Real ones. Here’s the story for all of you doubters:
Wednesday night, my dad went to his weekly Hannibal Rural Volunteer Fire Department meeting and training. Everything was as normal, and Dad has been on the department for probably almost 15 years now. All of the guys had just finished their training with some sort of pump apparatus and were standing around chatting when my dad suddenly fell face first to the ground. Good firefighters that they are, the men standing nearest my dad quickly realized Dad wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse, so they began CPR and ran to get the department’s defibrillator, charged it, and shocked him three times before his heart started. During all of this, someone radioed for an ambulance, which my youngest sister heard on the scanner. Rachel has some weird sense about these things (when Mallory, Ben, and I had our car accident she knew it was us on the scanner before anybody else did) and started freaking out and ran to get Mom who was doing laundry and watching tv. At this point, Mom raced out the door to go to the hospital (Rachel stayed home to study for her Algebra final) and called me and Andy so we could come to be with Rachel. Needless to say, we were both pretty shaken up on the drive to Hannibal and got there right before Mom pulled in the driveway to tell us that they’d flown Dad to Columbia and she was on her way there. Apparently, in the couple of hours Dad had been at Hannibal Regional Hospital, they’d run every test they could think of and could find absolutely nothing wrong with him except that his heart had stopped. Mallory met Mom in Columbia since she was coming from the Lake of the Ozarks where they were up all night as more tests were run. Anyway, during all of this, Dad was sedated and hooked up to all kinds of medical implements and Andy and I were in Hannibal cleaning and mowing and taking Rachel where she needed to be. Nothing much changed until we finally had a chance to make it to Columbia on Friday afternoon. By then, Dad was awake, but still confused and having problems with his short-term memory. He asked Andy about school at least 3 times in the few hours we were there, but by Saturday, he could remember most everything that happened after Friday morning. So, the final verdict is that Dad has Brugada Syndrome, which has something to do with a part of the small arm of the third chromosome that controls some kind of sodium channel that makes the heart pump. Because of this, though, it means that there is a possibility that members of Dad’s family could also have this syndrome, which is not as scary as Dad’s heart stopping, but is still something to think about.
The moral is that it seems that this thing would have happened no matter what Dad was doing or where he was, so it’s pretty amazing that he was at the fire station with capable people instead of anywhere else. The crazy thing is that not enough people have actually lived through this kind of thing to have any sort of standard for treatment or to even know anything about it. So, on Monday, Dad’s having surgery to put a defibrillator in his chest, in case it happens again when Dad’s not in such a lucky place. He’ll be home on Tuesday and it will be a few weeks before he can do anything too physically strenuous and then six months before he can drive, which will be an interesting life for him. That’s about all we know for now, and I’m not sure I understand all of the physiological aspect of it, but that’s what Andy’s for!!