Synopsis: A viral pneumonia and respiratory failure landed me in both hospitals and skilled medical facilities for physical rehabilitation. Things were going well and release was in sight until an erroneous cutback by a doctor, on a critical medicine put me in grave danger and landing yours truly in Summa's ICU.
The family knew that if anything critical happened, I preferred to be in Summa rather than elsewhere. After all, they have more than 25 years of my heart treatment history. My cardiologist, Otfried Niedermaier, MD, not only practices there but his office connects to the hospital and they have repeatedly been selected as one of the top cardiology hospitals in the Buckeye state.
As I wrote last week, I have no recollection of anything happening. All of today's column is what I learned first hand from witnesses who were there. After completely shutting down in the ambulance on the way in, calm nerves and professionalism by the paramedics saved my life.
At Summa, medical personnel were ready and waiting. In seconds, I was in an ICU room and hooked up to machines. They were banked, one on top of the other, on both sides of the bed from the floor to the ceiling. Every orifice, every entrance, every passageway to this worn out and decrepit body of mine had a wire, tube or needle feeding some ungodly fluid I wouldn't think of drinking while conscious and sober. I laid there not moving for four days. Peggy was by my side day and night; and I'm sure scared stiff not knowing what the immediate future held.
On the second day it happened again. I crashed. Bells clanged, whistles blew, tweeted and whistled and red lights flashed so brightly you'd have thought the ICU was gloriously ablaze. Faster than you could ever whistle Dixie, personnel were there with paddles, needles and more wires and tubes than even I could ever imagine. Someone took a photo with their phone-cam. I could never have envisioned it.
Once again they had to use paddles to keep me fighting for life. And fighting I did. When I was told about this, later, I prayed they used a die-hard battery, and if they did, I said another prayer of thanks. Hey, don't laugh. After all, if you can't inject a wee bit of humor into this crazy journey we call life, you could lose your sanity. But I'm still one of you doing best just what I love to do, and that's writing. When I get home I'll take up my second best love; watercolor painting.
In the meanwhile my wife, Peggy, called our daughter, Wendy. She was in Illinois on Lake Michigan with her family. When Wendy discovered they were ready to pull the plug because there was no response, she begged Dr. Niedermaier to stop them and to give her 24 hours to get back. She refused to take no for an answer, pulling out every stop she knew and what she learned from caring for her youngest daughter; the one who spent the first 11 month in Mott's Intensive Care whom I've written about and refer to as Wee Li'l Mia.
Once back in Akron, Wendy knew she couldn't waste time. She sent Peggy home for shut-eye and camped herself in my room next to the bed. When Dr. Niedermaier came in, she'd be there for consultation. When she learned there was still no response she took my hand and continued to rub it gently, calling my name softly.
"Dad. Dad. It's Wendy. Do you know who I am? If so, Dad, squeeze my hand."
Nothing! No movement. Not a cold, clammy hand squeeze. Not even a slight finger twitch.
Thinking it was all over, that she wouldn't get a response from me, she turned toward the doctor feeling quite defeated with a squeamish stomach and a feeling beginning to engulf her that the medical personnel might be right. With eyes moist, and knowing the plug would be pulled soon, she slowly turned my way one last time, only to see me silently mouth the word "Wendy" with my lips. And then, "Help me, Wendy."
"DOCTOR," She yelled excitingly. "Doctor! You CAN'T pull the plug. Dad just whispered my name."
Next week: On My Way Back
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