Saturday afternoon, the Peterson Regional Health Hospital emergency room doctor and cardiologist said they were going to send me up to ICU.
Not even an hour before, the love of my life, my bride Dodie and I were happily eating “Donna’s Meatloaf” at the Camp Verde General Store and Restaurant about 17 miles away.
Serendipity kicked in as I recognized a long time colleague from our H-E-B days walk into the dining room. Bill and Teresa Reynolds sat at a distant table just about the time our server asked if we had room for dessert. We politely declined and I told Dodie I was going to say ‘Hi’ as I haven’t seen Bill in over 10 years.
Strange for me, because out of the blue the day before, I was thinking about some of the fun times Bill and I shared despite the stressful and challenging work for three decades together.
I started feeling a bit shaky and walked back to Dodie. I sat down, took a few more bites and told her my heart was beating very fast. She took my pulse and suddenly I felt as if some kind of asthmatic squeeze was growing in my chest.
I paid the bill and we stopped to introduce Dodie to the Reynolds. I asked her if she could drive which alerted her that something was wrong.
Who was I to question her suggestion to find an urgent care or hospital? After all she was an RN for almost 40 years.
The GPS indicated Peterson in Kerrville was 20 minutes away. I was feeling worse and by the time we crossed into the city limits, a lightning like headache hit my right temple.
She drove me straight to the emergency room entry and went to park the car. I was met with two signs, one notifying that masks must be worn to enter. The other indicating family members and visitors couldn’t go in. Dodie came in–with the masks.
We were stunned in crisis mode. Damn COVID restrictions!
I told the lady at the counter what was happening and she handed me a paper to fill out. I can’t remember what took place next but I’ll never forget the look in Dodie’s eyes when she realized I was going to the Intensive Care Unit and she was going home.
While I’m surrounded in an emergency room bay by doctors and nurses, she was in the parking lot preparing to drive home with a thunderstorm approaching.
Dodie’s not there. My parents are gone. I couldn’t contact my children or sister. I’ve never been in ICU as a patient before. I was terrified. My only recourse at that moment was God. I prayed as they wheeled me to the elevator.
After they hooked me up to monitors the screen above displayed my heart rate and blood pressure extremely elevated. Taking cues from the doctors and nurses eyes, there was no doubt my condition was urgent.
My mind somehow admired how they jumped into action efficiently starting an IV and life-saving procedures. But I seemed totally alone tightly clutching my cell phone as if it was a crucifix or some type of lifeline symbol.
My only recourse at that moment was to ask for prayers. In my fright and pain I went to my friends on social media with this plea:
“Could use your prayers please. I’m in ICU.”
Throughout the night my dear friends and family responded and my fear went away.
Soon I was cracking jokes, entertaining and complementing everyone around. Even as the monitor showed worsening conditions, I stayed positive and actually as much for the medical staff as well as for me.
“It’s nice to have someone cheering us on,” one nurse smiled with her eyes.
“No worries,” I grinned. “I’m here all night for you! I’m trying to earn ‘Most Spirited’ in the ICU tonight.”
Later, night nurse Chrystal and I had a conference call with Dodie. Those two were conversing in a language of medicalese that was above my pay grade. She spelled out everything that happened and what everything that was going to happen.
At one point she told Dodie, “Thank you for loaning him to us; he’s such a delight to take advantage–I mean take care of and has such a good soul.”
That was very reassuring. Dodie later said she expected my head to be twice the size it was when I went in.
Not long after that I settled down and even enjoyed the antics of television’s “Impractical Jokers.”
For a good 24 hours they administered the IV drip medications and occassional blood thinner injections to prevent clotting.
My diagnosis was “Atrial Flutter,” indicating very rapid heart rate.
I began thinking about how fortunate I am comparing myself to others in ICU with chronic conditions. There are friends and families going through things a lot worse than me.
Sunday morning I woke to a happy and committed day crew. From the cardiologist to the custodians, I thanked each and everyone. For some reason, I can’t explain, sending positive vibes out to them made me feel a degree of confidence of trust and belief.
Dodie and my sister Bobbi fielded calls and posted updates, as I couldn’t handle it. But one thing I do know is how we were overwhelmed with the thoughtful sentiments, encouragement and prayers on Facebook. I remain truly grateful.
My cardiologist said the first 48 hours would tell him much. He came by Sunday afternoon and ordered some adjustments to medicine as we moved into Sunday evening.
Monday morning I woke up happy (and happy I woke up), feeling optimistic. As my day nurse sat on the right side of my bed, she looked up at the door and announced, “the Chaplain is here.”
I looked up and saw an older gentleman well dressed in a starched pink long sleeve shirt and dark tie tentatively standing in the doorway.
“Well, hey there,” I smiled and motioned for him to come in. “I’ve been waiting to meet you and wondering when you’d get here.”
He laughed through his mask and smiled through his eyes. Chaplain Doyle Grundy, was born in February 1937, just seven months before my father.
He politely walked in and my first thought was “God, thank you for this honor and privilege to be allowed to have this man walk into my life.”
He introduced himself as the “Monday Chaplain.” It was obvious he was a warm, friendly, devoted, and hardworking fellow. We hit it off immediately.
“They told me I was going to like you,” he wagged his finger playfully at me.
“I’d give you a hug, kind sir,” I replied and then shrugged. “But you know, we’re under COVID restrictions.”
While we talked, I wondered how this friendly man prepared himself to come to work each Monday. He doesn’t get to choose what he’s walking into. He’s there at the end of life for a lot of people.
He receives and cares for whatever emergencies and diagnoses come through the doors. People come in due to accidents or aggravated family members, poor choices across a lifetime, or genetic patterns no one can predict. Or sometimes, literally, with challenges from only God knows where. When there’s not pandemic restrictions, he’s there for families arriving to help or understand, to celebrate births or to anticipate deaths.
I felt better knowing he was there for all of us to provide the best possible help, even for some who could be experiencing the worst moments of their lives.
Because everyone is wearing a mask, we can only see each other’s eyes as they walk the halls and enter rooms. Everyone seems to be hyper-focused, listening intently as they can look into others eyes. The eyes are all we have to perceive feelings, but they tell us a lot. Sometimes I noticed fear, anxiety or even tears. But with Grundy, there was a smile.
He brought me hope, both spoken and unspoken, but it was always present in some way. He honorably brought in healing and hope to me. After he left, my nurse said she felt it too.
Just having someone like him close
when we are afraid was comforting and reassuring. No one wants to be alone, isolated or feel untouchable.
We talked for a good while. The topics ranged from his need for a pacemaker when he was 63, electromagnetism, predator drones, believing in Americans, disbelieving in the Media, and Dodie’s and my trip through 14 states recently.
Somewhere in the course of the conversation I mentioned the term “faraday cage” and he lit up. Enthusiastically, he told me about a book by Jonathan Cahn entitled “The Oracle.” Dodie said she’s going to get it after I told her what he said about it. The conversation lasted another 15 minutes until a hospital staff member knocked on the door.
He took the time to say one of the most heartwarming prayers I’ve ever heard. My nurse put her hand on my shoulder and I could feel her emotion. She wiped her eyes of tears as Mr. Grundy walked out the door.
“You know, I think I’m going to be OK,” I told her. She lit up agreeing.
The Cardiologist walked in and looked at my numbers on the screen.
“You’ve healed yourself,” he looked me in the eyes and smiled.
I was confused.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” I replied.
“You have converted. Your body has stopped the fluttering and your numbers have been consistently good since nine o’clock last night. The IVs, medicine treatments worked, but your positive demeanor certainly was key. I’m going to recommend you be released.”
“Released? Like in released to go to a regular room instead of here?” I asked.
“No, I mean released to go home.”
The nurse literally clapped.
I called Dodie. Seeing her again was a treasure.
Tonight we are home thankful to God, the professionals and our dear friends who prayed for us.