Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cardiac Adventure

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.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

I am back from the Orion Think Tank and I am feeling really juiced about everything that was talked about, over, and someitmes argued (usually me).  I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Posewitz, an author whose little books on hunter ethics are game changers in our world.
All that said, the old man here is a little tired and going to call it an early night.
More to come later.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cookie's Day

Dove season opened today. For me, here in North Dakota, the first day of dove season is the opening of the hunting season. Next week the season on grouse will open and it seems that every week or two thereafter another season will open, in some cases the new season replacing one that is closing. The sequence of seasons opening and closing is something that I truly enjoy. However, in this household I am not alone because Cookie, my German Wirehair, suddenly finds a new purpose in life--the hunt.

For the past several days Cookie has been like a tight clock spring. Every few minutes she would walk around my desk and push her muzzle under my arm and then try to flip my hands off the keyboard. If that didn’t work to get my attention she would start looking around on my desk for something to “retrieve,” usually one of my fountain pens. She doesn’t pick up ballpoint pens and rarely grabs a pencil but when she finally settles on something to retrieve she grabs it, sometimes working herself into a semi-standing position to get what she wants. Her game then is to go around the desk, with the pen in her mouth, and then “bring” me the pen. I don’t know if it is the change in temperature, or like the deciduous trees when the hours of sunlight changes it triggers their change of color, the sunlight somehow tripping Cookie’s awareness that it is nearly hunting season, but something does trigger the change.

As August counts down to September she becomes increasingly fidgety, wanting to get outside, get in the Suburban and do something. She wants to be active. Usually the opening of dove season finds me up early to get in the fields. Today everything had to wait until I had taken care of other business, and I don’t know if Cookie could read my desire to go hunting, or there is a mysterious connection between us, but she knew. This afternoon, when I walked over to the hunting vests hanging on one wall Cooke came unglued. She began jumping around the office and one minute she would be sitting by the door and the next she was right beside me. Suddenly, when I picked up my shotgun she calmed down and went to the door and sat in front of it. Her tail was wagging furiously across the floor and her legs were quivering and she was staring at the door as if she could open it by sheer doggie willpower.

Normally, when I open the office door and Cookie “escapes” into town she runs a few laps around our block, giving my heart another reason not to work as intended because she has no appreciation of cars on the street, but this time she went to the Suburban and waited. I let her in, clipping her leash so she couldn’t get in the front seat, and then I loaded Buster (“her” Basset hound, that’s another story).

After putting my shooting bag and shotgun in the front seat we were off. Cookie was calm, or at least as calm as she can be, while I drove to a prairie road between roost trees and a harvested field. Somewhere between leaving my office and reaching my hunting spot, a place where I could make a blind for pass shooting at dove, I decided that it was Cookie’s day. I arranged my shotgun, possibles bag and all important Thermos of coffee while Cookie and Buster were clipped to the Suburban. Then I was ready. I turned them loose and stood back to watch. Buster started on a heading and his stumpy, fat, legs blurred as he ran across the stubble field. Cookie immediately started hunting. She had her nose down and began coursing, but just as I had earlier decided that it would be her day, she decided to have more fun. She found water, chased the blackbirds out of the cattails, and when I shot at a passing dove she turned to see if it would fall (it didn’t).

Today was Cookie’s day. She ran, she swam, and she hunted, and generally enjoyed life. That is what it is all about, enjoying our world. I fired one barrel of my muzzle loader double and I missed. Okay, who cares? I don’t. Maybe I am becoming older, or less critical of myself, but whatever it is I had more fun watching my dog bound across the stubble field, charge into the cattails and then splash and swim. She shook off the summer and prepared herself for what is truly her season--the autumn, when colors of celebration burst throughout the tree lines, farmsteads and along the rivers, and deep inside those color filled days is the time of the hunt--Cookie’s time--our time. I suppose that is what separates us from those who don’t hunt. All they can do is look at Cookie’s time; those of us who hunt are part of her time. It really is a big difference in how we are living life.

Think about it. glg