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.



  1. Another thoughtful post, Marty--on a subject I've been pondering too. I'm amazed how the blame/credit/cause for a life-changing event endlessly evolves. My "event" is never entirely out of my head, and I'm learning that i don't have to, indeed cannot, settle on the ultimate cause of it, who should be blamed and who deserves credit. The only thing I do know for certain is that I still feel lucky and grateful for my life and I want to be here to equivocate another day.

    Oh and, BTW, I never, never ever think of you as bitchy!

    1. My story is very similar. I drove myself to the hospital and upon getting out of my van, collapsed in sca. I don't remember much about that morning, but I must have known something was wrong, because I left in a hurry. (still had my house slippers on) I live alone, but I feel that something was urging me to just go! I was reading something on this site that no one is mentioning God, but I have to say, I feel it was the holy spirit directing me. I would never leave home in those terrible house slippers! It happened October 28th 2013. My intellect and memory appear to be intact, but I am experiencing feelings of fogginess and a bit of depression. I am hoping this will subside with time.

  2. My case is different, and my wife did CPR on me while the ambulance sped to my house. She saw me collapse and , yes, die, right in front of her. And you never know how someone will react to a situation like that except that you would hope that they would try and do the right thing and help out the best that they can.

    So, I say that your Ex did the right thing and helped out in a way that you were hoping he would. Okay, so he didn't do CPR on you, just drove you to the hospital, but he was there for you and did his best, and possibly, just because of that, maybe he deserves some thanks.

    Did he save your life? Ahh, I guess not. Probably neither did my wife. But perhaps, my wife and your Ex continued the process of the possibility of the saving of our lives. They both did the right thing, or at least what we hoped they would do, in different circumstances. They at least didn't allow the end of our lives to progress. They fought against it. Our deaths still might have happened, but they didn't give in.

    I do know that the chances of our survival would have been much, much less if we had been alone.

    My wife was amazing that night. She kept her wits about her and reacted in a manner that still impresses the hell out of me. I thanked her for it, but she sort of brushed it off. It's almost like it was an instinctive reaction to someone that needed help as opposed to a reaction based upon love or devotion.

    My wife and your Ex were there for us when we needed help and that's worth something even if the circumstances were different.

    I hope that if I am ever faced with a similar situation as to what my wife or your Ex faced, that I would be able to react just as well.

    And you know what else? It has been close to 2 years now since this happened, I still remember a lot of it like it was yesterday and I am still as thankful today as I was then.