Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Carroll's Journal: My Heart Attack

"How are you doing?" The paramedic asked me as I laid there on the gurney, in the ambulance, and wincing in severe pain. The pain was in my chest.

"About as well as could be expected for a man having a heart attack, I guess." I replied while gasping for air.

This is when another medic yelled out. "Pick up the speed and turn the siren on, his vitals are dropping."

Yeah, this was me not too long ago. And to think, the day started out like any other normal day. But for me, September 2nd, 2014 will always live in infamy.

I woke up at around 4:30 AM. As always, I went straight to my computer to check my emails and read some morning news. I lit a smoke and enjoyed a hot tea. Sometimes, I might drink a coffee or juice or milk. Maybe even just water. But this morning it was hot tea.

After about thirty minutes or so, I took a shower. As I waited for my hair to dry, I sat back down in front of my laptop and played a few games.

It was about six in the morning when I decided to run down to the store. While there, I picked up a slice of breakfast pizza. A pizza with sausage, eggs and cheese. I considered buying a pack of cigarettes but for some reason, I decided not to. I did have a few left in the pack at home. I knew I would be running out by noon but still, I just figured to buy another pack later as opposed to that moment. So it was just the breakfast pizza for me and back off to home I went.

I had the pizza eaten by the time I pulled into the parking lot and turned off my car engine. I went to check my postal mail to see if I got anything on Saturday because I didn't check it then and Monday the post office was closed for Labor Day. I had such a busy weekend I hadn't bothered checking it since Friday evening.

From there, it was back to the computer to play some more games and watch some Sports Center on ESPN. At around seven o'clock that morning, I lit and smoked, what would turn out to be, my last cigarette ever. I didn't know this at the time. Two hours later, I sat down on the couch to play some X-Box.

I was really looking forward to this day though. At about 4:00 PM I was planning to travel to Columbus, Ohio and visit the studio and finally, after three weeks of delays, we were going to lay down the vocals on the new song. I was very excited.

I got midway in the second quarter of a Madden Football game, and leading 21 to nothing when suddenly, I didn't feel so good.

It started with some nausea and then started into some fever flashes. I paused the game. I got to my feet and by then, I had a cold sweat break out on my face. "What the hell?" I mumbled. It was about 9:00 AM at this point.

I walked to the bathroom sink and splashed some water on my face. It offered little relief. Then I had a mild pain in my chest. I thought it was indigestion or perhaps heartburn or gas, but when I suddenly felt like throwing up, I realized it might be food poisoning. That pizza just wasn't agreeing with me I guess. But I hadn't tossed my cookies for a good 15 or 16 years now. I thought my streak was coming to an end.

A few minutes later, the pain in my chest increased. I started finding it difficult to breathe. It almost felt like someone was sitting on my chest. Or perhaps a ghost was reaching into my chest and squeezing my heart.

I struggled in confusion for a total of about 15 minutes, trying to figure out what was going on. The more time that passed, the more the pain in my chest increased. It was such a gradual progression. Finally, I realized what was going on. My first reaction was, "Son of a bitch! No! Not today damn it! Not today!" My second reaction was to call 9-1-1. 

Once I explained that I was having a heart attack, the emergency operator asked me to stay on the line until the ambulance arrived. During this very short three minute wait, I began to shut off the lights, my video game, my ceiling fan, the air conditioner, and I thought to grab my wallet off the kitchen table. When the operator informed me that the ambulance pulled into the parking lot, I thanked her and hung up. I walked out the door, turned and locked the dead-bolt and the door-handle lock before continuing down the sidewalk. A paramedic met me half way. Within moments, I was placed on the gurney and now, here I am, being unloaded and transported into the emergency room.

I grunted in anger as I was rolled into the emergency room. "I know it hurts." Someone mentioned.

"I'm not yelling in pain," I responded, "I'm yelling because I'm mad."

"What are you mad about?" I was asked, my eyes closed.

"I'm mad because I wasn't supposed to be having a heart attack today."

The next thing I knew, I had people asking me questions as the controlled chaos around me was in full operation. I could hear people asking for this test, and this scan, and everything else. Meanwhile, I was getting asked questions as well. Suddenly, I had a couple of people assisting me to undress. I was lifted up and off went my shirt. Then my pants and tighty-whitey's. "Keep breathing in through your mouth and breathe out of your nose." A voice told me, then another voice asked, "Are you allergic to anything?"

"Yes." I answered. "I'm allergic to stupid people." And I heard some laughter before I quickly explained that no, I wasn't allergic to anything known.

Then another question was asked at me. "Do you take Viagra?"

"No, but I do take a substitute." I replied.

"And what would that be?" The voice countered.

"Miley Cyrus videos." I answered. "I watch a lot of Miley Cyrus videos."

More laughter from the room. It was obvious to them that I was trying to keep a sense of humor to the situation. I think I was trying to let them know that I was calm and not too worried about what was going on. Suddenly, someone shouted, "This man is a ghost, his vitals are dropping fast, we're gonna lose him!" Then another voice quickly shouted out, "Get him up to the heart ward stat! We have a heart attack victim here!"

I guess those tests they gave me all came back with the results. It was a heart attack. This whole thing was still burning my biscuits something awful.

I was quickly whisked out of the emergency room and was taken to an elevator. Three people assisting me. I already had an I.V. placed in my left arm. I heard the elevator doors close when I decided to let these fine people know, "Don't worry if I die." I mumbled, "I had a pretty good life. No complaints. Just saying."

"Oh honey," A female voice echoed out as a hand was placed on the side of my face, "If you were looking to die, you picked the wrong day. We just put into place a new rule this morning that nobody is allowed to die without our permission, and sweetie, you ain't got permission."

For some reason, that response comforted me. Still, I could feel myself slipping further into unconsciousness. As the elevator doors opened, and I was rushed into another room, I decided to let everyone know. "I'm fading you guys. Sorry, but I'm not going to be able to answer anymore questions. See you on the other side. Good luck." - And that's where everything starts to get a little hazy. The last thing I remember was feeling the doctor stick something into me down by my groin area. I only felt a slight pinch for a few seconds or so because moments earlier, they fed me some morphine for the potential pain.

The next thing I knew, I woke up in a room. All was fairly quiet. As my vision came into focus, I saw such a pretty face. She smiled at me. "Hello." She greeted. "Feeling better are we?"

I took in a breath. "Actually, yes." I replied. "Either I'm dead and you're an angel or I'm still alive and you're just a beautiful nurse."

"Awww", she responded, "that was so sweet. But you're not dead yet, sweet-heart."

I took notice of another I.V. in my other arm. I also had a blood pressure unit strapped onto my upper right arm and a finger pulse Oximeter on my left hand. I had some wires taped on my chest and a power unit stuffed inside the upper right pocket of my hospital gown. I knew what was going on. "Holy crap!" I quipped, "You guys turned me into a robot. How cool is that?"

"I heard you were quite the comedian." The nurse informed me.

Okay, I wasn't really turned into a robot, but my life was totally transformed that morning. Everything I knew, my life style, my eating habits, smoking, drinking, my bachelor way of life - all of it - gone. Nothing was ever going to be the same. And as I laid there the next few days, all I could think of was how much it was my fault. I made the choices in my life that led me to this point. Oh sure, I would discover later about my family history with heart disease, but I didn't do myself any favors by adding fuel onto an already fire propelled time-bomb waiting to explode.

And no, I don't blame the tobacco companies either. I knew smoking was bad for you. I never needed a surgeon general to freaking tell me. I knew it the moment I first took a puff when the smoke hurt my lungs and I coughed like crazy for minutes afterwards. That was my first clue these things weren't good for you.

And I'm not going to blame the fast food chains either. I love Taco Bell, Subway, and KFC. I love Big Macs and Whoppers. Chilli cheese fries rule! Pizza! Sloppy Joes! .... You name it. I knew this garbage wasn't healthy. But I also knew I had but one life to live and damn it, I was going to enjoy what time I had on this earth. Part of that was to eat the good tasting crap that was sure to kill me someday.

Through it all, even with the drinking, I maintained a healthy weight. I was always slim. But all my choices finally caught up with me and my family history. And there I was, lying in that bed in the hospital with every machine known to man monitoring my every breath. It was my own doing. But on a good note, that nurse was such a pleasant view. Eye candy for me. I guess it could have been worse, I could have had a heart attack and never knew what it was to smoke, drink and eat so many unhealthy foods that freaking taste great! .... Or ... I could have had a stroke.

Oh yeah, things could have been worse, indeed.



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