The siren seemed to bore into my brain. I could feel every bump in the road, every sharp turn and every sharp needle. I was hyper aware, able to calmly chronicle to the EMT the expansion of pain in my chest, the movement of pain down my left arm, and the abrupt and welcome absence of pain for a moment. In the front of the ambulance was my wife, so near I could almost touch her. I was able to hear the love and concern in her voice, and I was able to repeatedly say to her “I love you.”
With merciful speed we arrived at the emergency room where any doubt or denial about what was happening was immediately dispelled when the doctor who met my gurney introduced herself and said in a matter of fact way; “Well obviously you are having a heart attack.” At 50 years of age life had provided me with a wakeup call and an opportunity to put things in perspective.
When mortality comes knocking you would think one would snap to attention and take it seriously. In my case the school of hard knocks had to knock twice. Those of you who have read my blog before might remember this article (Life Saver) from earlier this year, when I shared about my wife’s lifesaving use of the Heimlich Maneuver to stop a bite of pizza from doing me in. At that point her training and her calmness made all of the difference. This time around my wife’s hard earned crisis management skills again kicked in, she was able to get me aspirin when it became clear that something beyond heartburn was going on, and she was able to calmly provide details and directions to the 911 operator, even in the midst of her own fear.
It seems that I needed another heart to heart, so to speak, to reflect on my life and on what’s important.
I’m still learning, and figuring things out even as I recover and heal. I’m now four weeks removed from the crisis, and I’m endeavoring make some serious life changes. Here are some things I’m learning:
1) Life is too short not to do what you love. I’m in a good, but stressful, career and I now have to look at ways to limit stress, not take work home with me, and enjoy work more. At the same time I realize that my career isn’t my dream job, and perhaps it’s time to plan for a future where my work and life are more balanced, and my work is something that I love. My wife is a tour guide/tour director, she loves her career. She brims with excitement when she talks about it; she’s constantly learning and expanding her horizons. This is a lesson that I will learn from my own personal tour guide.
2) I love food, but I need to love the right food. It wasn’t uncommon for me to enjoy a heaping bowl of boxed mac n’ cheese, or a few hot dogs, and more than my recommended daily allowance of wine. Don’t get me wrong, I also ate and enjoyed many healthy meals, but the balance was often tilted towards the more expedient and less healthy options. Now I’m enjoying being creative with my meals, cooking new healthy recipes, and exploring the real joys of eating well.
3) This is the only body I have; I can’t trade it in for a new one like I can a car. If I don’t check the oil and have regular maintenance done on my car it will break down. I knew I had some health issues that needed periodic attention but I was ignoring doctor ordered tests and checkups. I knew I wasn’t eating well or exercising like I needed to, I knew I could afford to lose a few pounds, but I avoided the doctor, the blood tests, and the diet modifications. I was in denial, was it any surprise that my engine blew?
4) Exercise is important. For me it’s walking right now, and I’ll likely get a bike. This needs to become a habit. I’m working on it.
5) My life is a gift, I love sharing it with my wife, whom is also a gift. I married my own personal tour guide. My life hasn’t stopped because I had a heart attack; it has become that much more precious. We are planning European adventures in the near future (these adventures may include some menu items not in the regular diet plan-moderation). This incident won’t make me a couch potato; instead it will make me embrace life, travel, and joy.
So I married a Tour Guide and she has my heart.