Things didn’t work out very well for the Huskies this weekend, as they were swept in Mankato by Minnesota State. They lost two well-played one-goal games and were just worn down by the #3 ranked Mavericks, whose depth eventually led to just a couple of turnovers that turned into MSU goals.
However, the Old Dog barely noticed. And therein lies the lesson for this week.
Early Friday Evening
Mrs. Dog and I were getting ready to watch the game on the FloHockey feed as we usually do on Friday evenings. We’ve started getting takeout since the COVID-19 situation got very bad down in Texas, and I usually go get the food. This week, though, Mrs. Dog went to pick up the food because I’d been busy with some client work in my consulting business, and she agreed to give me a break from what can be terrible traffic in our DFW suburb on Friday evenings.
Not long after she left, I started feeling uncomfortable. I was sweating a bit, and slowly started to feel a pain that continued to increase in my chest all along a strip about two inches below my collarbone. I kind of knew what this was, but it’s very hard to be fully rational in these situations, and I felt it might pass. I was hoping “Mrs. Dog,” or Carol, would be home shortly and we could just head for the hospital.
But it was clear she was stuck in a bit of traffic because 15 minutes had elapsed and she wasn’t home yet. So, I called her and she said immediately, “Call 911.” I did. The Addison EMT team was at my house in less than 4 minutes, and, as soon as they got me hooked up to an electrocardiograph, inserted an IV in my arm and stuffed a nitro tab under my tongue we were ready to leave. Carol arrived just before we left and I could tell she was quite worried.
Before I knew it, with lights flashing and, on occasion, sirens blazing, we made a relatively quick trip to the dedicated cardiac hospital where my cardiologist has privileges. (There are a half-dozen cardiac centers within 15 miles of our house, but we had to choose one.) We rolled up to the emergency entrance, and I was inside in just a few seconds.
As it turned out, all of this may well have been extremely fortuitous.
In the Emergency Center
As I rolled into the hospital, the paramedics ran through their action checklist with a team of 5 or more nurses and doctors (I didn’t count and didn’t have the best view, to be honest.) Soon I was off the EMS gurney, onto another gurney, out of my clothes, into a gown, hooked up to another EKG machine, and, after my groin area was fully shaved, almost instantly off to an elevator.
Off to The “Cath Lab”
Less than two minutes later, I rolled into the catheterization lab—the place where balloon angioplasties are done and stents are implanted. I was again moved off the gurney, onto the table for heart catheterization, and one of the doctors was explaining what was next. I knew the routine, though, having been through this, albeit in a bit different and less urgent circumstances, back in 2006. But I clearly understood things were more serious this time, more serious than I’d realized even five minutes ago.
I didn’t have time to worry because the “juice” in my IV line gave me a cold rush up my arm and soon I was in a twilight state—not fully anesthetized, but not in any pain and not concerned about much of anything—just observing, almost like a curious but uninvolved third party.
They poked a couple of very large holes in my right groin at the intersection of my leg and my abdomen and started feeding in the catheters. After that, I only remember the lights going on and off quite a few times. And, having been through this routine before, it all seemed, well, routine. Or at least as routine as a roto-rooter job on your heart can be. Or maybe it was the sleepy juice.
Eventually I was told I was doing better and was taken out of the lab. I think I saw Carol on the way but I’m really not sure.
On to Recovery
A bit later, I realized I was in a hospital room—a very nice room, by the way, but still a hospital room—and I think Carol was there. After that, I was still in a blurred out world but soon I was conscious and, all things considered, feeling quite well.
It was a bit later when they explained that things had gotten much worse than I had realized. I had gone into cardiac arrhythmia during the catheterization, a potential immediate step before cardiac arrest and death. They slapped the paddles on me, hit me with 200 Joules twice, and my heart started beating normally again. Trust me, that’s not normal stuff. It’s on the edge of mortality.
(I’ve tried to figure out exactly when this happened. It might have been just about the time Mankato scored the two quick goals they used to beat Tech Friday night. Did I get that via radar love and flip out?)
Here’s the actual trace that was taken during the episode. It only lasted about three seconds, but that’s the kind of thing that happens every day in this kind of facility. If 200 Joules hadn’t worked, they would have upped it to 300 and possible to 360. If that doesn’t work, it could all be over.
Truly, this is beyond sobering.
This trace shows my life going from “that’s all folks” to “you’re good” in a couple of heartbeats.
The rest of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning were just repeated episodes of getting blood drawn, being hooked up to a cardiac monitor and pulse-ox sensor, getting unhooked to use the toilet, taking medications and having my blood pressure measured (over and over and over again until my bicep was sore). That, mixed in with ordering-waiting-for-and eating hospital food, being bored, and sleeping (and being awakened every two hours for blood samples and blood pressure measurement) was all that I was doing.
I tried to follow the Tech game Saturday night, and managed to squeeze in a single word comment, a “WOOF” from the Old Dog, my signature goal call on Discord, when Tech scored on Saturday night. But either I was busy or the connection I had to FloHockey on my cell phone kept freezing using the hospital wi-fi, so all I ended up doing was looking up the score at the end of the game.
I feel great now, even though my groin is a bit sore where they’d tapped into my circulatory system. And I’ve got enough needle tracks on my arms and hands to look like a junkie. I’ve also got two new stents in the left anterior descending (LAD) artery in my heart, one of them inside an old stent from 2006. Cardiologist call the LAD the ‘Widow maker.’ Mine had been 100% blocked, a condition that still kills a lot of people even with the technology and medicine available these days.
In retrospect, all of this seems like something between a dream and magic. I won’t say miracle because it happens all the time and it’s based on sound engineering, biology, physics, chemistry, and medicine. I don’t even have much damage to my heart because this was addressed so quickly, so thoroughly, and with such excellence.
Most importantly, this whole episode has reminded me once again that some things are more important than hockey, more important than almost anything else. And any disappointment I might feel as a fan when things don’t go right for Them Dogs is really not that significant.
Now that the regular season is over, and I’m done with this “almost dying” business, I’m sure looking forward to watching the Huskies take on Bemidji State in Minnesota next weekend in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
If they don’t win, though, I think—and hope—I’ll live through it.
The paramedics of the Addison Fire Department in Addison, TX cared for me in the ambulance, and the dedicated professionals at the Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, TX, took care of me in the emergency room, performed the catheterization procedures, and managed my brief but powerful recovery. I am beyond grateful to all of these men and women for literally saving my life. And I owe my wife Carol everything for her courage and patience in my time of trouble.