Back from the brink

­­ Some thoughts on dying:--

It's not all it's made out to be. Some days you got to look death in the eyes and spit

in his face. Other times, I'm sure you would want to take his hand. Timing is everything.--

The right words come hard and there are not many of them. Our most meaningful experiences are shared with few words. ''I love you.'' ''My life has been good.'' ''You're a great son, daughter, wife.'' ''Thanks, Mom and Dad.'' Maybe because there is often so little time, maybe it's just meant to be this way.--

You wake up from surgery dazed and groggy. You don't know if you're in heaven, hell, or back home. Struggling to wake up, I remember seeing this cute, young nurse standing by the side of the bed. Suddenly, my exact location didn't seem that important.--

How can you, in the middle of dying, be thinking about eating?--

No lights, no corridors, no tunnels, no angels. Only cussing.

­­ What to do to stay healthy:

1. Don't die.

2. Don't eat anything that tastes good.

3. Don't smoke. Luckily, I never inhaled.

4. Exercise. I remember doing that once.

5. Don't eat junk food. This may create a secondary problem -- starvation.

6. Don't overindulge. One drink a day is not bad, assuming it's not a continuous one.

7. Avoid obesity. This is easy. Don't stick something in your mouth every time you open it.

8. Don't take any unnecessary risks, like going to work.

9. Always wear a seat belt. Better yet, never get in a car with a teenage driver.

1O. Try to stay positive, even in the face of death; remember, something good always comes of it. In this particular case, I get to continue peeving you.

­­ Having a heart attack is weird. Denial plays a large role in the whole thing. There are lots of reasons for not feeling well, none of which have to do with your heart. Friday it was exhaustion from mowing the lawn. Saturday night it was indigestion. Sunday night the excuses were gone. I fessed up to my wife. Something was wrong. It was off to the ER. Not a lot of pain, just some pressure in the chest, sweating, shortness of breath, and a kind of claustrophobic, impending doomed feeling.The ER doctor confirms it. A myocardial infarction. Not a bad one, no major damage, but it's off to Peoria and St. Francis by ambulance. Five bypasses. I was likely hours away from death. Taking aspirin on Saturday and Sunday during the episodes probably saved my life. The operation went well, the recovery is underway. You end up with a bowl full of emotions. I'm not sure of the full impact yet, but I do know this: It's great to be alive. Let round two begin.

­­ The care I received at St. Mary's ER, during the ambulance ride, and at St. Francis Coronary Care was top of the line. There are a lot of dedicated medical staff who work their butts off. The whole situation is intense, high pressured, and emotionally demanding. They all have my utmost respect. The only advice I could give them is to unionize. The skill of the surgeons is beyond my wildest imagination. The talent is extraordinary. I can only shake my head in awe. However, they should still be paid less. Every American should have access to this level of health care. The only way this will be possible is by endorsing universal health care. There is no excuse for the current inequities.

­­ Some feelings:--

You feel grateful for all the support. The cards, the calls, the prayers, the visits. It makes you feel good to know others care.--

You feel elation. Death came a-knocking and you survived. You get this superman syndrome.--

You can't believe it's you. How could it be me hooked up to all these machines?--

You get scared. Death is just around the corner. It's not that death is bad, it's just that at this point, it's a little premature.--

You get frustrated that you can't do anything. You're suddenly dependent on everyone for just about everything.--

You look in the mirror and you're cut from one end to the next. You feel a loss, but you can't quite put your finger on what it is.--

It's time to move on. Luck was with me. The question becomes, now what? Is there something else, or something more, I need to do? It is good to have to answer questions like these.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online July 11, 2000

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