I'd been extremely good at ignoring personal health issues most of my life. The last time I was hospitalized was 55 years ago and even my wife recently said I was the healthiest person she knew. I got in excellent shape in the Marines and later played basketball, softball, jogged, swam, and coached my kids teams in three sports. I used a push lawnmower, did my own landscaping, and every winter I shoveled and used our snow blower. I was a little overweight, but didn't think it mattered that much. Never went for an annual physical or had various tests done.
And then my wife passed away.
The cause of death was double pneumonia, but cancer really wore down her defenses until she couldn't handle the growing pain all over her body. I organized her calling hours and funeral, handled the enormous paperwork involved with her being a state employee, and looked after my son and grandson. Everything went quickly right up to the day it happened. I don't remember anything about that day. I picked up my grandson and took him to the dentist. Then we went and played miniature golf indoors because it was winter. He was on vacation so I bought him a Happy Meal at McDonald's and drove him home. My daughter told me later that I said I was feeling tired and weak and would go home and take a nap. It was 4:30 PM on a Friday and the start of rush hour. I left her driveway and drove two blocks to the intersection of a busy street.
I had a seizure as my car crossed the busy street. I drove over the sidewalk and onto someone's front yard. The car came to a complete stop as I stopped breathing. An off-duty fireman just happened to be walking close to my car and told me later that he knew I was either having a heart attack, or I was drunk. So he rushed over to my car, but the doors were locked. His buddy was 50 yards away so he ran to him and got a tool to break my car window. The two of them ran back to me, called 911, and dragged me out of the car and began emergency resuscitation on me. The fireman told me he knew I was still alive as each time he told me to breathe he heard me struggle to take a breath. His fast actions are what saved my life.
An ambulance took me to a local hospital, but they transferred me to a regional university hospital that evening. My family was notified and they came to see me in the hospital. My body was packed in ice and my body temperature was less than 40 degrees. They didn't know if I would come out of this or not. When I woke up and learned where I was it was hard to accept it. A cardiac surgeon recommended triple-bypass surgery after I went home to gain strength for three weeks. The six-hour surgery was successful and I went home for a second time. The firemen who saved my life were honored at their annual banquet. I was a guest and got to meet them and thank them, and even made a brief speech to the gathering. One of them was receiving chemotherapy and a fundraiser was held to help him with driving expenses etc. I mailed a sizable check to help him and he thanked me.
So if you know a loved one who may be headed down the same path that I was on, please talk to them. Let them know that warning signs should be taken seriously. I ignored my blood pressure numbers, my family history of heart illnesses, and the need to change my diet. I know now what I should have done. I am alive today because every member of my "team" worked together to insure a successful outcome. Someone may not be as lucky as I was. I'm fortunate that the fireman just happened to move to that street a few days before I drove down it!