Greetings and Salutations to All my Kith and Kin and All the Ships in Outer Space:
In the Autumn of 2013, those of us residing at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, Mississippi who are not career military retirees, were officially declared Department of Defense designees, authorizing us to now receive medical treatment from the 81st Medical Group at Keesler Air Force Base, an option that offers a much superior alternative to the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Did you know that, statistically, in over half of all heart attacks, the ONLY symptom is sudden death?
To complicate things further, heart attack symptoms vary for each individual.
One very common symptom in virtually ALL heart attacks is - - - "DENIAL"!
The person suffering the heart attack delays seeking emergency response because they don't want to accept the awful truth that they are in the process of dying right NOW, this very minute!
I wanted to play Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.
At around midnight on Christmas Eve, while everyone else was tucked up in their bedrooms fast asleep with visions of sugarplums dancing through their heads, I planned to don my red hoody, girded by my Clan Henderson Scottish military belt, with a strip of jingle bells tucked in, and with my wings and military ribbon rack mounted on the left breast of my red hoody, together with red sweat pants tucked into my black suede leather moccasin boots, all topped off with my Santa Claus cap.
You see, there is a REASON that God gave whiskers to men like me!
A few days earlier, even though I had very little money, I'd gone downstairs to the Navy Exchange mini-market located on the Main Floor of our Armed Forces Retirement Home, where I purchased five (05) gift wrapped boxes of assorted chocolates, two (02) tins of Christmas cookies, and six (06) very large Hershey's Kisses chocolate Christmas candies, which were the gifts I planned to stealthily and secretly distribute to - - - WHO?
This is what I had successfully done the previous year, and nobody caught me, or knew it was me, so I wanted to do it again for Christmas of 2013.
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My head began woozily swimming, and I felt a sensation of something within my body suddenly falling from my brain to the soles of my feet.
What the heck was that sensation?
Immediately, I knew I was in big trouble, and wouldn't be able to play Santa Claus.
So, I laid back down to continue my nap.
That's when the really bad toothache began deep within the gums and jaw on the right side of my face.
Once again, I sat up on the edge of my bunk, and rummaged through the drawer of the nightstand, searching for toothache medicine.
At some point, my chest began hurting, and I thought it might be heartburn.
So, after walking around in my quarters for several minutes, hoping this suspected mere heartburn symptom would ease off and go away, I laid back down on my bunk, and then felt the pain in my back, located at the same height as the pain in my chest.
One way to tell if it's merely heartburn or a heart attack is the length of time that the chest pain lasts.
If the pain lasts longer than a few minutes, call the ambulance, lest someone else should have to contact the police, the coroner, and the funeral home.
Remember, "DENIAL", is the most common symptom in ALL heart attacks!
Well, I pulled on my clothes and slippers, and rather than going downstairs to our medical clinic, I pulled the emergency cord located by my bunk.
Then, while sitting on the sofa awaiting their response, I touched my forehead with my hand, and felt the sweaty clamminess, which, when combined with the other symptoms, was the sure giveaway that THIS was the real thing!
The night nurses came to my room and, while examining me, called for an ambulance.
While waiting for the American Medical Response ambulance to arrive, they gave me two (02) aspirins.
Folks, if you've ever seen that television commercial for Bayer Aspirin, which recommends taking aspirin at the first sign of a heart attack - - - ,
Well, it is the absolute gospel TRUTH ! ! !
Taking that aspirin made all the difference, for by the time the American Medical Response ambulance crew arrived, the pain began slightly easing, and when we reached the Emergency Room of the 81st Medical Group at Keesler Air Force Base, the pain had completely disappeared.
So, instead of being admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, they put me in a room of the Medical Nursing Unit on the Third Floor, while they drew blood samples and interviewed me.
When they learned the results of the blood tests, they had the indisputable proof that I indeed had suffered a heart attack, resulting in serious damage to the heart.
Thus, I was immediately transferred downstairs to the Intensive Care Unit.
While lying there, I had visitors, Brother Jerry Guynn and Brother Bill Sowers, my assigned Home Teachers from the Gulfport Ward of The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints (i.e., the "Mormon" church).
Brother Sowers anointed my head with consecrated oil, and with their hands upon my head, Brother Guynn pronounced a Priesthood blessing.
The following day, which was the day after Christmas, I was wheeled into the Cardiac Catheterization Room.
The gal who was about to begin the procedure warned that it would feel like a wasp stung me, and that sensation would last about twenty (20) seconds.
However, I felt NO pain or discomfort at all.
During the cardiac catheterization procedure, the patient is required to be awake, in order to answer questions.
But, the sedative drug that is being administered intravenously, has a side effect of erasing all memory of what's going on.
A little while ago, one of the guys told me it is the very same chemical that's better known as the notoriously illegal "Date Rape Drug".
So, the only thing I remember is the very beginning of the cardiac catheterization process, which went perfectly, as four (04) drug eluting stents were implanted in the arteries surrounding my heart.
Unfortunately, what happened after I was returned to Intensive Care WAS a nightmare!
For some reason, they couldn't get the bleeding to stop at the point of my groin where the catheter had been inserted.
So, as they continually tried everything they could think of, I was forced to lie on my back, absolutely still, and therefore unable to relax and get any sleep, as they tried femoral tourniquet after femoral tourniquet, and even bandaging with a sandbag weight.
Nothing seemed to work, and everybody was worried.
Then came the worst of all, when they decided to take turns putting direct pressure on the wound, pressing down hard with two (02) fingers.
Oh, what unbearable pain I then had to endure!
It went on all afternoon, all night long, and on into the next morning.
Finally, they found the solution, which was to administer injections of two (02) drugs, Lidocaine and Epinephrine, at the wound site, and then place an occlusive bandage on it.
Oooooh, what a relief!
They gave me Percocet tablets for pain, and Melatonin to help me sleep, and then transferred me to the Surgical Nursing Unit on the Fourth Floor.
The private room was really great, for it had a large screen television and a beautiful view of the Back Bay in Biloxi, Mississippi.
For a while, I had to have lots of help doing anything, because I was so dizzy and faint, due to hypotension.
But, Saturday 28 December 2013, only FOUR (04) DAYS after my heart attack, was the big day, for I was able to return to my comfortably furnished private quarters here on the Seventh Floor of the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, Mississippi.
I consider this event a real blessing, for now that I know what MY heart attack symptoms are, my chances of surviving any future subsequent heart attacks are greatly increased.
The very BEST feature of being hospitalized at the 81st Medical Group on Keesler Air Force Base was being surrounded and attended to by all those lovely young girls!
All that eye candy is a lonely old geezer's fantasy!
Probably due to the mandated constraints imposed by "political correctness", it appears that females now far outnumber males in the United States Air Force, as it is certainly the rather obvious case in the 81st Medical Group hospital.
But, so what?
I was plumb HAPPY ! ! !
Girls! Girls! GIRLS ! ! !
And each and every one of them young and, oh, so pretty, pretty, pretty!
All in all, based entirely on my own personal experience and observation, hospitalization and/or medical care at the 81st Medical Group on Keesler Air Force Base is undoubtedly far, FAR superior to what I've encountered at the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Biloxi, Mississippi.
I've heard the same opinion expressed by other military veterans and/or fellow residents here at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, Mississippi.
John Robert Mallernee
1800 Beach Drive, Unit 311