Life Changed Forever

On Thursday, January 18th I had a heart attack.

Due to a number of unlikely circumstances (God) working in my favor (busted water pipe requiring abnormal physical exercise, time of day, new knowledge recently gained, and the right people already in the right place to react every step of the way), we caught things so quickly that the enzymes in my blood work hadn’t had time to present. Still, the EKG clearly showed something wasn’t normal. After consulting with docs at the Heart Hospital, they decided to fly me to OKC for surgery.

That night, we came home to a house flooded by a busted water pipe. So, I was working hard out in the cold air to try to get the water turned off at the meter. The shutoff valve had been buried and we were trying to dig it out to stop the flooding. I went to check the state of the house (to take a quick break from the digging), and as I was walking back to start again, I started having shortness of breath. At first, I chalked it up to the work and the cold, but it got worse and then there was no doubt what was happening. The best way I can describe it is that I could not catch my breath, no matter how deeply or fast or controlled I tried to breathe. I also quickly lost all my strength and was extremely light headed immediately - nearly passing out in the driveway. I just had to sit down. My first thought was the stress of the flood was causing a panic attack, but it came on so fast. As I mentally talked myself through what was happening, it became easy to rule that out. It was clear, I needed to go to the ER, but hated to admit it. Even harder to admit, I knew it was urgent and not only did I need help, I needed it fast. So, we called 911.

The ambulance was at "code 3" (whatever that means).  I asked if that was better or worse than a code 2, and the paramedic just said, "sit back and relax, it just means we're going to get you to the ER pretty quickly."  (I remember thinking that was funny because they had me strapped in... I had no choice but to "sit back," but I was not relaxed.)

I told my wife and girls that I was not scared (and I really wasn’t), but laying in that bed in the emergency room, with the pain in my chest steadily increasing and screaming that it could all be over, the sadness in thinking I might not see them again completely overtook me. Still, while I was the one in the hospital, my wife and kids are undoubtedly the ones most affected. I can’t imagine my life without them and hate that they’ve been forced to seriously consider theirs without me so soon.

Like I said, after lots of tests, needles, beeps and prods, the docs in Ada consulted with the docs in OKC and they all decided I would get a helicopter ride to the hospital in OKC.  (By the way, the Oklahoma Heart Hospital is an amazing place if you need it. I hope you don't, but if ever you do, you'll be in good hands!)

I remember the flight was cold and loud. It lasted about 25 minutes, but in that time I know there was a call for prayer and a response from hundreds who said they would. As I also prayed, I didn’t bargain, I didn’t plead for what I wanted. I prayed to fully accept God’s will - whatever it might be. The overwhelming sadness I had felt knowing I might be leaving those I love most behind was replaced with an equally overwhelming sense of peace. I didn’t know how it was going to work out (none of us really know, I guess), but I do know that it’s not for me to worry about. I will take action to heal and thrive, absolutely, but no worry.

When I arrived at the emergency room in OKC, it was crazy. I don’t remember too many details thanks to the morphine and whatever else I might have been given, and I’m thankful for that. I do remember being naked and shaved/prepped by about seven different people. I'm sure they were respectful and maintained my cover as much as they could, but I really had no concern for modesty. Thanks, morphine!

After surgery, I ended up with two stents and a plan to go back for one more in about a month. Another of my arteries is 100% blocked, but due to collateral growth of new arteries, it’s not an emergency to get that one done - still, I don’t quite feel out of the woods until we do it - or at least take another look at things. (Hopefully without the air support this time.) 

I actually do remember a lot of the people. Family and friends in person and on Facebook. The countless emergency room doctors and nurses, flight crew, and the people who took care of me after surgery were all amazing. There’s no way I can ever adequately express my gratitude to everyone, but trust me, it’s strong.

It’s not over yet, but I am feeling peaceful and loved and happy no matter what happens. God is good, and the people he has placed in our lives are amazing. Thank you! If you’ve been a part of that in any way, again, thank you so much!

I now have such clarity around the idea that we are not guaranteed our next breath. It’s not a morbid understanding, but more like a gift of a refreshed mind (however long it may last). There IS a guarantee I replayed in my mind over and over again throughout this experience, most vividly in the helicopter. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” -John 3:16. Those words, along with knowing/trusting Jesus fully, are the source of my peace.