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Friday, March 4, 2011

Jerry Shelby

I don't know Jerry Shelby. He is apparently a restaurateur in Ensenada, Baja, Mexico, and is a friend of Patrick Mullen, an American ex-patriate, living in San Antonio del Mar, a suburb of Rosarito Beach and Tijuana, Baja, Mexico, and a regular correspondent of mine.

Jerry writes of his heart attack and treatment thereof. I found it a fascinating read. Hope you do as well:

The real life adventure of Jerry Shelby

Thu Mar 3, 2011 6:03 pm (PST)

"Back From the Other Side…OOoooweeeooo'

This tale is for those who are curious about what happened to me over the past couple weeks, and for those who would like to know what it is really like to deal with a heart attack. I am sure there are many reading this who have`been there and done that' and who can relate and may get a chuckle out if it anyway.

Day One and Two


On February 2, 2011 at around 4 pm I was in the process of closing up the café. I had just pulled in chairs from the patio and was there with one customer who had brought in a gold ring to be appraised. After looking the ring over, I was in the process of placing it into the safe; shutting the door and spinning the dial. I stood up to walk out of the office when someone or something from a parallel universe had decided to zap me in the middle of my chest with a hot poker! Another analogy is that an alien had just hatched inside my chest and wanted out bad. In either case, it only took two micro-seconds to realize that I was having a heart attack.

Why me?

I headed for the closest chair, sat down, and put my feet up on a table all while calling to Kim who still happened to be there to get the phone and call for an ambulance and to call my wife. It went more like:

Me: "Call an ambulance."

Kim: "What's the number?"

Me: "066"

Kim: "What is the address here?"

Like most of Ensenada there are two names for most of the streets. The one in front of the café has three. With her Spanglish and my strained directions the conversation resulted into what seemed like fives minutes before she hung up. Meanwhile, I am trying to be calm and just breathe as every heartbeat is booming in my chest. The call to Beatriz went much more smoothly. It seemed to take a half an hour until I could hear the ambulance coming. Kim stood outside to wave them down and the Cavalry finally arrived; Beatriz first and then the ambulance.

What they did or said is more or less blurred. I ended up at an emergency hospital around 10th street, address unknown. There they poked Aspirin and tiny nitro pills down my throat and kept asking if I felt better. "From a scale of 0-10, how is the pain?" After about 30 minutes of poking more pills down my gullet, asking the same questions and getting the same response, someone made and executive decision to transport me to the public general hospital across town.

After being back in the ambulance for another ride that seemed to take another half hour, I ended up being delivered to an emergency entrance. As they opened the back door, curious onlookers were pushing to get a better look as they wheeled me inside and down a hallway.

General Hospital Ensenada

Once inside things started to move a little faster. They hooked up IV's, robbed me of my clothes, drew blood, took EKG's , and continued to poke pills down my pie hole all while asking me the 0-10 question again. All this happened as the alien was still fighting to get out of my chest.

Life started to get a little more comfortable after they injected something in my IV, but the pain was making sure I knew it was still there. The doctor (a female) came over to tell me that I had a heart attack. (As if I didn't know this already) Her bedside patient rapport was much like a check out cashier at Calimax. I got the impression she was insulted or pissed that I could not speak Spanish and perhaps was taking up her valuable time. "Jeez, another Gringo!"

Lying there, still experiencing chest pain, a male nurse showed up and closed the curtains around my bed. He came in with what I recognized as a pee bag with a hose attached. It didn't take much to figure out that this guy had intentions of taking the working end of his garden hose and poking it right up the middle of Mr. Happy! "Whoooha, this isn't going to be fun!" was my immediate thought. However, the nurse was quick and efficient, and the sensations were more uncomfortable than painful. Whew! Glad that was behind me. That was another first time life experience to add to a growing list for that day. I didn't think a hose that big would fit up there!

By then I had been laying there for an hour or so, and out of the blue another alien started to wake up and make itself known, (OH CRAP! I'M HAVING TWINS!) As the pain grew and my heart started to race I began trying to get the attention of a man that looked like a doctor, but who was occupied with what must have been important paperwork in the bull pen. As I continued to struggle to communicate with the doc, a man laying in a bed across from my crib, asked in perfect English, "Are you having chest pains?" to which I replied the big affirmative. He, with great authority, said in Spanish, "This man is having a heart attack!" The doctor looked up towards me and with the `what now? I'm busy' look and came over and injected something into my IV. Whatever it was, I felt the stuff as it traveled inside of me and the pain increased in my heart. I thought it was going to explode! At that point things started to ease up and I slowly relaxed, fell asleep, or passed out.

Some time later, I was moved to their ICU. Inside the ICU I was in a room with one patient totally sedated who I found out later had underwent brain surgery. Laying there still feeling pressure in my chest, but not as painful, the male nurse on duty continued to poke Aspirin and nitro down the pie hole and asked the number question.

As the evening grew into nighttime, nothing much happened. However, I couldn't help but notice my nurse had a cold. He was walking around the room coughing and blowing his nose without wearing a mask or gloves. I was less than comfortable when he handed my meds with his bare hands. I actually told him to wash his hands first, which he did, but still handed me the already contaminated pills. But by then I no longer cared. I lay there trying to put my mind in another place while ignoring a steady stream of fellow employees coming in and out, visiting, laughing, and fooling around playing on his computer. The room finally became quiet around midnight.

At around two in the morning I woke up and was looking at my heart monitor which showed my heart rate was in the 130's. My nurse was at his desk with his head in his folded arms. He was fast asleep. Around four in the morning my heart rate was still running in the 130's and the pressure was building in my chest. I tried to wake the nurse up by calling out, but when that didn't work I picked up the tissue box next to my bed and remarkably tossed it across the room and bounced it off his head. "Score!" That got his attention, but for only a minute. I pointed at the monitor and he looked up, then laid his head back down and went back to his nap.

Now it was Thursday morning and at around 6 AM Beatriz walked into the room to see me. I told her, "get me the $#@% out of here or I will just lay here and die." Thirty minutes later she was back with my ride to the USA.

The E Ticket Ride to San Diego

I was quickly transferred onto the ambulance gurney and wheeled into the awaiting van. Again there was great interest to those standing around outside. With red lights flashing and siren clearing the way I was laying flat on my back I was not able to anticipate turns, stops, or bumps that lay ahead. I was dealing with a constant changing combination of G forces that pushed towards my feet and then hard breaking that sent everything inside of me rushing to my head. I now know what a tank of water feels like. I am sure there wasn't a pothole missed. Some of these land mines I recognized having driven the toll road 1,000 times myself. I learned later that when we were navigating through Ensenada, an unmarked car put on the red lights and cut a path through traffic. The ride from the tollbooth in Ensenada to Gloria exit in Rosarito was more or less passed by quickly with not too much bouncing around. However, when we turned off at the La Gloria exit taking the back roads to Tijuana, the radical bobbing and weaving got to the point I had to focus outside the back window to avoid getting car sick. Finally, we arrived at the sentry lane and I let out a sigh of relief. The ride was over.

USA Border

It seemed we waited about fifteen minutes before the Chula Vista Fire Department arrived to take charge. Four firemen paramedics that looked like they probably worked their days off as Chippendale dancers took control with Buzz Light-Year, no nonsense efficiency. Of course my IV from Mexico did not meet their standards so they removed it and quickly replaced it with one of theirs. Lucky for me they seemed to be satisfied with my man hose and left it alone.

They worked quickly taking blood pressure and transmitting EKG's to the hospital. The man in charge wasn't interested that we had already called ahead to the VA hospital in La Jolla, or to the fact that they were waiting for me. I protested when they gave orders to go to Sharp Hospital in Chula Vista, but the paramedic made his point when he said, "I don't think you will make it to La Jolla, so we are going to the closest hospital." `Okay, that sounds good to me' I thought, and I decided at that moment I was not in charge time to just shut up and go with the flow. So, I laid there very still fighting off nausea from my ride to the border, and I was feeling the reawakening of my sciatic nerve spasms shooting down my left leg. Perhaps I should have just driven?

Sharp Chula Vista Hospital

Thursday, February 3rd.

I am not sure what time of the day it was when we arrived, but as they opened the back of the ambulance and rolled me into the emergency entrance I felt like I was the main subject of a General Hospital or E.R. series. I was met with a team of nurses and doctors that went to work like a well-oiled machine. By the time they wheeled me into ICU, I think I had a chest x-ray, blood draw, more IV's inserted, and monitors attached. I also answered the 0-10 question several times. There was a beehive of activity all around me. Elvis was in the house! I was feeling better already.

My doctor was Roman Szkopiec (scope – ic) and he was straight forward in letting me know I had suffered a major heart attack due to two blocked arteries in my heart. As it turned out, Dr. Szkopic is the Head Cheese Weenie for Interventional Cardiology and Director of Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory. "Boo Rhaaa!" SCORE!

He told me that I was not a candidate for open-heart surgery and he was going to perform Angioplasty to clean out the blockages. He said the odds of me dying from the procedure were 2 in 200. Without it my chances were 50/50. I liked the 2/200 odds and at that point I didn't care what they did as long as the pain would ease.

Shortly after this conversation two nurses with great bedside manners showed up with an electric razor and tools of the trade. They quickly transformed Mr. Happy and the surrounding territory into a 10 year old boy scout. By now I didn't care if they sold tickets as any apprehensions I may have had for public nudity had vanished.

After transferring me onto a gurney I was pushed down the hall towards what looked like an operating room. However, it was quickly clear to me that most likely when not in use they also stored hanging meat because it was colder than all get out. Yet, to their defense, they did tell me on the way it would be a little cold.

Laying there on this refrigerated slab under what looked like a TV wrapped in plastic, I discovered the good Doctor was not going to put me under for this procedure. I again braced myself for a new experience with pain. But the procedure wasn't as bad as I expected. The stick of a needle in the right groin was the worst of it. I felt more pressure than anything else. It was a strange however, as I felt what seemed to be scratching or scrubbing inside my chest. I would have loved to see what was going on, but was told to remain still.

The ordeal was over in what seemed like 15 to 20 minutes.

I was happy that was over and was taken back to my bed in ICU. There I learned from Dr. Szkopiec that he only cleared out one of the two blocked arteries and inserted a stint. The second blockage was much larger and deeper in my heart. He wanted to give my heart a little time to rest before going after the next challenge.

Probably the worst pain in this ordeal was from what seemed to feel and look like big plastic clothes pin that put 60 pounds of pressure on the point of entry into my right groin. This device had to remain there for at least eight hours. Even with dose of morphine my 0-10 was headed for an 11. After complaining to the nurse repeatedly, she slowly released a little pressure on the clamp every half hour, but the pain was still making itself known.

In my sleep induced by the help of pain-killers I tried to remove the clamp on my own. When they discovered I had moved it all hell broke loose. However, with a close inspection they were confident there was no bleeding and all was well. But, I was chastised for being a bad boy. They replaced the clamp with a 10 pound sand bag which was much more tolerable.

When morning came they delivered something to eat and I did my best to get down two or three bites. The hospital food wasn't all bad; I just didn't have any appetite. Between taking what seemed like 9 or 10 pills every six hours, blood draws at what seemed to be every three hours, chest x-rays twice a day, more blood draws and EKG's I was lucky to get two hours of sleep at one time. That being said, I could not be more impressed with the level of care and attention I received by the nurses and staff. But the cure was killing me.

Later that afternoon on day two, laying still with my heart still in a horse race, my world started to fade to orange as I realized that I was going to pass out. The last thing I remembered was reaching for the nurse call button. I found out later that I had indeed flat lined and stopped breathing. At that moment I was dead? All of a sudden I found myself surrounded in some state of light. "Oh shit! I'm in the light!" was my first thoughts. It felt very comfortable, free of pain or discomfort. I felt like I was looking around waiting to see if someone from my past was going to appear. However, I saw nothing, just light for what seemed like a minute and then slowly people standing around my bed came into focus. They seemed to be relieved that I opened my eyes and smiled. The first person I noticed was a nurse with two paddles in her hands that she had used to shock my heart back into action. Later my nurse said, "You scared the hell out of everyone!" Doctor Szkopiec was there and told me that he was going to try to shock my heart back into the correct rhythm. I had my eyes closed and was wondering what, "K-ZAP!" it would feel like.

Keep in mind that Beatriz along with Elizabeth had been there for two days. I told Beatriz to go home and get some rest, that I would be fine. I found out later that she had just returned home to Ensenada for about fifteen minutes when the doctor called her and told her she needed to come back because I had a setback and I may not make it through the night. She was a total wreck as she turned around and got back in the car and headed towards the USA not knowing if I was alive. To make matters worse, when she arrived they had moved me to another room, and when she walked in and I wasn't there she about passed out. After spending the night again, I finally talked her into going home and staying there until they discharged me. She looked like she had been pulled through a knot hole backwards.

The good doctor figured they needed to go back and clean out the larger blockage and install a balloon in my main artery to help my heart rest from the ordeal. "Oh yippee! I get to go back to the cooler for another first time experience!" This time, however, the ordeal wasn't as bad as the first trip. I felt the stick in the groin and then the next thing I heard was the doctor telling me how good I did following directions. "Okay, whatever you say Doc."

For the next two days I lay in my bed with what felt like a cricket in my chest. But it was painless. However, the barrage of pills, blood draws, x-rays, and EKG's kept me on my two-hour sleep pattern. My next biggest concern was the fact that I had not passed much gas let alone did the #2 for what seemed like a week. Probably the most uncomfortable part of this whole adventure was when you reach the point where you cannot put anymore into the pie hole unless something else makes room. After four days it got to the point that it would take everything I could not to toss my lunch when the nurse showed up with more damn pills to take. Without going in to details, by day five I think I experienced what a hibernating bear must go through after coming out of their cave in the spring. Or, another analogy could perhaps be a little of what birth pains must feel like. To make matters worse I had so many IV's in my right for so long they started to infuse into the muscles in my arm. My arms started to swell up and feel like a rock. When touched the pain did go from 0 to 12 instantly. A couple days later the left arm started to do the same thing.

Show Me the Love

During my stay in ICU the phone wouldn't stop ringing. After calls from my adopted family, my kids, brothers, and the amazing concern from my friends in Ensenada, the receptionist ask the nurse "Who the hell is this guy?" Even though I could not answer the phone in ICU the nurses always relayed the messages and that support was the best medicine. When the word got out to my old job the calls and visitors increased. Not only did friends come out of the woodwork, the nursing staff could not of been more attentive.

I only had one bad experience with one gum chewing blond who came to draw blood. It was apparent she did not want to be there. Normally the staff from the lab introduce themselves, let me know what they are going to do, check my arm band and try to make this process quick and as painless as they can. However sweet cheeks, walked jabbed me in the arm and walked without saying HI, Boo see-ya!

Moving Day, from ICU to a Regular Room "Yippee!

By now I had been in ICU for 7 days and was ready to be moved to a new room with new adventures to come. I was very excited to be leaving and they moved me to a new floor and into my new digs. But I was taken aback when they dropped me in the middle of what seemed like a Chaldean goat BBQ. On the other side of the room were about nine people. I think the whole family of my new roommate was in the house? By his side were the mother-in-law, wife, sister, kids, grand kids, and probably his barber. It took about two seconds to know I was not welcome as Mr. Wall-e (as I named him) went into a rampage that he was supposed to have a private room. This conflict went on between him, his family, and the attending nurse for at least 20 minutes if not more. During several minutes of this debate I tried to just lay there and not pay attention.

Finally, the nurse left telling him she would do what she could, but after she walked out the door the chatter continued to ratchet up. After about ten minutes of this continued debate his granddaughters started making a fuss fighting over the TV controller. I had had enough and I paged the nurse. When she arrived I told her that she either get me the F&^% out of there or she needed to clear the room. She agreed something needed to be done and left the room. She returned in what seemed like two minutes with security. She let them know that visitors are limed to two and cleared out the room. Now I really felt the love as they walked past my bed.

This ordeal continued between Wall-e and the nurse. Then Wall-e said the wrong thing, "If I cannot get my own room I want to go home now!" With that said the nurse in charge said, "Okay! Let me check with your doctor and I will see if we make that happen." Wall-e's big boca just got his ass tossed out of the bar!

Here I should like to add that I am not prejudiced. I know that people of any race can be passionate when it comes to their family, and some are not necessarily open to strangers. I don't care where Wall-e was from, but it wasn't my choice to be his roommate. He was a demanding asshole no matter where he is from.

The next morning as Wall-e and his wife exited the room I wished him good luck and commented that he had a very beautiful family. That comment which was sincere seemed to ease the tension as they smiled and left.

Later, in came a new roommate. JR, a Mexican American who under protest was brought to the hospital by his family during the Super Bowl. He ended up having double bypass surgery. JR is a prison guard out at Donovan's and we hit the ground running. Because of him, the last few days at the hospital were enjoyable. Even the nurses coming into our room seemed to enjoy the banter between us.

I was ready to go home by Friday the 11th, but the doctor wanted to keep me over the weekend just to be safe. Finally on Monday, Valentine's Day, I was released late in the afternoon and totally enjoyed a breath of fresh night air as we headed back home.

With this entire behind me, it was good to get back home. Looking back there was more positive that came out of this experience than bad. Sometimes it takes a drastic chain of events to find out just how much you are loved and respected.

I have been home for two weeks and I am back at the café or a few hours daily. Only this time I let my wonderful crew open and close while I now come and go like a rock star keeping in touch with my friends who are more than just customers.

Hopefully, you will drop by and say, and even better have something to eat; I need the money.

Thank you for your support

Jerry and Beatriz Shelby"

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