I’ve had several people send me an email asking about my recent adventure with a heart attack. Well, here’s the story.
On Wednesday night at the Think Tank I had a heart attack. I remembered what happened to my friend Peter Capstick when he had his collapse after a speech. People remember his collapse, not the speech. I did not want to leave that conference by going to a hospital for emergency care and be remembered as the guy who had a heart attack at Think Tank II. I self-medicated with nitro tablets and my pain meds. I made it through the next day’s meeting and then at noon the host of the Think Tank arranged a limo to take me to Union Station in Chicago (more on the whole conference thing later). Once on the train I managed to keep everything together for 14 hours. I then drove home (very early morning, before traffic, which isn’t much on the roads here in ND). Once home I brought in my luggage, computer bag, bag with meds and fly fishing tackle, then collapsed in the living room. I couldn’t wake Michelle from living room so I went upstairs (really tough climb) and woke her. She drove me to Fargo (I refused to go to the local hospital because the “only” thing they can do for serious cardiac care consist of liquid nitro drip and stronger pain med (morphine) then send you to Fargo on expensive ambulance ride.) I still had nitro and oxycodone to treat myself. She drove to the Fargo VA, I walked in to the hospital, past the check-in desk (they take too long then put you in a line) and straight to the Urgent Care desk, placed my bag of meds on the desk and said, “Are you the folks who take care of vets having serious chest pain—as in heart attacks?”
“Yes,” the nurse said.
“Well, my dear, here I am.”
Within a minute I was on a bed, getting my shirt off, getting an IV with a drip of nitro and blood drawn from the other arm.
“So, on a scale of 1-10 what is your pain?” the male nurse asked (while Michelle frowned at his efforts to get an IV inserted in veins stuffed with high blood pressure.)
“Well, sir,” I said, “last night and yesterday I had it down to an eight or nine but Wednesday night it was at least a ten.”
“When do you think you had this heart attack?”
“Oh, that’s easy, Wednesday night about midnight, that is when I puked and was sweating buckets.”
“And you are just coming in?”
“I was in Chicago and didn’t know anyone there.”
“There is a VA hospital there. You could have called 911.”
“Figured I’d come home to get it taken care of. I prefer my doctors here.”
“How’s the pain?”
“About ten, can I have more drugs?”
A team arrived to take an X-ray. A minute later the doctor came in, looked at some early test results, listened to my heart, watched the BP (very high). I recognized him because he has treated me before.
“Galen, I am going to get you an angiogram.”
A couple of minutes later, with the male nurse trying to stop the bleeding of the first attempt to insert an IV, the ambulance guys arrived. The other hospital, Sanford, felt I should go straight into the cardiac OR for the angiogram, so an ambulance was sent. Once inside the ambulance they flipped on the lights and siren, great ride! We went through two red lights! I asked them to go around the block but they wouldn’t do it. When we reached Sanford hospital the time from the moment the wheels of the ambulance gurney hit the ground to when I was in the cardiac OR was maybe a minute. Inside the crew was waiting, had everything from the VA (via Internet) including X-rays. The procedure for angiogram was started, they found one of those little blood vessels that was 100% collapsed. Took them a bit of time to get the thing back up then get the stints in but they did. Oh, the doctor who was in charge (not the surgeon who did it) was absolutely stunningly beautiful. She was leaning over and explaining what was happening then asked me if I had any questions. All I said was: “How did you get such incredibly beautiful eyes?”
She shook her head and walked away.
The nurses (entire staff, but two nurses in particular--Krista and Jenny) were wonderful. Best part of being in the hospital!
So, all is repaired. I need to let it sit without stress for another couple of days. I’ve been lectured by every doctor and nurse. Robert K. Brown (SOF) has said he’ll kick my ass if I ever do such a thing again. He also said he does not know very many people who could do it. One of the Cardiac Critical Care nurses said I must have been a good Marine because only a Marine could make it through that kind of ordeal, or do something that crazy. She must be a former Marine herself.
I am doing much, much better and I’ve even managed to get out and search for sharptail grouse with Cookie. Tried to stretch the barrel for a long shot but couldn’t do it so came home with a gun that doesn’t need cleaning.
I’ve got a couple of deadlines to meet and then I’ll tell you about the Think Tank.