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If There’s An Autopsy, Add This Report

TOPIC: Heart Attacks

Q: Which one is not like the other two?

A: The third one.

For me at least. I know for some people the first heart attack is the worst because that’s the one that kills them. Sorry ‘bout that, my condolences to the dearly departed, grieving family, etc. And yes, the second one could be the worst, and for the same reasons.

For me the first two heart attacks were just rehearsals, little warmups intended to get my attention and have me ready for the main event, the big beast that clobbered me about a month ago, exactly three days after we’d arrived in our new town, our new house and our newish lives. It was my third and yeah, maybe it’ll be my last. (No column next Sunday would be a sign.)

If it turns out I’m gone, thanks very much for your thoughts, prayers, cards, flowers and checking out the Daily Journal obits every morning. I haven’t written a farewell piece yet, and I won’t leave it to just anyone. 

All my “heart events” as the euphemists label them, have been surprises, as in “Dude, seriously—me again?” I just don’t profile; check out any “Healthy Tips for Active Adults” article in a magazine at a medical office and you won’t find me. 

 My weight and diet are wrong, I walk a bit daily. My mother and father, excellent smokers both, took the cancer express to the cemetery, but before them who knows? My grandparents could’ve gone down with the Titanic and no one would have told me.

But I get heart attacks like some people get new summer outfits or rotate their tires. (JOKE, more or less: I’m in my doctor’s office on South Dora a year or so ago, and we’re chatting and he’s scribbling and I say “Uh, should I go get one of those liver scans? Been a while, whaddya think?” 

He doesn’t even respond. I wait. Thirty seconds pass and I renew the query: “Liver scan? Last time was a few years ago, right?” My doc sighs, turns and says, “Why are you so worried about your liver? Heart attack is what’s going to take you out.”

Let’s see your MD do that.

My recurring reality: All too often I stand in dread, knowing precisely what’s coming (another heart attack) and what a rotten week I’m about to have, unless it turns out worse. Twice I was in the living room, once out on Smith Street when the slow, semi-painful horror of a locked up and loading chest, a carbonated left arm telegraphed that I was in trouble. Again.

Well, you can’t say the doctor didn’t warn me.

For me the big telltale sign is always when I start looking around for a nice place to lie down. First time I was all alone at the ER at UVMC, not sure if I was checking in or checking out, gazing glassy-eyed at a patch of fairly clean grey carpet in the lobby that I thought would make a nice nest to crawl onto. 

On the other two “events” I sank onto living room carpets, feeling pretty good about my choice of lodging for the night, or maybe longer. All three wound up with me incarcerated, but for the third one I took the scenic route.

I lied to Trophy about my symptoms, got up off the floor and told her I was feeling pretty good after all, and didn’t to the hospital until the next morning. Waiting to go to the hospital when you’ve had a heart attack is like waiting to call the fire department when your house is on fire.

All three highly unpleasant evenings had me in uncomfortable beds with beeps, chimes and dull lights winking and whirring me to sleep, plus some help from our friend Mr. Sedative.

Everything else is a blur, including the previous paragraph. Eventually they turn me loose, if “loose” is how I emerge and it’s not. I emerge from hospitals (three different ones so far) numb, stupid and afraid. Then I get tired.

Right now, as in today at 10:07 a.m. I’m exhaustercated. I’m marrow-deep tired from the time I wake up until I stagger onto the couch before going back upstairs for a proper nap. Later I’ll read myself to sleep using the same two sentences I read yesterday. Maybe I’ll try to walk tomorrow, all the way back to that nice couch. 

Writing a column has never been so hard. It takes twice as long to get half as far and the results are 80% worse. This week’s, for example.

I’m going to ask Mr. Anderson if I can start getting paid by the hour. Maybe I can turn a profit on these “events.”

One Comment

  1. k h October 26, 2021

    I hope you are feeling better and getting better every day, Tom. Pretty scary stuff.

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