By Bob Lowry
Using a paraphrase of a John Lennon lyric, this post is about a life changed in an instant. If you read my last post you know I suffered a heart problem during a week’s stay in Portland. I promised a closer look after I had a little time to process what had happened and what lay ahead. This was the picture that closed out a recap of that “vacation” post.
The staff at the Radisson Airport Hotel, the EMT guys, and the firemen who responded was so efficient and calming. Neither Betty or I knew how serious this was going to be. With a pain level around an 8 (out of 10) and all the classic signs of a heart attack I could have been in real trouble.
Within just a few minutes of giving me a nitroglycerin pill and several doses of aspirin, my pain noticeably decreased. However an EKG administered during the ride to the hospital did show some abnormalities so something was wrong.
By the time I arrived at the emergency room of the Adventist Medical Center my pain was much more tolerable, and the sweating and tingling had subsided. Another EKG showed a more normal heart pattern and my blood pressure and pulse were only slightly elevated. Even so, the ER doctor said I should spend the night for observation and more tests. Betty and I quickly agreed and off to a room I was sent.
I am not sure why there are beds in hospital rooms, since no one is allowed to sleep. After being hooked up to all sorts of monitors, the nurses and technicians began a steady stream into my room for blood work, heart monitors, echocardiograms, and additional EKG looks. Every two hours, all night long, a knock on the door and an apologetic medical person came in to do whatever was required.
By early morning, it had been determined that there were certain enzymes in my blood that indicated some damage had been done to the heart. Within short order a cardiologist came in and walked me through my options which were simple: do nothing and probably have a full blown heart attack on the flight home, take some pills, wait a few days and see what happened, or have an angiogram and take an up close and personal look at my heart.
After choosing option number three, I was whisked away to the operating room for the 35 minute procedure. The results were probably the best I could have hoped for under the circumstances: a very small branch off a main artery had been blocked, resulting in a little muscle damage. The blood vessel was too small for a stent and the option of open heart surgery wasn’t a logical choice in this case. I had experienced the joy of angina.
The doctor felt confident that a regimen of pills and diet changes would allow me to resume a normal life. While I was a candidate for more heart problems in the future, I could do a lot to control that outcome.
After the hole put in my femoral artery for the angiogram had healed enough and the pills had lowered my blood pressure and increased blood flow to the heart, he was supportive of me flying back to Phoenix.
Here is the important part of this story:
The Portland first responders were, literally, lifesavers. Those gentlemen took over when I needed someone to act quickly. They kept Betty as calm as possible, talking with her on the drive to the hospital to assure her of my care.
The doctors and staff at Adventist Medical Center earned my love and respect. Without exception they were caring and professional. I felt that each one I came in contact with really was doing everything possible to ease my concerns and help me heal.
Our dear friend, Beth, stepped up in a way that only someone who loves you would do. She became Betty’s transportation to and from the hospital and her shoulder to cry on. She became the rock of confidence and steadiness that made this journey easier. As far as Betty and I are concerned, she is part of our family who we love deeply and know we could count on anytime, any place, for anything.
I became very much aware of how many people were worried about us and were praying for us. Members of our small group at church emailed and texted their support. Other friends found out about my problem on Facebook and left loving and supportive comments. Still others contacted me to ask if there was anything they could do.
Our two darlings daughters had their bags packed and were ready to board a flight to Portland within minutes of hearing of the situation. We had learned enough about my condition to tell them that wasn’t needed and I would be home in a few days. Staying home also allowed them to console each other and keep the grandkids from worrying about Grandad.
And, oh my goodness, my amazing, incredibly strong wife, was my rock. She held me, supported me, loved, and made me completely confident that we would get through this together. I am so crazy in love with my wife of 39 years, I would need a new book to describe what she has meant in my life.
My faith in God and his plans for me left me with not one single second of doubt or fear. If He had plans for me to die from this, then I believed I would be in heaven and my family would be able to weather the storm. This was not a test of my faith, but a confirmation.
Betty and I know what this heart problem means for our future. We are facing a new approach to eating and exercise with excitement. We are planning vacations and trips with a new respect for what our bodies are telling us. We see this event has a force of positive change and reinvigoration for us.
I don’t recommend a heart “event” for anyone. If I had been more attuned to what my body had been trying to tell me for the last few years I would have likely missed all the excitement. But, I can honestly say that, for me, I have come away a better person. I am surrounded by love from so many incredible people. My life is blessed by family and others beyond description. My faith is firm.
Strange as it may seem, this experience became a very important part of my satisfying journey.