My next conscious memory is waking up around 4 AM in the ICU unit of Meridien Park Hospital in Tualitin, about fifteen miles south of Portland.
Lauren (who was holding my hand), Carter, my daughter Heather, and her boyfriend Eli were there with me as was my new cardiologist Dr. Miguel Gomez, the man who had spoken to me before my surgery. Dr. Gomez explained that they had inserted a stent in the blocked artery that had caused the heart attack. I was amazed to learn that the stent had been put in place by inserting a wire near my groin and then guiding it via computer images up into the blocked artery. The stent opens the artery and is medicated to prevent both infection and rejection.
It was beyond comforting to see my family there with me. Little did I know at the time, but Lauren had already spoken to our other daughters Tabitha, Cari, and Brenna who had in turn booked themselves on planes to fly in that very day from Texas and California.
Lauren has been the absolute love of my life since we first met eight years ago. She is the strongest, most loving, most supportive, and most nurturing woman I could have possibly imagined even in my wildest dreams. And there she was, already having been up all night, having witnessed my death twice, and yet gathering and nurturing our large family ,and still transmitting so much love through her hand into mine that the energy would have healed any heart that ever beat in a human chest.
I also knew, with a deep and remorseful pang that will resonate in my being forever, that Lauren had seen this heart attack coming and had warned me, no, begged me for almost three years to change my eating habits so it wouldn’t happen. I am seventeen years older than Lauren and her only request had always been for me to take better care of myself so we could spend as many decades together as possible. To my eternal chagrin, I had ignored her pleas so here she was, living out what she had often tearfully told me was her worst nightmare. Given this second chance, I am resolved to spend the rest of my life making sure I never hurt or frighten her–or my family– again. Ever.
I was then told that my heart had indeed stopped again on the operating table so I had actually been shocked back to life four times in less than an hour.
I was so full of drugs, and also in a state of shock, that the whole episode seemed unreal. I had died? Really? Sure, here I was in the hospital ICU having just undergone emergency heart surgery after flatlining four times, hooked up to IVs in both hands, heart monitors strapped to my chest, and an oxygen mask around my face to help me breathe. My family looked shocked, drained, and relieved all at once. But I kept thinking: “Really? That happened? But I really don’t feel like I almost died. Really?”
It was only a couple of hours later that the truth really hit me.
A nurse had just changed some of the IV fluids and asked me how I felt. When I responded that it was hard for me to believe everything that had happened, she said:
“Mr. Simon, your heart stopped four times. Ninety percent of the people who have that happen to them, don’t survive it. Ninety percent. You must have a very strong heart…but you also have to understand that you being alive and talking to me right now is nothing less than a miracle.”
(To Be Concluded Next Week)