Wednesday, June 19, 2002

MORE TALES OF GETTING OLD
I thought I was having a heart attack this afternoon.


It was raining hard as I drove around town, still exhausted from the Film Festival and all the drinking that went along with it. My head has hurt for three days. I've felt weak, breathing heavy. My arms go numb at night when I sleep. As I watched the rain bounce off the Saab at a traffic light, I realized I was having chest pains. Not terrible, hammering pains, but an annoying grind in the middle/left of my chest.

My Father had a heart attack when he was 46. He was a smoker, had high blood pressure and worked as an Air Traffic Controller (not a great profile for health, hmmm?). He was shoveling snow one winter day when felt his arms go numb and his chest seize. Dad called his doctor, told him the details and the Doctor said Get off this phone and get to a hospital now. For some reason, Dad thought that meant Drive yourself , which is what he did, through a snowstorm, parking his 1973 Capri in the lot and walking into the Emergency Entrance. It was later learned that 3/5's of my Dad's heart was destroyed. I was such a snotty little eighth grade know-it-all that I actually stood by his bedside between the tubes and the machine that went BEEP said something like, I guess this means you'll finally give up smoking now, huh?

I ignored the situation by skipping out on wrestling practice and making out furiously with Christine Longo.

Funny enough, as all this happened today, I was on my way to the YMCA to work out a bit and try to get the blood flowing. I considered driving myself to the hospital in tribute to Dad, but instead, continued on to the Y, parked there, turned off the engine and watched the rain bounce off the hood. For maybe 20 minutes, I thought I'm going to die right here. I'm gonna slump over in my front seat and somebody's going to knock on the window and I won't answer and they'll have to get some of those annoying midday bodybuilder types to help pull me out of the car... . I got so tired that I started to drift off and it hit me that this was much more like death by freezing than heart attack. When you freeze to death, you get all warm and cozy and your body shuts down before you drift off to sleep forever. But I wasn't freezing. I was drifting off because I was exhausted and hungover and this was not about a heart attack. It was about being overweight, out of shape and too drunk for my own good for too long. Granted, all those things might lead to a heart attack, but it wasn't happening today.

So I got out, walked through the rain and worked out for a half-hour. I felt better afterwards. BTW - my Dad got out of the hospital and never smoked again. Even though his doctor told him he had 5 years tops to live, Dad's been kicking around for 26 years since his heart attack, outliving three of his cardiac physicians in the process (which makes him chuckle constantly).

(Photo by Ed Deasy - Black and White Dreams, a Photographic Gallery)

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