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3 Life lessons from a heart attack survivor
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On Wednesday, November 21, 2012 I suffered a heart attack.

I called 911 at about 7:30 a.m. because of chest discomfort. Thankfully, my son, Johnathan, was home from school that day on break.

Prior to the emergency call, we were dressed and prepared to complete our annual (last minute) Thanksgiving tasks. I told Johnathan I thought I was having a heart attack and asked him to intermittently step on and off my chest -- even if I passed out -- until the paramedics arrived.

He calmly said okay, began stepping on my chest and called my wife, Cheryl, in a relaxed tone saying, "Dad is having a heart attack. We called the paramedics and are probably going to the hospital."

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Cheryl later told me that it was Johnathan's calmness that first lead her to believe he was playing another prank, as he so often does to her. The paramedics arrived within three minutes of my call, and within five minutes I was en route to Carolinas Medical Center-Main.

I was amazed at the efficiency and execution of the medical team there. I was whisked to the operating room, where they had all the information needed to begin the procedure.

As Johnathan and I separated on my way to the emergency room, I reached back and told him, "Son, I am not going to die today," to which he replied, "I know!”

The first procedure went without a hitch. I had a blood clot removed from my left anterior descending artery that caused 100 percent blockage. After seeing Cheryl and Johnathan briefly in the recovery room, I told them I needed rest, and in the interest of not scaring them, I waited until after they left and got the immediate attention of a nurse.

I reported extreme pain similar to the initial heart attack and was rushed back to the OR, where they found a second blood clot that was causing yet another attack. The repair was made and I spent the next three days in ICU as my cardiologist attempted to thin my blood to prevent clotting during my recovery.

On Sunday, I was moved to a regular room, where after three more days of anti-clotting drugs administered via IV, I was released.

I feel GREAT!!

Cheryl was an awesome nurse. Her love and sweet devotion to her husband run circles around the legacy of Florence Nightingale.

As my body recovered, I rested as much as I could and drove here and there slowly, keeping my hand off the horn. I also learned to turn off my phone and not answer every call 24 hours a day, and it has made all the difference in the world.

My doctors told me that stress is my poison, so during 2013 it will be my ultimate duty to focus on learning to slow my pace, literally and psychologically.

I learned a few lessons from this incident that I always knew were true but had not put into practice:

1. Everything and Everyone you thought was important isn't. As I sat waiting for help to arrive, I experienced so much peace. I was not frantic. I was not afraid my "house" was not in order. Nor did I have any regrets. I always knew I got to experience things so much earlier than my contemporaries. I was satisfied to have lived a good life.

2. You will never understand your impact while doing God's work. I was astounded at the number of friends and associates and clients that visited the hospital, called or emailed me. I really did not understand the impact God has allowed me to leave on so many people! So many times I have come home exhausted after helping with the life issues of people who were strangers prior to our first encounter and never heard the words "thank you." After this experience, I never again will expect to hear, nor will I accept, a thank you, for it has never been me who deserved the thanks. It was God! I am humbled.

3. Be ready. I am not sure why, but before this incident I had a strong desire to make sure I told my sisters I loved them, and I did. I wanted my brother to know I was going to miss him when he moved, and I let that be known. I wanted Cheryl to know she was the most beautiful, sexy and intelligent woman to have ever crossed my path, and she understood. I wanted Johnathan to know I expect his name to be known in international circles and that my love for him will always be unmoved and unwavering, and that has been accomplished.

I am not suggesting a morbid "goodbye," but when you are taking what could be your final breaths, what satisfaction there is in knowing that the people you love most know and understand that.
The Rev. John B. Hicks is an occasional contributor to Qcitymetro.com.

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