I remember when I was young hearing my parents explain their joyous moments as ones that felt like they had died and gone to Heaven. Saturday, March 27, 2021, brought new meaning to these words…
7:07am we departed my house and headed for the hills of Johnstown. Farmer, Downer, Mick, Littlest, and I shared our greetings and turned left and then right on Orange road for the first hill of the day. I climbed it with ease as the cold air rushed to my opening and awakening lungs. Felt like a million bucks. About 45 minutes later, we picked up Grappy at the end of his driveway and slowed the pace to allow him to hook on to the back of our small Peloton. We smiled and talked as we began the easy climb up the beginning of Red Bank Hill. I noticed coldness in my lungs and slowed my progress to assess. I’d never felt such coldness from the inside and was pissed at myself for not dressing warmer. As Grappy pulled up alongside, the others continued their way to the right turn onto the steeper portion of Red Bank. Turning to the right up Red Bank, I told Grap I was pulling over and getting off my bike. Grap told me later he said, “Oh shit,” right then. We have been riding for 7 years and he’s never seen me get off the bike. EVER.
Immediately he said he was going back to the house to get his car. I told him that wasn’t necessary as he pulled away like a bat out of hell. So, I started walking back toward his house disgusted that I had ruined his ride. As I walked I noticed a pressure building on my lungs and chest. Nothing crazy but it wasn’t normal. Never imagined I was completely blocked in my right coronary artery (RCA), but I was.
Mick, Littlest, Farmer, and Downer arrived a couple minutes later, as they had turned back at the top of the hill after Farmer called Grappy to find out where we were. Mick (a doctor), took one look at me and told me to sit down. So I did (who said I’m not coachable). At that same moment that Mick was calling 911, Grappy pulled up in his Buick. Mick hopped in the back seat as I buckled into the front. We left the bikes and my friends as Mick told Grappy to floor it. I was beginning to feel a bit worse but still very much with it as Mick ordered Grappy to run one red light after another with his flashers on. I told Grappy, later, that I didn’t know a Buick could go so fast! We arrived at St. Anns in 6-7 minutes and Mick had already alerted the emergency room that we had a Stemmy coming in. I didn’t know what that meant but still had no idea my heart was under attack. It was.
Mick and I walked int the ER and he was barking out orders to just about everyone. The Head Doc told me something about they were going to be working fast as they helped me get out of my cycling gear and into a gown in pit crew like fashion. Before I could blink they had me hooked up to all kinda devices, oxygen in my nose, and telling me not to be alarmed by how quickly they were working. They put a nitro under my tongue and asked me to gauge my pain level from 1-10. Five was my instinctive reply. Mick barked out, “Don’t believe him, it’s a TEN!” I assured them it was not. Twenty seconds later the Doc asked me if my pain was lessening. “Nope, it’s the same,” I replied. Give him another one was her order. So another nitro under the tongue. This went on until we hit our 5th nitro and I told them it was still a 5. I’ll never forget what she said next. “Give him morphine!” My mind immediately switched to the scene out of Saving Private Ryan where the medic reluctantly sticks the injured soldier in the leg with morphine right before they die. This cannot be good, I thought to myself. The Doc again asked about my pain level and I told all who could hear that it was not getting better, maybe worse, like an 8. “Give him more morphine,” she exclaimed. I looked at Mick and he had his head in his hands, I looked at the rest of the souls within eye sight and they looked on edge, to say the least. I began to think that maybe this was it. So, I told God (quickly, I might add) that I’m ready to come home but I don’t really want to leave either. I was at peace. No panic. No anger. No sense of dread. I can’t really explain it but I could feel the life slipping from me as a new woman appeared directly in front of me. She told me they were taking me to the Cath lab as somebody else began pushing my bed from behind. Felt like I was back in the Buick as they weren’t messing around. Entering the Cath Lab it looked like a scene out of movie, at least to me. There were 8- 10 new faces just waiting for me with some kind of rubber device. They flipped me out of my current bed onto this rubber thing and began shaving my groin and right arm. I knew this meant some kind of wire was going into my heart. It was a surreal feeling. I was conscious through all of this even though I know I was doped like a drugee. When the wire broke through the blood clot, instant relief flooded my system. No pain, just like that. The rest of it was a blur, as my brain may have decided to shut down or the adrenaline flipped off. I don’t remember how I got from there to my recovery room.
In the ICU my nurses were fixated on stopping my wrist from bleeding and monitoring me like a banshee. I felt no pain, except a discomfort in my wrist they had bandaged so tight my right hand was blown up like a balloon. I was alive and couldn’t really believe it. I looked at the clock and it was not yet 10am. That was one helluva morning, I thought to myself.
Here we are now on Monday morning and I’m about to be discharged from this life saving place called St. Anns. I am beyond grateful for the saving work done by Grappy, Mick, Dr. Archer, Dr. Pfahl, and all the nurses and assistants that aided me in this life changing MOT (moment of truth). I should be dead, the Doc told me. Your friends, strong heart, and this team kept you alive. I’m still processing what this all means. No where near close to figuring out any of the why’s.
The doc told me I’m an anomaly. He said the other arteries were clean as a whistle and the RCA wasn’t blocked much at all. The little bastard soft plaque broke off at one of the worst spots and caused half of my heart to shut down. The other half of the heart went ape shit trying to keep me pumping and it was near the red line when Dr. Stentmaster popped the blood clot in just the right way. I am forever grateful to be with, to still be with. I was alive and felt like I’d gone to Heaven. I want to live like I have. I mean, what a gift I’ve been given. So many of my family and friends thought I was going or gone. The outpouring of love I’ve felt cannot be any different than what it feels like when we truly are Alive (as never before) and gone to Heaven. I plan to live hard and love harder. This day is a gift. Make it a day, friends.
Thanks to all of you who have reached out to send me your love. It has fueled me and will continue to. I feel like someone who has gotten to survive something that few do. I feel the love that most people only send once the loved one is gone. I’m getting it all and I’m still here to pass it on. I’ll be laying a bit lower for a couple weeks but the Docs have assured me I’ll be back and better than ever. I believe them. I already am.
Life is a gift. Live hard. Love harder. Live like you’re alive and gone to Heaven. Maybe, just maybe, this is what God put us all here for in the first place…