07 April 2020

“I Think We Lost Him”

I wanted to say I was hiding behind the refrigerator but instead, I opened my eyes, looked at the EMT and said, “I’m meditating.”

“Oh, sorry. You go on ahead.”  I closed my eyes and breathed slowly. I wasn’t in pain anymore because of the fentanyl and the ambulance seemed to be taking it’s time as it cut through an early Saturday morning fog. “Sir, when we get you in the emergency room, things are gonna move very fast.”  The EMT was young, fair haired and reminded me of myself when I was about 25. We were backing into the entrance of the hospital and the fair haired EMT along with his partner, a unsmiling and stern looking woman about 30, stood up in a crouch from their seats and unlocked my stretcher.  

Ambulance doors opened and I saw what I’ve seen in the movies so many times it’s like a cliche. The POV of the patient’s view of the EMT faces, then blue sky and finally the long tracking shot down a hallway and into a small room with about 30 people.  I wasn’t worried until I saw all those people. Doctors, nurses, spectators... I never did find out who they all were. They took my clothes off, stuck a lot things on my body and I heard a man say, “Alright, people. I’m gonna elevate this.”  My partners face appeared and she said I was going to be alright. I was wheeled down another hallway tracking shot into the Cath Lab. Cath for catheter not Cathy. A nurse shaved my pubic hair and when she finished I announced that I could finally be in a porno film.  There was a laugh or two but mostly there was a loud groan and a nurse responded with, “Too much information.”  

As I was being picked up and moved from the ER stretcher to the Cath lab table, my heart stopped. For about three seconds. I didn’t see a bright shining light but I did see a warm white glow and I was falling into it. As I got closer, it looked like a white parachute and it felt wonderful as it enveloped me. It didn’t seem like three seconds. It felt like there was no time. I heard voices and was back in the Cath Lab looking at the cardiologist standing over my groin and pushing the stent in somewhere between my right testicle and leg when all the lights went off and the room went completely black. I said, “Aren’t I supposed to see a bright shining light?” The lights came back on and the cardiologist looked up, pointed a finger at me and said, “You don’t know how close you came so shut up!”  That’s how I got another year of life the morning of April 6, 2019...but it’s also how I died trying to do stand up or lay down comedy in a cath lab.  

I was able to give a nurse who was taking her daughter for a weekend in NYC, a restaurant recommendation (Gramarcy Tavern). She was so grateful and I said it was a good thing I didn’t die and she laughed and with another nurse pushed me out into the hallway. We talked about New York as the tracking POV shot continued and my partners face appeared again. She looked at me and smiled and touched my head. “You’re glowing,” I saw her sister appear behind her and said hello.  The sister smiled and looked at me with some surprise. We all chatted for a while. About the stent in my heart. My 100% main blocked artery and another artery that was 55% blocked so it didn’t need a stint and about the wine list at Gramarcy and then down the hall again to an elevator and finally a room in ICU. 

It took all of 45 minutes I was told. No opening of the chest or pacemaker. Just a stent. It’s been a year and I am not ignorant of my luck. Many things could’ve happened and I wouldn’t be here. I told my doctor that if I had been alone, I would’ve taken three Tylenol and gone back to  bed. He said a lot of men do that with unhappy results.  It was my partner who insisted on calling an ambulance. Especially when I told her the intense pain in my left arm traveled to my left jaw. So many little things turning an event into a nonevent. Although, that white parachute has stayed with me. It provides me with comfort and a sense of peace. Because now I know... it’s okay.