It was a typical humid and hot summer morning in central Alabama. July 28, 2014 is a day my family will never forget.
5:45 A.M. – My sister and I are still sleeping as our school’s band camp doesn’t begin until noon. My mother is getting ready to walk out the door for her normal morning commute to Birmingham. My father is coming back from his normal morning run with the dog only this time, he isn’t running. He is walking. She opens the door for him as he has a very strange look on his face and can’t seem to get the door open. She says something like “why weren’t you running, you Nancy….is it hot enough out there for ya?”
He begins to tell her that he can’t catch his breath and asks her for a drink of water. He NEVER asks her for a drink as he always comes in and gets his own water as he begins to cool down before showering and heading off to work himself. She gets him a cool wet towel for his face. She says that it is extremely hot and he says his chest is tight. She asked if he needed to go to the doctor and he told her no and that he just needed to catch his breath. They continue to converse a bit and he then states that maybe he does need to go to the doctor. She gets into 911-mode when he said that.
He was able to walk himself to the car, get in the front seat where they have a brief conversation about where to take him while she is backing out of the driveway. We live in a rural area between Huntsville and Birmingham, close to I-65. Our local hospital is not known for the best of care but there is no time to make an hour commute to one of the larger cities. The events are unfolding very quickly at this point. He said he was unable to buckle his seat belt as he couldn’t feel his hands. He finally was able to buckle it while she sped down our country roads. He commented to her about driving safe. The car poolers she normally commuted with saw her car pass the gas station where they met at every morning at 6:00 and noticed that she was driving extremely fast. She had her flashers on and honked at drivers that were in her way on the interstate. He stated he was unable to feel his arms and then his chest.
The interstate is less than 2 miles from our house. The exit to the local hospital is 11 miles from our exit. The hospital is then around 4.5 miles from that exit. It’s around a 20-minute drive. My mom has no idea how fast she was driving or how long it took her to get there. Once in the last 4.5 miles of the trip, there are several traffic lights. She was able to hit all of them while green except for one and there was another car approaching the crossway so she had to stop. She said something about having to stop and my dad said “don’t stop because I’m not ok”. They were 1.3 miles from the hospital. It was at that point that he went into cardiac arrest. His body went stiff and she laid on the horn, sped through the light and tried to pound on his chest with her right hand. She went through the hospital parking lot which seemed like it took forever as she had missed the turn that said “emergency”. She went to the ER entrance where she was unable to get him out of the car. A security officer tried to help her but dad was stiff and slippery from sweat. He looked horrible as he always wore old t-shirts that may have been stained or maybe there were holes in the armpits or something. He wasn’t planning on a fashion show while he ran. Finally, the medical staff came out with a gurney and was able to get him out of the car, begin CPR and whisk him through the ER entrance. One person asked “what’s he on”? Like I said, he wasn’t planning on being seen in that attire and he certainly wasn’t looking his best with what all his body was going through.
Medical personnel acted quickly and was able to revive him more than once. They did not have the facilities and treatments he needed so he was air lifted to a larger hospital in one of those larger cities we live around. He had cholesterol blockage that went undetected for years. He now has 2 stents and is on medications. He is a medical miracle due to several factors.
– healthy 46-year-old runner with a heart rate of an 18-year-old
– eats right
– has annual physical to include cholesterol check (was never too high although it was “borderline” a few months prior to the heart attach as high cholesterol and heart problems run in the family)
– my mom’s quick thinking and calm demeanor (not to mention her driving skills)
The moral of this story is about taking care of yourself but it is also about needing health insurance. Regardless of how well you take care of yourself (my father is a prime example), you could have a catastrophic financial hardship without INSURANCE! If we would not have had health insurance, we would have been financially devastated. My mom said that the medical bills were well over $100,000. With our awesome health plan, we were only obligated to pay a few hundred dollars of those charges. A helicopter flight and ICU fees are not cheap. If anything like this ever happens to your family, I hope you have good health insurance coverage as well. Insurance……don’t leave home without it!
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