Monday, November 03, 2008

Family Matters

My father in law had a heart attack yesterday.

Not indigestion or severe chest pains but a proper, grown-up, full-bodied heart attack.

Here's how things unravelled:

Fiona wakes me at 5am on Sunday morning telling me that there are two messages on the answer machine from her dad, who tells her he thinks he's having a heart attack. Following Fiona's Mum's death in 2003, Maurice now lives in the same village as us. So, in double quick time I'm in the car, hurtling round the quarter mile or so to his place. I'm also remembering that at 11pm on Saturday night there was a phone call that left no message and - though I tried to find out who'd called - the 1471 option wasn't responding.

I figure I now know who made that call.

I arrive at his house and let myself in, to find him sat in his armchair in dressing gown and pyjamas, clutching his chest. It's now 5.05 am and he'd been in that chair since 1 am that morning and having a heart attack since 11pm the previous night (when he'd called us) but the answer machine had picked up. I have a rudimentary first aid training, having completed a five day intensive St John's course recently which involved all elements of resusc. and the like.

It was pretty obvious what was happening. So... two options. Bundle him in the car and hammer off to hospital or call 999. No choice really. That's what ambulances are for isn't it? So I call 999 and give them the info they need. In fifteen minutes or so an 'on call' paramedic had arrived and put Maurice on oxygen and helped to make him feel more comfortable until the ambulance arrived which it did, some ten minutes later. They hooked him up to an ECG, confirmed he was having a heart attack (most cases of suspected heart attacks aren't, in fact, heart attacks at all) and from there it was full on life saving mode.

And very calm and collected it was too. Pills were put under tongue, injections administered and before you can say 'something I'd wanted to do since I was eight' I was sat in the front seat of an ambulance with blue lights flashing, hopping red lights and arriving at A & E like they used to when I watched ER.

Maurice's condition improved and, although they weren't able to administer the normal anti- clotting drugs due to his low blood pressure, he became more stable and was admitted from the A & E ward to the cardiac ward where he currently resides.

All of which got me thinking about a few things:

First and foremost, how we turn to our family when things are tough.

Maurice lives in sheltered accomodation with an emergency cord and intercom in every room. (He's 81 and pretty robust and has never needed the intercom or cord but has used them once or twice so he knows what to do). Yet in the midst of six hours of searing pain with - for all he knows - his life about to end at any second, an emergency cord within a hands stretch of his armchair, all he could do was focus on calling his family to come and help him. Even when they didn't... he continued to call. Apparently it 'didn't occur' to him to pull the cord. He just wanted his family because - I guess - he knew they would help.

Secondly - and this is a cliche I know - but Jeez... life isn't a dress rehearsal. It hangs by a gossamer thread which can be snipped at any time. When people say that Sarah Palin is a 'heartbeat away' from having her finger on the button I now know what they mean. This points me in two directions. One - I hope Ms Palin is kept an Alaska-ish distance from The White House and, more importantly I have had a timely reminder (which I now share with you) that we should do the things we want to do, strive for happiness, kiss your children, tell those you love that you love them, buy the car you've always wanted and chase the goals that you've always dreamed of.

Like I say... something of a cliche. But too, too true.

So I figured I'd stick a pic of my family on the blog today. It was taken the day after IronMan Austria and features my two brothers and families and my mum and dad plus, of course, Fiona, Erin and Alice.

And - trying to make sense of that outpouring, it also occurred to me that we have a 'family' in whatever we do in life. At work, we have trusted confidants and those we can turn to in times of difficulty. At play too. At least I know I do. My coach, my mates that I train with and exchange tri stories, my extended 'family' on the Tri Talk website - I know that they're there to help with any problems I might have. So, no matter how lonely it might be on an Ironman journey or the journey of one's chosen career, no matter how individualistic a route you might have taken, no matter how isolated it might seem you are - remember, there are always others around you and their help can be of practical and spiritual benefit. These are your family and you should never be afraid to turn to them.

With all that in mind... I'm looking forward to sharing a bit of training this week. I'm meeting up with Gabriel - a mate from Ironman Austria - in London on Friday where we're going to swim and run and take in a few beers. Full details next week.

This week was, again, satisfying and enjoyable.

Monday Day off
Tuesday 17 miles easy run at 2 hours 25 mins (8:22 min miles)
Weds Rest day
Thursday 12 miles brisk run at 7:30 minute miles, 1 hour swim with Team MK
Friday 1 hour 30 mins single gear (34/17) bike ride
Saturday 45 minutes easy run, 2 hour mountain bike ride
Sunday Fast run, 5 miles at 6:56 minute miles

The only downside is that I, once again, turned my ankle whilst running off road on Satuday. It means my ankle still needs mucho work to get it back to full strength.

And I hate doing all that physio stuff.

A couple of you got last week's film quote, spoken by BRAD PITT as TYLER DURDEN in FIGHT CLUB. If you've not seen FIGHT CLUB recently I urge you to give it another go. I think it will become, in time, regarded as one of the great movies.

Who said this and in what movie?

"Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in."

And so, my good and faithful friends, it is time to return to the real world. I wish you all well in your week and, as Gary Player once famously said (and I paraphrase) "Don't forget to stop and smell the roses once in a while."


robq said...

Hi Jevon,

sorry to hear about your FIL, best wishes for a speedy recovery! Your comments about seizing the chance ring true - you never know whats around the corner!

good luck for Luton - must be soon? you will have a great running base in the new year!

quote from American beauty - Ricky Fitch to Janey?

Tom said...


as per RobQ, really sorry to hear about your father in law, and I hope he's back on his feet as soon as is safe.

In order to emphasise your message perhaps we should start a 'Carpe Diem Day'?


p.s. Am I the only one reduced to googling your film quotes in order to acertain their origin?

H said...


I'm glad your Father-In-Law is back on the mend, things like that certainly do give you a jolt. How right you are about family, friends, colleagues...everyone needs someone. You've got a great family, built with yourself and Fiona's own fair hands and a wonderful perspective on how it should be and there aren't many people out there like the Family O'Neill. Love to you all. x

Colin Bradley said...

Jeeze Jev, sorry to hear about Fiona's dad and hope all's on the mend. My mum had a serious health issue over the weekend too - certainly makes you think about things.

Catch up this week sometime.

Jevon said...

Thanks all, for your good wishes.

Tom... RobQ used to be crap at film quotes but now he's on fire...


Alexanders said...

Having oh-so-briefly met the man a few weeks back, that story also had faces, so get well soon to the old man!

As perviously said, American Beauty. I often feel the same way.

Ben G said...

Hi Jevon,

Glad your father in law is more comfortable, tough weekend. The rest of your post is a real reminder. Don't do or say something tomorrow, get it done today.

Take care

RobQ said...


your quotes have gotten WAY easier in the past month. Not had to use Google since the goodfellas line had me tearing my hair out!

(now fully expecting something obscure from a 1960's french film!)

How are you set for the marathon? set a time goal yet?