“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lucky to be alive

My brother, Bill, was in Fargo visiting my parents. My eldest sister, Teresa, was also there, watching football on tv after dinner. When Dad appeared to be experiencing a heart attack, Bill gave him CPR and someone called 911 (emergency). The police arrived quickly, and hooked him up to the defibrillator. The machine shocked him, and got his pulse back. The ambulance rushed him to the hospital. Amazingly, after four radial artery grafts, Dad is fine. He has a steady golf habit, and likes to keep fit, so I am sure that helped him survive. Here are some statistics from my brother, who happens to be a cardiac pharmacist at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester (sister to the Mayo):

I looked up some information on out of hospital cardiac arrests. 90% of events are due to ventricular fibrillation. CPR (chest compressions and rescue breathing) typically have little benefit in improving outcomes. Only 2-5% of patients survive out of hospital arrests. Early defibrillation is the key. If more than 8 minutes have past - survival is almost zero. Of the patients who are resuscitated only 30-40% have no neurological damage. Source: New England Journal of Medicine. Wow! Dad is so, so lucky.

The police officer who put the defibrillator on my father said that usually the machine won't shock the person because it's too late. This was the first time he got to save someone.

Of course, when I got the news about Dad's heart attack, I was so upset. I had never expected something like this to happen. I looked into costs to fly home on short notice, and found it to be impossibly high. That just made the situation worse. I had always thought that if something bad happened, I would fly home, no second thoughts, but I really had to control myself. I have never wanted to go home so badly before.

Now that the crisis is past, I am planning on a trip home in June, for my parents 50th wedding anniversary. We were hoping for a family holiday in Hawaii, but I think the cost will be to high for everyone to do that.

I am incredibly thankful to Bill and Teresa for being there for Mom and Dad.
The bird at the top of the blog is a Kea, the New Zealand mountain parrot. They too are lucky to be alive, because the government drops a poison to kill possums, 1080, that has recently been shown to be killing these endagered birds. I am writing this from Greymouth, on the South Island on NZ, where we're having a holiday. More awesome photos to come, check back soon!