Saturday, November 24, 2012


We're supposed to die on our Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) day.  Over 90% do.  It depends on where you are, who is around, how close to defibrillator paddles you happen to be.   Then the luckiest of us come back without significant brain damage.  And we find one another.  We ask each other questions we can't ask anyone else;  we answer the way we can't answer anywhere else.

We are the same and we are not.  And every now and then we find things we can't say even there.   Some things divide even us, even this group of survivors who were supposed to die.  We don't talk about politics, thank god.  And we don't talk much about god.

A few days ago, I was talking with a new-ish friend who asked so many questions about my SCA day.  Including questions about T, the ex-husband who drove me to the ER exactly 10 minutes before my heart stopped.  While we had split yet again, he was still living in my home, working on buying his house - my new-ish friend asked all those questions.

So I re-capped that morning over coffee with my new friend -  my waking up too early with a vague sense that something was wrong.  Spending 30 minutes wandering about the house convincing myself it was nothing.  Then finally yielding to the astonishingly lucky instinct to go to the hospital.  I woke T up, who by then had been banished to a guest room.  But he got up and he took me.  Where my heart stopped.  Dead.  Lucky.  Shocked back to life with three goes of the defibrillator paddles.

Then my friend asked me a new questions:  "So, he - the ex - he saved your life?".  My response was quick and visceral, though happily it was at least a litte short of harsh, but it was "No, he doesn't get that credit.  I don't give him that".   I was surprised, even at myself.   I told my friend and myself that no - I would have gotten to the ER before my last 10 minutes was up.  I wouldn't have called 911; I didn't know my heart was about to stop.  I think I would have driven myself.   The day would have been more complicated, but I think I would have survived.   But the most surprising thing is that even though I have relived that morning dozens and dozens of times, I have never once asked myself if I would have lived if he hadn't been here. Never once.  Not one time.

Should I "give" him the credit?  We survivors are all different in this - who gets the credit for our surviving that day.  Many of them give it to their God.  Other give it to their 'first responders' - the friend or loved one or good Samaritan or EMT who kept them alive until their defibrillator paddles shocked the crap out of their hearts.  I don't participate in those conversations, and I've never heard anyone give the credit to an ex-husband parked in the guest room who was being booted to the curb yet once again.   They all seem infinitely more gracious than I am.

I've hoarded the credit.  I've given it to luck.  That I had a lucky beyond lucky instinct and then another round of dazzling luck to get there in time.  Toss in even more luck that I'd been hooked up to the monitor or whatever it was so that when the nurse left my cubicle in the ER the alarms sounded as my heart stopped.  I've given all that to luck.

What a bitch.  I should probably thank him.