How I Cheated Death at the Age of 61
July 15th. The Blue Plate Cafe in Plainville, CT. It was open mic night and our band was the host. It was a regular weekly gig which we all enjoyed immensely. About 10:30pm we were into a really great funky groove with several horn players (trumpet, trombone and sax). I was in the pocket with our drummer. The next thing I know, I'm being loaded into an ambulance with an oxygen mask over my face, yelling and cursing that I couldn't breathe with the God damned thing on. Then blackness again. When I awoke the next time, I was in the Intensive Care Unit of the most local hospital to the location of the "incident", my guitarist and his wife standing over me. I still had no idea what had happened and I was so doped up that I was in what can only be described as a Deja Vu loop, where I would open my eyes and see them standing there and having the same conversation over and over, sleeping and waking again and again. Obviously something serious must have happened.
I will get to the story of the events as they've been told to me by so many who were there at the time, but first, I have to give a hospitalization timetable to set the stage. The evening of July 15 was my first night in the hospital. I didn't actually start to be able to make sense of anything until the 18th, when my drug addled mind started to at least glimpse reality. I still didn't know what had happened or why I was there, but I knew I was in a lot of pain, mainly from my ribs, which will also be explained shortly. I was still so out of it, I didn't even notice the pretty nurses, but that's another story. On the 24th, I was transported to Hartford Hospital, where they were well known for their cardiac care and surgical center. Surgery was on the 25th.
SO? What HAPPENED?
There were several versions of the story, but this is what I was able to put together to get what I believe is the real deal. As I had said, I was into a real lock with our drummer, when I suddenly threw my hands up in the air and fell backwards, landing on a row of effects pedals (musicians will know what I'm talking about. Those of you non musicians just think of it as a row of little angled steel boxes with knobs and buttons on them). Now, this is where it gets freaky (as if it wasn't already). Our guitarist has told me that, when he came to turn me over and off the pedals, he saw something sticking out of my mouth that he couldn't immediately identify but likened to a boxing glove. In a flash, he realized it was my tongue, blocking my breathing. He stuck his fingers in my mouth and pushed the tongue down which made me gasp in air. In the meantime, someone called 911. Almost immediately, a local police officer came running in to administer CPR. (Here's where cheating death begins). The cop had just pulled a driver over outside the tavern and heard the distress call, and ran in to do what was necessary until the EMT's arrived 13 minutes later. This, of course, is where the ribs (every one of them) were broken, and I would still thank this cop 100 times for doing it. If that driver hadn't broken a speed limit, or whatever he had been pulled over for, and that cop wasn't set up to see him and pull him over, I would not be here to write this Hub. He continued CPR, refusing to give up, until the EMT's arrived.
So, the EMT's show up and I barely have a pulse. They go right to the defibrillator and shock me, not once, but twice, just to get my heart pumping again. They attached an auto defibrillator in case I crashed again. Good thing they did, because, I am told, that little thing hit me 4 more times before they got me to the ambulance. Once again, cheating death.
How close a call WAS it?
In the days to follow, in the hospital, I would be hammered with lots of powerful pain medications, as well as meds designed to stabilize me for surgery. Surgery? What do I need surgery for? Well, to repair your heart. My heart? What happened to it? You had a cardiac arrest and we have to first do a cardiac catherization to find out where the damage is and how bad it is. We can't do that for at least another couple of days. I had a heart attack? Are you kidding me??!
Anyway, for the next few days (a total of 9), ICU was my home. If it hadn't been for the pain in my ribs, I might have actually enjoyed it, being waited on hand and foot, The meds made food taste like crap, which is where the 16 pound loss came from. 9 days later, I was transferred to Hartford Hospital for the surgery the next day. They had discovered that I had a 65% blockage right where the two main arteries meet, a condition that lends itself to only one solution; bypass surgery. That night, I met the surgeon, who gave me the straight news, which will forever ring in my ears. "You had what we call the Widow Maker. Only 20% of people with this condition survive. We're going to get you into the OR first thing in the morning and do a double bypass to alleviate the problem." Now, I had been told this man was the best there was for this sort of thing, so even though I was skeptical, I was going to go into this with a clear mind. My faith in him was not misguided. Four days later, I was released to go home. The real recovery was still to come, but it was good, after 13 days away from everything familiar, to be home at last.
To make a long story short.......
The surgery was successful, I am fully healed and I have cheated death. It may not be the last time this will happen in my life. I've reached the age where, like cars, things start breaking and either need to be fixed or force you to junk it. But, until this Phoenix has burned for the last time, I intend to make the most of the time I have left and just enjoy it. After all, death will have its revenge sooner or later. Happens to the best of us.
Update: In February of 2018, I had to have two drug alluding stents put in to reopen two other arteries in my system. I'm still here and the Reaper is still standing in the wings, waiting for me to finally give it up. I have news for him. It's gonna be a long wait!