The Hand of God and Fate
Submitted by Lena Ellis
By my 81st birthday this year, 2015, I had driven it out of my mind and really didn’t want to recall or relive the terrifying episode in our lives. Dr.E.Trevor Elmquist has urged me on many occasions to write it down and share it with readers of HAPP on the www.lcmsfl.org website. My story begins at 10 a.m. on a beautiful, sunny, hot morning on Wed., September 30th, 2012, my husband’s day off from his part time job. Dozing in my easy chair with my right leg elevated, wrapped in bandages; minor surgery had been done a few days ago, I was feeling exhausted from the ordeal (medications given during procedures are always harder to recoup from than the actual surgery for me!).
The faint sound of a lawnmower could be heard as my husband was cutting the grass. I had been dozing on and off for some time when my ears detected a different sound, a barely audible unrecognizable voice calling my name from the garage. As I listened, the voice stopped. I really didn’t want to get up because I was groggy and felt annoyed. I put my leg down and hobbled through the laundry room and opened the door to the garage. When I opened the door the heat inside struck me and made me gasp (it must have been over 100 degrees) and there slouched in the old rattan wicker armchair was my husband with both arms bent, poised over the arm rests with his fingertips resting, just touching the chair and totally frozen in motion! His head was tilted back; his eyes rolled back with just the whites showing; his face and skin were whitish blue. His whole body was sweating profusely and his “yardwork clothes” soaked and dirty.
My first reaction was overwhelming fear. Then a deep anger gripped me and I started to slap his face really hard (on both sides) calling his name repeatedly and telling him to wake up! There was no response or movement, he was just frozen! I was calm at this point but really, really afraid….what to do? .....he hasn’t moved. I have no idea where my next actions came from. I have no medical training. Looking at him, I couldn’t remember what side the heart was on but I forged ahead and put both my fists tightly together and started hitting him all over his chest!
Suddenly, his eyes popped open and he sat straight up and said “I have to weedwack now” in a calm voice and tried to get up! I pushed him back into the chair and said “wait” and hobbled to the kitchen and came back with a soft ice pack, an Aspirin and a bottle of water. He hadn’t moved - I put the ice pack on the back of his neck and then made him take the Aspirin/water. A little color was back in his face now. All of a sudden he stood up. He is a big guy just under 6’ and 220 lbs. (I am 5’2”) and turned towards the door to the kitchen while I was desperately clutching at his shirt trying to restrain him. He quickly walked stiff-legged thru the door and to my horror to the pool door in the breakfast room and managed to open it partially. I grabbed the back of his belt in his shorts and pulled with all my might yelling STOP STOP! Suddenly he turned towards me, looked at my frantic attempts to stop him and collapsed, backwards onto the tiled floor and I heard a terrific crack from the back of his head. He lay on his back full length clutching his chest. He was pouring with sweat all over his body. I tore off all his dirty clothes except for his underwear thinking the cold tile would help him. He focused on me and said “I had a heart attack and my chest hurts” then closed his eyes. I shouted “don’t move, I am calling 911” and grabbed the kitchen phone. The Fire Dept. is 5 min away from our home and were here quickly. The first thing they asked me was “why was he lying there without clothes?” They asked me to get a blanket because he was shivering now from the cold tile but still sweating and clutching his chest! As two medics were attaching instruments to his body, the senior person in charge was checking electronic equipment in a portable case and looked up at me and said “you did a good job” and that my husband has had a major heart blockage and they were taking him to Gulf Coast Hospital to the Trauma Unit where the heart surgeons were set up and already waiting for him. They got him on a stretcher and out onto the driveway; he started vomiting, all the way to the parked ambulance. I was told later that I should never have given him anything to drink! They got to Gulf Coast in record time and operated on him immediately (with only seconds to spare …. he was in an acute state). I was so grateful to the medics for their speedy response and keeping him conscious, talking to him, until they got to the hospital and Dr. S.B. Mehta and his team saved his life.
I really didn’t know what I was doing; I just went with my “instinct” and didn’t stop to question what I was doing! Who can predict what goes through your mind in an emergency. I certainly wouldn’t have predicted my actions!! I am the introspective-type personality and my husband is the action-minded extrovert. I had forgotten about my painful leg and done all that…..amazing what your brain is capable of in a state of high anxiety! And I am the one with PAD and a cardiomyopathy!!
When the ambulance left, I grabbed my keys and handbag, locked up the house, and drove to Gulf Coast. At reception, when I asked how he was, she said “he wasn’t listed”……AT THIS POINT MY TEARS BEGAN TO FALL and I asked “is he dead?” and she quickly said that he probably went right through to surgery upon arrival in Emergency. The next thing I knew was that I was in a small waiting room all by myself and looking up and seeing Dr. Mehta (masked and gowned) with my husband on the gurney and the Dr. was saying to me that he arrived at the hospital without minutes to spare and that I probably “kick-started my husband’s heart by pounding on him and that he was a lucky man and good as new and probably will go back to work within 2 weeks and carry on with a normal life!!” I am so thankful that I didn’t stop to think or to phone family for advice. He would never have made it. The hand of God and fate put me where I was at the time and I didn’t resist against what I was doing for one second.This is the second time I have saved his life. He had head and neck cancer and was getting chemo, one out of 48 treatments….but that is another story.
In conclusion, we must give thanks to our caring, gentle heart surgeon, Dr. Shalin Mehta of Florida Heart Associates; the 911 calm Operator; The Cape Coral Fire Department, Station 8 and their quick response and care; and my dedicated eye surgeon/Veteran, Dr. E.Trevor Elmquist of Elmquist Eye Group (who asked me to write my story).
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