OK, you all know Mac and how into his gardening he is, right? You know we’re early risers and out and about checking on the collards, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages. We even pulled a collard on Sunday and ate him right up with squash and field peas and cornbread. Unless you’re from the South you probably don’t know collards from succotash, but it’s very similar to kale. Just better. So Mac planted these lovely plants from seed in August and babied and pampered them and we’ve watched them grow into these lovely huge leafy beasties. I was out there wandering amongst the beasties and choosing the one to “kill” for Thanksgiving. Mac, who is King of the garden, caught me fondling the large leafy beauty that was going to grace my cook pot. I had told him that since we’d had two frosts, I saw no reason to wait for Thanksgiving to have our first taste of heaven. I’d cook this lovely right up and we’d freeze what was left for Thanksgiving dinner. He fell for it hook line and garden shears.
Yesterday Mac did nothing of his normal routine. He got up early, sure. But he didn’t go out to check the garden or the trees, he didn’t shuck corn for the guinea hens. He said he didn’t feel all that well and wrapped up in fleece blanket, lay back in his chair. I took his temperature, it was 97.4. He didn’t have much of an appetite, in fact ate nothing all day, just nibbled. He had one cup of coffee and the rest of the day drank lemonade. I was concerned about him but whenever I asked how he was, he would only say that he felt some better. At 9:30 he announced he thought he would go to bed. At 10, I followed. At 2 a.m. I felt him get up and sit on the edge of the bed. I asked him if he was okay. He asked for his nitro spray and I got it for him. By 2:30 a.m. I had called 911 and gotten an ambulance on the way. When he had gotten up to get a drink, he collapsed into unconsciousness on the living room floor. I could not bring him around as hard as I tried. After 911 I called for my son Wallace to come help me. He finally came around but had no idea what had happened to him. Wallace let the squad members in and within a few minutes they were on the way to the hospital with him. Wallace, seeing I was in no shape to drive took over those duties. We made it to the ER seconds behind the ambulance. While on the road he had been given two medications to bring his heart rate down from the 200+ beats per minute. Having gotten him converted, he was awake and fully responsive by the time they let us back with him. But suddenly, while the nurse was checking his vitals, he went into a full blown seizure that I knew was serious because she lost her calm and began yelling “I need help in here guys, send me a Doctor stat”. His face was grey, his eyes were wide open with pleading and his entire body was stretched out as if some unseen forces were trying to pull him apart. To say that Wallace and I were now in a state of panic is an understatement. I was begging God to help and telling Mac at the same time, we’re here we’re here.
Okay, this is where we were on November 18th, 2010. Funny, it doesn’t seem to have been that long ago. I was sitting by his hospital bed after several harrowing hours in the ER and found I couldn’t concentrate enough on anything but him. Wallace had brought me my laptop after he made a flying visit to the house to bring me clothes other than my night clothes. I sat in the world’s most uncomfortable recliner, laptop in front of me and determined to make some sense of the past few hours. I failed miserably. He moved, I stopped. He groaned, I stopped. He called my name, I froze. So, putting the usually comforting laptop away and any idea of expressing my feelings about what was going on, I concentrated on his condition. The Cardiologist came in and expressed complete puzzlement over what might have occurred but offered any manner of tests that might offer an answer. By this time the children and grandchild and minister had arrived and Mac was converting to his John Wayne persona. “I’m fine, nothing going on here, I have work to get back to, leave me alone blah blah blah”. The blah blah blah is where I quit listening to him and turned to the doctor and asked about the importance of having yet another catheterization even when he had passed a stress test with flying colors not three months previously. “If he were a family member of mine, he wouldn’t leave here without it” pretty much sewed it up for me. Meanwhile, Mac was busy pulling the stitches out of my resolve. Finally I looked at the drawn faces around me, my older son in particular (he had been in the ER with me at the time of the unexplained seizure and near death experience, after all. “I need some help here, guys, ” I demanded of them. Wallace looked at his father, his face pale his voice determined. “Dad, you don’t understand, I thought we were watching you die.” That did it. Mac simply laid back and gave in to our demands.
Where we stand now. The catheterization found a previously thought closed graft wide open and flowing blood like a champ. Why his heart rate went to over 200 we may never know, but he has had one episode of rapid heart rate since we returned home. He will have to wear a heart monitor for several weeks to keep track of any episodes we aren’t aware of. The mystery may never be solved. But here’s the thing…I have been hesitant to write of this episode because so many of my friends have experienced some devastating events that make mine pale in comparison. I have said so many prayers for them and their loved ones in the past few months, that I had put God on speed dial. I think in particular of Anya who recently lost a similar battle for her dear husband’s life. I think I was suffering from survivor’s guilt. I didn’t want to share and yet I needed to share. I didn’t want my friends who have been through such similar things and had a quite different outcome to think I was insensitive to their recent losses. But, here I am, 2011 and making another resolve to get out there and visit my friends and continue to keep on keeping on. After all, that’s what life is all about, isn’t it?
This is from 2011. Oddly enough we repeated this episode in 2012 almost verbatim. How I spent my Christmas vacation would be a good title. But now we have the (I pray) answer since they have implanted the pace maker. Mac says he feels better than he ever has before. Or at least better than he has in several years … bar the soreness from the incision. So here it is 2013, a new year a new attitude … but he is still John Wayne, fighting the inactivity, planning the garden for spring already. I guess I’ll have to let him be who he is … he’s who I married 44 years ago, after all. Guess I’ll keep him.
— Sandi McBride is a resident of Jefferson, who blogs regularly and enjoys her garden and her furry and feathered friends. She is a wife and mother of two sons.