Butch Says, “Oh, No…It’s Heart Attack Time”

(Photo courtesy of Butch Dale)

Now, now, now…before you jump to conclusions…No, it wasn’t me, and your dedicated publisher and writer, Tim Timmons, did not have another one….it was my little brother, Gary. And when I say “little,” I am referring to the fact that he just turned 70 years old last month, while I hit 73 last October. On the morning of April 13th, Gary’s wife heard a loud noise in their bedroom, and discovered Gary unconscious and laying on the floor. She called 911, and the Crawfordsville paramedics arrived in short order, treating him and then transporting him to the local hospital. The doctors at Franciscan determined that he had suffered a heart attack and he was then transported to St. Elizabeth in Lafayette. I spoke with him that afternoon on the phone. He sounded great, and thought that they would likely have to put in a stent, but they were going to run a few more tests that afternoon.

The next morning my sister called to inform me that Gary had four blocked arteries and needed to undergo open heart surgery…the next day! It was just hard for me to fathom that. Gary had told me that he had no symptoms other than mild indigestion at times. He exercised regularly, and often played golf three or four times a week with his high school buddy, Rich Douglas. He had gained a few pounds since he retired a couple of years ago, but certainly was not overweight. Well, we all prayed that the surgery would go well, and there would be no complications…and our prayers were answered. The surgery was successful, and my little brother came home three days later…and is recovering nicely…Thank the Lord!

All of this got me to thinking about our Dad. In the fall of 1990, my father called me to ask if I would play in a golf tournament with him and my two brothers, Gary and Mike. At that time, I was working 45 hours a week as a deputy sheriff and also another 38 hours a week at my second job as the librarian at Darlington. I told Dad that I was barely able to get enough sleep, and might have to pass on the golf outing. But I could tell from his voice that he really wanted me to be there. He was very insistent, which was highly unusual for him. I finally agreed to join them, and we had a great time…even winning the tournament, albeit I had no sleep that day.

The next spring, Dad had a massive heart attack. The doctors told our family that he had evidently suffered a heart attack previously, but had not told anyone. That sounded like Dad, as he never went to a doctor in his life, never took a prescription, and never even took an aspirin. That is when I realized why he wanted us to play golf together that previous fall. He knew it might be the last time. Even though he had severe and irreversible heart damage, Dad lived another month. My sister, Sarah, and I were at his bedside at Methodist Hospital when he passed away. Dad was only 66 years old. Before he passed away, Dad’s eyes were closed, and he was only taking one breath per minute. And then he opened his eyes, looked straight up, and smiled…before exhaling one last time. I still believe Dad saw an angel coming to take him to Heaven. My mother had a stroke at age 74 and was confined to bed in a nursing home. She remained in great spirits though for the next four years, and I was shocked when Gary called and gave me the news. I wished I could have been there when she passed. They were both great parents, and we still miss them very much.

When a parent passes away, or a younger sibling has health problems, you start thinking more about your own health. I had my annual check-up in March. My blood pressure was 118/72…heartbeat 60 times a minute…weight 170 (same as in high school)…lungs clear…no sign of anything wrong. I told him I do my push-ups every morning, get plenty of exercise working at our farm, and eat healthy. He told me all of that was good news. The bad news is that I am still 73 years old!

Well, we know Gary is going to get well soon and be back on the golf course in no time. He quit smoking several years ago, so that’s good. I told him that…if he wanted me to…I would write up the following prescription: “To fully recover, it will be necessary for you to make love to your wife at least 3-4 four times a week for the next ten years.” I figure that will get his heart pumping strong again, and after all, if you have a heart attack, you might as well have a “fun” recovery. Like the old saying goes, “There may be snow on the roof, but there’s still a fire in the furnace!

– John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.