Jim Mitchell

On the Fragility of Life

Events happen in our lives that make us do a full stop and give a long, hard look at how things are. This was one of those events that slapped me in the face so hard I’m still having a hard time grasping it.

About a week ago, I had a heart related event that sent me to the emergency room. It was serious enough that the doctor point blank told me it could have been deadly had I not paid attention to it.

When I woke up at 3:30 am last Thursday, my heart was palpitating and racing at over 150 bpm. I thought for sure I was having a heart attack. I woke my wife and we sped to the closest ER (she drove).

When the doctor examined me, my heart was in an state of Afib (atrial fibrillation). They pumped me full of drugs to bring my heart below 100 bpm and hopefully put me back into a sinus rhythm. They were able to get the heart rate down a little, but it fluctuated between 90 and 120 bpm for hours. They weren’t able to get me back into a sinus rhythm either.

Ultimately, I was admitted to the hospital. My heart finally went back into a sinus rhythm after 19 very exhausting hours. After several tests, the cardiologist was able to determine this is a defect I’ve had all my life. I’d had small episodes as long as I can remember, but never thought anything of it. It’s forcing some big changes to my lifestyle. Thankfully, I’m still here to write about it.

The most terrible and heartbreaking part of this story is that another man, just a year younger than me (having overheard his age), was put into the ER bed right next to me complaining of excruciating back pain. Like me, he walked in under his own power. Within 30 minutes of arrival, he went unresponsive and ultimately passed away from heart failure. The ER staff worked furiously to bring him back for a long time. At one point he did resuscitate, but before they could get him to the ICU, he crashed again. There was nothing they could do for this man. So tragic.

This all happened right next to my wife and I before we knew what was going on with my own heart. It scared the living shit out of both of us, and I’ll never, ever forget it.

Life is really fucking short and can be taken from you in a heartbeat – literally.

I should not be living to work. I should be working to live a full life with – and for – those most important to me. It’s easy to get wrapped up in a career. To hell with that now! Family and friends are what matter. And so does living a life that makes a difference to them. It took nearly six decades to see it clearly. I’m grateful I was shown the lesson with enough time to do something about it.

No matter what, hold your loved ones close. Let them know you love them every day. Patch the broken relationships even though it’s hard. Live each day with gratitude and wonder, because you could be gone in a matter of moments.