Heart scare anniversary a reminder to get checkups

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, July 5, 2023

By Steve Stricker

On Thursday, June 22, 2017, as I lay in the back of the ambulance outside Dr. Mona Castle’s office, EMTs 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.

It was like being in Vietnam a week after arriving in July 1969 after barely surviving a massive rocket and mortar attack, and changing my May 10 birthdate for the second time. I serenely accepted my death.

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For that past year or so, I had been experiencing occasional dizziness and although my lab work was perfect, Dr. Castle had me undergo numerous tests. A week before my regular three-month appointment that Thursday morning I had experienced some tightness in my chest and shortness of breath.

After blood was drawn, nurse Cherry Craven weighed me and placed an oxygen sensor on my finger. Oxygen was perfect, but the pulse was 39. Minutes later an EKG indicated a “Stage 3 Total Block” of my electrical system (top of my heart wasn’t communicating with bottom), and things started happening at warp speed.

Although Baptist Hospital at the time was located only a hundred yards from her office and I felt great, they said I wouldn’t make it there. Twenty minutes later, Dr. Mark Campbell (new hero) performed a heart cath (arteries were okay) and implanted a temporary pacemaker, saving my life. Whew – that was Vietnam close.

After the temporary procedure, I had to lay motionless for the next 17 hours in ICU. Father Joe Tonos visited and anointed me with Last Rites. Dr. Campbell and his team implanted the permanent pacemaker, and afterwards said, “Procedure went perfect, you are healthy as a horse and will be around a very long time.” Then for the next 24 hours again I had to lay motionless.

After breakfast Saturday, I checked perfectly and was released. Brother Don Cole took me to my car and followed me home. A short time later 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 at the Strong Heart Clinic – everything was great.

So although very healthy as screened from my lab tests, 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 urge y’all to get regular checkups with your doctor, check in with God, and if necessary change your birthday from May 10 to July 1969, to June 22, 2017…Peace Out!

Steve received his Ph.D. in Counseling from Ole Miss, lives in Oxford, can be reached at sstricke@olemiss.edu.