My brother-in-law had chest pains on New Year’s Day, but they were nothing a donated nitro capsule couldn’t fix. The earliest appointment available with a heart specialist was the end of February. When the pains returned the first of February, he self-medicated again with someone else’s nitroglycerin. A day later, after he had made plans to drive two hours to the airport and fly home (he lives 600 miles from where he works) to see a specialist there, the pains returned, so he scheduled an earlier flight, worked, drove two hours for more nitroglycerin, drove back to his own trailer, spent the night, went back to work, then drove back to his trailer, so deep in the woods it had no phone service, to lie down and wait it out until his next morning’s flight. He couldn’t wait it out. He had to drive himself the dark miles back into town to the hospital where the intake clerk was gossiping with co-workers. “Darlin’,” he said to get her attention, “I’m having a heart attack.” When she didn’t seem to comprehend this man on his feet, not on a stretcher, needed immediate assistance, he repeated himself, “Darlin’, I’m having a heart attack, so I suggest you get off your ass and get me some help now." Within seconds the area around the front desk was swarming with emergency personal.
In those long anxious minutes we were waiting on the other side of a phone, we had no word from the last call on the road until another sister-in-law arrived at the hospital and asked for him. “He’s the one,” the intake clerk said, her eyes big. Ohmygod, the sister-in-law thought. “No, no,” the clerk said, “he’s alright. He scared me.” And you just scared me, the sister-in-law thought.
He scared us all.
But he’s fine, after a transfer to a larger hospital, after the heart cath and the stint (the intake doctor had to turn away when my brother-in-law said he had taken five nitros and they hadn’t helped—I know she didn’t want him to see her swallowing the incredulous laugh I saw flashing across her face), after the too much blood thinner, after the recovery.
“At least now I know how long I’ll live,” my brother-in-law told my sister. She listened intently, awonder that somewhere in all the jumble of his three-day-heart-attack this significant revelation had arrived. “How long?” she asked.
“Now I know for sure,” he said. “I’ll live until I die.”
So say we all. Let’s do it.