Nov 27, 2012

Déjà vu, All over Again

I wrote that last rant for Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly a while back. It sat on the shelf until I decided to pull it off and put it on my blog. I liked it, but my editor did not. Today, looking back at what I wrote, I'm even more convinced that I should have taken better care of myself.

A few weeks ago, I did . . . something to myself. I didn't notice it at the time, probably because I was having fun or too pissed off to notice little stuff like a bit of chest pain. Afterwards, I had a little chest pain, front and back, that felt a lot like my usual winter edition of bronchitis and an odd irritation on the right side of my neck during almost any level of exertion. I'm pretty much a preventative maintenance guy, when it comes to machines, my house, my occupation, or my relationships but when it comes to taking care of myself I tend to ignore the big, little, and medium-sized stuff. I am, after all, a guy and I have a perfect right to expect infinite durability and longevity (right up to whatever my expiration date might be).

After the usual Thanksgiving gorging and an afternoon hauling firewood from the storage stack to the house stack, that irritating ache in my neck was more insistent than I'd noticed in the past. Maybe the fact that I was working my way through a book on paying attention, The Thinking Life by P.M. Forni, allowed me to pay a little more attention to myself. For whatever triggered a moment of intelligence, I should be grateful.

I called the nurse hotline provided by my health insurance company. The nurse listened a bit and suggested, "Call 911 and get yourself to an emergency room."

Not wanting to make a complete overhaul of my lifestyle, I thanked her for her concern and decided to visit my regular clinic the next day. I got through night fine and wandered into the clinic about 9:30AM. The doctor on staff dialed 911 and put me in an EMT truck to an emergency room. Three days later, I'm sporting a jiffy new cardiac stent propping open my right coronary artery and I'm only a little worse for the wear.

One of the docs in the OR offered me a deal. "If you get away with out having anything wrong, you win. If you don't, I get to smack you." He won, but decided against smacking me. After all, I'm old and at least a little senile.

The moral I have taken away from this weekend is "The longer you can ignore stuff the less hassle it will be." Since it's too late for me to start taking care of myself, I'm going to concentrate on enjoying the shit out of however many days  have left and "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." The lesson I received from my father and father-in-law's last decade of life was "I need a faster motorcycle." Nothing I've learned in the last few days contradicts that value system.


  1. Thomas, you are a lucky man! I've been around people having heart issues and they deny it till the end. My own girlfriend was at work one night and was having the classic chest pain symptoms. She even told her boss about it. She put it off and finished her shift. She came home and was going to go to sleep. I was just about to go out for a few hours when I heard her call my name. I took one look at her and we were off to the hospital. They had her there for less than 5 minutes and she was in an ambulance on the way to United in St. Paul.
    She managed to survive the classic Widow Maker, left anterior descending, blockage. They were able to open it, but because of the location of the blockage they couldn't stent it.
    Her EF is down to about 30-25%, and is on more pills that I could ever list.
    If she had gone for help when the pain started, she'd be in much better shape today.....If I had gone out the door 5 minutes earlier, she would have taken Pepto-Bismol and gone back to sleep...She wouldn't have made it to the next day!

  2. I'm glad your okay. I've enjoyed most of your blogs over the past year or so. Wish you the best in your recovery.

  3. Ride fast. Take chances. Good luck.

  4. Erik,

    You're right. Mostly luck. My father had an event a lot like you girlfriend's when he was 71. Lost the same kind of heart function and was sedentary from that point until he died. I've said this before, the best alternative to getting old is "get a faster motorcycle." Thanks for the good wishes, guys.


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