We usually only get gifts on our birthdays, Christmas and maybe Valentine’s Day. But this past Thursday on October 29th, a perfectly ordinary day, I got a greatest gift of all – my husband Tim’s life! I hate to generalize, but men can be really stubborn when it comes to their health. When Tim told me last Tuesday when I got home from work that he had heartburn, I was immediately alarmed. He hadn’t had heartburn in years, AND we’d eaten nothing that would trigger his typical heartburn symptoms. My first comment was “let’s go to the ER”. Of course he said no, and that he’d be fine after a shower which always alleviated his heartburn symptoms. The shower did lessen his symptoms but definitely didn’t eliminate them. On Wednesday, Tim had a couple of airport runs, and some required paperwork to turn in regarding his sedan business. I asked him to go to the brand new Patient First facility in Clinton when he was finished with all his work. He said he’d go the next day on Thursday when his schedule was totally free and that he would be there when the urgent care facility opened for the day.
I went to work on Thursday definitely worried that Tim wasn’t feeling any better, and anxiously awaiting his text that he was on his way to Patient First. True to his word, Tim text me at 9 am to say he was on his way there. I was hard at work preparing to host the final session of the quarterly four week security class that I manage for the Department of Homeland Security. Ninety minutes later our life would change when I got a call from Tim’s cell phone. When I answered to get the report of his doctor’s visit, I could hear a lot of commotion on the background. People were talking with raised voices to the point that I almost couldn’t hear Tim. “They found something and have called the ambulance for me to go to the hospital” he said. “What??? What did they find???” I asked. He stammered and then said “something’s wrong with my heart”. I then heard a woman’s voice yelling “tell her you’re having a heart attack!”. I was stunned!! I then heard the sound of an ambulance in the background and Tim said “I have to go, they are taking me to Southern Maryland Hospital” which is literally down the road from our house.
I bolted from my job on Capitol Hill, getting to Clinton, Maryland in less than 15 minutes. When I saw Tim laying on the ER gurney, I was so relieved! He was too. I could tell how scared he was and I hoped he couldn’t tell how afraid I was. We listened to all the doctors and he answered all of their questions. Within the first hour, we found out that he definitely had suffered a heart attack, probably earlier in the week. It was even more scary to hear the confirmation! I told Tim that everything would be ok and that we’d conquer this “new life” of medicine, exercise and a brand new diet.
Tim endured three days in the hospital and two cardiac caths in attempt to determine the extent of the damage to his heart and to hopefully receive at stent. Kim and I held vigil with him and some of Tim’s siblings came for short visits too. The tests revealed a blood clot in the artery on the right side of his heart that turned out to be stubborn and unmovable even with medicine designed to dissolve it. The blockage prevented the placement of the stent but we were told that since he’d already had a heart attack, and his heart had made its own bypass, the blockage could be managed with medicine.
On Halloween day while Kim was sitting with Tim at home, i was able to go to the Patient First facility in Clinton to thank the folks who had helped Tim on Thursday. Miraculously the RN who had been on duty when Tim came in was there. As soon as I said, my husband was here on Thursday with chest pains, she jumped out of her chair and said “you’re his wife? How is he?” I explained the last 48 hours of our lives to her and kept thanking her over and over. We hugged as if we had known each other all of our lives. I am beyond grateful to them!!
I have no idea what the next few months will be like for Tim. There will be cardiac rehab, getting used to lots of medicine when he used to only take on pill per day, and a totally new way of eating for him. Tim was shocked and very upset by his first day at home from the hospital because he slept all but maybe two hours of it. Getting in the shower and putting his clothes on took almost an hour, as he had to lay down for for 20 minutes after each activity. Having been there myself, I absolutely understand what he’s going through and I’ll constantly reassure him that as long as we follow all the directions, he’ll get stronger every day though it will take at least a month before he gets his strength back. Right now I’m sure Tim is still very afraid of what’s to come, but as I shared with him yesterday he’s been given a great gift of a second chance at life. Though Tim is the primary chef in our house, especially for the last few years, I’ll learn quickly to make meals that will keep him healthy and hopefully happy too! My plating is horrible, but at least seeing his plate of tilapia and sauteed veggies that I made put a smile on Tim’s face.
I’m ready to do whatever it takes to help Tim get back to the healthy and happy person he is!! It’s only November 1st but I’ve already received the greatest Christmas gift I could get, and that’s the gift of Tim’s life. As you prepare for the holidays in your own home, remember that you already have the greatest gift you could possibly have, and that’s the gift of your loved ones lives!
Nothing could be finer than seeing a picture of our smiling Tim. And I love your description, Loretta, of Tim as the healthy and happy person that he is. Indeed! Thank you for this powerful and poignant reflection that is laden with gratitude and love.
Thank you Paul!!! You’re so right!! There’s nothing better than seeing that smile!!! I can’t even begin to explain how much your and Pontheolla’s calls have meant to him these past few days! He was so sad when you called last night and it lifted him right up!!! Much love to you!!
Twelve years ago on November 10, I found myself in a similar situation, but my outcome was the complete opposite. Life truly is the greatest gift….no October 29th will ever be the same again. Enjoy every minute!
Wow, I’m sorry Anne Marie , I had no idea! I truly am savoring every moment!!!and you’re right, I’ll never forget that day!!
God is good! In April of 2014 I had a similar experience which resulted in a cardiac catheterization and quadruple bypass all in one week. I was lucky and did not have a heart attack and there was no damage to the heart. Needless to say, it took a toll on my family and friends. The cardiac rehabilitation and meeting with the dreaded dietitian are very important to the recovery process.
Long story short: I rode my bike 20 miles two months after the surgery and in April of this year rode 42 miles in the NYC 5 Boro Bike Ride.
Praying for a full and speedy recovery-
Bruce, thank you for sharing your amazing story!! I’ll definitely be sharing it and your good wishes with Tim!! I can’t wait for the visit with the dreaded dietician!! I’m impressed with your bike rides!! I love to work out but our bike rides are typically around a campground we may happen to be staying at some weekends! Thanks again!!
Loretta–You don’t know me. Our daughter was a member of Paul Abernathy’s church in Washington, and he has become a cherished part of our family’s story. It is through Paul’s comment on your post that I have come to see and read it. I have seen many of your comments on his posts. This is all to say, that you and Tim will be in my prayers. May God’s healing light fill him and uphold him and strengthen him each day, and may both of you have God’s peace and hope as Tim heals.
Yep I’ve seen your comments on Paul’s posts as well. We’ve become like family during his time at St. Mark’s and has continued since their departure. The night before Tim’s heart attack we had just finalized going to Spartanburg for Thanksgiving with the Abernathys. We are planning on still going and Tim is resting well knowing that if he does everything the docs say we can still spend the holiday with them in SC.
We really appreciate your prayers!!! And I appreciate you reading my blog!!
I was dumbfounded Loretta. Tim was the last person I would have expected to have a heart attack. I had no idea about his diet, but he certainly looked healthy and not over weight and never seemed to be stressed. Give him hug from me and I will keep him (and YOU) in my thoughts and prayers.
Thanks Carol!! We were truly shocked too!! I knew he didn’t just have heartburn like he thought, but I didn’t think it was a heart attack either. His cardiologist says that though Tim appears to live a stress-free life today, his heart disease started years ago when he was a smoker and on the police department and had bad eating habits. So it’s on to a new healthy eating life!!!
Loretta, you really make my life so grand and what ever I have to do to be around for our next wonderful 30 years will be completed. Your thoughts on my situation has brought much pleasure to me.
Tim I’m so looking forward to our new adventures and our new healthy eating habits so we can spend the next 30 years in a very healthy state!! Onward and upward!!!