Q. & A. with Heart Attack Survivor & Author – October 24th!


Q. & A. with Heart Attack Survivor, Author of

Sacred Heart Attack and Intown Community Church Elder – Jimmy Locklear

Book signing and short workshop on the value of writing your story for healing and wholeness. And what’s the value of journaling? Also, an introduction to Jimmy’s latest book Heart Journey: Following Jesus to the Heart of God, including 30 studies in the Gospel of St. Matthew. An intro journal will be given to everyone who purchases a book. $1 for each book purchased that night donated to Intown’s Deacon Fund.  (Price of books $11.95 each)   Event: Thursday Oct. 24 7:00–8:30 PM

Intown Community Church • 2059 Lavista Road • Atlanta, GA 30329 [Room 302/304]

Sacred Heart Attack – Chapter 4: Everyone is Shocked

We pick up my journal on Thursday afternoon, the day after my heart attack. The ripple of communication about my Montreal surprise is just beginning to widen.

“I didn’t have much of an appetite and hadn’t eaten since breakfast on Wednesday. For lunch, I ate some fruit, a small salad and a cracker. I couldn’t eat the spaghetti, although it looked good.

Curt was finally able to reach Jenny by phone after school on Thursday. She quickly called me back on the hospital phone in my room. We talked for several minutes and were both in shock. And we were both encouraged that my voice sounded strong and healthy. Pretty normal. I told her what had happened and we talked about how we would tell the boys and my siblings. She would call the boys and our daughter-in-law and invite them to call me. I would send an email to my two brothers and sister. I also sent an email to the elders and pastors at my church and a few other friends.

I suppose it was no surprise that everyone was shocked by the news. Since I was hundreds of miles away, we had made the decision to underplay the significance or the severity of the heart attack for a few days by not going into a lot of detail. And since I was sounding pretty good on the phone – I guess I still had some adrenaline in my system – it was easy to pull off. But, the medical staff and Curt would remind me of the reality of my situation from time to time to keep my feet on the ground. I could not deny the reality that my heart had been weakened and damaged. I didn’t know what that would mean, but I knew that things were going to be different.

I was taking a large potassium pill and a water pill due to some extra fluid that was still in my lungs. Early on, I would simply take whatever pill the nurse was offering me. I was trusting that all of the bases were being covered. I had a bit of a fever, too, and the Tylenol seemed to take care of that. That was my only option for fever or pain.

Curt was interested in talking about when Jenny would be flying to Montreal. I was more concerned with protecting her during her busy season at school and not wanting to make plans until we knew my status and how long I might be staying in the hospital. There was a thought floating around that I might have to stay in Montreal for two weeks before flying home. Making international travel plans required a bit more planning than we had data for at that point.

At some point Thursday evening, I talked to our oldest son Jameson. He was totally shocked, as was his wife Bethany who was listening in the background when Jenny had called Jameson. Bethany said that she knew they couldn’t be talking about me and must be talking about someone else who had heart problems. It was good to talk with them. It was Friday when I talked with Justin, our middle son, who had been called by Jenny the night before during rehearsals of a new show that was about to open. Justin said that he had been too emotionally spent from his day and my news to call on Thursday. I know the feeling. Jed would call later in the weekend and in his unique style started off by saying something to the effect of, “So, you had a little surprise up there in Montreal.”

As messages began to come back from friends and family, it is restorative and nourishing one’s soul to hear folks say that they are glad and thankful that you are alive. And for them to be thanking God that you are alive.

For a couple of years, I have been using a birthday greeting that I learned from Henri Nouwen. It is in his “daybook” called “Bread for the Journey” on the reading for February 13. Here it is:

 Celebrating Being Alive

Birthdays are so important. On our birthdays we celebrate being alive. On our birthdays people can say to us, “Thank you for being!” Birthday presents are signs of our families’ and friends’ joy that we are part of their lives. Little children often look forward to their birthdays for months. Their birthdays are their big days, when they are the center of attention and all their friends come to celebrate.

We should never forget our birthdays or the birthdays of those who are close to us. Birthdays keep us childlike. They remind us that what is important is not what we do or accomplish, not what we have or who we know, but that we are, here and now. On birthdays let us be grateful for the gift of life.’

It is a powerful and profound message that truly says what we feel, but are often afraid to say. Coming near to death gives us an invitation to express how we really feel about someone. A birthday can do that as well.

Curt, also, shared with me that night some of his and Nathan’s conversation from Wednesday evening while I was in surgery. They discussed ways that this heart attack might change my life and how things would be different. They observed that I was a good man and that I really “got” the mission and vision of L’Arche. Good words to hear.

I slept well that night.”

Sacred Heart Attack — Chapter 2: Wide Awake

In the previous post, I shared the beginnings of my experience as a heart attack patient in the ER of a large trauma center hospital in North Montreal, QC, Canada. You can go back and read the first four paragraphs to get the setting. Here’s what happened next.

“A young man in medical scrubs asked me to open my mouth. He, then, sprayed Nitroglycerin into my mouth to hopefully dilate my arteries. A woman pushed a needle into my arm to start an I-V. The Nitro sprayer guy asked if I was feeling any better. I said, ‘No.’

Another woman with a long needle asked if I had any allergies, wiped my belly with alcohol, then punctured the skin to quickly thin my blood. I didn’t even feel the needle.

Soon, I was rolling to the Operating Room. It was colder and I was now completely naked except for my watch, my hipster glasses and a blue HSCM I.D. bracelet #13308614. Two kind people lifted me by the sheet under me and transferred me to the O.R. table.

One nurse was shaving my groin area and my right wrist so that the doctor would have both options for doing the impending angiogram. Another lady was adding another I-V and taping the O2 monitor to my left index finger. Lying completely flat on a metal table is not comfortable, but the pain in my chest was relentless. Shortly, the Nitro sprayer guy came back with a cup with about 6 pills in it. He held my head as I swallowed them and chased the brown round pills with a small amount of water. He said that they were for the pain that I had earlier indicated was a 10 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being, “I think I’m going to die.”

If I was trying to take a breath and see if the pills worked hoping the pain would subside, then what happened next made sure I was wide awake. A female nurse said, ‘This is going to be cold.” She then began to “paint” a slushy-like mixture of Iodine and alcohol (and ice shavings) all over my stomach, waist, groin, upper thighs and, then, my right wrist. Her warning about the cold was an understatement, but, relatively speaking, not a problem. That was followed by fabric adhering to my skin and paper being spread over most of my body.

Someone then put what looked like a clear plastic shower cap over a shoe-boxed-size white ceramic device that hovered just a few inches above my head.

Dr. Thierry Charron soon introduced himself and said that he was going to find the clot and unblock my artery. He seemed energetic, enthusiastic and eager. I thanked him and he proceeded to make a small incision on the inside of my right wrist. My wrist was clamped and bound tight to the table.

Next, I felt a tube being inserted into my arm and soon the ceramic shoe-box above my head began to move this way and that at odd angles. I began to figure that it had something to do with the artery study. This was the x-ray machine that captured photos of my arteries as dye was injected into the tube showing where the blockage was.

There was lots of talking (in French, of course) and yelling from one part of the room to the other. On my left was a multi-screen digital display and at my knee area was a small box/monitor that Dr. Charron and another physician were using.

A few days later, Dr. Charron told me that he had difficulty getting to the blockage because a couple of arteries were crossed. On his third and final attempt he was successful. Had he failed, he would’ve moved to open-heart surgery. In emergency situations with a heart attack that had been going on for a 3-4 hours, doing open-heart procedure is much more high risk and things can go wrong.

So, another aspect of the evening of January 9, 2013, for which to be thankful.

After sometime, perhaps 30-40 minutes into the procedure, the pain on my heart got worse. Even though I had told the triage nurse that pain was a ‘10’, I would now edit that to a ‘9’ and now it was a ‘10’. I wondered what was going on, but could barely speak. I began to move my head back and forth and hoped that someone would see. Right about then, Dr. Charron said that he was close to being finished. ‘It still hurts,’ I said. At that point, he was positioning the stent for expansion and for a few seconds the artery was blocked even more and under pressure.

He said that it would be better soon. I know the Holy Spirit was present more by situation than by feeling or sense. All of these caring and highly trained people were focused on one task — saving Jimmy Locklear. Surely, that is a place where the Spirit is at home.

As Dr. Charron was completing the process of unblocking the IVA that was 100% blocked, he tells me that this was a ‘big one’. He said that another artery on the right side was 70% blocked and normally he would want to put a stent in that one on Friday. Subsequently, he showed me line drawings of both arteries. At that point, it had not sunk in how serious this was. It was my only heart attack experience, so, the severity angle was hard for me to grasp since I had nothing to compare it to.

Removing the catheter tube was a bit challenging. At one point, Dr. Charron expressed frustration when he had to pull so hard and ended up making a small scratch on my wrist. It was no big deal to me, but professional pride probably was in play here. During my recovery, a couple of the nurses were surprised by the scratch that was encased in clear tape.

While still in the O.R. I could feel a lessening of the pain, but a couple of the medical staff seemed surprised when I indicated that it was still a 5 or 6 on the pain scale.

I was transferred to another gurney and a large oxygen mask was now covering my mouth and nose. A couple of folks wheeled me past Nathan and Curt on my way to the Cardiac Care Unit. I was rolled into room #9 and lifted on to the bed. That was a bit of a process to rehang bags feeding my I-V and monitors and cables that had to be secured in my new space. Curt and Nathan were allowed to come into my room for about two minutes as long as I didn’t talk. Nathan rubbed my forehead and smoothed my hair and marked the sign of the Cross on my forehead with his finger. Curt prayed for me and said that he had left a message for Jenny and he would see me tomorrow.”

A day that I will never forget was coming to a close. I was still struggling to take in what had just happened. I knew that my mind and emotions had not caught up with my physical self. There would be plenty of time for that tomorrow.