Friday, June 15, 2007

Julie's First Helicopter Ride (The Condensed Version)

Wednesday, May 30, 5:30 AM:

“Uh, oh! This is going to hurt.” This thought flitted through my mind as the distance to the ground shrunk.

Julie and I were walking just for the health of it. The sun was to our backs, the ground was level and we were talking and stepping out long and fast. I failed to see a small rock protruding from the ground. It projected up at most 2 inches, probably less. My right foot was placed perfectly and the toe of the sole of my boot glued itself to the rock as I attempted to step forward. Try as I may, I couldn’t get my back leg free and forward to catch my balance.

When I hit the ground I knew four things immediately – some skin was missing from my left forearm, it didn’t hurt as bad as I expected, I could still take a fall and bounce back (literally) and something was broken in my left upper chest.

Many years ago I was water skiing at about 45-50 MPH and took an ungraceful spill that broke 3 ribs. This pain felt similar. The irony is that I fell on my right fist and the thumb of my right hand caused the break.

Tuesday, June 5, 2:30 AM:

The pain pushed my sleep away. It was the strongest to date, felt different and had moved below the break. It wasn’t excruciating. I’ve felt worse pain, far worse pain, but it was enough to cause me to wake up. I rolled out of the bed and felt light-headed and my eyes wouldn’t focus. I was hot and clammy. As I walked to the bathroom, I felt more light-headed and knew there was the possibility I was going to faint and decided to return to the bed.

I don’t remember it happening but I do remember hearing a crash and Julie’s panicked voice. The pain in the back of my head made it clear that I had fallen backwards.

After I returned to the bedroom, Julie checked my blood pressure which was about 50 over 35.

“OK, this makes no sense. The pain is probably from the broken rib and not a heart issue. I’m as healthy as the proverbial horse. However, strange things do happen. Perhaps a trip to the ER would be wise. Also, I doubt that an ambulance could find our house in less than an hour.”

Tuesday, June 5, 4:00 AM:

“Mr. Lambert! Mr. Lambert!”

Some dream slipped away and I opened my eyes and saw a strange woman.

I looked toward the foot of the bed and saw 20 eyes staring at me. A few moments earlier, there had been only three people in the room: Julie, a nurse and the doctor. How the room was filled.

“Your heart stopped beating for a few seconds.”

Sections of my chest and back were shaved, patches attached that I assume conduct electricity, a huge vial of a clear liquid was taped to the rail on the bed to be ready in an instance and a helicopter was on its way.

As I lay there, I looked at Julie and knew two things with confidence, First, this isn’t the end and second, if it is “Oh, well”. Religion gives me neither fear nor comfort. I don’t accept the BS about a wrathful God and the fires of hell. I don’t need sympathy. Other than compassion for Julie and a sense of leaving the party early, I didn’t feel anything about the possibility of dying other than acceptance.

Tuesday, June 5, 5:30 AM:

The helicopter ride was exciting. Fortunately, Julie is on the petite side and her weight is below the limit so she flew with me. By then, the pain was gone (which probably had something to do with a shot of morphine), my eyes were focusing and I had a window. In spite of the fact that I was on my back strapped to a board, the view wasn't bad. I commented to Julie that this was probably the only flight that we would ever take without going through security. We flew passed Sedona and over canyons that begged to be explored. At the Arizona Heart Hospital we got the red carpet treatment, lot of needles, several tests and no breakfast or lunch.

For 60 years I’ve had the goal of dying without spending one night as a patient in a hospital. Yes, I’ve been to a hospital multiple times to get stitched up after some accident or to have some sun-induced spot carved off but I’ve never been admitted. This little incident blew that goal all to Hades.

Wednesday, June 6, 10:30 AM:

Julie and I slept well in the hospital bed. It was a little tight but not uncomfortable. I was up by 5 AM, put on jeans and a tee-shirt, stuck the wires and remote monitor in my pocket and waited and waited and waited. Breakfast came and I ate it as I watched a D-Day anniversary program on the history channel. Finally, the doctor came in and gave us a prescription for a nuclear stress test (scheduled for the 26th just before our Grand Canyon hike on the 29th) and we were on our way home.

We walked about a mile to a bus stop, rode a bus to a stop near the airport, walked about 3 miles to the rental car agency and drove a Mustang convertible back to Flagstaff.

Friday, June 15, 5:00 AM:

I don’t know what happened that night. Every test confirmed I’m healthy. I feel no pain unless I cough, sneeze or laugh but broken ribs heal given time. Also, I sit down gingerly. Evidently, when I fell, my lower back just above the bottom of the spine made contact with the floor. It’s been a real pain in the ass. Today, we’re hiking to some remote hot springs at a little over 8,000 feet in elevation. The hot water will be soothing

When Julie phoned her daughter and told her about the incident, Abby was surprised and asked “Are you serious?” to which Julie replied, “Yes, serious as a heart attack.” Personally, I admire Julie’s resiliency and humor.

Life is good when it’s filled with adventures that I share with her.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted you to know I honestly do read these things!!!! You're my champion in more ways then I will ever be able to express. Thank you for loving me no matter what. I have never at any point in my life ever doubted that. I am thankful you found Julie so when you do fall off that cliff or attacked by that wild animal, I know you lived and loved life with no limits. HAPPY FATHERS DAY!!!!!!!! I miss you!
Love your daughter,

6/15/2007 09:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wondered what happened to you these past few weeks. I'm glad you are back and feeling better. Take care of yourself.

6/15/2007 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger robin andrea said...

That is quite a story. I'm glad you are recovering, and planning another great hiking adventure.

6/17/2007 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

You are one tough SOB, you know that? If you are the healty living dude I assumed you were, there's no reason for you to have cardiac issues, except maybe for heridetary reasons. However, taking abuse CAN cause your system to go haywire, so let's not push it.....we ain't getting any younger, ya know!

Thank Bob you're alright, Paul.

6/17/2007 12:47:00 PM  

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