Quadruple bypass surgery is serious business.
In 1999, Dr. Michael Jordan referred me to a heart doctor. A poor diet, lack of exercise, weight issues and a “hidden” culprit, stress, all contributed to my condition.
It seems that a teaching career has plenty of stress.
Anyway, two stents and medication were the answer and I returned to the classroom in 2000.
Although I improved my behavior in every area and also retired the following year, it wasn’t enough.
Slight symptoms returned in 2011. The doctor took a look – you don’t want to know how he looked – and it was off to St. Thomas Hospital courtesy of some fine guys with the Rutherford Emergency Management Service.
Two days later they operated. I would be fine the doctor said.
Although a heart attack was on the way, I hadn’t had one. So, perhaps the worst three weeks of my life began.
Naturally this was hard on my family, especially Daune, my wife.
I required almost constant care. The first week of the recovery period was in the hospital and those folks were terrific. I found that my attitude was critical so very early I decided to put myself in the hands of the Lord and the caregivers, forget about modesty and cheerfully accept the help.
After a week, I came home but couldn’t do much.
Sitting at a desk or computer for more than 15 minutes was impossible and I couldn’t drive for a month or get out of a chair without help.
To be blunt, I couldn’t do much of anything by myself for two more weeks, but, on a good note, I got a little better every day.
In a week or so, I could walk a couple of minutes and, for some reason my hair stopped growing and began to turn brown again.
The weight fell away – almost 50 pounds at one point.
Within a month, my wife and I were enjoying the fall weather and I could walk outside.
The first time we did this, my neighbor’s mailbox looked like it was in Rockvale. I might eventually get there but certainly not make it back. Within a few days I was up to a half-mile.
The doctor prescribed a 36-visit exercise program at MTMC’s Wellness Center were I met some new friends.
Bryan Lowe runs the center in the Seton Building, and within a few days, I was doing many exercises.
I’m still on the program and walk 15 miles a week.
The help of Samantha, Kim, Dustin, Jen, Allyson, Orin, Ann and Michelle was invaluable. I’ll never forget it.
The doctor also gave me some reading to do about my condition.
Never ignore the symptoms like I did in 1999. Watch out for persistent pain, especially in the jaw, left arm or shoulder, but the pain can be anywhere if you have blockage and oxygen is not getting to those muscles.
Every person is different and women often have different symptoms from men.
Sweating, sleep problems and shortness of breath can be danger signs.
Do not ignore symptoms and do not assume chest pains are caused by indigestion and DO NOT smoke.
Eat sensible foods. Chocolate is not a food group.
This experience was also educational in other ways.
I found out a great many things about my wife and two children that I had foolishly forgotten.
I also found that I had more friends than I thought.
True, some I never heard from, but most called or came by. I got visits from many members of my new club – called the zipper club.
Many sent cards. For a while, we got five to 10 a day. The first card I got was from the Lady Raiders. How did they know?
Church friends and neighbors brought food and my sister and brother-in-law drove down from Knoxville.
When the County Commission prays for you by name, you tend to be humbled.
After seven weeks, I was able to go to church and also return to Commission work but football was out. I missed the entire MTSU season and couldn’t broadcast the High School Championship games, because I couldn’t safely walk the steps in Cookeville.
Needless to say, I welcomed basketball with open arms.
Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, reality set in.
There were many people worse off. I was alive, blessed and lucky.
Support the American Heart Association and all their activities during the month of October. Remember the Rutherford Heart Walk is being held Monday, Oct. 28.