february

My original plans for February 5th were ones I was so stoked for I had even gone so far as to excitedly share them with my best friend. I was going to go to EOD, have a few drinks, check out the food truck (tacos and tots?? OK I’M IN), grab a bottle of rum from the merch shop and come home to listen to one of the records she’d let me borrow. I pictured a relaxingly tipsy evening of rum and good music.

I ended up doing some of that but when I was heading home from EOD I got the urge to call my parents. See what they were up to. We ended up talking for a full hour, laughing and catching up and even talking about how we were really grateful that our core family of four — my parents, my brother and I — always told each other that we love each other. I can’t even remember a time where it was not the norm for us to go downstairs and say, “goodnight, I love you” before bed or to end phone calls with a love-you reminder.

And so of course that hour long phone call ended with three hearty and natural, “I love you”s and I went to sleep that night grateful for meaningful time with my parents.

The next morning, and in the days after, that gratitude for a phone call ending with an I love you deepened, morphed, took on new meaning, and became a pillar I leaned on and a well I returned to.

On Saturday morning, I was putting on my shoes and mentally debating between walking to Port City or Folks for breakfast. My right shoe was on and I noticed that my podcast had stopped playing. I peeped at my phone and saw an incoming call from Brother. Eric has never called me without warning before 9 a.m. on a Saturday. I knew it wasn’t good and as I paced around my apartment in only one shoe, my mind went into shock, my body went fetal, and my heart ached at Eric’s, “if he wakes up” and the idea of mom being alone drinking hospital coffee on an empty stomach.

I know for some of you reading this, you’ve heard me relive this morning from my perspective plenty of times — usually once I get one too many in my system and am weirdly transported to that grueling 9-hour drive and the mental gymnastics I did to not fixate on my fears. But what I imagine many of you don’t know is that in the days after my dad’s heart-attack, he asked me to write about it from his perspective.

I don’t think I have to spell out for you what a surreal experience it was for me to, within a few days, go from driving to Lakeland wondering if I’d be attending my father’s funeral that week, to being able to visit him in the hospital (masked, for a very limited amount of time), to him asking me to “ghostwrite” his past few days. I was touched that he asked, intimidated to get it right, and weirdly realizing how strange the term “ghostwrite” is when applied to writing on behalf of a family member who was near-death mere days before. I sat on my parent’s back porch, played my favorite lo-fi playlist, and wrote the below.

I’m tempted to edit it now; to revise it and make it less dramatic or more self-knowing of what the past few months since I wrote it have entailed. I mean this doesn’t even hint at the fact that Eric and I would be hugging dad at home in a couple days, that I’d get to spend the rest of the month in the house being a physical therapist and a food-pusher of more vegetables. It doesn’t include dad’s newfound love of grilled cheese, the hushed bed-picnic mom and I had while dad slept, or the sweet moments I got to witness between him and my mom in those early days of recovery. Those two are so in love.

But. This is how it felt then. And I don’t want to tamper with that. Because where we are today — with great news from the cardiologist, yesterday’s back alley bridge win, and several plans to travel in the coming months — where we are today is all the more incredible when I face where we were then. My one shoe, Eric’s hastened flight, Johanna’s voice of reason, mom’s bag of M&M’s, and dad’s hurting heart. We all get to be here today because this is where we were then.

So many of you have expressed such heartfelt concern and compassion over these last few days — for both me and my family — that I wanted to take a moment to not only say thank you but to share some of what happened for the curious minds.

On Saturday morning I woke up with some chest pains. After about a half hour or so of trying to rationalize the pain as something else, I woke up Cheryl and told her how severely I was hurting. Cheryl made the decision that I think in many ways is why I am still here to be able to share this news myself — she called for an ambulance. I’d be remiss if I didn’t stop here to say that if there’s any piece of advice for you all to take away from what happened it is to call an ambulance if you are ever (and I hope you’re not) in a similar situation to what Cheryl and I endured Saturday morning.

While I don’t remember much of the next few hours after the ambulance call, I’ll share pieces of what I recall and what I’ve been told. I remained stable during the drive to the hospital. However, shortly after I got into the emergency room, my heart stopped. I only vaguely remember what it all felt like, but the standout sensation was a total loss of senses, with hearing being the last to go. I could hear the doctors and nurses talking and working. I wanted to speak, to move, to breathe, but was incapable of any of that. I don’t think it’s too dramatic to say that for those thirty minutes I was gone — after all it’s what several very serious and competent doctors and nurses have told me.

We’ve spent the last year of the pandemic heralding medical professionals around the world as heroic and I must say I didn’t expect to see that truth as up close as I did. But the team at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center truly and without any hesitation saved my life. For thirty minutes they tried with all they had to resuscitate me and bring me back to Cheryl. And miraculously, it worked. We owe that team our gratitude for life. In every sense of the word. 

After so long without oxygen going to my brain, the team was understandably concerned that there may have been some neurological effects. But I assure you, I’m still in here and my inclination for great friends, great times, and great lighting is still very much intact. 

As of this writing, I have received three stents in my heart and am recovering nicely. I spent a few days in the Intensive Care Unit and Cheryl, Eric, and Katie have all been able to visit. I even got to watch the first half of the Super Bowl on Sunday. There is plenty of recovery up ahead but I know that I am deeply lucky to still be here today — to be able to plan for a tomorrow is a gift I do not take for granted. 

Thank you all for the kind messages, phone calls, for caring for my family as they have navigated an incredibly strange and hard week. We are so grateful and feel so blessed to be surrounded by such loving family and friends. I look forward to seeing you soon. 

On behalf of the family, we would like to personally thank — Dr. Zia Rab (my cardiologist); Dr. Aung Naing (my critical care pulmonologist); Evelyn Martinez (the charge nurse); my SICU nurses, Jessica Tyson, Natalie Barr, Kassie Deluna, Naomi Parryn, Cindy Maxam; my Cath Lab team, Patsy LaPonsey, Ricky Hughes, Dianna Mendez, Joyl Turgeon; my nurse practitioner from Watson Clinic, Barb Donley; and the emergency room team.

I feel like it’s my turn to say thanks to my people. To say I was operating on autopilot would be a major understatement and I am so so so grateful for the people in my life who showed up during those bizarre and difficult few weeks.

Thank you to the friends who went above and beyond, the coworkers who took the meetings and tasks I couldn’t, and my parents for building the kind of family that always says I love you.

Anyway, I love you. Take care of yourself and probably go ahead and cut back on lunchmeat.

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