On Windy Hill: A band of angels came for me

As Thanksgiving rolled around this year, it turned out that I had a lot to be thankful for in addition to getting an early Christmas gift – the gift of life.

On a Saturday night a few weeks ago, things got a little hectic up here on Windy Hill. Sheriff’s cars, ambulance and fire trucks gathered in our driveway, with flashing lights and sirens causing our nearest neighbors to wonder what was happening in our usually quiet neighborhood. What had happened, while my wife Jan and I were getting ready for bed that night, was that I suffered from cardiac arrest – or sudden death as the doctor diagnosed it.

Even though I wasn’t aware of what was going on, a band of angels, starting with my wife, worked together to make sure I lived through it. Seeing that something had happened to me as I went limp in bed, my sensible Jan had the clear state of mind and wherewithal to immediately call 911 and begin administering CPR on me.

Although it didn’t seem like my lucky day with my heart stopping and all, in reality it was. The dispatcher contacted a deputy who was on patrol out on the highway about a half mile from our house, and who was the first responder to arrive. She immediately worked with Jan giving me CPR, and after more deputies arrived, started them in a routine switching places and giving me continuous CPR until the emergency medical team and fire fighter responders arrived from Carbondale (only 12 minutes after the 911 call I later learned.)

Those guys had the equipment to zap me and get my heart beating again, while the others were trying to determine if a helicopter could land in our front yard. Fortunately, I didn’t need to wait on a helicopter ride as Osage County EMS quickly transported me to Topeka in stable condition.

Ten days later, still with no memory of all that had occurred, I was discharged from the hospital and told to go home and start recovering from the impact on my body and brain that occurs with cardiac arrest. Also going home with me, implanted in my upper chest, was a defibrillator device that is supposed to keep this from ever happening to me again.

Though I had heart surgery to replace my aortic valve and aorta about 12 years ago, the cardiologist told me that was probably unrelated to my current condition. During cardiac arrest, the electrical currents that keep the lower chambers of your heart beating short out much like a faulty electrical circuit, the doctor told me. In many cases of cardiac arrest, as it was in my case, the cause is unknown or idiopathic (which kind of describes my life in general) in medical terms.

While in the hospital, the few days that I remember, a number of people mentioned that it was a miracle I was still alive. After I read up on my condition, I learned that indeed it was a miracle that I was living. Few people survive cardiac arrest, like one out of 10 cases, and that’s only if conditions are right, and where medical treatment can begin quickly. For people like me, who live 25 miles from a hospital and out in the country not near where ambulances are stationed, the odds of survival are even less. Those folks – my wife, the dispatcher, deputies, EMTs, firefighters, nurses and doctors – had truly performed a miracle with their quick response and knowledge of how to save lives.

As the few weeks have gone by, I’ve thought about why I could have been so lucky, which I’ve not usually considered myself to be. I figured that I might as well stop playing the lottery since I had likely used up all of my good luck during that one night. Recently the news has reported some notable people who have died from the same condition I had, such as one of my favorite rock and roll artists, Tom Petty.

It baffles me why a relatively no-talent individual like me was the one who was saved. While I’m not a church-going man (as an old Baptist preacher friend used to regularly point out in our deep talks), since then I’ve had several seemingly one-sided conversations with God, asking Him, “Why me?”

With an answer not readily forthcoming, I’ve reflected on that night and how I was saved, drawing the conclusion it was because enough people knew CPR to keep my blood flowing until my heart could be jump-started again.

My angel Jan had taken a CPR class a few years ago, with the thought in her mind that we lived in the country and that I had a heart condition and she might have to save me some day. Then it really happened.

Jan says she will now encourage anyone she knows to learn CPR, for they don’t know whose life they might have to save, whether family member or stranger. I wondered if maybe that’s why God let me live – to help remind people to learn how to save others. Still no answer has come on that one, but with me telling my story maybe that will encourage a few folks to go learn CPR.

Cardiac arrest was totally unexpected for me, and even though I had a previous heart condition, my heart stopping was not one of the expected side effects. It showed me that such things cannot be predicted – even in other cases I’ve read about, cardiac arrest was not usually an expected outcome of their medical conditions. It can happen to anyone anywhere is what I’ve learned. Now with a defibrillator installed in my chest to save me if it happens again, nurses and my friends in the medical profession noted that everyone really needs one of these devices installed, just in case, although that’s not practical.

Maybe I’ll learn some day why I was the one who lived through it – or maybe not. But I do know that I will forever have an undying gratitude to all that were involved in saving my life – truly a band of angels that instead of delivering me to heaven, delivered to me the gift of life.

As I’m writing this, I still don’t know the names of all who helped save me, but I hope to find out and somehow let them know I am forever grateful for their skills, caring and compassion. In the meantime, I offer them my thanks, along with a wish that they can have as wonderful of a Christmas as I’m going to have this year – only because of them. I’m alive!

One thing I’ve learned, never take for granted your gift of living. And for now, my message to you: Merry Christmas to all, and go take a CPR class.


On Windy Hill, Wayne White sometimes writes about things he thinks about. He not only lives on a windy hill, he’s been known to be a windy writer.


3 Responses to On Windy Hill: A band of angels came for me

  1. steve britner says:

    What a great post. I have a similar story from April this past year. We are fortunate to live in a land where angels on earth are present. I stopped by the local EMS location and shook the hand of about 8 people who saved my life. They asked for nothing… of course.

  2. Jill Renner says:

    Great article on your very personal experience, Wayne. In speaking with you on the phone from your hospital bed, I can truly appreciate your heartfelt gratitude at being saved by the people whom each played a part in your survival. I am a true believer in the saying, 'When your time is up, it's up!'. You, my friend, still have some time left on your clock! I know that you will make the most of it. Take care and I believe that your wife was very wise to learn CPR and now I realize that I should do the same. God bless you in all you do.

    • OsageWayne says:

      Hello Jill,
      Thanks for your kind words. Yes I'm glad I still have some time left on my clock. We are encouraging everybody we know to learn CPR. You never know when you'll need it.
      Wayne

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