I’ll let that sink in for a second. I said hello for the first time this month in blog form. For those who may not know, I suffered a heart attack on July 5, 2019 around the time of 8 pm CST. The event started to unfold towards the end of a tournament softball game being held at Dupree Park in Jacksonville, Arkansas under the Busch Classic banner.
In our first round game, my team Hyperactive matched up against another St Louis based team by the name of DARE. As was the norm for this time of year, the temperatures were hot and the air was thick and muggy. After the early going, DARE pretty much held the advantage for most of the game. Heading into the final half inning of play (Hyperactive was the home team), Dare was leading 10-6 or 10-7. My team rallied and cut the deficit to 10-9 with two outs. I stepped to the plate and smacked a 2-2 pitch into right center field for a base hit. Knowing that I was representing the tying run at first base, I asked for a runner. My reason for doing this was two-fold.
First, I knew there were players on my team who possessed greater speed than my own and they had greater potential to score the tying run if a ball would find a gap between the outfielders. Second and more ominously, I was having a hard time catching my breath.
As I mentioned above, the conditions were pretty typical for mid-summer in Arkansas for this annual event. This year saw me playing in the Busch Classic (formerly the Busch Pepsi) nearly two weeks beyond my 47th birthday. Throughout the game I did feel a bit winded and tired but I just attributed those feelings to the weather and me not being in as good of physical shape as in years past.
Back to the game, my coach replaced me on first base with a new runner. I went to sit on the bench and watch the conclusion of the inning/game. Still trying to catch my breath, the next hitter flew out to the left fielder and the ballgame was over. Based on the tournament bracket, my team was done playing for the day but set to come back in the morning to play again.
With the game concluded, I slid off the bench and joined my teammates in the customary sportsmanship line to slap hands with the other team. After wishing many of the players on the other team good luck in their next game, I headed back to the dugout following behind my teammates. Our dugout was on the first base side and I took a knee right about the first base foul line. Internally I was dizzy and still having trouble drawing in a breath. A couple of my teammates helped me to my feet and helped me sit down on the bench in the dugout. Still unable to catch my breath and with another team filtering into the dugout, I stood and staggered out of the dugout to sit down next to the fence in a patch of grass. Adding to my breathlessness and dizziness, I now had a sharp pain starting to work its way down my left shoulder. After a few seconds of sitting against the fence, I started to lean over and things went blank for what I thought was a few seconds.
Those few seconds turned out to be minutes in the real world. I regained my awareness to find my teammates clustered around me while I was sprawled out on the ground. Someone told me to take it easy and an ambulance was on the way. Knowing how expensive a trip in an ambulance was and a subsequent hospital stay could be, I tried to protest and push people out of the way so I could stand up. The effort to stand and extricate myself from the situation proved to be an eye-opening reality check. I was able to sit up and momentarily get to my feet before all of the strength went out of my legs and I wobbled into a nearby chair.
A few short minutes later, an ambulance appeared in the park and within about 10 minutes I was secured inside and headed to the hospital with my intended destination being their cardiac cath (catheterization) lab. My left arm was equipped with an IV and so as not to make my right arm feel left out, my right arm got one as well! During the ride, I was given four ineffective doses of morphine and two minimally noticeable doses of Nitro (Nitroglycerin sublingual tablets).The trip to the hospital was mercifully short and the transition from the ambulance to the procedure table took minimal time. Once I was situated in the cardiac cath lab, I was administered two more doses of morphine (still no effect) and a third nitro tablet that did virtually nothing as well. By this time my entire left arm, from the shoulder to the wrist, was alive with nearly unbearable pain.
At this point it became a waiting game to see when the cardiac specialist would arrive. That wait seemed to last an eternity. But as I was convulsing in pain, the ER team stood around and made jokes with one another while waiting for the specialist to arrive. I understand this was their work place and my discomfort was probably a normal occurrence to them but in that moment I was not really interested in their levity.
As you may have guessed, the specialist did finally arrive. The procedure was performed (I was awake for it, which I didn’t know would be the case) to clear not one but two 100% blockages in my right artery which included installing two stents. Afterwards I was wheeled to an ICU room and left to rest. By this time it was around 10:30 pm or so. My wife (who works as a nurse) was back home at the time of the incident. She arrived a little before 4 am with her mom and sister in tow. Her mom works for a hospital and her sister works as an EMT so I was in capable hands medically speaking. I spent the entire day Saturday and the first half of Sunday in the ICU before getting the green light to be released to go home (five plus hours away in Missouri).
The incident happened on Friday, July 5th and I was released from the hospital on Sunday, July 7th. Today is seventeen days later and I’ve already been to two cardiologists, a thyroid doctor and two cardiac rehab appointments. I’ve been prescribed medicines: Brilinta to keep my stents from getting clogged, aspirin to thin my blood, atorvastatin to help lower my bad cholesterol, lisinopril to treat hypertension (since has been discontinued due to a rash that developed) and nitro tablets for those ‘just in case’ moments that have luckily not occurred since the incident.
So taking this into consideration, I hope you will forgive my lack of content this month. Luckily I am able to move forward and populate my blog pages with new topics and such. In the opinions of the doctors and staff I have encountered (in Arkansas and here at home), I was quite fortunate that my teammates acted as quickly as they did or my entire existence may have ceased on that fateful Friday.
To the people who reached out and showed incredible compassion and support for me and my family I cannot thank you enough. Starting Friday night through the present, I have received well over 1000 texts messages, Facebook messages, calls and Facebook posts. That kind of outpouring is humbling and overwhelming but in a really good way. To steal from the late Freddie Mercury, “I thank you all”. For the record, I plan to follow the doctor’s recommendations implicitly to avoid any possible repeat of the incident. There is nothing about the experience that I would want to wish upon anyone in this world except on those people who torture animals. I hope those people go through the exact pain I suffered and hopefully worse. 🙂
In closing, I would like to address the many who have expressed concerns about me returning to softball activities. Will I go back to playing softball? Yes…as soon as reasonably possible. Why? What if something like this happens again? Well there is a simple but complicated answer. For starters, the game of softball is something I truly enjoy and giving it up would leave a tremendous void in my life. I know that sounds a bit melodramatic but it is fundamentally true. Just playing softball, win or lose, gives me a great deal of satisfaction and stress relief. In my daily life, I tend to stress myself out un-necessarily at times worrying about finances, work, scheduling, upcoming commitments and the list goes on and on. Stepping foot onto a softball field quiets all of that for me. All of that stuff gets pushed aside and I’m just a guy playing ball for an hour or two or more. I’m certainly not an elite player by any stretch of the imagination but at times I’m decently good. Softball like the weather or life is unpredictable. Sometimes you get a chance to make a play. Every inning is an unwritten page of chance but the opportunity to be on the field is familiar and comforting. Don’t get me wrong, I sometimes screw up and that is disappointing but until the game is over, there is the opportunity to do something positive. The more ‘important’ the game is, the more I have fun with the situation. Something in my competitive nature is just wired that way.
To everyone who was and is concerned for my well-being thank you. Believe me when I say that I will do my best to ‘take it easy’ until I am fully recovered but part of that recovery process will involve my obsession with softball. As a concesssion, I am prepared to offer working on improving my dietary choices, reducing my sodium intake and also abstaining from ingesting energy drinks.
Have terrific rest of the month and I will post again soon.