By Larry Goodwin, past president of the Rotary Club of Palm Desert, California, USA
This recent Fourth of July, I had a close call which taught me a valuable lesson. I share the story hoping it will help others.
The day began like other holidays have, with me fiddling around my boat, when I began having trouble breathing and felt a pain in my chest. It wasn’t that hot out but I was already sweating. Sitting in the shade didn’t help, or drinking a bottle of water, or sipping on a Coke either.
I knew these were classic symptoms of a heart attack. But surely this couldn’t be happening to me. I just kept thinking about how many people I would be inconveniencing by dialing 911. My family would have to give up their plans for the weekend and start to worry about me. Or worse, they’d have to travel all the way to the hospital. And what if it was just indigestion or something. I reasoned that if I just sat there a couple minutes more, it would pass and I could join my wife and thousands of other boaters on Lake Arrowhead enjoying the holiday.
Well, the pain got worse and it was getting harder to breath. A couple of lake patrol officers went by, but they looked busy, and I sure didn’t want to bother them. I contemplated walking back to the car or driving to the hospital. But what if I got dizzy and collapsed?
I finally approached a person on the boat launch who looked like a supervisor. But even then, I didn’t want to interrupt his cellphone conversation. So I sat down until he was finished before explaining my situation, and asking him to dial 911. And then it all happened.
I remember sirens in the background, the launch ramp being closed so the ambulance could come right up to me, paramedics asking me questions in their calm voices, an electrocardiogram being hooked up and showing the classic wave pattern for a myocardial infarction, and choppers being called because it would take way too long to go by ambulance down the mountain.
I looked down at the beautiful lake as the California Highway Patrol chopper carried me toward Loma Linda Cardiac Care Center and what would be three days of skilled medical attention as trained professionals used their skills to save me and my heart, so I could enjoy other holidays at the lake.
The words of the lead physician, as they wheeled me out of the catheter lab, will always remain with me. “We were able to save your heart because you did the right thing and got here in time. Good thing you didn’t just sit there waiting.”