Monday, January 21, 2013


This evening I found a post from Banquet of Consequences among my favorites.    His account was of an episode of chest pains and dizziness he experienced that had him admitted to the hospital.  

I had a similar occurrence nine years ago and thought it might be informative and instructive to people of late age.   

Mine was unusual in that I was a school principal in an Eskimo village about 250 miles west of Anchorage, Alaska in the tundra of the Kuskokwim Delta.


I had been short of breath for a number of weeks and found myself gasping from the most minor exertions.   I had had some dizziness but like most men, I never mentioned it to my wife.  

We were in the middle of a winter snow and wind storm; it was 6 a.m. and dark, and I was showering, getting ready for work.   The last thing I remember was feeling dizzy and faint, and evidently I crashed through the shower curtain and landed on the floor, blocking the door to the small bathroom.   My wife was frantic trying to get the door open to get to me.   I came to fairly quickly but felt really strange with some discomfort in the chest.

 I realized the seriousness of the condition and the danger of my remoteness.    In the next village the principal’s wife coordinated the local bush plane service so I called her and told her I needed to get to Anchorage, explaining my condition.  She said all planes were down because of weather, but she would find a pilot willing to come and get me.   She called me back and said a plane was on the way.   I made it to the village dirt airfield and the bush pilot pick my wife and me up and was able to connect us with a Frontier Air flight to Anchorage.  

I took a BC Powder (which southerners know is like a super aspirin) before leaving and another during the flight.   The doctor later told me that this probably prevented me for a having a heart attack. 

At the emergency room I was fortunate that a cardiac doctor was on call.   She informed me that she believed I might have a clogged artery and recommended immediate testing.   Within three hours I was in the operating room and having dye pumped in through my groin artery.    I was awake and able to view the obstruction in my upper chest.   The surgeon manipulated the stint into place and expanded it: I immediately felt relief.    They kept me in the hospital for three days observation and then I went back into the village. 

Thank goodness for the insurance: the cost was $60,000.   

I have been fine and felt great (for my age) for the last nine years    That episode, however, weighed in my decision three years later to leave the bush and return to an area where there are medical facilities available without having to coordinate with bush pilots.  

I can’t say enough about the bush pilot.   He was as instrumental as the doctor in saving my life.  

 Bush Plane

Jaded, on his blog, commented about his stress tests, and I have had one about every three years since the incident.   

I understand his frustration with the procedure.   In my case I have an unusually slow heart rate: in the mid-forties to low fifties.   This is normal for me - but during the stress test the medical tecs expect me to achieve a heart rate of 120.   This means I have to almost triple my normal rate (for most people this would only be a doubling.)    I figure if the test doesn't kill me I am probably good for another couple of years – at any rate it is good training for sexual prowess (at least this is what I tell my wife.)

 the Ol’Buzzard


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