Wednesday, April 13, 2016
We took off for a short ride to test out the bike we had just picked up from our friend. As I led he rode up beside me and motioned that we needed to stop for a minute or two. His chest was tight, his breathing labored, and his skin was pale beneath glistening beads of sweat.
We rested a bit, re-hydrated, and continued on. He wasn't feeling well so we headed home. It wasn't long before the crushing pains began, one after another without ceasing. He went outside to get some fresh air when the sensations in his chest became increasingly painful. He was light headed and I knew what we were dealing with was serious, but I had no way of knowing how serious those pains would turn out to be.
Amidst protests, from a man unable to speak while the pains grew more frequent, I made the decision to call for the paramedics that were only about a block from our home. When they arrived they quickly attached leads to his body that led to their portable EKG unit and captured approximately six more events.
He was loaded into the ambulance and away they went while I followed in the car. As I entered the hospital I was rushed into a room filled with the cardiac team. They firmly requested I speak with him, touch him, and let him know I was there. He looked into my eyes as they pushed high levels of medications through the IV that had been inserted at home. They told me to tell him to stay here, not to leave, and I did. His eyes were foggy and uncertain as he said, "'l'll try." I told him no, he wasn't going to try, he would stay and not leave us. Once more he said he would try. The team told me to be more emphatic with him, and I was, I demanded he stay. Finally he relented and said he would.
He thought he had passed out. When he came to he spoke of nodding off and was told he didn't "nod off," he had "checked out." He was gone for over a minute before the vigorous CPR revived him. We weren't told until the night before his release that he had been originally given less than a 10% chance of survival.
He spoke to us of dreaming, dreaming of two white, faceless, figures that were speaking to him. He was unable to recall their words but he vividly remembered their presence. It was at that point I was instructed to only tell three people, his sons and his father, not only by him, but by the doctors as well. They wanted no interruptions for either of us during that uncertain, stressful, time. I had already called his sons and his Dad on the way to the hospital.
They sedated him heavily and placed him on a multitude of medications in the hopes of keeping his heart at a stable pace. He was hooked to various beeping, colorful machines, and carefully monitored though the critical hours that followed.
I had, at that time, been assured all was well with his heart, but there were spasms that they were trying to minimize. The cath had shown his heart to be perfectly healthy, and contrary to the "knowledge" of one, his condition had absolutely nothing to do with his lifestyle, or choices, but rather most likely a genetic defect.
I got home around 4 AM that Friday morning and was back at the hospital only hours later. Somehow word leaked out and the phone calls and texts began. The doctors instructed us to turn off our phones and keep people at a distance for the days that followed. Often times well meaning people freak and call not realizing that others too were calling, and that with every call, every text, the stress on the both of us would only increase so I was placed in the position of keeping his father and sons informed and others at bay.
That next morning he was more with it and again explained the experience. His chest was sore because of the life saving CPR that had been done en route. Doctors, many doctors, were in and out of the room and the decision was made to implant a AICD , an automatic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. The device was designed to monitor the heartbeat. The device can deliver an electrical impulse, or shock to the heart, when it senses life-threatening changes in the heart's rhythm.
We had to wait several days so a highly specialized MRI could be done before implantation of the device. The days of waiting were some of the most stressful we encountered and the doctors, knowing how critical it was to keep him as quiet and as isolated from the outside world as possible, allowed me to bring two of our dogs into the Cardiac ICU to help calm him. It was a good decision on their part and his blood pressure immediately decreased.
Monday morning the MRI was done, and Tuesday the surgeon took him back, created a pouch, with the incision made above his "Godspeed" tattoo per his instruction, implanted the device and placed two leads, a positive and a negative into the heart itself. The leads have threads at the end and are screwed into the heart to hold them in place until the heart can grow around them. The team then induced another cardiac arrest to test the device and he was soon back in his room to begin his journey to recovery.
This morning we were finally given the ok to head home, or perhaps we were "kicked out." He did have a few cranky times, although I have to admit that he was pretty damned good for a man deprived of nicotine and caffeine for such a long period of time.
Had I taken him by car, as he had asked, we would today be grieving the loss of an incredible man that is loved by many, but instead we have a happy, healthy man sound asleep and healing. And who knows, there could come a time when those leads can come in handy. You know, like if a battery dies on a bike trip we can just use him to jump start the bike. :)
This next week is extremely important to his healing and we ask, again per order of the doctors as well as his preference, that no calls, or texts, be made unless initiated by him. He needs time to come to terms with what's happened. He needs time to rest, he needs time to begin the healing process, and he needs the time to de-stress. Remember that, even though we both know everyone is concerned and believes "one" phone call, or text will be fine, dozens of others think the same and with the avalanche of disturbances his recovery, and my re-charging, are both hindered.
We both would like to thank you in advance for honoring our wishes and the orders of those in charge of his care.
We love you all and will be back to normal as soon as possible. If any of you would like to send him cards, letters, etc. it would be greatly appreciated. Text me and I'll send you our address.