I am a singer/songwriter/working musician, a freelance digital artist/web coder, a video gamer, a veteran and a very proud father. I have been on this earth for 53 years now and I am thankful to still be here.
I say thankful because on Friday June 19th of 2015 after playing a gig the night before, I suffered a major heart attack (on stage). It wasn’t the kind that happens in an instant and you’re dead. It was severe blockage and it was like a flashlight slowly going out.
At the time this was unthinkable to me. Yes, I felt the arm twinge, the chest pain but I was stubborn and took a few aspirin and played through the night thinking I was only exhausted from playing the night before. I passed out when I got home but awoke the next morning and had another gig that Saturday night. I played that as a man exhausted and sweaty and people were concerned. I had two church services the next morning and I got through the first one ok but the second one wiped me out and I barely made it home. My girlfriend Angela urged me to go see a doctor which I finally did and he gave me a blood test and found cardiac enzymes in my blood stream, told me I had a major heart attack and he sent me directly to the surgeon.
I was in disbelief. I knew I was in my 50’s and I sat at my desk for hours on end working late. I was eating what I thought was a normal diet and for exercise we would take the dog for a walk occasionally. There was no history of heart attacks in our family, I wasn’t too overweight at 6′ 215 lbs. So I thought I was in decent shape. I was in denial! How could this happen to me?
As you can imagine, an event like that can make you look at your life differently, if you live through it! I was lucky in that I had a great support group of family, friends, church family and my awesome girlfriend Angela to take care of me during that scary time. The doctors told me I was 90% blocked and lost 30% of my heart muscle and had to have quadruple bypass heart surgery and I can choose to stay in the same pattern or change it, so we changed it.
We decided to look into a plant based diet and have since changed our eating habits. We had a treadmill and exercise bike (covered in dust of course) that we got out. We bought some small weights and Angela would work out at home while I was at the Health Trax rehabilitation center at the hospital so I could be monitored.
During the early months of rehab I could not really work or play music so I was basically out of income with hospital bills. When I came home from the hospital the miraculous happened…something I didn’t expect and something I think no one can really imagine until they are faced with a life and death crisis. People wanted to help!! And I’m not talking about help from mom and a best friend or two. That’s a given.
In fact, it started when my awesome sister put up a link where people could send a donation to help me with the bills. What? I didn’t expect that at all. She posted it on facebook and people came and it started growing. I was in awe and I wanted to thank them but what could I do to truly thank people? I sat down and wrote a heartfelt song “A friend like you” to describe the appreciation I had for them. And then my wonderful community stepped up.
I live in the mountains of Western North Carolina in a small town. I’ve played in local bands over the years, playing music in church, playing benefits to help others, giving discounts and deals for clients and going the extra mile for someone. I never thought it amounted to anything except being a good neighbor, until the heart attack.
I was thrown a benefit in which thousands of dollars were raised. Multiple musicians and bands came and performed at a large catered venue, and the local paper covered all this to help me!!! What can I say to describe this feeling? I was floored to tears and completely overwhelmed that so many people cared about me. I had this huge black cloud of despair and worry and now…I was going to be ok!!
Then the two churches I play for wanted to help and they all got together and donated even more money to help me. I tell you now there is no medicine greater than waking up to find there are hundreds of people who care about you and the security of knowing your job now is to heal and not let stress put you back in the hospital.
Why do I tell you this? Because before this event I was living a life feeling very alone in this world. I was very cynical and not very trusting and I felt like people were just polite to your face and didn’t really care about you. I didn’t place a lot of value on the progress of humanity. I can’t tell you how wrong I was. People do care.
Unfortunately we all live our lives with our heads down focusing on our own circle of friends and family until something like this comes along and wakes us up. “This could happen to me!” and “He’s so young and seemed healthy” I overheard. People even looked at me like, how dare you remind me of my mortality.
In some way hopefully my event has brought awareness to others of their own health. I am off red meat and fried foods and white sugar. More veggies and water. I exercise regularly each week now. I take breaks from my desk more often now and walk the dog around. I am proud to say that thanks to my exercise regimen I even regained that 30% of my heart muscle that was injured and I feel awesome! When I was playing in bars I was surrounded by smoking and drinking which I also indulged in for a good many years and thankfully I don’t do that anymore. I am happy and I feel my life is more balanced now but it took work and dedication to go on living. I thank everyone in my life for caring about me and helping me to get better. I am also proud of myself too for not just getting depressed and giving up.