March 8, 2014

Doug Hawley: Still some miles left to be run

Frankly, I am fortunate to be here today. On Feb. 16, a Sunday afternoon, my girlfriend Jane Jones and I were playing cards at her home in Hixson, Tenn. Suddenly, nausea struck me.

The next thing I knew, Jane was shaking me. Had I just fallen asleep? Not quite.

“You were out about a minute,” Jane said with some desperation in her voice.

Shortly after, she took me to the emergency room at North Park Hospital in Hixson. Following various tests there, I stayed overnight.

Be mindful that I had originally planned to drive from Hixson back to Dalton several hours after the card game. Thankfully, God had a superior plan.

Fast-forward to the following Thursday while, as a patient at Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton, Dr. Rajiv Verma of Heart and Rhythm Specialists of Dalton provided some answers for me. Verma explained that I had a second degree AV heart block. In rough layman’s terms, a wire in the electrical system simply had worn out.

“It could be heredity,” Verma related of my heart stopping. “It could be age.”

Verma told me a pacemaker needed to be implemented. That took place successfully the next afternoon at the hospital.

No doubt, many people wondered if my extensive running over the years could have caused the wire to wear out. After all, more than 50 years and some 80,000 miles have been logged.

“That (extensive running) had nothing to do with it,” Verma declared. “It was a quirk in the system that could happen to anybody.”

The observation certainly put my mind at rest. It also might have allowed some area runners to let out a sigh of relief about their own activity.

Thankfully, the surgery and the follow-up conference each took place a week earlier than scheduled. Otherwise, the medical officials might have been dealing with a basket case.

Dan Jolly, a longtime friend through Positive Christian Singles (based at First Centenary Methodist Church in downtown Chattanooga), is one of the most colorful characters in my lifetime. He can put a humorous spin on almost anything.

Shortly after my diagnosis, Jolly called to tell me, “Doug, I know why you were only out a minute. You were afraid that I was going to come do mouth-to-mouth CPR on you!”

In a recent conference with Verma and his staff, everything — to my joy — checked out. I am even allowed to do some light running, although the walking will get the focus at this time.

A two-week period of non-driving has one more week to go. That is a small sacrifice to pay in recuperation.

“This (pacemaker) will make you run faster,” a smiling Dr. Jim Blackwell said.

Granted, I am happy to just carry out some basic things in life. Thanks to everybody for the prayers, calls and cards, as well as the rides, food and other assistance.

My apologies go to some local nurses and pharmacists who put up with a lot from me regarding extensive questions about the drugs. I have had minimum experience as a medicine man.

One card writer told me that my recent ordeal displayed an “angel on my shoulder.”

I will take that kind of good fortune anytime.

Doug Hawley, a former longtime sports editor at The Daily Citizen who contributes a monthly column on running, has been a competitive distance runner for more than 50 years. You can write to him at dhawley@optilink.us.

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