Flashing Back to My Face-Off With Mortality

By John Kelly
Tuesday, July 17, 2007

It was six years ago today that I had my heart attack.

That's how people who've had heart attacks talk: Not "a" heart attack, "my" heart attack, as if a coronary blockage is some sort of physical possession, something that can be owned.

Well, after all, it is something we always carry around, as palpable as an engraved pocket watch. A bit of scar tissue on the muscle, a stent or two -- cut us open when we're dead and we'll bear unmistakable traces of our brush with mortality, like a forester studying a downed sequoia: "Here's when the tree was struck by lightning. Here's when the gypsy moths almost got him."

I still keep in touch with a few people from my heart attack days. Once a year, I see Laurence Kelley, the cardiologist who was the Roto-Rooter man for my clogged drain. Linda Davis, one of the nurses I saw in rehab (not that kind of rehab), e-mails me every now and then with diet and exercise suggestions.

Others, though, I don't see. I don't even know their names. There was the nurse in the catheterization lab who said, "I'm going to shave your groin now." And the nurses who calmed me in intensive care. Of course, they see people like me -- people in extremis-- every day.

Happily, I saw them only once. For if there's one thing I don't want to start saying, it's "my first heart attack." One was quite enough.

Gather Ye Rosebuds

Here's hoping these reunions will be less dramatic:

Paint Branch High Class of 1987 -- Saturday. http://www.aplusreunion.com.

Chantilly High Class of 1997 -- July 28. http://www.capitalreunions.com.

Fairfax High Class of 1987 -- July 28. http://www.capitalreunions.com.

Hylton High Class of 1997 -- July 28. http://www.greatreunions.com.

Mount Vernon High Class of 1987 -- July 28. http://www.capitalreunions.com.

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