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John Keg, Sr. - photo courtesy of Richard Keg

“Listen To Me Dad, You’re Having A Heart Attack!”

Written by Richard Keg —

It’s been a year since my dad’s heart attack, as of about 10:30 p.m. today. To make sure he remembers to always listen to me, I just posted this on his wall:

One year ago today, as of about right now, your heart attack started. I remember sitting here and arguing with you, telling you that it was my opinion that you were having a heart attack, and given your symptoms, a serious one. You blamed the meatball sandwich and a pulled muscle in your right arm and shoulder, as it was your belief, as I’m sure it is of many, that only your left arm hurts when you are having a heart attack.

As we sat here and argued about it, and your stomach felt more and more upset and the pain in your arm depend, I remember thinking you were too stubborn for your own good. Despite my opinions on the matter, I went to bed, figuring that I would be woken up at some point with the news your symptoms had worsened.

Given your nature, you kept the fire stoked throughout the night, and even split some wood. Felicia woke me the next morning saying you looked really sick, could hardly walk, was throwing up what looked like coffee grounds, and felt like you had a horse sitting on your chest. I remember seeing you as I came downstairs, looking like death warmed over.

When I got to the living room I made you swallow an aspirin and crushed another under your tongue as I dialed 911. The dispatcher told me to give you yet another one for under your tongue, and it wasn’t a few minutes before the paramedics arrived.

Being calm as they usually are, they proceeded to shave your chest for the sticky things, as you called them, while they took your vitals. Your BP was 196/168, and if that wasn’t shocking enough for them, as soon as they put the last patch on your chest their ECG machine started beeping loudly and flashing STEMI (AKA Lifeline Heart Attack) on the screen.

It was then that the calm left the paramedics’ faces, and they placed two nitroglycerines under your tongue while yelling at the other first responders to get the gurney. You offered to walk of course, but they told you that you were not walking anywhere; reluctantly you agreed.

As the gurney was brought in, you asked what all the fuss was about, that you just had a bad meatball sandwich the night before and that’s why you were feeling ill.

The paramedic gave you a short nondescript answer to what was wrong in an attempt to keep you calm, I think. You then looked at me to find out what he meant and I told you that you were having a massive heart attack, to which you replied, “Oh okay, I guess you were right.”

As you left the house another nitroglycerin was placed under your tongue, and it was very visible the paramedics wanted to get on the road. It took them no time to hit the pavement and with lights and sirens.

It took us all of 28 minutes to reach Saint Agnes from North Fork, as the ambulance was driving 90 mph+ in the middle of Highway 41 all the way down, as traffic either didn’t pull over or weren’t pulling over fast enough.

As the ambulance backed into the ER bay, I parked and raced in. Security immediately sent me in the back where I met a nurse that was running with a crash cart down the hall, security yelled if she was heading for the new arrival and she said to follow her.

To my surprise upon reaching you, you were laughing while the doctor told you that he couldn’t believe you were conscious given the circumstances and medical evidence that you were near death. You joked that you never were one to listen to doctors. As the paramedic told me he’s never seen STEMI appear on a conscious person before, you were rushed upstairs to the OR.

It was 16 minutes from the time we arrived at the hospital to the time the doctor came out to tell me they had put a temporary stent in, and he was asking questions as to how well you took medication, which would decide which permanent stent he inserted into the artery.

About 15 minutes later he returned and told me and Tracy that you had a 100 percent blockage of the “lifeline” artery, which supplies some 80 percent of the blood to the heart. After another 20 minutes, we were allowed to see you in recovery.

The next day the physical therapist arrived in your room with a special belt attached to him and a walker, but it was obvious you didn’t need any help as you danced a jig when he asked if you were able to stand and walk. The therapist was intrigued that less than a year prior, you were wheelchair bound and couldn’t use your legs.

Richard Keg; John Keg, Sr.; and John Keg, Jr.; after John Sr. was released from the hospital

You have recovered better than most, given only 6 percent of people on average who have a 100 percent blockage of the “lifeline” artery survive. That makes you one out of 23,000 people last year to survive this type of heart attack outside the hospital environment.

You are surrounded by people who care for you and they all agree, you should always listen to me!

So here’s to many more years, love you Dad, and remember to avoid meatball sandwiches…

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