Another older piece. Based on real events, written with permission from my patient–who became my friend, and whose heart beat beneath my hands
There once was a man–a good man. A decent man. A man who was wheeled into an ER with chest pain and promptly dropped dead.
He was resuscitated for over an hour and a half by an ER doctor who refused to give up and by a team who shook their heads in disbelief at the number of times his heart was ‘shocked.’
13. 14. 15. 16.
16 times they heard “Clear!”
16 times they heard “Continue CPR.”
The 17th time shocked the staff–it was the 17th shock that restarted his heart.
An EMS crew braved blizzard-like conditions to transfer the man to another facility where he underwent open-heart surgery. And lived.
It would be nice if our story ended here, but shocking a heart 17 times causes irreparable damage. The man survived, but his heart was weak. Eventually, he was told the only way he would live was with a new heart. But the man knew he could only be so lucky so many times before his luck and his time ran out.
He was wrong on both counts.
Through the ultimate gift given by a grief-stricken family, he got the call.
I saw him this morning, the first time since he’d gotten his new heart. He embraced me in a bear hug, as he normally does, and I stood in wonder at how good he looked. Healthy. Happy. Alive.
“Okay, let me feel it!” Because I’m not shy.
He grinned and placed my hand on his chest.
I stood looking into the eyes of a man who should have died long ago and felt the heart of a stranger now giving life to my friend. And I smiled.
Every moment of my 20 plus years in the medical field had come down to that moment; standing beside him, his heart beating beneath my hand.
It was proof that miracles do exist– even when we can’t find the faith or the strength to believe in them anymore.
I am eternally grateful to that family, to every family, who has decided to give the gift of life to a total stranger–even while their own hearts were breaking.
And I encourage all of you to become organ donors when you renew your license. Let your last act on this Earth change someone’s life.