On April 16th, 2008, I went for a nuclear stress test. I was 42 years old. I had been having a chest tightness that I had finally gotten annoyed with to do something about it. My family doctor, knowing my health history, ordered this test herself, which ended up getting me in a lot sooner than if I had tried to make the arrangements myself.
Within a couple of minutes, the test had been stopped. I was connected to wires which showed my heart activity, and the technician running the test saw “something.” I was escorted for my next round of heart scans and then placed into an exam room. While in the waiting room, I watched everyone else leave before me, that came in after me. I have seen this play out before. I knew this was not good.
The cardiologist came into the room. He had informed me that I had a blockage, somewhere. He said he normally never offered a diagnosis of 100%, but he was 100% certain that I had one. He wanted me to check into the catheterization lab next door to his office. There, they would go up through my leg, and try to place a stent wherever the blockage was.
Whenever you are dealt a health crisis, you are likely to enter the Kubler-Ross stages (denial, bargaining, anger, etc.). I skipped the denial. I have had bad news before. But immediately I told him, I had plans that I would come back Monday. He got my attention real quick, “you may not have until Monday.” Depending on where and how bad the blockage was, neither of us had any idea what was ahead.
I did come back the next day. When I said goodbye to my daughters, then aged 5 and 3, I kept is simple. That I was just going to stay overnight in something like a hotel, and I would see them “tomorrow.” And it was that simple. But as the expression goes, “tomorrow never comes.”
I was coming to, when I saw the cardiologist, my wife, and a friend at the foot of my bed. All I could make out was that it was worse than they thought. I did not grasp the technical way the doctor explained it. But my friend who was there, was an EMT, and she knew what it meant, and in shock blurted out, “a widow maker.” Again, I was still under the influence of the anesthesia, but as the fog wore off, the severity began to settle in.
I was now set up for an emergency triple bypass the next day. Not any time to go through those stages. First thing in the morning.
But it was not the surgery, or the risks, or the possible results that I was worried about. I wanted to see my daughters just one more time before the surgery, and that was not going to happen. There was no time.
For the first time in their lives, we would be apart. I was able to speak to them on the phone. Hardly a consolation from the hugs that I so desperately wanted and needed. And because of their ages, I could not explain to them what was going to happen, what could happen.
I do not know what was worse. Having no time to prepare to go through this, or be like others, who often wait weeks or even months until they would have gotten that test done. All I do know, is had I waited any longer, you might not be reading this right now.