mother and all of the good friends who have prayed for me. I have felt every one of those prayers.
While the road to recovery isn’t a piece of cake (figuratively and literally), I look forward to every walk in nature I take, every grilled chicken sandwich and salad I eat, and to every moment I have to gaze upon the beauty of the Creator’s craftsmanship in nature. I relish each relationship. I regret being such a jerk sometimes, and look forward to making amends. I look forward to doing good work and making a difference in the lives of others – especially for those who are seeking a hope for the present and for the future.
I will enjoy the sublime creativity of mankind and forget about the petty, poisonous torture of politics (as a political junkie this may have the worst withdrawal effects). In fact, during my initial recovery I’ve been far more attracted to beautiful photography, art and old movies than I have to the lure of lascivious headlines and Bill O’Reilly. While I will vote my conscience and values, the endless corrupted arguments of media are toxic (for me, at least).
Art endures, politics do not (the Mona Lisa still hangs in the Louvre, the politics of DaVinci’s time are long forgotten).
What is alluring to me is positivity, the eternity of Spirit, the pure goodness of God. Adversity, in all its forms, is no doubt difficult and at times seems more than what we can endure. But, we can. God is good.
God is good…and we must also take up the responsibility for our own lives. The choices I made (and some family history) resulted in a heart attack. And now, the more life-affirming choices I make henceforth will create a different kind of life. A life of wonder, possibility and freedom – even while staring into the bloodshot eyes of adversity. There is always hope.
The God of Second Chances is real. He’s real for me, and for you. The great thing is, no matter where we are in life, the God of Second Chances is right there beside us, waiting for us. In a New York second you can meet Him, on equal terms, right where you are standing. Just make the choice.
And the great thing is that you don’t have to have a heart attack to meet Him.