My near death brought new life
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
I came home from lacrosse practice and began to make dinner as always. It was a normal cold January night in Buffalo.
I didn’t know it would be the last time I would compete on a lacrosse field.
As I cooked rice, a slow, steady pain began to grow in my elbow. At first, I shrugged it off as just a sore elbow; I popped some Advil and got ready for bed.
No more than 10 minutes after being in bed, lightheadedness, a cold sweat and numbness in my entire left arm began to sink in. Puking, sweating and tunnel vision took over as the bathroom counter kept me from crashing to the floor.
Something was wrong.
As my roommate drove down the Kensington Expressway to the hospital, the lights began to fade. The streetlights and headlights became one blur as the 2 a.m. darkness set in. For a moment, just a small, quick millisecond, the world became peaceful. All time stopped.
It was quiet.
Then, like a first breath after a coma – cold air rushes into your lungs, and the world’s noise comes rushing at you like cars on a freeway – sound and pain smash into you head on.
The most immense pains shot though my chest.
I finally got to the hospital, exhausted.
A seemingly insignificant discomfort was quickly evolving into something much more serious.
As I originally expected, the doctors could not find anything wrong with me. Their only insight was that I was just having some mild chest pains probably due to over exertion on the lacrosse field.
I felt relieved. I was ready to go home.
I would have a few-day stay at Erie County Medical Center (ECMC), check out and return to class. Or so I thought.
One last scan was needed – an angiogram. The doctors inserted a small camera through my wrist, ran dye through my veins and took a few pictures to make sure everything was in check.
Everything was not OK. When I was in that car on the Kensington Expressway, I suffered a massive heart attack.
The scan showed a small tear formed in the middle layer of one of my coronary arteries.The initial tear then spiraled down and inward toward the center of my artery. The tear reached the inner wall of my artery and tore into the center of the blood vessel. In an attempt to repair the tear, a massive blood clot formed and caused a major heart attack.
The next day I was in surgery and under the knife for the first time in my life.
The moments leading up to open-heart surgery are some of the scariest minutes of your life. I cried for the first time in years.
Your fate is now in the hands of others. There is nothing you can do but pray.
I woke up from the surgery with my chest held together with a steel fishing wire, wrapped in figure eights around my breastplate. Tubes, bandages, needles and wires hung off my motionless body.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t open my eyes.
But I could feel the warmth of my mother’s hand, and I knew everything was going to be OK.
I spent the next five months recovering, allowing my six broken ribs and split breastplate to fuse back to normal.
What happened that week in January changed me. It would change anybody.
I didn’t see my lacrosse career at Buffalo ending this way. I had worked so hard to become a captain and a leader. I bled UB blue. But before I could blink, it was all over – in a heartbeat.
I miss lacrosse. I miss a lot of things from before the surgery. I think about what I would give to have those moments back.
But would I change the events that happened? No.
I’ve changed for the better.
I thought about the decisions I had made in my life. I thought about the people I had encountered. I thought about all of the moments I just let pass by.
You go through life sometimes forgetting about what’s important. We get so caught up in school, work and relationships, and we forget to stop and take a moment to appreciate the world around us.
We need to realize how lucky we are to wake up every morning. We never know which moment could be our last.
I cannot say that every moment in your life is going to be happy or that some moments won’t make you cry. You’re going to hurt, get stressed and worry, but it’s natural.
Death is real, no matter how much we try to hide it or forget about it. It exists. It’s out there, waiting for each and every one of us. We may not know when or how it is going to take us, but one day it will come.
Take it from me: be thankful you have the strength to get out of bed each morning. Be thankful you can walk to class. Be thankful you are who you are.