Friday, January 25, 2013

A heart attack?!!?

This week has been a social and business frenzy with the Outdoor Retailer show in town; as always, it’s a great opportunity to connect with not only new and old clients but also a lot of great friends that I’ve had a lot of great adventures and yucks with who - despite their better judgement! – still have their careers pinned to this quixotic – but fortunately somewhat recession-proof, fortunately – industry (apparently people will always spend money on recreation).  However, it’s been somewhat muted this week by the shocking news that our great friend Michelle Grey had a heart attack in Portland. 

Even in a social group that values gettin' after it and staying fit over a lot of things, Michelle stands out:  she was the leader of an ultimate frisbee team that battled consistently for the national and world championships for over a decade (and still plays at the ripe young age of 45), runs daily, is one of the most graceful skiers I know, and has become an avid tennis player.  So our entire community was stunned to hear that in the middle of a match on Tuesday she suddenly collapsed on the court, and though I don’t know all the details, apparently was “dead” and only quick, decisive action by people at the club kept her alive with CPR and a defibrillator.  She had gone for a morning run that day as well with no problems, but if it had happened then – by herself – it’s likely the outcome would not have been good. 

Michelle and Ryan toasting Michelle's parents at their 50th anniversary this summer. 

As it is, it’s still a little scary; from the updates we’ve been receiving she’s on a ventilator (one of the most brilliant, yet brutally uncomfortable devices ever invented) and has been kept heavily sedated and can barely communicate, and I’m sure that it’s a bit intimidating – especially to her kids - to see such a vital person in the visually-vulnerable position of an ICU patient,  but in true Michelle form she’s doing her best via hand squeezes and eye contact to reassure those who are hovering around that she plans on coming back. 

She apparently had this:    It’s frustrating to have friends who keep getting these “rare” health events (Fast Jimmy’s “Urachus” literally strikes something like 30 people a year) but I guess if you live long enough and are blessed with knowing a lot of people that the odds of weird things happening to your friends increases. Yet despite the presence of a zillion “rare” maladies, most of us blissfully charge through life just fine.  What we demand from our bodies is extraordinary; whether it’s working aerobically too hard for too long, not getting too hurt despite decent accidents that "should" hurt us worse, not eating/sleeping right, engaging in odd activities that involve moving incorrectly, etc.  But then we get these reminders that we are at the same time super frail and vulnerable little beings.  I have had this reminder myself the last couple of weeks with a recurrence of a herniated disc – which manifests itself in agonizing nerve pain in my calf – that came as the result of…..nothing, really, but it pales in comparison to a life-changing heart attack. 

As always, events like this remind me that our lives and relationships are fleeting and it’s always super important to get after it  whilst you can and foster and appreciate your relationships as much as possible.  Michelle has already spent a lifetime doing this with unusual passion and grace, and I’m sure that she will approach her healing process – and, realistically, her changed life – with equal zest.  I'm looking forward to seeing that famously-brilliant smile again soon. 

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