When life gets ‘real’.

October 5, 2011  a day that adjusted my perspective on life. I remember being more excited than usual to get gas in the truck and over to Red’s Fly Shop to arrange my shuttle for a day’s float in the Yakima Canyon. I had the pontoon broken down in the back of the Explorer Sport Trak.

The excitement arose from the great trip I had the week before fishing and camping the canyon and this rainbow.Fall Yakima bow I now knew where he lived as well as his twin that I did a “long-line release” on the same day.

So after arranging  a shuttle for a float between Lmuma Creek launch and the ramp at Mahre’s I quickly drove to the launch and began assembling my boat.  I remember thinking that I was more winded than usual pumping up the pontoons.  The first albeit minor disappointment of the day was realizing my rear deck was missing and obviously fell out of the truck somewhere along the way.  This made loading the boat and managing the anchor much more complicated (if you own one of these you know what I’m talking about).  But I got it launched and floated to a point about 75 yards downstream where I rigged up my tackle and started fishing.  Not long after starting to fish I began to feel, well, lousy.  Nothing specific just sweating and generally feeling like crap.

Feeling winded was quickly followed by the proverbial chest pain.  Now I had experienced pain like this before when on an audit trip to Chicago, which turned out to be pericarditis; inflammation of the pericardium.  It is uncomfortable but usually subsides, so I kept fishing.  I did look up stream and contemplate the hike pulling the boat and crossing back over to the truck if I decided to call it a day.  However, that big rainbows home was still a mile down river.

Well, it wasn’t too long before the pain radiated to the middle of my back and the first thoughts that I might be having heart trouble started to sneak into my mind.  By now I was down river at the honey hole.  In typical male fashion I decided to ignore it and will it away – kept fishing.  Then the pain started radiating up into my right jaw – shit was starting to get real!  Now the realization; I was having a heart attack and needed to get the hell out of there.  And ‘out of there’ was a couple miles down stream to the nearest access point, which was nowhere near where my truck was or was going to be.  After securing my gear I shoved off rowing down stream.  As usual my life vest was hanging over the back of my seat and the thought occurred to me that I should probably put it on.  If the worst happened I figured the body recovery would be better if I was floating – that is really what I thought about.  This actually struck me funny at the time.

After making my way, painfully, to the next takeout, I pulled the boat ashore where a guy was standing knee deep fishing.  He took one look at me and realized what was going on.  He had apparently had heart trouble in the past.  I called Red’s on my cell and told them I was ill and needed my truck (well, hell yes I was going to drive myself to the hospital).  It was a beautiful fall day and they were quite busy with shuttles and they would do what they could.  Perhaps I should have been a bit more informative, well hell, I should have called ‘911’.  Anyway, the manager from the River Lodge showed up with my truck as the guy at the ramp and his buddy disassembled my boat.  I stowed my gear and waders.  As the gentleman from Red’s drove us back up river to retrieve his car he tried to get some sense into me and not drive to the hospital, which was my plan.  Anyway, as I headed toward Ellensburg (wrong hospital as it turns out) I came to my senses and realized that I was putting everyone on that road at risk and stopped at the lodge.

As I walked in the door I was met by one of the owners who is also a doctor.  She sent staff for aspirin and told the receptionist to call for an ambulance.  Finally, the right things were happening and let me tell you I was really feeling awful by this point.  To speed things up let me summarize – ambulance ride way faster than one should go on the canyon road, several nitros (didn’t do shit), into ER and quickly up to the ‘cath lab’ for a stent in my right coronary artery.  Parting words from doctor after the procedure; “You have additional blockage and should probably consider by-pass surgery.”  Swell, now to call Darryl and tell this story without her having a coronary – she should already know how stupid I am, but freaks out each time I prove it.

So the moral to this story is that I was extremely lucky.  The blockage that brought on the heart attack was in my right coronary artery and not the left, also known as the widow maker – nuf said.  I was able to avoid major heard damage even though it took me way too long to get treatment.  There, of course, are many other lessons to be learned from my story but that is enough for now.