The unusually violent attacks had been all over the papers. In an area of town we often frequented, people were being mugged. But of course, no one ever thinks it will happen to them, so off we went to our favourite Mexican restaurant and, as it was nestled in a particularly leafy, pedestrian enclave, we assumed we’d be safe. We’d just gotten out of our car and begun to make our way across the car park when two men appeared out of the woods behind the restaurant. Almost amusingly cliche, they were large and scowling, moving fast, with hands stuck deep in their pockets. And they were making a beeline towards us. We froze. Then just at that second, a car pulled in between us, and when it passed - in that brief moment - the men vanished. It could have been much worse.
Then there was the time we were returning home on a late night flight from Los Angeles. Our plane began to descend, wheels were down and we could see the grey of the tarmac beneath us. Then our heads were thrown back as the pilot took the plane up in a near vertical line. Our runway wasn’t clear after all, disaster was narrowly averted. It could have been much worse.
The time The Songwriter broke his ankle (which of course, could have been his head) on the Isle of Mull. The night I took a header over Apple ( a nearly invisible object when curled up on a dark hardwood floor in the dark ) as I ran to catch the phone and landed so hard I saw stars. The time I jumped off a tall stone wall in an attempt to emulate Peter Pan and broke my left leg in three places. I was six, highly imaginative, and yes, it could have been much worse.
And then… the day after Christmas, The Songwriter and I were having a quiet, pajama day. Our afternoon ramble with Edward and Apple had lacked that certain holiday charm, due to the unusually hot, humid weather sitting tight on the South like a plastic lid. We were eating an early supper when The Songwriter suddenly got up and left the room. After a few minutes, I followed him and found him complaining of heartburn. But he looked strange. He was sweating, something that should never accompany simple heartburn. I made him take an aspirin. After several minutes, when it became clear he wasn’t feeling better, I asked him if we should go to the doctor. “Just call 911”, came the reply, and I, a bit shocked, did.
In less than three minutes he was being hooked up to an EKG machine in our sitting room. “This looks normal”, the EMT said. “But I’d still suggest we take you in”. I offered to drive him and was given a sharp, Vulcan Mind Meld stare from one of the other men in the room which told me my bright idea was not advisable. So off The Songwriter went in the ambulance, me following along behind in my little green Fiat. When I reached the hospital, another EKG was done and the room began to almost instantaneously fill with people. The Songwriter, who'd been given three hits of nitroglycerine and a shot of morphine, wasn’t feeling particularly bad anymore, and seemed calm and interested in all the commotion. It was all happening so fast, neither of us knew exactly what was going on. Before I could blink, I was running behind his stretcher as they wheeled him in to the Cardiac Cath Lab. The doors opened, he disappeared, and I was shown to a large waiting room that was dark and eerily empty, rather like the hotel in The Shining, that spooky Stephen King book that I’ve never read but know all about anyway.
I called a couple of good, faithful friends who were at my side in minutes and together we waited. In an hour, a nurse stuck her head in the door and called my name.
“He’s all done”, she said.
“How is he? What happened? What did you have to do?”.
She smiled benignly.
“You’re not going to tell me anything, are you?”
“Nope. The doctor will talk to you.”
We rounded the corner and there lay The Songwriter, grinning up at me. The doctor smiled at us both. “He’s a very lucky fellow. He had the worst heart attack a person could have. We put in two stents, and the rest of his heart looks good. It appears his heart has not sustained damage and he should be fine from here on out. Calling 911 was the single best decision he’s made in his entire life. Obviously, God wants him to write more songs.”
This entire experience lasted less than three hours, not nearly sufficient time to absorb all the implications and process the grace we were given. We feel a bit like the only survivors of a natural disaster in which everyone else perished. What if we hadn’t called for help? What if, as was his natural inclination, The Songwriter had just decided to lie down and rest? What if one of the city’s best cardiologists had not been on duty that night? What if we'd been up on that island in Scotland? It’s just impossible to take in all these "what if’s".
I suppose if we all realized how often we balance on the razor’s edge of peril, none of us would get out of bed in the morning. Our guardian angels are no doubt overworked and underpaid. Suffice it to say, I am unspeakably grateful and still, in the dark of night, a bit shook up. In his usual fashion, The Songwriter is happy, positive and looking forward and, as usual, I shall follow his lead.
By the way, isn’t it just a glorious New Year?
After learning everything I’ve learned about heart attacks in the past couple of weeks, I feel compelled to say… if you or someone you love ever feel as though you should perhaps call for help… do so. As part of our regular health check-ups, both The Songwriter and I had a cardiac calcium scan several years ago that showed zero plaque in our arteries and gave us both a zero percentage chance of having any sort of heart attack in the next ten years. This of course, proved to be inaccurate. I’ll be happy to answer any questions I can. Just email me.