I had a heart scare this past weekend, although the word scare doesn't seem to do it justice. I'm not sure they have a word to describe the emotions you feel when you hear words like heart attack, aneurysm and coronary artery disease.
It started Friday afternoon with intense pain between my shoulders. By the time I got to the doctor it radiated to my chest and neck. From the doctor I went to the emergency room.
But by Saturday morning things were looking up, and I seemed to be one stress test away from going home. I was standing on the treadmill when the doctor looked at my last EKG. She saw something she didn't like. She sent it to another doctor who said to get me off the treadmill and put me in the hospital. A cardiac catheterization was scheduled for Monday morning.
I felt like a ticking time bomb at that point. You step very lightly when you think the next one might be your last.
I spent the next two days on a Heparin drip to thin my blood. People came to me to tell me about things like stents and open-heart surgery. They brought me papers to fill out that asked questions like who should speak for me if I were brain dead and did I want to be cremated or buried.
My family and friends were great. They comforted and cared and did all the things family and friends do to make you feel better when you're facing the worst. Monday morning we hugged and cried, and then I was wheeled into the cath lab, the place where I would find out if I had heart disease or if I needed surgery. Like I said, scared doesn't cut it as a descriptor.
But as with most things, the anticipation turned out to be worse than the actual procedure itself, and the result was stellar. The best sentence anyone ever said to me: "Mr. McCullough, your arteries are fine and you can go home tonight."
If I hadn't been strapped down and drugged up with a hole in my femoral artery, I would've danced. I had to settle for slurring something about how that was great news.
But enough about me. What I really want to do is thank all the health care professionals at Gwinnett Medical Center.
I want to thank Bobby from Louisiana, who gave me morphine in the ER and took my pain away. I want to thank the lady in the CT Scan room for letting me know ahead of time the dye would make me feel like I'd wet the bed so I wouldn't think I'd had an accident. The nice lady who took care of me in the nuclear lab, and the laid-back guy who injected me with radioactive stuff and took pictures of my heart. I want to thank the woman who spotted the abnormality on my EKG.
I'm thankful for Anna, who somehow managed to make me feel like a rock star instead of a condemned man when she was wheeling me in for my procedure. Alan, the soft-spoken guy who talked about music with me. The woman who briefly held my hand after she finished prepping me. You have no idea how much those few seconds calmed me, and I'd mention your name, too, if the drugs hadn't knocked it out of my brain.
The woman who brought my food trays, the people who changed my sheets, and yes, I even want to thank the lab techs who drew blood every six hours. No matter how grumpy I got about that, you still did your job with a smile. All of you at Gwinnett Medical Center, consider me a fan.
Above all, I want to thank the nurses. You're all angels. At the top of the list are Manju, who was there when they admitted me, Evelyn, who checked me out, and Angie and Mollie, who took care of me the day of the procedure. You treated me not like a stranger but like a family member. Mollie, in particular, made me feel like I was the only patient in the whole hospital. She has to have wings under her scrubs.
You see people at their worst. You're on your feet for 12 or 14 hours a day, sometimes longer. You face sickness and misery, body fluids and funk, depression, anger, and God knows what else, and you do it all with a smile on your face. I must've asked a half dozen of you, "How do you do it?" Every answer was the same: "I love helping people. I love my job."
I love your job, too. I love the way you do it, and I love that you want to do it with such compassion and professionalism. We're lucky to have you.
For a while this weekend, I thought I might die. Somehow, you folks made facing that easier. Words can't express the gratitude I feel, but I'll say it one more time anyway:
Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my apparently healthy and very humble heart.
Email Nate McCullough at email@example.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.