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by: Brad Stuart MD

Thanksgiving dinner at our place was loud, as only 3 generations of people can make it. Now, a couple of days later, only stillness remains. The celebration continues, but more quietly.

I spent the weekend before last, November 16 and 17, with an old friend on the East Coast. We joked, told stories and drank wine like we had for over 40 years. At 3 AM on Friday, November 22 he woke up with chest pain. Not the relentless, sqeezing ache of coronary disease, but much worse: aortic dissection ripped through his chest and belly. Paramedics rushed him to a nearby academic center. He was awake and aware the whole way, without pain medication because his blood pressure was near zero. 3 teams of surgeons were waiting. It took them 10 hours to replace his entire aorta.

Yesterday, one week later, the day after Thankgiving, he walked back into his house with a couple of minor visual field cuts and no other problems. Over the phone we marveled at his good fortune. He’s not a medical person. He had no idea that he had dodged not just a bullet, but a missile.

Tonight I’m glad for him, and for the many people I’ve known who were brushed by death and survived. I’m also moved by memories of others for whom the best outcome was a safe, comfortable and secure death. All their faces flash by as if through the windows of an express train.

We all know where that train is heading. No matter what luck we’ve had in life, sooner or later we all arrive at the end of the line. I just happen to have one friend who will ride in the seat beside me for a little while longer.


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