I really thought I was going to die last Wednesday night.
My heart raced out of rhythm, and the checker pattern in my eyes narrowed. I told my wife and kids that I love them, and I wondered how they would go on without me as I waited for the paramedics.
Then, no kidding, I thought, “I’m going to die when the Chicago Bears are undefeated.”
It is hard to say if that was a comforting thought or a thought of regret about what I might miss out on.
Was I going to be able to rest easy knowing I was leaving this world after Mitch Trubisky threw three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to erase a 17-point deficit in Detroit? Was it an even better thing that I did not have to be around to see it all fall apart like it usually does with the Bears?
Or, was I thinking that I was about to miss a great playoff run by the Bears?
Yes, the Bears really are that important to me that they would appear along with my family in what I thought were my final thoughts.
Ever since I heard the name Walter Payton sometime in the 1970s, I have loved the Bears. I immediately loved the picture of the Bears mascot. I loved the ‘C’ on the helmets. I loved the colors navy blue, orange and white.
I loved it when I heard the nickname “Monsters of the Midway.” I loved that they played in “Soldier Field.”
Two years in a row I dressed up as Walter Payton for Halloween, and he was not even clearly my favorite player once I first watched Jim McMahon play quarterback.
I really loved the Bears in 1985. I was 11, and I watched them shuffle to the Super Bowl title like no team did before or since. That was probably the year that really hooked me.
Like a gambler who hit on his first bet, I have been chasing that feeling by watching almost every Bears game played since.
The Bears were also the key to getting through those teenage years when I fought with my dad. He fell for the Bears in the 1960s because of Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus, and he helped pass the bug along to me.
Those days-long runs when we would not talk following a fight would always end because of the Bears. The air would be cleared by my dad asking me something like “Who do the Bears play Sunday?”
Then we would watch the game and be best friends again.
To this day, something the Bears do — good or bad — is the reason behind about half of the phone calls with my dad.
We talked about how bad the Bears looked in the first half of the season opener in Detroit. Then we talked again for a long time about how great Trubisky was as in the comeback.
My dad and I are fans of Trubisky. We want the kid to work out, just like we wanted Rex Grossman and Jay Cutler to work out before him.
For a few minutes Wednesday night, I thought my Trubisky watching would end on a high.
Earlier that night, Paul Panisko and I had Montana Tech football coach Adam Hiatt on our radio show “KBOW Overtime,” which we broadcast live from the Metals Sports Bar and Grill. The show went great. The three of us had a blast.
I went home to watch TV for a little bit before going to bed, and I came across the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” on one of the movie channels. Of course, I stopped on that one. Like any red-blooded American man, I drop the remote anytime I come to a Paul Newman movie.
After a few minutes watching the move I have seen a dozen times, my heart started pounding. Really pounding. It was like someone suddenly started a motor boat inside my chest.
It would beat fast — like at nearly 200 beats per minute — slow down, and then speed up again. It was the craziest thing I ever felt.
My wife put her hand on my chest and could not believe what was going on. We both went to our phones to see what Dr. Google had to say.
No, I was not on drugs. No, I was not pregnant. No, this did not feel like it was caused by too much caffeine.
Then, after about 10 or 15 minutes of the pounding, I started to lose consciousness. The checker pattern came into my eyes, and my vision was narrowing to a small circle.
I said “call 9-1-1,” and got in a quick “I love you guys,” thinking it was going to be the last thing I was going to say. I’m 46, and I know that guys under 50 do not generally survive heart attacks.
Some deep breaths through my nose helped fight off the passing out. At least I think it helped, and I stayed awake to see fireman Matt Pokorny, one of the best high school basketball players I ever covered, come walking through door.
“You don’t look very good,” Matt said.
Maybe it was the comfort of knowing the firemen were there and the ambulance was about to pull up, but my heart started to slow. It slowed enough that I was able to avoid the ambulance ride and have my wife drive me the short ride to the hospital.
In the emergency room at St. James Healthcare, my heart started racing fast again. Really fast.
Almost exactly a year after the doctors and nurses at St. James saved the life of my son, Dr. Joel Dye and his staff in the ER took action to save me.
They injected some medicine to slow my heart, but it did not slow it enough. And it was still way out of rhythm.
“We can shock your heart back into rhythm,” the doctor told me.
“Shock?” I said to the doctor, whose last name I laughed at a little bit earlier. “Like with the defibrillator when you yell ‘clear?’”
“Yes,” the doctor said.
“Won’t that hurt?”
“It would,” he said, “if we left you awake for it.”
So, the doctor gave me some medicine to make me sleep, he yelled “clear,” hit me with the defibrillator and my body jumped off the bed. My heart was shocked back into rhythm.
A few minutes later, they woke me up. My heart was beating perfectly with a pulse consistently at 71. I was going to live.
About 15 minutes after being zapped, I walked out of St. James like nothing had happened.
They told me it was atrial fibrillation, and I will go to a cardiologist to learn more later this week. I probably have some kind of medical procedure or medicine in my future.
I was just happy to hear that I have a future with my family, and I am happy that will include getting to watch the Bears play out the rest of the football season.
Hopefully, that is a good thing.