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My Friday the 13th experience

By Staff | Mar 22, 2020

Sometimes your life can change radically in a heartbeat. Literally, one beat of your heart.

That happened to me a week ago or so. To be totally accurate, it was on a Friday. Friday the 13th to be exact. How ironic.

That change in a heart beat gave me a wake up call, and I want to share that wake up with everyone I know, including you.

I was on a one week trip to Florida. We were doing the usual things – staying with friends, meeting up with other friends, going out on a boat ride, catching a Twins game (which turned out to be the last Twins spring training game in Ft. Myers, as the rest were cancelled), swimming in the pool, eating, consuming some adult beverages, etc.

I didn’t feel the best the whole week. I was having some discomfort off and on. Kind of a tight chest, full feeling, not a lot of pep or energy, pain in the back that came and went. My belt felt tight. I was a little short of breath from time to time. And I had some heartburn after I ate and burped a lot.

I thought it could be gall bladder, appendicitis or bad indigestion.

So I called back to UHD in Blue Earth and made an appointment with my physician, Dr. Bobby Karp. It was for Friday, the 13th, later in the afternoon, after we would get home.

Thursday night I had some bad discomfort and did not sleep well. Friday morning we went to the airport early, flew back to Sioux Falls, arriving by 11:30 a.m., had lunch and headed home.

By 4 p.m. I was in the UHD Clinic waiting room. As you are probably aware, one of the first things that happens during a clinic appointment is they check your blood pressure. Mine was sky high.That led to some blood tests and an EKG.

Dr. Karp then gave me some news. You are having a heart attack, he said. You mean, I had a heart attack, I questioned. No, he answered, you are having a heart attack right now.

Let me tell you, even if you are not having a heart attack, being told by your doc that you are having one will definitely give you one.

Dr. Karp then said I was going to be sent to a cardiac unit and I had my choice of Sioux Falls, Mankato, the Twin Cities or Rochester. I chose Mankato. I asked when I needed to go. He said now, right now, the helicopter has been ordered and will be here in 18 minutes.

Now, I asked? Helicopter, I asked? Really, do I need a helicopter, I again asked? Yes, he said. Speed is of the essence.

From there it was a wheelchair ride to the UHD new emergency room to be hooked up to IVs and get ready for the copter ride. The irony of this also was pretty hard to ignore. Only a week before I had written in this very space how wonderful UHD’s new emergency department was, but how I hoped never to have to use it.

I can now attest from personal experience, that it is very nice and has a competent and speedy staff.

The helicopter, Mayo Three, left the UHD roof and 18 minutes later landed on the Mayo Clinic Mankato roof. I was on a gurney and seconds later was in the door, down the hall and being lifted onto a table in the Cath-Lab procedure room. A cardiologist and full surgical team immediately went to work on me, putting a stent into a vein in my heart.

I was awake for the whole thing. By 7:30 p.m. I was in a recovery room, by 8:30 p.m. in ICU.

This change in my life was pretty darn fast. Now it is a low sodium diet, exercise, and taking a bunch of pills every day. That too, drips with irony. I have bragged for years about not having to take any drugs, not even one, and now I have a bunch to swallow each day.

So here is the wake up call I wish to share with you all – especially the men.

If you don’t feel well, get yourself to a doctor. Even if you are not sure if you feel bad enough to go to the doctor, go anyway.

I never thought I was having a heart attack. I never had that hug your chest kind of gripping pain, or severe pain in my arm. (In fact, I was not in much pain in the ER, the helicopter or the procedure room.)

Yet, I did know something was not right with me on that trip. I should have gone to a doctor in Florida, but I didn’t.

Some of my friends and family have called me a D.A., and I don’t mean a district attorney. The D stands for a word that means stupid and the A stands for a word that means donkey. And then they add that I am a very lucky D.A. and, I have to agree with them.

Dr. Karp agrees as well. When he learned I had had symptoms for a week, he asked me, slightly sarcastically, did I never even think about coming into the ER. I said, well, I was in Florida. He said he was pretty sure there are ERs in Florida, too.

He’s right. I should have gone in. I was a D.A. Don’t you be one, too. Don’t feel right? Get it checked out.