I have not written much the last couple of weeks, and I'm now trying to get back into the swing of things. I cannot recall very well, but I don't think I have mentioned in my blog what I've walked through in the last three weeks. Most of you know some of it, but let me give a brief re-cap. Back on April 3, I began feeling kind of "odd". I could not put my finger on it, I just did not feel well. When our praise team was practicing before church I kept saying that my ears were bothering me. While preaching, I was finding myself winded and a little dizzy. I came home and napped that afternoon. The next day, I still did not feel well all day. Late that night my daughter asked me to go to Wal-mart with her. While there, I decided to check my blood pressure... a decision that probably saved my life. My BP was 196/106. I was stunned. I called the doctor, but mine was not on call and the one who was told me to just lay down and if not better in the morning, to call and make an appointment. His words tended to ease thinking that this was anything unusual, to the point that I almost ignored the abnormal feelings again the next morning. My wife was in Kentucky at the time, and I'm thinking that I'll be OK, at least until she returned home. However, I really started feeling strange and called my doctor, who told me to get to the ER immediately.
So, off I went.
As anyone who knows me can attest, I can be quite stubborn. In the ER, the doctor was telling me that I needed to be admitted for observation and to run some tests. I resisted this for awhile, until the doctor told me that he had seen way to many people go home with symptoms I was showing, only to have a massive heart attack a few hours later. I still resisted a bit, but reluctantly agreed to stay. I was only in the hospital for a day, but during that time it was decided I needed to do a stress test, which could not be scheduled for a week. They put me on a BP med, which had me feeling enough better that I was convinced I was OK, and I probably did a lot more that week that I should have, not realizing how serious this was. Finally, the day of the stress test comes, and I honestly felt like I was wasting my time and money. Still, I went. The test began and just a few minutes into the test the nurse asked me if I was OK. I said I was and kept going. Just a few seconds later, she again asked if I was OK. I said that I was. Over and over, just a few seconds apart she kept asking me if I was feeling OK and to rate any pain I felt. I told them it was about a 2 or 3 on a 10 point scale. Again and again she asked, and honestly, I was beginning to get irritated. Then another tech in the room asked if I was feeling OK, and then the doctor asked, "are you feeling any chest pain?" I responded, "No more than usual." Suddenly, every thing changed. He told them to stop the test and lay me down immediately. He asked me about the pain, and how bad it was. I told him it was not that bad, about a 3 on the pain scale. And he said, "Mr. Garrett, this is not normal. Your test is very abnormal and I can tell you right now you have a very serious blockage and were on the verge of a full blown heart attack." He asked me how I could only rate that pain so low, and I told him that with the constant pain I am in with my back and neck, this pain was nothing. He told me that he wanted to do an angioscope, and right away, within a couple of hours if possible, and to expect a blockage. Due to the battle with insurance, it could not be done until the next day. End result, I had one of my major arteries 100% blocked. He was able to open it up and put a stent in place and restore 100% blood flow. He told me while he was doing the procedure that I was a lucky man, that I should have had a "major event." (Don't you just love the terminology that doctors use?)
It's been two weeks today, and I'm feeling so much better than I have in a long time. My doctor took me off one of the medications yesterday which has taken away the constant headache that I have had since the surgery. He told me I can slowly begin to resume my activities, to add exercise and activities as I can tolerate and build my strength back. Then he cautioned me to not forget this. That it could happen again if I did not make some changes in my life. I promised him, I would not forget, that this had gotten my attention loud and clear. As I talked with him, I asked him about some of the complications I had had since the surgery, such as being forgetful, not being able to recall names, losing my train of thought, slight confusion. Very seriously he said, "Mr. Garrett, you've been though something serious. You were confronted with the fact that you are human and could have died. This does something to you... overloads the mind with thought and emotions. Give it some time and you will be back to normal... but don't forget!"
I can promise you... I will not forget. This has been like a ball bat upside the head. I look at my bride and realize, I almost left her way too soon. I talk to my kids and think that I could have seen them for the last time. Sunday as I was beginning to preach, the thought hit me, "I almost checked out before I finished what I've begun here." No, I won't forget. I'm one of those guys that given the choice between a cup of coffee and a cookie vs going for a walk... I'd take the coffee and cookie 99.99% of the time. Not that I did not feel the need for exercise, but rather, it could wait until tomorrow. There was always something "more important to do than "waste" an hour doing exercise. Now I get it. If I want to finish this race well... I have to do the work today to assure tomorrow. I may be slow and stubborn sometimes... but I got it.
No, Dr. Patel, I will not forget.