What I learned from almost dying

Several years ago, at age 38, I had a heart attack.

I have been fat my whole life, despite many athletic interests, and I had had cancer and gotten radiation to the chest. This combined with a family history of heart problems meant I had a heart attack while exercising.

Here is what happened. I felt anxious at first. This was a tightening in the chest, like before a job interview. I got up and walked around and got some water trying to relax. I could not figure out why I was so nervous. I sat down and noticed that I was having trouble sitting up and that the tightness was turning into pain. I turned to a friend and said "I am having chest pains." He leapt to action and called 911.

Lesson1: When something is wrong, ask for help.

The paramedics came and each time I opened my mouth to cry, they either stuck aspirin in it and had me chew and swallow (yuck) or sprayed in nitroglycerin. They also put in an IV. They then took me to the hospital.

Lesson 2: Do not get in the way of professionals doing their job.

Lesson 3: The last thing many of us may see before we die is our friends standing around, looking down with sad faces, unable to do anything.

The pain was unbelievable. I asked one friend if he would punch me in the face to KO me to stop the pain. He refused.

I was in the ER and they gave me morphine, and I called them liars, as morphine is supposed to help and it did not. My wife arrived, to see me writhing in pain, and all I could say is "I love you and I have life insurance at work." At that moment, all I cared about was my wife and what little love I could extend before I died.

Lesson 4: Tell the people in your life that you love them, and try to help them. They likely will not be allowed to hold or comfort you. Comfort them instead.

They finally gave me an angioplasty, which is a balloon in the artery to open it. The pain stopped immediately and the morphine kicked in. I offered to marry the doctor and he said "No, thanks."

Lesson 5: Medical professionals are angels. Treat them well.

Later I had bypass surgery. I had to accept the fact that when I closed my eyes on the table, I would never reopen them. Every day since, I have had to accept that the next last attack may come and it will be over. I do not dwell on this as it serves no purpose. 

Lesson 6: Admit what happened and then move forward. Dwelling on past hurts just holds you back. Those hurts don't go away, but you can't change the past. You have to figure out how to work towards a happy life despite the past, not without it.


User Comments

My mother works in a hospital. You'd be amazed how rarely people express gratitude to the staff there. They're accustomed to the abuse. I'm thinking the marriage proposal was a bit outside his norms, but y'know, it probably put a smile on his face for the rest of that day. Thank you very much for sharing.

Dude. I'm so glad you're still with us! You may not have led the healthiest of lifestyles at one point, but you've definitely got a healthy perspective now. Keep up with the positive changes, and I wish you many happy years to come :)


I can't relate directly, but I do appreciate your sense of humor. I think that if we had more people with a good sense of humor like yours, the world would be a better place, and maybe we wouldn't have so many problems... like people driven to hatred, or to comfort eating, or to changing things about themselves to make others happy. I'm sure I echo many other peoples' sentiments when I say that I hope you don't suffer another heart attack.


Thank you for sharing this story. It's helpful to me in my current situation to know that there are other people out there who've managed to make the same changes that I have to make in my own life. I hope that others, in addition to myself, are able to benefit from your cautionary tale. 


There are lots of people out there who need to make changes and are afraid to do so. Thanks for sharing your very supportive account of what it's like to actually knuckle down and do what needs to be done.