Friday, September 13, 2013

A Day to Remember

Yesterday was a day of remembering emotions from 4 orbits of the sun earlier. That Saturday, September 12, 2009, was the day my heart quit beating.

I had gone to my youngest daughter's karate school in Orem for an open house activity. I waved to and shouted "Hi!" at the manager/instructor, and proceeded into the bleachers to watch. I decided to get a regular chair because of back pain. As I walked around the end of the bleachers, something was going wrong in my chest but I hadn't a clue -- no pain, no dizziness, no symptoms of anything.

The next thing I knew it was the morning of Monday the 14th of September. A nurse asked me to quit struggling with her and told me that I'd had a heart "event" which the doctor would explain in more detail. I relaxed and went back to sleep.

Please keep in mind that I found out that I had NOT had a heart attack. My arteries had been "beautifully clear." Got that? I had not had a "plumbing problem." Instead, I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Non-Ischemic Dilated Ventricular Cardiomyopathy... for some undetermined reason my heart muscles had weakened, allow my left ventricle to blow up like an old balloon. It had finally weakened to the point that it was no longer effectively moving blood and had gone into fibrillation. I had immediately lost consciousness and had clipped my head against the bleachers. I was in full cardiac arrest.

During the 40-odd hours between the event and my awakening, so very much had been done for me. To start with, other the adults at the school had responded beautifully, analyzing the situation and starting CPR. Even as one lady had dialed 911 and was requesting help, the karate instructor had run across the parking lot and a street to the nearby fire station. He rallied the EMTs and had them almost to the school before the 911 system had relayed the call to their station. When I was able to thank him for outrunning the phone call, he brushed it off as a "basic black belt skill."

My wife had brought the other 2 daughters still at home with her to the school after receiving word of my collapse. They arrived while the paramedics were packing me up for transport to UVRMC in Provo. I was awake and talking, but they soon could tell that I wasn't firing on all cylinders mentally. It was Monday before I would earnestly ask why I was in the hospital, get a full explanation, then forget the conversation and ask again just minutes later. I have no memory of those conversations!

OTOH, I do have some brief memories of voices and faces, of people walking into the room to visit, but those are fragmentary and hard to make sense of, much like a dream.

Now it's 4 years, 4 orbits of the sun later, and the emotions tied to those memories as still just as vivid and strong as an others I've ever had. I have to limit how much I let myself dwell on that day to keep myself functional. I'd just forget the whole thing if I could... but that's both impossible and impractical. Learning to live with the memories is possible and healthier... but also dangerous. So much changed that day, including my driving privileges... I had to surrender my CDL since having a cardiac arrest is an automatic disqualification for a commercial driver's DOT medical card.

Ah well... I've had 4 extra years granted to me so far, and that's something to be grateful for.

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