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May 13, 2014

It was a heartfelt anniversary

DUNCAN — Privately, I celebrated last Friday night. It was on that date, April 11, 11 years ago I thought I was going to die.

I had awakened from a relatively peaceful sleep and thought nothing of it. On a number of occasions I had done the same thing only to allow my mind to fill with a myriad of chores left undone, plans to be made, problems to address.

My routine was familiar. Get a glass of (skim) milk, grab a couple of (low fat) cookies and walk the 10 steps down to the game room in our Alabama home where I would read and relax, then return to sound sleep.

On that night, I did just that.

An hour or so later, however, I was awake again, surprised but not startled.

In the darkness of our home, I knocked two books off a table. The noise awakened Julie and led to a chain of events that likely saved my life.

Had I not knocked over the books, I would have likely repeated my routine. Not to be overly dramatic, I would have probably died.

Instead, we swapped small talk. You okay, she asked. Anything wrong, she wondered.

I was not having the classic symptoms of a heart attack. There was no elephant on my chest. My arms were not tingling. I wasn’t dizzy. Nor was I nauseated.

But I didn’t feel right. My shoulder felt a little odd, but there was no pain and little discomfort.

Still, we decided to make a precautionary trip to the hospital, just to make certain there was no real problem.

What followed remains something of a blur.

By the time I dressed, I knew I was in trouble. There was some pain. My brow had broken into a cold sweat. And I could feel signs of shock entering my body.

We’ve got to go now, I said firmly, interrupting Julie’s telephone call seeking help  from friends to care for little Grant, then a 4-month-old who was asleep and oblivious to all the sudden commotion.

My condition worsened as we got into our car. Fear had become a factor.

The speedy trip to the hospital was memorable, not just for the short time it took to race through intersections and cover the 7-mile distance, but also for the surreal experience itself. The pain was excruciating, so bad that I muttered aloud I thought I was dying.  Julie kept me talking and I was alert enough to suggest we call ahead to the hospital so they would be expecting us.

And her verbal prayers no doubt were responsible for whatever calm we shared. To this day, she says God was with us, literally, in that car and each time I think about that, tears of gratefulness well up in my eyes.

The emergency room was a flurry of activity.

Exiting the car, I lunged for a wheelchair. Later, it seemed I lunged again, this time for a gurney. And almost immediately I was surrounded by doctors and nurses responding to my pleas of “help me please.”

A favorite shirt was cut from my body. Wires and electrodes were attached to my chest. If only I thought I was in trouble, I knew then I was for certain. My blood pressure dropped to dangerously low levels and I am told by concerned, loving friends who arrived to support and to assist, I turned an ashen color, one of death.

Had it not been for the solid quick work of nameless people in an emergency room, people who devote their lives to the most stressful of situations when they perform Herculean feats with no fanfare, I could have been one of the unlucky ones.

Because we acted quickly, my window of opportunity remained open. I was a candidate for tPA, a miracle intravenous injection that eliminates clots and blockages immediately and, temporarily at least, eases the danger.

For me, it worked.

Once stable, a quick helicopter ride took me to Birmingham where a stint was inserted in my chest and the beginnings of a plan to help me continue living was birthed.

I laugh now when I think back to the friend who said if all I wanted was a helicopter ride, I could have gotten one for $50 at the local airport.

I giggle at guys who said I rattled when I walked because of all the pills I originally took.

And I’ll forever remember the doctor suggesting they “only save lives” instead of “performing miracles” when I asked if he could also cure my golf swing while he was working on me.

Life has taken many twists since, but I remain grateful for answered prayers and second chances.

Eleven years ago, I thought I was going to die. Instead, I am blessed with another tomorrow.

                                                                                                edarling@duncanbanner.com                                                                                               (580) 255-5354, Ext. 130

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Duncan Vice Mayor Mike Nelson talks during Wednesday's Duncan Rotary meeting.

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