Friday, February 15, 2008

Sheeeeeeeeer Heart Attack

I have this friend. We'll call him Kevin. He has a wife named Julie and two boys, aged 12 and 14. Kevin is 47 and is one of my favorite friends in the world. He's the owner of a very successful branding/marketing/web presence company with a staff of a half-dozen people, etc.

I've known Kevin for about twelve years or so. We met at my first chess tournament. It was also his first, and we hit it off right away. We're both basically patzers, so our games were sloppy, fun, and evenly matched.

Kevin moved to New England several years ago, but we've kept up with ongoing chess games, lots of emails, and occasional phone calls.

I got one of those phone calls this morning.

He says, "I've got to fill you in on what went on this past few weeks."

You know that moment right before you hear bad news, in which you've just realized you're gonna hear bad news, but you don't yet know what it is? Well, there you go.

"Are you sitting down?" Well, I just happened to be sitting down, so we saved a step there.

"I had a heart attack."

Well, now crap my pants, boys and girls, but I can't think of very many people I want to hear uttering those words. I muttered some nonsensical phrases of disbelief, which he finally cut through so he could tell me his story.

He had just sat down to dinner with his wife. The kids were already done and upstairs playing. About two bites in he had what he described as the most massive head rush ever, and it wouldn't go away. Within seconds he felt the crush and realized what was happening. He told Julie to get him some aspirin "right now!" She did and he took it, but to no avail, he was getting worse by the second.

He told her he had to go the hospital now.

She yelled to the kids to come down and they scrambled into the car and she broke several laws rushing him there, fortunately only a few minutes away.

As they drove, he was losing the feeling in his extremities and he could no longer hold his head up. He could feel his consciousness becoming hazy and it suddenly dawned on him.

I could die, right now. This could be it.

He did the only thing he could think of to do. He turned a little toward his kids in the back and started saying goodbye, just in case. The boys are still young enough to not really get why he was talking that way.

Julie got it though.

"Don't you do this!" she screamed at him, "DON'T YOU FUCKING DO THIS TO ME!!"

If you knew Julie, well, that's not the Julie I've known anyway.

They raced up to the ER door and Julie told the kids, "Quick, run in and tell them your dad's having a heart attack!"

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUGGGHHH!!" NOW they got it! They rushed in while Julie ran around to the passenger side and tried to drag his slumped ass into the hospital. In moments the nurses and doctor had it under control and pumped him full of Nitro. Four times. I don't even know what that means, but I assume it dilates your artieries to the size of a vacuum cleaner hose.

So by the scans they were able to tell that, between the aspirin, the nitro, and the quick work they all did, apparently the blockage had come free and traveled into the liver to be filtered out and ne'er seen no more. I didn't even know things like that happened either, but it sounds better than a stint or a saw through the sternum.

He's doing well now. He has to cut back his work schedule, change his diet and lose a little weight. He's signed up for yoga.

He still kisses his kids good night.

I tear up even as I type this. We have few enough friends in this brief life. They are precious and rare.

I've lost a few already. There was Brian Houston. He was 47, just like Kevin, when his Harley lost a fight with a semi.

There was my boss, Mickey Crumpton, who just checked out trying to pump a little fuel into the car.

There was Jim Repperd, my mentor for several years, who had a drop attack, dead before he hit the ground while out walking the dog.

I'm sort of tired of it. I know it can't be helped, and I know it will get worse as I age, but it's still too much. You can't replace people like Kevin. He is an angel of a guy.

They were lucky, and they were prepared. Make sure you have aspirin in the house, folks. I bought a new bottle today. If they hadn't the aspirin in their house, that call might have come from Julie instead, and rather than a good story and fair warning, I'd be writing another lament for a friend taken too soon.

Love you, Kevin, my man. I'm glad you're okay.


It's about me, dummy!!!


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