March 17th my father in law had a heart attack. That day I had no choice but to be strong and take charge. And although I wish I could go back in time and react faster, I cannot.
~ warning: this may be hard to read as it was VERY hard to write. proceed with caution~
This is my story of how deaths ugly face and an unhealthy heart changed me and how I think about heart-healthy activities. This is how I said goodbye to my father-in-law.
I had just crawled into bed when my phone started to chirp. Normally I would ignore it unless it was my hubby. I looked at the screen and was slightly shocked. Why on earth would my father-in-law be texting me after 9 on a weeknight?
The conversation went something like this:
“You up?” – papa
“Yes, what’s up?”- me
“Do you have the car tonight?” -papa
“No Matt has it. What’s up?”- me
“I’m not feeling well. I should go to the ER.” -papa
“Let me call Matt and find out where the truck keys are”- me.
At this point, I was a little worried. So, I dialed his phone and got more information.
“What’s up papa? What’s not feeling good.” Me
“I’m just not feeling well, and I have a pain in my arm.” papa
“Oh shit. Which one?”
“Let me find a sitter quick and ill be over there. Hang tight.” me.
By now, I am again fully dressed and sprinting across the street. My neighbor agreed to let me drive her car and sit with my children who were sleeping sweetly in bed. I raced the 30 or so seconds to his house, left the car running and went inside.
He was as gray as a ghost. I had never seen him look so…. Like this. I knew at once he was having a heart attack. I told him to get in the car and Let’s go.
(it’s important to mention: We had only one car at the time and my hubby’s big Ford. Also, we live about 30 min from the nearest hospital, and calling 911 would not have worked either, as it takes just as long for the first responder to show as it does to just drive to the hospital.)
He was coherent and we chatted a bit. I told him when we got to the er he was going to have to share that tiny bed with me because I was so sleepy. Then, everything changed.
He suddenly was leaning with strength into my right shoulder. I was in full panic mode when he did this because I kept picturing him driving himself and just driving right through someone’s house. Or worse, the canal.
I pulled over and got out. “I did not sign up for this,” I thought while I raced to his side of the car. As I opened his door, it hit me, he might die. I tried to figure out his phone to call for help, all the while freaking out. I finally got the sucker unlocked and had 911 on the line. They asked if he were breathing and he was not. Time to start CPR.
“Next to creating a life, the finest thing a man can do is save one” -Abraham Lincoln
If you have never done CPR, I am happy for you, basically, you have to break the ribs to do it correctly. I am not strong enough. The operator was so calming and nice. Keep going she kept saying. Finally, I could see the flashing lights in the distance. Help was almost here. I had been doing CPR consistently for a good 20 min and I thought I would pass out myself. The paramedics had me continue until they were ready to take over.
They almost dropped him. Near miss, which at the time angered me more than I care to admit.
I called my husband when the paramedics said he needed to come to us because they were not going to make it to the hospital in time. Matt got there just after they called the time of death.
Writing this has not been easy. But it is a story that needs to be shared. The important task of taking care of one’s heart is nothing to shy away from. Neither is learning CPR. I wanted to know more. I wanted to educate as many people as possible. So I made it my mission to know as much as I can and share it far and wide. Here’s what I found:
In short, heart disease is the #1 killer across our nation. Poor diet, combined with other factors like medical conditions and insufficient exercise lead the way to help.
The other thing I learned is that CPR is life or death. Most people say they do not think they could perform CPR. The officer who was first on scene told me many people do not attempt to perform the life-saving measure. He told me that I was heroic. I promise you to this day I do not feel heroic. I did what I had to do in the face of an emergency.
Although my attempt was for not, please don’t let that stop you from ever trying to save someone else’s life. Watching a loved one die is something that I will have to live with and live through for the rest of my life. But knowing that I tried and that he was not alone makes me feel a little better. And who knows? Maybe I saved someone else in the process of trying to save my papa.
I hope if you take anything away from this it is how important living a healthy lifestyle is. How important knowing how to perform CPR is, and being able to perform it on the fly is hard, but it is so worth it.
If any of you have lost a loved one to this monstrous disease, from the bottom of my soul, I am sorry. And if any of you are currently living with heart problems of any kind, I am here and will be your listening ear if you ever need to vent or a shoulder to cry on. I’m here.
Until next time….
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