Lesson learned, first-hand: If your heart hollers, listen

I have to admit there were moments when I wondered whether I’d be writing this.

I was out helping a friend clear some trees from his property. My reward for this was to be several cords of wood for my home. There were several of us working with chainsaws and whatnot but I was, by a goodly margin (we’ll not say just how goodly), the oldest of the bunch.

After about four hours of the above, I was tired, sweating, running short on energy, but determined to keep at it. Not being the butt of “slacker” jokes is a guy thing. We’ll get into dumb in a minute.

Anyway, I’d put my chainsaw down and had just tossed a fairly large round of wood into my truck when my heart basically said, “OK, stud. That’s it. I quit.”

What happened was that when I swung that log into my truck, I felt a really unpleasant jolt of pain in my chest. My first thought was that I’d pulled a muscle, so I just bent over at the waist and waited for the pain to go away. It didn’t.

Several of my friends noticed that I was in a bit of pain and that I’d now sunk to my knees.

“You OK?”

“Yeah. No problem (said through clenched teeth). I think I just pulled a muscle.”

“Want us to call anyone?”

“No, just let me rest for a minute (said as I went flat on my back) and I’ll be fine.”

By now I was grimacing and asking for a couple of aspirin. My stubbornness still had the upper hand because, in addition to not wanting to admit I was in trouble, I’ve never been in a hospital in my entire adult life.

No broken bones. No serious illnesses. No stitches. Nothing. Further, my resting pulse rate has always hovered somewhere between 50 and 60, my blood pressure has always been in the good range, and I’ve passed every stress test I’ve taken with flying colors.

To this we’ll add that I walk regularly, can indeed recognize vegetables, have never smoked, and consume about one shot of bourbon (Knob Creek, if you’re curious) a month.

So there I am, lying on the ground with a sharp pain in my chest that won’t go away, fighting off the thought that I might be having a heart attack.

Dumb is what I am. So dumb that I was about hip deep in that Old River Jordan and headed for the other side when my friends finally got through to me and made me admit that I needed help.

The EMTs were there in about five minutes and immediately started hooking me up to more sensors than there are on the space shuttle. They took one look at the EKG and we were out of there. I got the picture of how serious it was when they asked me which hospital was mine. When I told them the name of one in Seattle, someone said “We don’t have that much time. We’re going to Evergreen.”

Thank goodness they were thinking because I’d have probably argued if I could’ve spoken more than a sentence through my teeth.

They got me to the hospital and into the ER where they found that my heart: (a) Wasn’t doing very well; and (b) Was screaming about the situation. I was then taken to the catheterization lab where they snaked a tube from my groin to my heart and began pumping dye through it. This showed that the artery designed to bring oxygen to my heart had been blocked in a fairly major way.

Since I’m writing this, you can assume that they were successful in getting a stent in place and getting me back to the near shore of that river I mentioned earlier.

I’m told I’ll need some time to get back to normal. That my diet is definitely going to improve. That the exercise I was doing will continue and that I was extremely lucky that my dumbness ran out before my life did.

I guess my point (for males especially) is that when you feel any pain in your chest, don’t even think of trying to gut it out. Just get yourself moving in the general direction of an ER as quickly as you can.

That’s because there are times when a mixture of dumbness and acting tough can get you really dead.

Now, where are my oatmeal and celery sticks?

Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Comments can be sent to larrysim@clearwire.net.

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