Wednesday last week was exactly 15 years since Risa drove me 55 miles to see a friend who was an infectious disease doctor. I thought I might have had pneumonia, but I suspected it was something worse.
He was attending to a boy with a leg issue, but he saw me waiting and came out after a few minutes to say hello and listen to my heart. He put the stethoscope on my chest and with concern in his voice he said, “Lloyd, I’m going to wheel you into the emergency room myself.” The last thing I remember is the nurse asking if I minded them cutting my underwear off.
It was the beginning of hell for my family, but I would be virtually unconscious over Labor Day weekend. The surgeons pulled a Hail Mary just to save my life, first by inserting a stent in my left anterior descending artery, nicknamed “the Widowmaker,” and then connecting a pump to support the heart. Mine was virtually completely blocked, and if the surgeon could not get the stent in, I was not going to survive.
The heart surgeon, Dr. Akbar, told Risa the odds were stacked against him heavily, but he had to try. The collateral circulation from 25 years of running had enabled me to even reach that moment.
After the stent was successfully inserted, Risa asked the doctor how he did it. He looked up and pointed to the stars.
I have no memory of the next two days. Family and friends camped out in the hospital lobby, sleeping on floors and chairs and blankets, I have been told.
The day after Labor Day, I had a quadruple bypass and heart valve repair. I spent 12 days on a ventilator while I gradually became more conscious of what was going on.
On day 13 of the saga, the doctors removed my ventilator. I slowly got up and walked a few steps. Then I was wheeled to a regular hospital room and stood up to take a shower.
I started to realize what had happened and the ordeal my wife and children had gone through.
In a couple of days, we drove the 55 miles back to our home.
It was a medical miracle I survived. I wonder every day, why me? Why did I survive when almost everybody else with a blocked LAD dies before they even get to the operating room?
The primary after-effect of the ordeal has been PTSD. I think of it everyday, even though I remember very little except the ventilator and not sleeping much because the ICU was an annoying place.
Fifteen years. Why me? Why am I still making deals and writing a blog? Why did I pick blueberries with my family in Michigan three weeks ago? Why am I sitting on pins and needles with the Chicago Cubs this season?
God knows. But please God, let it continue.