This has been a challenging 24 hours.
While on vacation with Rick’s family and the kids in Belfast, Maine this weekend we had an unexpected trip to the hospital for what we thought was indigestion but turned out to be a medium sized heart attack.
We had gone running Saturday morning and about a 2 miles in, Rick knew something wasn’t right. We returned to the cottage, and after some relaxing, he seemed to be ok. We vowed to try again Sunday morning. It was supposed to be a 11 mile run.
Later Saturday evening, after dinner, Rick mentioned the pain had returned to his chest and his arm. After a course of Tums and several laps walking around the cottages, it was clear the pain was not going away. Rick said he wanted to go the hospital. So we did.
At the Waldo County hospital in Belfast, the doctor and nurses were clearly concerned about Rick’s “weird” ekg. Rick tried to assure them that the ekg reading was normal for him (something called “repolarization”). The pattern of the ekg mimics that of someone having a heart attack.
We still thought we were dealing with a bad case of indigestion, yet the pain continued. The nurses brought Rick something they called “the indigestion cocktail”. He promptly swigged it back and waited. No change in the pain.
In the meantime, the nurses were trying to get a previous ekg faxed from both Sturdy hospital and Rick’s primary care doctor in Massachusetts. No luck. The on call doctor then came back with the bloodwork results: His blood had evidence of an enzyme that appears after someone has had a heart attack. The entire tone of the conversation very quickly changed. We were now talking about moving to Maine Medical in Bangor, about an hour north where he would be admitted to the cardiac ICU. Not at all what either one of us was expecting. We were both shocked.
Now 1:30am, we met our paramedic and ambulance driver, Chuck and Joe. They got Rick comfortable and I got to ride in the front with Joe . Both these guys were wonderful to talk to and were very reassuring that all was going to be ok and we were in good hands.
Once they admitted Rick to Maine Medical, we knew this could very well end up being a life altering experience. After a series of tests, he was finally comfortable, as comfortable as he could possibly be given the situation anyway. Pam, Jake, Josh, Andrew and Peter arrived around 3am, bringing with them their usual laughter but I could sense the nervousness in everyone’s voices, including my own. Rick started to drift in and out of sleep as the nurses gave us as much information as they had. The most important piece of info: They might be able to get him in for a catheterization to find out what damage had been caused but he might that have to wait until Monday, given that is a Sunday and we are in a hospital in Northern Maine. Not a lot of people available, in other words. We collectively decided that we should let Rick get some sleep. Pam and I would come back in the morning. The ride home with the kids, Pam, Josh and Jake was very quiet, as daylight started to break.
When we got back to the car, Andrew offered to drive. I am glad he did. The kids didn’t say much. I am thankful they were able to spend time with the family today though.
Rick sent me a text at 6:15am telling me that the catheterization would happen early this morning after all. Pam and I headed back to Bangor, praying all the way. By the time we got to the hospital, the procedure had already been done and all we could was wait. For the first time during this ordeal, I really was scared for the outcome. I wanted to throw up.
Then, the nurse emerged from the doors of the icu. “Are you with Mr. Knowles?” Pam and I both nodded and followed her to Rick’s room. We found him resting and awake. He uttered “I have a stent” and went on to describe the process. Again, I was in shock. He is now left with a dime sized hole in his wrist where they inserted the catheter, which would spirt blood if it were not for the plastic band preventing it from gushing out. Thankfully, they did not have to go in through the groin.
The cardiac doctor, Dr. Wiseman – and yes – that is his name – explained the entire situation, by way of a diagram. An 80% blockage in the right radial artery. Too high LDL levels and not enough “catchers mits” on the liver to process it caused the blockage. It really is amazing he did not drop while he was working in heat last week, or on a particularly tough run we did a couple weeks earlier in Vermont.
This afternoon, he has been drifting in and out of consciousness with the occasional visit from the young nurses who are warming up to Rick’s dry sense of humor. Those of you who know him know what I am talking about. The highpoint of the day, aside from making it through this morning’s procedure alive: A tour “around the block” on the fourth floor cardiac unit with the cute young nurse who seems to have made a connection with him. He was smiling a lot and so was she.
So, as we drift into evening and look forward to another visit from Andrew, Peter, Rick’s brothers and their wives, I know we have to face some pretty significant changes in the coming days. From the 5:35 mile he ran last month on High Street in Plainville, totally blowing me away, to today being completely helpless in the cardiac ICU, I know God is at work in this event. “All things work together for those who love God and are called according to His purpose”, it says in chapter 8 of the book of Romans. Will we trust it, allow God to humble and re-direct us for His glory? The coming days and weeks will tell. In the meantime, I will love my husband more than ever. I am grateful to the merciful God who preserved him for another day.