By Dr. Joseph J Kozma
It was in February 2007 when the then presidential aspirant Barak Obama was to announce his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois. It was on that date at 5 in the morning when I found myself on the floor next to the bed. It was a funny feeling; clearly I did not fall out of bed. It seems that after getting up I passed out and when I came to I was on my knees and hands. I looked ahead and noticed a great distance like a big highway. I crawled a little and felt the carpet’s comforting softness.
I remember one more thing: I was leaning against a pillow with my back and wondered why the pillow was so hard, the pillow was not a pillow. It was a cabinet. I fell against it.
At this point the usual process took place. The paramedics were called. They arrived promptly and let me go to the bathroom before they packed me on a stretcher and gave me a few blocks worth of ride to the Emergency Room.
Bright lights, hurrying and scurrying nurses and assorted workers, blood pressure cuff on my left arm, a doctor, a stethoscope on my chest the doctor called for “Diltiazem.” Needle in my arm (right), I knew I had atrial fibrillation.
Then the questions. Yes, I have had chest pain off and on for years, mostly on exertion but also under adverse emotional stress. I always had Nitroglycerin in my pocket, never took more than one, it worked fine.
Electrocardiogram, chest X-ray, lab work, decision: Transfer to Springfield to St. Johns Hospital. Abnormal EKG, CPK of 3000, needed cardiac catheterization, call the helicopter.
The helicopter never came. A message came instead “No flight in and out of Springfield. Security procedure. Barack Obama is announcing his candidacy on the steps of the Old State Capitol.”
The ambulance was comfortable. Looking out while lying on the stretcher made the identification of streets and buildings difficult. Perhaps I was apprehensive. I don’t think so. I know I was calm. Some of the buildings were not familiar because we were rerouted. We avoided the Old State Capitol.
The ambulance arrived at a part of St. Johns Hospital that looked like the loading dock of a ware house. I was surprised; I never entered a hospital between large containers that are called garbage cans in ordinary language. The large steel door was opened and I was wheeled over long hall ways into a room with X-ray facility, assorted cabinets and shining instruments that were, presumably, ready work on me in specially trained hands. It was comforting.
Every person needs a time span that allows the “digestion” of events. I did not have that time. I did not know exactly where I was or what was happening to me. Of course, I trusted the people, the instruments and the process. When I say “exactly” I mean just that.
My clothes were taken and I had a gown. I was allowed to empty my bladder right under the brightly focused lights; I guess they needed a specimen.
My tests, EKG, X-ray, lab work that were taken in Jacksonville were reviewed. Nobody looked puzzled, everybody looked informed. That too was comforting.
Soon a cardiac surgeon introduced himself and informed me that I needed a bypass surgery. I expected that. In a way I was relieved because now I was able to rationalize. I thought: If I made it through surgery and recovered I would not to have to take Nitroglycerin. On the other hand if the surgery did not help I probably would not be worse off.
After a little while everything was ready. The surgeon asked me if I had concerns. I said I did; I worried that my heart might not restart after the procedure is finished. During the surgery the heart does not beat, it has to be restarted.
“Hell” he said “It will restart!” (One more thing comforting.)
It did restart. I recovered. Quadruple bypass. Back to work.