The unanticipated happened. I don’t think anyone ever expects to get hit with a heart attack, but I was. And I am still here because of an incredibly fortunate confluence of great timing, location, and most importantly, people.
The morning of the Predators’ next-to-last game before the Olympic break, I got up at 7 o’clock so I could get in a brief workout in the fitness center at the St. Paul Hotel. When I got up, I felt dehydrated, but I noticed the thermostat in my room read 85 degrees, so that explained that situation to me.
When I arrived at the workout room, I found I wasn’t able to get going on the elliptical, that I didn’t have much “oomph!” So, on to Plan B, the treadmill. As I moved across the room, I noticed I had a cold and clammy feeling. After about five minutes on the treadmill, I began to feel a tingling sensation along my jawline, and cut short the workout, concerned.
I returned to my room, showered and dressed with a bit of difficulty, then turned to this computer. I decided to do a Google search on the tingling jaw and saw that it may be a warning sign. We had a broadcast production meeting set to begin at 8:30 downstairs in the hotel coffee shop, and I made my way down there. This is where I had my first lucky contact with the “right people.”
Already seated were my broadcast partner of 15 years, Terry Crisp; our producer, David White; director John Tackett and Graphics Coordinator Brett Newkirk. From the looks on their faces, particularly Crispy’s, I could tell I didn’t look too good!
It wasn’t long before the purpose of the meeting was abandoned. John Tackett wisely obtained some aspirin from the front desk for me to take, and Brett Newkirk arranged for a car and accompanied me over to the Xcel Energy Center, where I would turn myself over to the experts.
Predators’ Head Athletic Trainer Andy Hosler and his assistant, D.J. Amadio were expecting me. When I arrived at one of the auxiliary dressing rooms, members of the Minnesota Wild Staff almost immediately joined them: Head Athletic Therapist Don Fuller, Assistant Athletic Trainer John Worley, and Massage Therapist Travis Green.
They began checking my blood pressure and respiration rate. I felt nauseous at the time, but fortunately, that was a passing sensation. Then they contacted the St. Paul Fire Department EMTs, who seemed to arrive almost instantaneously.
As this was going on, I thought to call (my wife) Claudia to let her know at least as much I knew. Finally I had to hand my phone to Brett, who was still with me.
The EMTs ran a couple of EKGs on me and very calmly packed me up and whisked me away to United Hospital, just blocks away from the rink.
They wheeled me directly to the Catheter Lab at the hospital, and that was when the reality of my situation really hit me. I wasn’t feeling any huge weight on my chest or really any pain, and I hadn’t at any point that morning. There was no time for reflection however. Within moments, I was introduced to Dr. Thomas Biggs. He asked me where I was from, and when I told him “Nashville,” he informed me he was educated at Vanderbilt!
I was being prepped for surgery during our conversation, which at least momentarily took my mind off just how cold it was in that operating room. I gave a nurse some information, including Claudia’s cell number, so she could be updated.
It may have been about 45 minutes in all, but I had an angioplasty performed and three stents put in one artery. I was aware of all the activity, though not quite sure what they were doing. All I can tell you is that I felt continuously better as the medical team progressed.
It wasn’t long before I was placed in the Intensive Care Unit on the third floor of the hospital and put in the great care of the nurses there: Susan Trejo, Lydia, Shana and Amanda. The physician checking on me there was Dr. Sara Murray, another calming influence.
For the balance of that afternoon until about 5:30, I was kept flat on my back. That was the way I greeted my visitors that afternoon. It wasn’t long before I began texting and tweeting to those who already had reached out to see how I was doing.
I had quite the parade of visitors. Crispy, Stu Grimson and Karin Housley (Phil’s wife and a state legislator in Minnesota) came in. Willy Daunic followed. Later, Wild broadcasters Tom Reid and Mike Greenlay (Mike had worked radio games with me during the Preds’ first season) appeared. Then Mike Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper appeared with gifts – a toy frog from Mike and an “It’s a Girl!” balloon from Josh. That picture went out rather quickly via the Twittersphere.
Meanwhile, Claudia left her office very quickly and was on her way home to prepare to come up to the Twin Cities. Thankfully, the Predators’ Senior VP of Hockey Communications and Public Relations Gerry Helper and Senior Director of Broadcasting Bob Kohl were quickly on a conference call with her. They worked out her flight arrangements to the Twin Cities, removing that burden.
By the time Claudia arrived, I had greeted a number of visitors and had been tweeting and texting my good fortune that day. I was upright in a reclining chair, keeping open the lines of communication, and ready to watch that night’s game from the Xcel Energy Center.
Late the next afternoon, I was discharged from the hospital and the United Hospital Cardiology team transmitted my information to Vanderbilt Medical Center, where I underwent another procedure by Dr. Joseph Fredi the following Thursday.
There were many reasons to write this. One, I want everyone to understand that there is no “classic” type or symptom of a heart attack. I was really lucky, because of the good people around me, I received early care.
The other reason is so I can offer my thanks to the many people involved in my care and the follow-up to it. I have mentioned quite a few of them here. The response to my situation has been very humbling: gifts, cards, letters, e-mails, texts and social media let me know there were so many rooting for me.
Thanks to all of you and, now, let’s get back to the games!