Since the day of my heart attack/death, and probably for the rest of my time on this Earth, every illness, regardless of the symptoms, makes every bystander and medical professional go diving for my heart.
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Especially that creepy CPR guy, for some reason.
For example, four years after my heart attack, I was in Iquitos, Peru, the middle of the Amazon rain forest. I got really sick -- sweats, fever, chills, and an alimentary blowout from both ends (filling up a toilet and a puke bucket simultaneously). So I went to an emergency clinic where the doctor, aware that I am Previously Died from a Heart Attack Guy, took my blood pressure and ... that was it. That's all he did. "Forget the symptoms that are killing you right before my eyes, here's a prescription for blood pressure pills. Take them. Take them right now."
It turns out that once your heart has crapped out on you, that's all any doctor can see. It makes some amount of sense, but that logic doesn't make it any less of a pain in the ass when the doctor ignores your real symptoms. Vomiting and stomach pain? Let's check your blood pressure. Mauled by a goddamn cougar? We'll stop the bleeding ... then take your blood pressure.
"Measure how heavily the blood drips from the beast's jaws!"
The irony is, of course, that before I had the actual heart attack, I'd been given a clean bill of heart health by my doctor. In fact, my last words were literally, "Don't worry, my doctor says it's not my heart." I guess I'm one of the few people who will get a second chance at some last words, and I suppose I should think up something better to say for next time. Otherwise I might regret it later. But considering the odds of coming back from the dead a second time, probably not.
All of this happened five years ago. The first few months were shaky. I didn't want to climb stairs for fear of stressing my heart. I had to carry around nitroglycerin spray, intended to open up my arteries so the blood would flow better(for a while, I even wore a nitroglycerin patch). I was terrified of being in train stations and airports -- I now know from experience that trying to get someone out of a place like that and to a hospital is a pain in the ass. My "death" was all I wanted to talk about.
"Funny you should ask ..."
But there are upsides, and I mean other than having a ready excuse to not shovel snow out of the driveway or help friends move (and the fact that the story makes a great stand-up routine at the bar).
To all of you YOLO folks out there: It's true. You are going to die. That was the first time it really hit home with me (let's face it, no matter how many times you hear it, deep down we all think we're invincible). And strangely, my fear of death is gone (but trust me, I'm done with tubes).
I laugh at danger, but tremble at straws.
Don't get me wrong: My behavior did change after the attack, just not in the way people wanted me to change it.
I actually did go to the gym -- three times a week, for two years -- but more to build confidence than anything else. And I decided I was done with stress. I got out of a stressful marriage, I tried to fix my failing business, I got away from people for a while and got an apartment by myself. I have a new life rule -- whenever I start to stress out about something, I ask myself: Do I have any control here? Yes? Good, change it. No? Then forget it.
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You can't fix traffic jams. Try taking a nap.
It may be stupid to get killed by your vices, but at least a vice gives you some pleasure in return for ruining your health. Getting killed by stress is just nuts -- you're paying with your health for the right to be miserable.
So sure, I'm thankful for every day when I get up in the morning -- all that stuff that people say in situations like this is true. But when it comes down to it, death is just another one of life's experiences. And for me, stressing out of over it would just make it happen sooner.
Related Reading: Interested in more Cracked articles based on personal experiences? Click here for a look into the life of a Dominatrix. We've also talked to an escapee from the Church of Scientology and a survivor of the Troubled Teen industry. And if all that isn't risque enough for you, here's the article we wrote with a legal prostitute.