My story begins with running. I'm not a fast runner, not a "good" runner, but a runner nonetheless. Several years ago I trained and ran a marathon. More recently my running was just to feel good. During the winters I'd run less, and ramp up in the spring. This spring ('10) I was running about 4 miles a day, 4 or 5 days a week. I began to notice that increasing intent and effort was not resulting in increased miles, time or speed. In fact the long hill in my regular run was increasingly difficult to get up. Rather than getting easier, it was harder. I'd end up walking and had trouble getting my air. I recall telling a colleague that I was going to do a very "unmanly" thing, and go to the doctor - which I did. I was referred to a cardiologist and scheduled for a stress test.
The stress test gave me opportunity to duplicate on the treadmill the experience I was having on the trail. I ran until I had trouble getting my air, then ended the test. I was about 2 minutes into cooling down from the treadmill when I toppled out of my chair. I woke up on the floor and became aware of my cardiologist and the test tech sitting beside me - it felt very tender and caring. Then it dawned on me that my cardiologist wasn't just being caring, she was taking my pulse. Then the paramedics trooped in and I became very aware of lots of unwelcome attention being directed at me. My sudden cardiac arrest was captured on paper since I was still hooked up to the monitoring device.
My cardiologist had given me three precordial thumps while the AED was being hooked up, and the third one worked. My heart resumed beating after about 2 minutes of ventricular fibrillation. I was taken to the hospital by ambulance and immediately had a cardiac catheterization. The following morning I had a quadruple bypass surgery. The hospital experience was 11 days of hell. I don't recall much pain, but I had to stay on the respirator for 3 or 4 days, and I know restraints were involved. My recollections of the hospital were mainly hallucinations of all sorts of horrific things. I had excellent care, a superb surgeon and all I remember was the rats and bats and various attacks by bad men with guns, and virtual computers being assembled from paperclips delivered through the television set. My terror and paranoia was only surpassed by my wife's loving reassurances regarding what was real and what was not.
My recovery felt slow. I am a psychotherapist and I was unable to see patients for 3 months. My first few weeks were difficult and dominated by fear and anxiety. My first grandson was born 10 days after my return home and he was a wonderful part of my recovery. We were quite the pair - broken old man and beautiful baby boy!
I was involved in Cardiac Rehab for which I was extremely grateful. It provided a structured environment to explore and find my new limits, and to safely know how to resume my own exercise routines. I have been surprised at the mix of profound gratitude for life and having new conversations with the life I wanted to create in light of my near exit from this world. I have also been surprised at the experiences of depression that would come side by side with the gratitude. Slowly, the depression subsides and the gratitude continues. I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have had my SCA in such an ideal environment! My cardiologist and surgeon were both extraordinary doctors and human beings! And, I had real bad luck in the genes department. My father died of a heart attack at the age of 59 - exactly my age.
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