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 wasnít very significantÖ except for this text said ď11 years today, RIP Richard Kaiser.Ē
And I hadnít 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 wasnít aware he was having, or didnít 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. Iíd guess that he believed, as so many of my patients through the years have believed, that his body wasnít telling him anything important when he chose to go to bed and see how he felt in the morning. Iíd guess that he had been experiencing the pain in his chest all day and didnít 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 townís 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.
Iím 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 donít 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 fixedÖ but I took on his love of helping people. In fact, as his legacy Iíve tried to impart in the kid that I consider to be my own son that ďOur family helps peopleĒÖ 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 isnít 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 wasnít equipped with a defibrillatorÖ and ALS care was coming from the city 30 miles away. I was an EMT then but I wasnít 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 donít call 911. Trying to ďTough it outĒ cost me my father. It cost my father his life, and I have got to tell youÖ 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 canít second-guess or play ďwhat-ifĒ. Iíve even reconciled my feelings that I canít 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 theyíre tough or that it canít be happening to them still bug me. My ambulance partners will tell you, I give these people ďthe speechĒ 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. Donít try to tough it out or do anything stupid like thatÖ
Because I miss my dad.
Call 911 for chest pain. Just FREAKING do it.
If youíd 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: ďHeart Attack? Call 911 Ė Donít Just BurpĒ Itís a piece where I write about the same topicÖ just without this level of emotion behind it. Iíd like that piece to go as far around as it can go. If my fatherís 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.