On Monday morning my boss told me how much fun he'd had hunting with his grandson over the weekend. And then he told me how tiring it had been, how he almost didn't have enough breath or energy to walk out of the woods.
He's been hunting almost every weekend for the past couple of months, so this fatigue was unusual, and he knew it. He'd heard a friend mention that a new test, a coronary calcium screening test, had alerted him to heart problems, so he called and arranged to take the same test Monday afternoon.
Test results showed there was at least a 90-percent arterial blockage. I called the cardiologist who has been seeing him once a year since a heart attack 12 years ago and made an appointment for Thursday afternoon, the earliest they could work him in on a non-emergency basis.
Tuesday morning my boss had court. He wasn't feeling great, but court was uneventful and he returned to the office in relatively good humor. He called his nephew, a Baton Rouge physician, and told him about the results of his coronary calcium screening test. He also told his nephew that it had been years since his cardiologist had done anything on those annual visits other than listen to his chest with a stethoscope, check his blood pressure, and look at the lab reports on his cholesterol level.
Dr. Nephew said that wasn't good enough. In a matter of minutes he called back and said he had made an appointment for my boss with a better cardiologist early Wednesday morning.
The first time I saw my boss on Wednesday was when he returned to the office from seeing the new cardiologist, and he was a bundle of mixed emotions. Based on the morning's test results, they'd sent him home to pack a bag so he could check back into the hospital for a late-Wednesday-afternoon heart catheterization. That's the last time I've seen him.
The catheterization showed severe blockage that would almost certainly have resulted in a heart attack in the very near future. The new cardiologist kept him in the hospital Wednesday night and Thursday, and at 7:00 a.m. Friday morning, he underwent quadruple bypass surgery -- seven hours' worth.
Throughout this ordeal, my boss's lovely wife stayed in touch via her cell phone. Each time she'd get a medical update, she'd call and tell me, and it would then be my turn to get on the phone and relay the news to concerned friends and clients who were anxious for information. I think my boss underestimates how many friends he really has.
The surgery went very well, according to the doctors, and the next phase for my boss would be a day or two (today and tomorrow) in the intensive care unit. His wife and grown children would be able to visit him for a few minutes at a time, and they were told to expect that he'd look pretty bad.
His wife called me this morning after she went to visit him. "You wouldn't believe it," she said. "He was sitting up in the bed, talking -- saying he doesn't plan to go through anything like this again -- and they're talking about moving him out of ICU later in the day."
I am so relieved. My boss -- my good friend -- is going to be okay because he was smart enough to pay attention to the warning signs.
On a lighter note, let me tell you how this story played out on the Louisiana-small-town rumor circuit:
A very worried lady called the office yesterday afternoon and asked, "Did Mr. J have a heart attack?"
"No," I told her, and I explained the course of events to her much as I've outlined it for you above.
"Thank God!" she said. "Now, let me tell you what the rumor is. I heard from someone who said they'd heard it from a client of Mr. J's who was there when it happened. They said Mr. J and his client were in front of the judge, and Mr. J was arguing, defending his client. They said Mr. J was so worked up that he started yelling, then he grabbed his chest and fell out on the floor of the courtroom, and the paramedics had to come in and take him away in the ambulance."
I can't wait for my laid-back boss to hear this version of the story. I told it to a good friend of his who said, "Well, he may not spread this rumor himself, but if he hears it, he probably won't deny it, either."
He's going to be okay. It'll be an interesting and challenging couple of months, workwise, but it's going to be okay.