At the age of 25, I had a hemorrhagic stroke. I was helping a church member move that morning. I was told to always expect the unexpected, but I had no idea that life would throw me such a surprise.
I used to think I was making the most of life. I was an athlete and a bodybuilder. Outside of the gym, I was on the up-and-up in my career. By all accounts, I was successful. Then my heart failed me … literally.
“I realized what your children wanted from you is what my kids want from me – a healthy father who will be around to share in their family’s lives,” writes Tony Westbrooks after receiving the same diagnosis his late father had.
For the 5 percent of people who survive sudden cardiac arrest a defibrillator usually revives them. Without a timely burst of power to the chest the other 95 percent die. I was one of those rare survival statistics.
As she prepared for a trip home for the July 4 holiday, Denise Castille got a text message that likely saved her life. Her flight was delayed by more than an hour. Shortly after that, she started feeling like something massive was sitting on her chest, stifling her breath.
For months I had been experiencing occasional discomfort in my chest when eating. I attributed it to eating too quickly when I was hungry. My husband thought I might have a hernia. It didn’t occur to me to mention it to my doctor, even though I saw one regularly.
New life experiences described as ‘unremarkable’ merit high approval. A doctor’s appointment that concludes with ‘unremarkable’ in your medical chart is one. A seamless, multi-stop transatlantic flight is another.
My heart story is similar to a lot of women who find out they have cardiovascular issues while pregnant. Luckily for me, I found out before it was too late.
“Your baby’s only hope for survival is a heart transplant.” No parent is ever prepared to hear those words. And you never forget them, nor who said them, nor the day they were spoken.
Sometimes it takes a life-changing event to shift your perspective on what’s important in life, and no event is more life-changing than death. Since my own death in November 2014, I have learned more about living.
My heart trouble started in 1997, when I was 50. Driving to work with my wife, Gerri, one morning, I stopped at a convenience store for coffee. Suddenly I started to get chest pains and could not breathe very well.
As I was running, I suddenly felt a pain. No, not like the pain that is commonly associated with a muscle pull or a bone pain, but a burning pain. The pain was right around the sternum. There was no way I was REALLY sick. Right?