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Finding more heroes among Oxford’s medical community

By Steve Stricker

You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.” Luke 12:20

On Thursday, June 22, 2017, around 10:30 a.m., as I lay in back of the ambulance outside my hero, Dr. Mona Castle’s office while EMT’s Dennis and Blaine wired me up, I calmly told God that if he was done with me and I could no longer serve him to take me as I was ready, and like in Vietnam, serenely accepted my death.

As soon as I said that prayer, a massive peace washed over me (as in Vietnam) and I knew I was going to be OK.

For the past year or so, I have been experiencing occasional dizziness, and although my lab work was great, Dr. Castle had me undergo numerous tests, but nothing was confirmed.  For the first time, a week before my regular three-month appointment with “Dr. C” that Thursday morning, I had experienced some tightness in my chest and shortness of breath.

My appointment was 8:45 a.m. and after blood draw, nurse Cherry Craven weighed me and placed an oxygen sensor/pulse monitor on my finger.  The oxygen was perfect but the pulse was, “39!”  Cherry said that wasn’t right, and minutes later an EKG indicated a “Stage 3 Total Block” of my electrical system (the top of my heart wasn’t communicating with the bottom), and things started happening at warp speed!  Although Baptist Memorial Hospital was located only 100 yards from her office, Dr. C wouldn’t let me drive because, “I probably wouldn’t make it!” Thirty minutes later, Dr. Mark Campbell (my new hero) performed a heart cath (arteries were OK) and implanted a temporary pacemaker.

After the procedure, I was assigned to room 8 in ICU and had to lay motionless for the next 17 hours — ugh!  Father Joe Tonos (Pastor/hero, St John Catholic Church) visited and anointed me with Last Rites.  Don Cole (hero) dropped in, and minutes later Dr. Campbell and I met (with me awake); awesome man!  The 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. nurse was Erica Ramsey and I felt my hero, mom and RN, “Gert” was there taking care of me through her. The 7 p.m. – 7 a.m. nurse was John Austin and like Erica, he was awesome.

Friday at 7:30 a.m., Dr. Campbell and his amazing team of Charlie, Derek Starnes, Giles and two others implanted the permanent pacemaker — well done!

From there, I was assigned to room 312 and for the next 24 hours again had to lay motionless — whew!  Nurse Shavonne Doyle was terrific.  After lunch, and visits from George Trost, Dave Sherman, Buddy Arrington, Fr. Joe, and Don Cole (thanks), Dr. Campbell stopped by to say, “The procedure could not have gone better, you are healthy as a horse, and are going to be around for a very long time!”  Rather nice to hear from a renowned heart surgeon. Night nurses, Sarah Beth Morris and Julia Trimble competently saw me through the night.

Saturday morning nurse Kim Cooper (great) got me ready to go home. After breakfast, Phillip Tucker checked my pacemaker, “Perfect,” and at 10:10 a.m., Dr Charles Laney discharged me. Don Cole took me to my car parked at Dr. C’s, and followed me home (thanks Don for all you did!).  A short time later, my son Stephen (who was in Madrid, Spain) and his wife Kristie had Abner’s deliver a swell lunch!

After Mass on Monday, July 3 (and pushing the limit all week by mowing, etc.), I had my first follow-up appointment with Dr. Campbell and staff, Phillip Tucker, nurse Lauren Lungren, Glenda Hale, and Angela Lamb at the Strong Heart Clinic and everything, everyone, was great!

So although I am thankfully very healthy from my lab tests by Dr. Castle and Dr. Campbell, it seems my “Lucas” (British car owners will get this) electrical heart system, which could have been a bit awry from my childhood, finally shorted-out and wasn’t picked up by lab tests. I prayerfully urge y’all to get a checkup from your doctor — and to check in with God.

Writing this Wednesday morning, July 5, I feel better than I have in a very long time and the future is a bright open door for me!  EVERYONE through all of this was awesome and I nominate ALL Baptist staff for “The DAISY Award!

Thank you, heroes from the top and bottom of my “new” heart. Sorry for not getting all last names in time for this column.

A very special thank you to my three hero sons, Stephen, Scott and Shane and supreme hero, God!

Steve Stricker received his Ph.D. in Counseling from Ole Miss.  He can be reached at sstricke@olemiss.edu.