Back-timing Toward “The Big-One!”
I cannot possibly recount the number of times I have laughed at Redd Foxx as he played the role of Fred Sanford clutching his chest and stumbling around the room while looking upwards and saying to his already deceased wife Elizabeth,
“It’s the Big-One. I’m comin’ to join you Honey.”
I’m sure that someone somewhere has counted the number of times that Fred Sanford was Havin’ the Big-One which created so much laughter. But, in reality? The Big-One is anything but a laughing matter.
You might have noticed the header at the start of this writing which has the word(s) back-timing in it. It’s a funny thing to me. Almost my whole adult/employed life has been spent back-timing toward something. In my first career as a radio disc-jockey I was always back-timing to the Top of the Hour or to the Start of the National News Broadcast or maybe a “Live” remote broadcast from an advertiser. Perhaps I had to count up the number of minutes and seconds the commercial breaks would occupy so that I could select the properly timed song that would conclude just as the “Live” feed began from the Associated Press Radio. The challenge of working “on-air” in radio or television is usually a self-imposed desire for perfection in this world of back-timing . For example: When working at KCLV in Clovis, New Mexico and KQTY in Borger, Texas the “Live” National News Radio Feed would begin at (54) minutes and (30) seconds into whatever hour it was. So, if the time was precisely 3:31pm, the back-timing required (23) minutes and (30) seconds of music or advertising or talking or most usually a combination of all three. And when the (54) minutes and (30) seconds arrived on the studio clock, which was calibrated down to the second, the National News Broadcast began. Not one second prior-to or one second after the (30) seconds past. It was that knowledge which permitted you the opportunity of using all your prowess of professional back-timing into either (a) Timing which had you sounding like a sloppy and non-caring d-j about the quality of precision or of the content timing that went out to your listening audience or… (b) Sounding like a disc-jockey that ran a “tight” board which was noted internally by the other on-air staff and the Station Manager and the Sales Manager. As far as the general public was concerned? They would not notice precision, only the moments when music was still playing while the National Newscaster had already begun talking or the “dead-air” that reverberated into the void of nothingness which just might provide that listener the moment to think of changing the channel.”Dead-Air” was/is the ultimate enemy while sloppy air was simply… sloppy. And my personality fit perfectly for this type of back-timing world of precision. I prided myself on trying to be the very best of all disc-jockeys at the station and in the city where I was employed. But, there were plenty of times I was Mr. Sloppy and Mr. Dead Air. But, both would kill my soul. I still carry the need for precision with me to this day.
Back-timing in my next career, working as an electrical estimator, was just as critical as radio. But, since the back-timing requirements might be weeks and days and hours away, I still always felt the pressure of each passing second as I prepared the Bids that would have to be ready and phoned into the General Contractors prior-to the Bid Cut-Off Time. Usually that was 2:00pm. But the timing of the Bid really did not matter to me as I had been accustomed to timing down to the second and this job only required that, for the most part, I was back-timing to a certain minute. That’s (60) whole seconds in which the permission for sloppy timing could be overcome. Pretty much an eternity of child’s-play I would say. Probably did say that a time or two in arrogance I’m sure. And, as I think back on it, I’m sure everyone was most overly impressed with my Bidding back-timing capabilities. NOT!! However, I do recall Bob Davis, the owner of the electrical contracting company, telling me one time early on as an employee of his: “If you ever miss a Bid-Time considered yourself ‘Fired’.” And while he did not say “Your Fired” in the manner as has been stated in the past by our current President, the message was very clear: Back-timing was still very much in-play in my life!
Some of you will find these next few words pretty funny considering…
There is nothing I dislike more than ‘being-late’. It really does not matter what the occasion. And with that being said, what it really means is: “I like to be there early because it’s only then I feel like I am… ON-TIME!”
Okay, years of marriage and children and the general delays of life which are not expected have indeed softened me in regard to the indwelling need for precise timeliness. However, it does not mean that part of my nature has taken a permanent vacation.
Growing up as a child with Rheumatoid Arthritis will have a great impact on your perspective of the important things in life I suppose. And, since I was always the last one off the bus or to arrive at the band-hall or cafeteria, I had no options but to accept that being-late was unavoidable. At one point while in Junior-High School the band director told the class, while I was not yet there, that they were late once I arrived at the band-hall. So, the kids would run past me on the open areas between the junior-high building and the band-hall which in reality was a great distance to me. Sometimes some would tell me to “Slow-down or they would be in trouble.” I had no idea what they meant by that until my sister, who was in the same class as I was, told me about what the band director had said. It then made perfect sense why those classmates wanted me to “slow-down”. But, when I found out that the band director had actually said that to the entire class? Well, I tried even harder to crutch my way more quickly to the band class. It probably never caused anyone to be late. It did cause me to be more determined to try and be on-time. It was a silly thing he did I suppose. However, I do still recall it as though he had said it yesterday. The “who” of his name really does not matter. I expect he would not do such a thing anymore. Well, I hope he would not anyway.
Tuesday April 4th @ 6:35pm (Time Remaining: 64 hours 26 minutes)
While I was not aware of it at that very moment, another edition of back-timing had begun. Only this time being late would mean the end of ever worrying about back-timing again.
I was just sitting there in my chair watching TV while Karen was fixin’ dinner. Hot dogs and chili! But, as the Wheel of Fortune spun around, the area of my chest where I supposed my heart resides began to hurt. It was a little different than the chest pains I have been accustomed to having over the past (40) or so years. The consequences of a life with arthritis can often find you hurting in unique ways than might resemble some other type affliction, like a heart attack for example. And in the past I have had countless chest pains that are easily remedied by me rubbing the muscles that are over the rib cage directly over my heart. It’s a semi-common thing to arthritic lifers. So, when this particular pain began I rubbed my chest in the standard way but… it did not seem to be working.
The pain intensified for about two or three minutes and then went away as quickly as it had come. But, it was not a pain that I dismissed, I just went into attentive mode and went and ate dinner.
Just as we were getting ready to leave the living room and head for bed it started again. I thought maybe it was heartburn from the hot dogs and chili so, I asked Karen (my wife) for one of her pills she sometimes takes for stomach issues. When I explained how the pain seemed to also be in my left arm she commented “You know, that’s sounds like the description of a heart attack.” I made a mental note of what she said. Once I was in bed the pain persisted for only a few minutes then again it was gone. However, just a bit of concern began to slip into my thoughts.
Wednesday April 5th @ 3:37am (Time Remaining: 55 hours 24 minutes)
I awoke with my hand on my chest. The pain was returning as I sat up on the side of the bed. It felt as though someone was deep inside my chest with a squirt gun shooting liquid fire onto the back of my heart. As the pain intensified it began moving toward the front of my heart. At least that was how it felt. Although I massaged that area of my chest vigorously the pain would not lessen. Then after a couple minutes it was over. Never any issues with breathing or stomach sickness or sweats or anything symptomatic of a heart attack except for the pain. But, pain is second nature to me… well, probably more first nature, but I noted it once again. I got up to visit the bathroom and went back to bed with all seemingly okay. The balance of the day (Wednesday) and evening was without any issues whatsoever. And after having had a terrible night sleeping on Tuesday, Wednesday night was one of the best sleep nights I have enjoyed in quiet some time. All seemed right with the world until…
Thursday April 6th @ 6:44am (Time Remaining: 28 hours 17 minutes)
Although I had slept very well that night, I awoke with the little man shooting the liquid-fire on the backside of my heart again. That’s how Thursday morning began. I got out of bed and in the short time it took to get to the bathroom the pain subsided and I had an uneventful Thursday. Well, uneventful as far as that little squirt-gun man was concerned. I slept well Thursday night from about 10:30pm to 3:29am Friday morning.
Friday April 7th @ 3:30am (Time Remaining: 7 hours 31 minutes)
Here we go again. I looked at the clock as I sat up on the side of the bed. Exactly 3:30. Way to early for this ol’ boy to even ponder getting up and meeting the day. However, the little man behind my heart had upgraded his weapon of choice it seemed. It felt as though he had now decided to use a fire-hose of liquid fire to saturate my entire heart. As I sat on the side of the bed, the waves of intensity would build and build to the point I thought: “I should wake Karen up and tell her this is happening.” But, just when I would decide that I was going to wake her up the entire pain would abate. There would be about a seven to ten minute rest or break and then it would start up again. This went on for a couple hours. Finally, it seemed to have concluded it’s extreme forceful nature and I was able to take my morning meds and get back into the bed. I fell asleep and woke up around 7:54am. I felt tired but the pain was once again vanquished and I went through the normal coffee and orange juice and watch the news routine with Karen just like any other day. After I showered and shaved I was planning on stopping into the office building I own for a while then making a trip into Lubbock to get a new watch band. But, I had already planned an additional stop for the day.
So as not to alarm Karen with the unexpected plans of the day, I told her that I had something serious I needed to let her know and that I did not want her to worry: “Because I was going into the local Medical Clinic” here in Slaton to check out those chest pains. I also mentioned that first I was planning on running to the edge of town where the Burrito Man resides. She advised skipping the burrito and just going straight to the Clinic. So we compromised. I went and got the burrito, went into my office, made a call to the Clinic at 10:14am to see if my personal friend who works as a PA there at the Clinic was in. He was not scheduled to be in until 3:00pm. So, I decided that I would go to the Clinic at 3:00pm and then go on to Lubbock. All of this would occur, of course, well after the eating of that all-important burrito.
Friday April 7th @ 10:36am (Time Remaining: 0 hours and 25 minutes)
I had just taken the foil wrapped burrito out of the brown bag and laid it on my desk when I received a call from my cousin Jan who lives in the DFW area. It was now 10:36am. We swapped birthday wishes as we had both had a birthday since we last spoke about ten days earlier. About (11) minutes into the conversation I mentioned to Jan that I hated to have to let her go but “my chest was hurting and I thought I would run over to the Clinic to get checked out”. She dismissed me immediately and I thought… “Maybe I just need to eat something.”
My burrito was still very warm on my desk in front of me. So, I unwrapped the burrito and took a bite. I quickly decided that the burrito WAS NOT the answer to my hurting chest dilemma so, I began the process of closing up the office while making sure that if I did not come back into the office I would make sure that it was properly closed. I just wrapped up the burrito and left it on my desk.
Friday @ 10:55am (Time of Life Remaining: 0 hours and 6 minutes)
Remember how way back at the start of this writing I went into a very detailed effort to describe how I had basically spent a lifetime as an adult back-timing to a very specific time. Well, once that time came and went, the opportunity to recapture it was gone. Never again are you given the chance to correct this specific missed back-timing effort.
Although I did not know this at the time I sat down in my car to travel to the Clinic which is only 3-blocks away, I literally only had (6) minutes of Life Remaining inside me. That would be explained to me some (30) hours later when the Heart Doctor came to my hospital room to tell me exactly what had transpired with my heart. He made it very clear that “Once the heart attack begins”, the kind I was to have in only a couple more minutes on that Friday morning, “the person has only 5-minutes to receive proper medication to keep the heart from completely dying”. This information was finally told me almost (10) hours after the Saturday morning surgery that had taken place. More on this discussion in a moment because right now it’s time for:
“Hello Mr. Heart Attack!”
I sat in the car on that Friday morning while taking note of the time. It was 10:55am. I sat in the car for about 30-seconds while still parked at my office. I was making sure I felt confident enough to drive to the Clinic without passing-out. I took two very deep breaths and concluded that, even if I had to hold my breath for the entire way, I was clear headed enough to at least get from my office to the Clinic. And as I started the car, the pain in my chest began to intensify and rapidly radiate forward into the front of my chest and down my left arm and into my right jaw. The heart attack had begun. I drove to the Clinic in less than 1-minute.
As I parked at the Clinic I noticed the were hardly any vehicles around which is highly unusual. So, I turned the ignition off and began the process of to decide if I wanted to wait until this horrendous wave of pain passed or, if I should go ahead and just will-myself into the Clinic. I decided to get out and go inside. It was 10:57am. I had approximately 4-minutes of Life remaining. My heart was beginning the process of dying.
When I got inside the door I recall being bent way over while grasping my chest. The pain was terrific and I felt as though I just wanted to fall down. BUT, THAT IS NOT AN OPTION FOR ME! So, with all I had in me I walked toward the Registration area where I could see two large humans, one male and one female, standing at the window and totally blocking my view of the Receptionist. As I stood behind the Red-Line marked out on the floor for the HIPAA laws, I noticed there was only One Person sitting in the entire lobby waiting area. It was a small middle-aged Mexican woman. She was sitting in a chair about fifteen feet from where I stood. She was facing my direction. At this point it is all I can do to not just fall to the floor which is really what I wanted to do. While I was still bent way down I turned my head ever so slightly toward the sitting lady and said in just above what sounded like a whisper “Help me please?”
The sitting lady jumped out of her chair and hurried to the Receptionist window. While pushing the two large people aside she began speaking in Spanish to the Receptionist. Within seven to ten seconds there were four people standing by me and walking me to a chair. As I sat down the PA in charge handed me a Nitroglycerin tablet to put under my tongue and a 325mg aspirin to chew up and swallow with just a little sip of water.
I calculated the heart-attack time it took for me to get into my car at the office and then arrive the Clinic and then taking the required heart-attack meds. I fugured this all happened in a 3-minute span of time. That would have still left me two more minutes of Life remaining before the things of the heart would have concluded themselves. And, obviously, that meant it would have concluded me.
In what seemed like less than one minute after taking the nitro and aspirin the heart pain subsided. I was astounded. I concluded at that point that I must not have had a heart-attack because I never fell to the floor or passed out. I found out later that, based upon the magnitude of the heart attack, I should have done both. However, it seems that the Lord said… “Not Today.”
Following a quick EKG in the Clinic the EMS personnel walked into the room where I was sitting. They had the stretcher up and ready and waiting for me to lie down on it. That all happened rather quickly. As they rolled me out of the Clinic I asked the PA “How the EKG looked?”.
I was immediately loaded into ambulance and then the fun part began. A NEEDLE with which the idea was to start an active IV. However, as Howard Cosell used to say… “But NO!”. They made one-stab at it and decided to let the E.R. folks do that at the hospital (“Thank You Lord!!!”) While in the ambulance and waiting to leave, following the failed IV attempt, I called Karen to let her know: “I am in the ambulance and headed to the E.R. but everything is okay. You do not need to hurry beyond the point of driving safely.” That morning Karen had been delivering to the Meals on Wheels folks. She had already received a call from the Clinic to her cell phone so, she already know what was happening when I called her from inside the ambulance.
As we left Slaton bound for the Lubbock hospital the process of the liquid-fire began to be released onto my heart. I mentioned it to the ambulance EMS man and was swiftly given a much larger nitro pill compared to the one I received at the Clinic. Within a few moments the pain again was gone.
It’s a strange thing to me. It seems like all my life I have heard that if you think there is anything wrong with your heart then you get an EKG and things will be decided from that point. Well, my EKG was PERFECT at the Clinic and in the Ambulance and also at the Hospital Emergency Room. According to the three and then more EKG tests that were performed I never showed any signs of having had a heart attack. However, the blood work done at the hospital revealed off the chart enzyme levels that indicated I had experienced a massive heart attack. This was confusing to everyone in the E.R. including the Doctors because, as they explained it to me, when they see those enzyme levels on an incoming patient the individuals are unable to speak and most have usually completely passed out. I concluded that the Last Five-Minutes must be rough on some folks. 😉
After a day of tests, and waiting and waiting, the Doctor comes in to inform me that I have had a “mild” heart attack. That was the information I was left with until almost (24) hours later which happened to be about (10) hours after the surgery that would happen the following morning, Saturday. Them telling me it was mild was their way of keeping me/us from getting too upset I suppose. They did not want any more heart events over the night which would require immediate surgery rather than the planned 7:30am schedule that was upcoming.
The next morning, Saturday April 8, 2017 @ 4:10am the lights came on and the activity began. Yes, at 4:10 in the MORNING. Blood work and EKG and then someone has the gall to ask:
“Are you ready to take your shower this morning Mr. Branscum?”
Okay, I begged. It got me about (20) more minutes to sleep, which did not happen. But, at least I figured the surgery would be first-up on the schedule. I was right. At 7:10am I was carted off to the Operating Room and promptly at 7:30 the Heart Surgeon began the process of fixin’ me up. It was all done within 15 minutes. I was back in my room of the early morning shower by 8:15am. Wow! That was quick. The surgeon said “We put a stent in.” And that’s that. Well, until about 5:20pm that Saturday afternoon.
I was still just laying in bed and waiting for the (10) hours to pass so I could move my leg which had been jabbed in the groin area during surgery. Almost (10) hours stationary in bed since the surgery. Well, stationary for the most part. I forgot a few times and the male nurse popped in and made sure I understood the need to keep the leg straight/flat and still. Ugh.
Finally, it was time for the whole truth to be revealed. Saturday, April 7th @ 5:20pm the doctor walks into my room. He started talking to me as he was walking to my bed. (Karen was in the lobby on the phone so I was intent on listening to every word he said. She would want/need to know all this as well.)
“I want you to know that you are one lucky man. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you are not quick on your feet. You dodged The Bullet.”
“What does that mean???” I was a bit rattled by those opening remarks and so I thought… Let’s let the ol’ doc try that opening again because that sounded like something serious had happened.
They call the heart attack I had “The Widow-maker”. That LAD (Left Anterior Descending) main artery was 99% blocked. (I told Karen “It just was not your time yet.”) The doctor went on to explain in great detail exactly what had transpired. This is when he let me know that when having this type heart attack a person has (5) minutes to seek treatment or the consequences are most usually dire.
An angiogram and then the angioplasty and finally a stent. I am back in great working order. The rest of the heart appears to be in very good working order. That’s nice to know.
So, again I had back-timed down to very latest possible moment. A 99% blockage. I saved that 1% so that I could stay on my feet while walking into the Clinic. Besides, there’s no sense in being greedy and taking the whole 100%. That would just be plumb silly!
Yes, some things will be modified. I have already received two letters from the Morton Salt Company expressing there sincere wishes for my hasty recovery. Additionally, Long John Silvers called to personally say they would be reducing the back-log of fried-crunchies since I would not be in as often. As for KFC? Well, I suppose I can survive on One Fried Chicken Skin instead of my usual Two or Three.
I have already decided that I need to re-calibrate my back-timing method. Me thinks it needs to permit a bit more time. Not everything in life has to be Back-Timed down to the Last Minute or Second. I say that knowing I will probably still do everything mostly the same when it comes to my medical events. After all, just knowing that a needle will be involved should always buy me at least two or three more days to consider the matter.
Seriously, and for just a moment: To all of you who prayed for my successful surgery I say: “Thank you so very much. I really do feel it outweighed the effects of my most active stupidity.”
If time permits, I will visit with those folks who sent so many kind regards during that weekend event. I just hope to not need ALL those prayers the next time. But, to be totally honest…
My Vote Is For “NO NEXT TIME!”
glenn / GLB358