Not exactly the best way to spend your summer vacation

Friday, September 27, 2019

After an absence of more than three months, I’m back … sort of, anyway.

Working from home right now, mending and getting stronger bit by bit until I can climb the 32 stairs to my third-floor office that gloriously overlooks the courthouse square from high atop the corner of Jackson and Franklin streets.

But that’s not the story I want to share today.

The story begins in May when after more than half a century on this earth, I took my first ambulance ride, a trip to IU West in Avon after basically passing out on my feet after a tasty breakfast at the Breakfast Company out on the East Side.

Being out of commission literally from Memorial Day to Labor Day with a three-month stint at Mill Pond Health Campus, recovering from a stent in my heart to relieve 90 percent blockage left me feeling a bit like Rip Van Winkle (except when I woke up, the Indianapolis Road project still wasn’t finished).

The whole thing started to sound like a bad country song when my dog of 12 years had to be put down while I was otherwise indisposed.

How did I spend my summer vacation? On the mend at Mill Pond.

Getting there, they say, is half the battle. In this case, maybe more as we bounced from ambulance ride to back home to Putnam County Hospital and back to IU West.

Along the way I learned a lesson that our small-town institutions can be just as good or better than the big guys. And most of all, they can save lives.

As editor of a small-town newspaper, I know that the public can often assume that bigger is better but that’s not always true. Believe me.

For example, on that aforementioned ambulance ride I encountered Operation Life EMT Joy Williamson, who not only took care of me like a member of the family but made me laugh as well. When I suggested I had given the diners at Breakfast Company breakfast and a show, she offered to send in the two interns riding with her to create a new diversion so that no one would ever remember me.

Prone on the OL gurney, doors to the ambulance closing, I realize none of my loved ones were going to know I’m headed to the hospital unless I can glean their phone numbers from a cell phone that is rapidly fading from the seven percent power it’s showing. After all, nobody knows anybody’s number these days – it’s in your phone.

Fortunate to have a pen and small notebook in my shirt pocket, flat on my back, I start scribbling down names and numbers until I had enough that I could send out a text about my plight, followed by a message that said simply: “I’m not dying, my phone is.”

After five more days at the big-city hospital, I was sent home where over a weekend my strength went from being able to drive my car and run errands around town on Saturday to hobbling around my house on Sunday to not even being able to get out of my recliner on Monday.

So I got another ambulance ride to Putnam County Hospital where initially they were in contact with the Indianapolis hospital, which reported that there was “no need” for me to be in the hospital.

When daughter Kara blatantly told the emergency room doctor, “He (me) is not going home,” he looked in fear of his life as he responded, “I’ll see what I can do” and left, never to be seen again.

Enter PCH Nurse Practitioner Sharon Nicoson who did what needed to be done and probably saved my life in the process.

She suggested that before we did anything about going home or anywhere else, she wanted to do an EKG on me, something that had not been done or even suggested by the big-city hospital.

In what seemed like only moments, Nicoson burst back into my room with the results, announcing, “You’re not going home, you’re going back to IU West. We’ve already called the ambulance and they’re going to take you straight to the cardiac cath unit. You have a 90 percent blockage in your heart and they’re going to put a stent in.”

My head was spinning at the news and the thought of another ambulance ride and a serious surgery to put a stent in my left ventricle. You know, the one they call “The Widowmaker.”

As I sit here today, staring at the keyboard, I still wonder, what if Sharon Nicoson hadn’t ordered that EKG? Would I have gone home with 90 percent blockage, waiting for the other 10 to take hold? Would my daughters have gone back home to Iowa and North Vernon? Would I just have met my demise in the recliner one night, not waking up as the blockage wins out?

But I’m still here. Back home on Highwood Avenue and contributing again to your newspaper.

What did I do for my summer vacation?

Let’s just say it was quite a trip.