Where to start, how to start.
First, about why I’m writing: to process and explain. The outpouring of love for Sam and those close to him has been incredible and appreciated beyond measure. We all feel extremely grateful for the support and well wishes that have been given. Thank you thank you thank you from the bottom of our hearts. There have also been many questions people have had so I want to answer as much as I can in one place. Heads up: for now it may be mostly facts and trying to encompass most of the story, rather than feelings and emotions and processing.
Six weeks ago, my best friend/love/boyfriend Sam had two massive heart attacks (technically two cardiac arrests) at the age of 30. We woke up on a Sunday morning after a fun evening playing music together at a local creative event. Sam stated he wasn’t feeling well and started having chest pain—13 short minutes later I was calling 911 and starting chest compressions as he had stopped breathing. I don’t think words can or ever will accurately describe that feeling and that experience. Luckily the first responders were extremely quick and arrived within three minutes of my initial phone call. I am eternally grateful for their expertise and readiness.
He was taken to a nearby hospital in Bismarck via ambulance. After waiting in the ER, a doctor came in to the small room where Sam’s parents and I were and told us Sam would not survive and to go say goodbye to him. He would die, they said.
We walked into his room and saw his body struggling to keep going. But it did, and he ended up being transferred to the ICU awhile later. He then had a second cardiac arrest there and completely flatlined. But still, he kept going. He was shocked over 20 times that morning. He had emergency surgery that afternoon where they removed a blood clot from one of his major arteries and put a stent in to keep blood flowing to the rest of his heart. They call the type of heart attacks he had “widow-makers.” If that isn’t terrifying I don’t know what is.
The next few days, the doctors were not optimistic—they stated that even if he did survive, his brain may have extensive damage as it went without oxygen for 40 minutes.
He was intubated and in a coma for 13 days. Initially his body was cooled to hypothermic temperatures to try and preserve as much brain function as possible. He also had to be medically paralyzed to stop his body from shivering which is the body’s natural way of warming oneself up (which they did not want him to do).
Each day a small improvement was made—one day he opened his eyes, the next day he moved his arms, etc. They had to see him start to make purposeful movements, which thankfully he was eventually able to do, which indicated to them his brain function may not be horribly bad. Each day was like this, waiting for a small sign of improvement.
When he got his breathing tube out on day 13, he knew who everyone was. He was cracking jokes. He was Sam—brain functioning perfectly and really obsessed about ice (they had drained 20 pounds of fluid from him in 2 days so the thirst level was high). It has been a long road but he is more stable now. His heart is very ill but he has been making improvements. He is no longer on dialysis as his kidney function has improved and his liver is also back to normal. We are very grateful for these things.
A few days ago Sam was flown to Minneapolis to the U of M. He was in the Cardiac ICU and just today was able to transfer to a nearby physical rehab facility where he will be able to regain his strength. They are saying in about a week he can go home! This is so exciting for us and Sam is itching to get back to his kitties something fierce. His mom and dad and I are currently here with him, giving support to him and one another and sleeping in shifts. He has a feeding tube in and today got several IV’s and pick-lines removed. He is finally off oxygen. We found out he has many small blood clots in the bottom of his heart and recently one traveled to and started to affect his spleen. We aren’t sure what this means for the future yet but will just continue to take everything one day at a time. He has been through more than what one post can capture—I am SO proud of Sam for getting through it all with grace, bravery and strength.
Seeing the person you love most suffer in those ways is horrifying. Sam is extremely healthy as a vegan who skateboards, runs, and bikes; they think he just has small arteries and/or this was such a freak thing. The days have been draining and difficult for each of us. But if anyone can get through all of this shit, it’s Sam. He’s the bravest person I know and I love him with everything I have. He is here to do so many beautiful things in this world and lifetime, and I cannot wait to see each of them. I want to thank Sam’s family for taking me in and treating me like one of their own. I am so thankful to each of them for the love they have shown me.
Again, thank you so much for all of your care and love. Whether it has been well-wishes, food, money, prayers, donated auction items, your time, or anything in between, it is appreciated and felt wholeheartedly. We would not be able to keep going without all of your support. It is a long road ahead but we are so grateful for each day.