It has been a few weeks since my helicopter ride, but I’ve lived a lot of life since. My prior ignorance concerning heart health has been replaced by a thirst to learn as much as possible. Understanding serious health conditions take on new meaning when it directly affects you, but it’s made more difficult when the doctors are not able to explain exactly what or why something happened.
I was initially hesitant to share any information about my ordeal. I sat on it for a week and wrestled with the validity of making it public. The last thing I wanted was for it to come across as glorifying the experience, as if I was saying, “beat riding in a helicopter!” The only reason I took the video was because a medic offered to take pictures for me. “No thanks,” I said, and knew then it was ok for me to do it. I looked around the scene on Beech Mountain and noticed a good size crowd gathering around, all taking pictures and videos; so, I did what everyone else was doing, albeit from the best seat available.
This format is my most comfortable. Written expression is not new to me, and those who followed NashvilleCyclist.com know this. I wish to share my thoughts about what this experience has been like, and in subsequent posts will provide more details about the medical side of things. Odds are you will never go through an experience like mine, but odds are someone close to you has or will one day.
One’s thinking about the self and life in general significantly changes after such an incident.
One of the most meaningful messages I received was from an unexpected source, and it said, “…but please try to keep in mind that incidents like this do not make you less of a person or less of an athlete. You are still the same person you were before the event, and your value to this world is immense,” – Steve G. Reading a statement like that prior to my helicopter ride would not have made much sense to me, but it meant the world to me to hear it so soon afterward. I cried. I cried because I was already wrestling with that exact problem. I bet some of you reading this can identify with Steve’s words.
There have been many things in my life I have pursued not knowing why I’m doing it or the purpose behind it. I didn’t know why I was supposed to apply for an $8 an hour job at the age of 33. I didn’t know why I was supposed to become a college coach. I didn’t know why I was supposed to spearhead a crit series. I didn’t know why I was supposed to start a 444 mile charity ride. I didn’t know why I was supposed to uproot my life and move the mountains. And, I didn’t know why I was supposed to call 911, aside from realizing my symptoms were beyond my control. All I know is I am supposed to do it, and then communicate the message or idea. I leave the rest up to God. Every single time, God pulls through.
Over time, the why is eventually revealed. What bounces back is always surprising and uplifting. Through the above examples and many others, I have learned it’s not up to me to decide how others participate in what I share. I simply put it out there, and let people decide how to respond. The messages I have received have included simple get well wishes, to stories similar or worse than mine, and many have said the story has been a wake-up call within their own life. The consensus has been one of surprise in regards to me, but also concern for their own well-being. If a seemingly healthy and fit 48 year old man can encounter a heart problem, what does that say about anyone’s chances?
I am always intrigued by the unintended and unexpected consequences of the actions I take. The one overarching theme has been congratulatory for having the guts and wherewithal to call 911. Doing so has made others put themselves in my position and question whether they would have made the call. More than one has told me if a guy like me can make the call, then they can make the call too. The truth is, in that moment, I did not feel I had any other choice but to call 911. I was mentally prepared for an ambulance ride, not a helicopter.
Bad cramping is one thing, but other symptoms I experienced were foreign to me. At no point did I think my problems were heart related, even as the pulsating sensations through both lower arms began and continued. I did know I was in trouble though, and here I am alone at home. I was concerned I would pass out with nobody knowing. The timeframe to assess the rapidly deteriorating situation was only about 3 minutes.
Therefore, my message to everyone who encounters a scary or confusing situation that is beyond control - you have every right, permission, and authority to make a 911 call! Nobody will think less of you, and it just might save your life.
I am well on my way to resuming normal activities. There are no limitations placed upon me by the doctors, only to not do anything crazy for a while. I have steadily increased my riding and exertion level, and my energy has been outstanding after the initial week of rest. It has been surprising how well I feel on the bike by simply listening to my body, feeling every sensation and heartbeat, and pedaling through. It helps to be dangling behind some strong college kids to provide extra incentive to keep going. I have taken a fair amount of complete days off, but I had been doing that more often in the past two years anyway. I did consider hitting the easy button, but the medical professionals did not suggest it.
I survived one other traumatic event in 2002. At that time I went through an evolution of change in search of what I was supposed to do next. The year before and after that event in 2002 taught me a huge lesson - I had make very different decisions moving forward. No longer could I pursue life with the same predictable decisions, and instead I had to become radical in my approach if I wanted to reach my full potential. I had hit a wall prior to that event in 2002, and it was a pivotal moment to change course.
The circumstances are different here in 2018, but my mindset is similar. What am I supposed to do differently in my life? What are the lessons to learn? Who am I supposed to be, and for what purpose?
It’s 2018 and I have still not hit my full potential.
I am not living in fear, but rather embracing this opportunity. Hopefully moving forward there will be takeaways for others to learn and grow from through my experience. If I am able to help you along the way then I am pleased to be part of your journey. My next appointment is with the cardiologist on October 10th. I hope to secure more answers at that time and be in position to share specifics on the medical side of this adventure. Thank you for taking the time to read this message. God bless.