Tum, Ta Tum Tum … Part Two

Last week I spoke of some of my favorite Lenten and other alternative meals we enjoy at home or out, many of them containing some sort of red sauce, prompting us to make sure we have an ample supply of Tums in the house. The beginning of this Lent started out the same way, with the enjoyment of spaghetti and tuna fish, eggplant parmesan, we threw in a broiled fish dinner from our church one week and on a Saturday and a couple of Sundays, we attended three separate spaghetti and meatball dinners at churches and a club to which I belong. Well, as I look back at many of the things I enjoy/have enjoyed in my life, many of those things were probably not the best for me. I guess this finally caught up to me.

All my life, I’ve been active. I’ve played, coached and officiated sports. I exercise. We have fitness equipment at home, but I’ve enjoyed food and drink probably more than I should have, resulting in my constant battle with my weight. There was a time when I lost a considerable amount of poundage, but retirement is good and I’ve put some of that weight back on. Even though I’ve coached for years, and the last couple my girls gave me a workout each practice and game day, I was not living my life in the proper balance.

For many years I was a pack-a-day smoker. I haven’t had a cigarette in nearly 20 years, but still enjoy maybe two or three cigars a year, some years more, and I enjoy one or more adult beverages when in the social circle, earlier in my life more numerously than now, but I still enjoy having a libation or two.

Now, I wasn’t a math major, and I didn’t teach math the last 10 years of my career, but I think I could still add up that all of my eating habits, vices and my weight issue weren’t going to put me in a good place. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I haven’t seen a doctor for about 12 years either, so I’m not the greatest example of how to take care of yourself to my children, grandchildren and students. (I’m working on changing that.)

So where is this all heading, you may be asking? A couple weeks ago, after the last spaghetti dinner, and about two weeks worth of heartburn, I went in to substitute teach on a Tuesday. The day went fairly well except for beginning to feel some chest pressure around 11:30 a.m. Thinking it would stop, I continued my day, went home, but the pressure remained. I didn’t feel pain in my chest, nor my arm, just a pressure on my chest.

I sat down in my chair at home, we had a little dinner and the pressure was still there. At about 8 p.m., I asked Sally to take me to Urgent Care. She did, and after examination, I was taken by ambulance to the hospital. I received care in the ER, then was taken to a room for overnight observation. Wednesday morning I took a stress test, and it showed an irregularity. A cardiologist was then called, and he said it could be any one of many possible things, other than my heart, but felt that, because of my family’s history with heart disease, that I should have a catheterization procedure done. They couldn’t do that until Friday, so I spent another day wondering what was happening.

Friday came and I was taken down for the procedure (some call it a surgery), at about 7:15 a.m. After being prepped (great job, Janet and colleagues), the doctor came in and began. Fortunately, I was out completely. (I had told Sally to bring a hammer just in case I was still awake when they started … wasn’t needed). I did stir about later to hear a couple things though. Certain words kind of stood out as I laid there. I heard, “Starflight,” and I heard, “Erie.” The words didn’t surprise me that much though, as I kind of suspected, by the way I was feeling, that it might play out this way.

Minutes later, I was awake and getting ready to take my first helicopter ride, though it wasn’t exactly the same ride I imagined before this all happened. The personnel were great. They took a picture of me on the whirlybird and sent it to my wife, and in 17 minutes I was being wheeled into the procedure room at Hamot and being prepped for what I thought was going to be the insertion of two artery stents (turned out to be three). The procedure was over, I don’t really know at what time, but after I laid in recovery for a while, the doctor talked to me, and they had me in a room by about 5:45 p.m. I then ordered some dinner, shot out a Facebook message, and lay there watching NCAA basketball, but still had to remain completely still from the waist down for another three hours.

I had a tough overnight with being hooked up to a monitor and IV, having machines beeping and buzzing in my room, and simple things like going to the bathroom being massive undertakings, but I still got through the night, fairly well-rested.

Sally got there a little after I woke up and we shared an anniversary hug and breakfast (she brought hers, I had mine delivered) before the doctor came in and explained things again, told me to get out of bed and walk around and if I felt better, I could go home. That was great motivation, so Sally and I took many walks of a couple times around the hallways, then a rest, then out again, etc.

A cardiac nurse came in and explained medications, diet recommendations, etc., then my nurse came in, unhooked me from monitors, gently pulled the med port out of my arm, asked for my autograph on a release paper, talked to us once more about things, then walked us downstairs where valet had Sally’s car waiting. I was totally amazed that within about 30 hours, I was in Jamestown, then flown to Erie, had what I would call a pretty serious procedure and was back home getting ready for four o’clock Mass. And I returned to work the Monday after all this happened, too.

I learned to appreciate much in those five days. One thing was my faith in God and the wonderful support group of family and friends whose prayers and thoughts were a blanket over me. After a few days a shower and a shave was as close as my imagination could bring me to heaven. I also learned to appreciate underwear – enough said about that.

So why did I use two Sunday mornings boring you with this tale? It’s to ask you all to do as I say now, not as I did then. Take care of yourself, use moderation in diets and adult beverages, stay away from tobacco and, most of all, hug the people you love long and often. Looking back, in thinking an antacid was going to cure me, I was rationalizing Tum, Ta Tum Tum, when I was really being Dumb, Da Dumb Dumb! When people ask how I’m feeling right now, my first answer is lucky, my second is grateful. Thanks for letting me share my story with you.