On a beautiful Saturday morning on September 5, 2009, I was participating in a long-distance bike ride known by the name “DALMAC.” It begins in East Lansing, crosses the Mackinac Bridge, and ends at the top of the UP, in Sault Ste. Marie.
I was about 2/3 of the way there passing through in a small town named East Jordan. East Jordan is notorious among bike riders because of a very steep hill nicknamed the “Wall.” It has the steepest incline of any road in Michigan. It is also steeper than any incline on the “Tour de France”.
I was about half way up the hill when my heart just stopped. I obviously went down hard and hit my head. I experienced what the doctors call “sudden cardiac death.” I died. There are generally accepted statistics about “sudden cardiac death.” Only 20% of those who experience it survive. Only 2% who experience it in a rural community survive. By grace, I am here today representing the 2%.
I was with my brother and best friend. They were able to start CPR immediately. Because the hill is notorious, there were several riders at the foot of the hill mustering in preparation for attacking the “Wall.” One of those riders was a pastor and full-time corrections officer named Andrew who had just recently completed mandatory CPR training. He saw me go down and was able to relieve Gary and Jim in minutes.
East Jordan has a top-notch volunteer EMS staff. They are well trained and excellently supported by their community. One of the EMS staff, Jay, was at home working outside when he heard the call. He only lived a short distance from the “Wall” and was able to respond quickly. My heart was de-fibrillated and a heartbeat was restored after the very first shock. All total it is estimated that I was gone for about 12 minutes.
The East Jordan EMS transported me to Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey. Northern Michigan Hospital is one of the finest cardiac hospitals in Michigan. It is in the top 10% of infection control in the nation.
After September 5, no one knew how long I would live, or if I would survive, or if I would even know my family when I woke up. When I came out of a 10-day chemically induced coma, I had two major issues. (1) I was in dire need of triple by-pass surgery. (2) I had suffered significant brain damage from a lack of oxygen [medical geek alert: “anoxia” and “aphasia”] and from the blow to my head when I went down. It was not known if I would spend the rest of my life in a vegetative state or how much I would recover. I woke up not knowing how to read an analog clock. I did not know what day of the week it was or even what year it was. In many ways, for you tech people, it was like my brain was a computer hard drive that had been reformatted with a corrupted registry file. The good news is that our brains are a mystical thing. Even though mine was initially wiped clean, there was still information saved somewhere that could be to be restored, but with much work over time. Turns out I didn’t have to relearn: I had to rediscover. It’s weird: when I need to develop something, it initially seems to be lost. But then when I focus on the problem, I get this little voice in my head saying “try this.” And voila! It works! It’s pure magic. Another synapse connection is restored. It has been a long 10-year journey of discovery to get me back to where I am today.
The long-term effect is my short-term memory, or lack thereof. I doubt it will ever return, as anyone who knows me today can certainly attest to.
My next Blog offering will describe my history and background prior to 9/5/09. I would also like to describe how my “therapy” work for the Packard Proving Grounds has provided me the ability to develop the Proving Ground Imaging Database System we now call PGMaster.