I was walking out of a nursing home last night after a simple transport when my brother sent me a text. We talk fairly often; my brother and I, so this wasn’t very significant… except for this text said “11 years today, RIP Richard Kaiser.”
And I hadn’t remembered.
Has it really been 11 years? Did my father, Chief Richard Kaiser really pass away 11 years ago? 11 years? Eleven? Years? Has it been that long?
My dad passed away in his sleep, the cause of death being listed as cardiac arrest of an unknown cause. He probably was a victim of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), possibly precipitated by a heart attack (MI) that he either wasn’t aware he was having, or didn’t report that he was having. My educated guess is that my father ignored chest pain. If I had to guess about my father, the proud, healthy and vigorous man that he was, I would say that he probably felt some chest pain and ignored the symptoms. I’d guess that he believed, as so many of my patients through the years have believed, that his body wasn’t telling him anything important when he chose to go to bed and see how he felt in the morning. I’d guess that he had been experiencing the pain in his chest all day and didn’t choose to do anything about it.
My father was a volunteer Fire Chief in the small town I grew up in for well over a decade. The department and the community there still benefit greatly from his legacy. He owned the hardware store in town, was the president of the town’s small water company, and was the general fix-it man for many of our community members when they needed something done. He was always willing to help out anyone in need and was a genuine example of a genuinely good man. I benefit greatly from having his example to lead me in my own life and I am blessed to have had him for the twenty years that I did. I will always be thankful for his legacy and the path he left me to follow.
I’m a career paramedic and firefighter and I would say that it is probably him that got me interested in the Fire Service, which blossomed into my love of the Emergency Medical Services. Without his lead, I don’t know if I would have gravitated to the ambulance game. Perhaps my bank account would have benefited more so if I had chosen to adopt his entrepreneurial spirit, or even maybe his MacGyver-Like ability to look at something and make it fixed… but I took on his love of helping people. In fact, as his legacy I’ve tried to impart in the kid that I consider to be my own son that “Our family helps people”… and a lot of that comes from my dad.
After he died, I lead an unsuccessful attempt to place AEDs throughout the part of the county where we lived. The area is very rural. In fact, the town I grew up in, Edgington, IL, is an unincorporated bump-on-the-map surrounded by vast amounts of corn and cows. There isn’t even a post-office. The ambulance that responded was actually the first ambulance I ever ran a call in, and it came from 13 miles away staffed with EMT-Basics. An EMT did respond direct to the scene from her house and began CPR, but she wasn’t equipped with a defibrillator… and ALS care was coming from the city 30 miles away. I was an EMT then but I wasn’t home.
Needless to say, when someone drops dead out in that area, they tend to stay that way.
Since my father passed away at age 53, most probably from ignoring pain in his chest, I have been hyper-vigilant on diagnosing and treating heart attacks and chest pain. As a paramedic, my number one pet-peeve is patients who ignore the symptoms of a heart attack and don’t call 911. Trying to “Tough it out” cost me my father. It cost my father his life, and I have got to tell you… there are times in my life since where I really have wished I had him around to talk to. I have tried to stop questioning how different my life would have turned out had my father simply chosen to call 911 and get his symptoms checked out. I have come to terms with the fact that it was his time and that we can’t second-guess or play “what-if”. I’ve even reconciled my feelings that I can’t always be there for everyone all the time, no matter how much I may have wanted to be.
But people who ignore chest pain and other serious medical symptoms simply because they believe they’re tough or that it can’t be happening to them still bug me. My ambulance partners will tell you, I give these people “the speech” where I expound upon the fact that they should always call 911 for chest pain. Sometimes I even get through to them.
In remembrance of my father, Chief Richard A. Kaiser of the Andalusia/Edgington Volunteer Fire Protection District, I am asking each and every one of my readers to do me a favor. Please spend some time evangelizing to your friends, family, and other loved ones that they should never ignore chest pain or other symptoms of a heart attack. Tell them to learn the symptoms and make the call to 911 when they have them. You do the same for yourself. Don’t try to tough it out or do anything stupid like that…
Because I miss my dad.
Call 911 for chest pain. Just FREAKING do it.
If you’d like to share something on your Facebook pages, twitter accounts, or print something out and pass it to your friends, please click on this link: “Heart Attack? Call 911 – Don’t Just Burp” It’s a piece where I write about the same topic… just without this level of emotion behind it. I’d like that piece to go as far around as it can go. If my father’s legacy can save any more lives, this is one of those ways.
Rest in Piece Dad, I love you. Thanks to you all in advance for helping me spread the word.