At this moment, one month ago, my heart was literally stopped.
There’s a plot twist for you.
For the record, I’m not pulling a Sunset Blvd./American Beauty narrator-from-beyond-the-grave. Nope. This story does NOT require a cute trick to draw you in. There was plenty of drama and oddly timed humor to last a lifetime in the 72 hours that took me from Near Death to Second Chance.
My name is Scott Nap. I’m a filmmaker, a writer and a high school video production teacher. I am now also an aortic dissection survivor.
I woke up on the morning of August 23, 2016 from a dream where I was evacuating survivors in the midst of a brawl between Superman and General Zod (aside: I’m a huge geek, so you may need to Google some references if you’re not of House Nerdery). In the dream, I was using a crowbar to break through a glass window. On the third swing, I woke up, drenched in sweat, wondering why the dream felt so real.
Then I realized my heart’s beating was not slowing down. And, oh yeah, it kinda hurt. Also, that necessary life element, oxygen, was becoming particular difficult to obtain under the circumstances. I flung myself out of bed and stumbled to the living room of the apartment I had only moved into barely two weeks prior. My fiancee Jaime was already at work. My parrot Bailey looked at me confused as I gasped and groaned (though he gives me that look a lot, so really, to him this probably just another confusing day in Life With A Human). I collapsed onto a recliner I had assembled the day before, hoping it wouldn’t fall apart, and attempted to stretch my chest muscles and rib cage.
Nope. Not a muscle cramp or bizarre pull. My jaw was starting to hurt, and I’ve seen this scenario play out in the movies enough to know what should come next. I made the call to 911, which lasted probably less than 30 seconds, and then promptly put on a pair of pants. This is important to note because the previous summer, I had suffered what may or may not have been a herniated disc (more on that story another time). My legs had gone so numb, I couldn’t move them and as a result, had been rescued by the ambulance workers in a pair of boxers and a t-shirt. I really didn’t want to get caught with my pants down-pun intended-yet again.
I grabbed my keys, wallet, and cell phone, locked up the birds in their cages and texted Jaime. I told her not to freak out, but I was going to the hospital. I told her to stay at work. It hadn’t occurred to me that this was something serious. I wasn’t passing out. The pain came and went. Besides, I LOATHE burdening people and making them go out of their way. This would pass. Right?
Okay kiddies, Lesson One from Your Old Pal SuperScott, is this- if your body is singing you sweet notes of pain, it’s not the best time to intentionally go tone-deaf. Some things you can’t just ‘walk off’. I could hear the ambulance pull up outside. I took one last look around, then half-stepped/half slid down the stairs.
I wouldn’t see the inside of my new apartment for over a week and a half. And when I returned, life wasn’t the same. It never will be. I’ve got an eight inch scar down the middle of my chest to remind me of just how close I came to the great Fade To Black.
When I was wheeled into the operating room a couple of days later, I didn’t know how insanely bad my odds were of surviving this kind of aortic dissection. I wasn’t crying or desperate to get off the gurney. I think I was in shock. After nearly three days of misdiagnoses and confusion and waiting…now I was out of time. I said goodbye to my mother and Jaime. I know I told them I loved them but the process was not the dramatic “cue up a Coldplay song, everyone move in slow motion” dramatic moment you’d see on ER or Grey’s Anatomy or something. If anything I had enough time to wave and then I was out the door.
My memory of August 24 through the 27th are pretty muddy. I’m guessing my brain is kinda protecting me and burying those memories deep down so I don’t panic. That’s one thing apparently TV shows DO get right. But I remember what was going through my brain as I was put on the operating table. I think because it was repeated on loop in my head while the doctors got me ready, I retained it. The message was simple.
I need more time. I’m not done yet. I need more time. I’m not finished. I need more time.
Now I have it. And I’ll be sharing more of my story here. It’s not always easy to read (hey, I’ve got the Survivor’s Guilt and PTSD to prove it) and sometimes the humor will seem to come from nowhere (I’m convinced there’s a Truman Show-style filming happening and I just didn’t get a waiver)…but this is the kind of story I’ve got forming. It nearly ended. Now I get to add a few more scenes, add a few more chapters.
Until next time,