I live in the relatively small city of Mercer Island, Wash. Twenty-two thousand people live here where a floating bridge and the interstate connect us to Seattle three miles away. Having lived here for 23 years, I know a lot of people. Some of us have been aging gracefully, together. Fortunately, most of us are blessed with good health or, if not, health issues that can be “fixed.”
But there are times here, and in your hometown too, when fixing a health problem requires quick thinking and good luck. That’s what happened to our mayor a week or so ago. Jim Pearman is 53 and we all thought – including Pearman – he was in great shape. After all, he had taken up the sport of crew and was actively racing across the lake that separates our island from Seattle. His heart and lungs seemed to be working just great. But as he drove home recently after a crew practice he found something was terribly wrong. It was classic: increasing, almost unbearable pressure and pain in his chest, pain radiating down his left arm and even in his leg. It was a heart attack and Pearman was alone, at the wheel on the interstate bridge. The pain was increasing. Pearman knew if he pulled over it would be many minutes before help could arrive. He didn’t think he had that long. This might be the end.
Being mayor, Pearman is well acquainted with all the public buildings and services on Mercer Island at the far end of the bridge. If he could just make it to the fire station and call 911, the EMT’s could take action. The pain was almost crippling. Pearman drove on. He made it. EMT’s were immediately on top of him, medics arrived in a flash. And before long he had two stents inserted in his coronary arteries to restore blood flow to his heart. His life was saved. And the good news was the heart muscle was not damaged. He should recover fully.
I had read Pearman's story in our local weekly newspaper. And then just the other day I ran into him as we walked our dogs. He was a man who’d been given a reprieve from death. He was living a second life and he was thankful--thankful for the care he received, and thankful that he had the quick thinking and strength to get him to a place where he could get the help he needed fast.
Pearman has two children, one 17 and one 7. You can bet this year’s Father’s Day will be one he especially celebrates.
And now he’s telling everyone to get their cholesterol checked, even if they think they are in great shape. He says no one needs surprises like the one he had.
About the author: Andrew Schorr is a medical journalist, cancer survivor and founder of Patient Power, a one-of-a-kind company dedicated to bringing in-depth information to patients with cancer and chronic illness. Audio and video programs, as well as transcripts, help patients make informed decisions to support their health in partnership with their medical team. Patient Power is at www.PatientPower.info and on Facebook. Schorr is also the author of “The Web Savvy Patient: An Insider's Guide to Navigating the Internet When Facing Medical Crisis." http://www.websavvypatient.com/
Edited by Alison Stanton