What (Not) To Do When You're Having a Heart Attack | Sojourners

What (Not) To Do When You're Having a Heart Attack

How to make sure your bag is properly stocked for what might be your imminent death. 
The illustration shows a man running towards the emergency room with miscellaneous items flying out of his bag.
Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

WHEN THE CHEST PAINS started, I knew there was no time to lose. So, I followed the well-established protocols for this emergency.

First, I plugged in my cellphone to charge. A heart attack is a serious condition that could result in a lengthy hospital stay. You don’t want to be out of communication with people whose sympathies will help in your recovery.

Second, I showered and shaved. You should always look your best, but particularly on what could be the last day of your life. You don’t want some coroner’s assistant commenting on your poor hygiene, while next of kin sheepishly apologize: “He was usually very clean.”

To that end, choice of outfit was key. Business casual is an acceptable ensemble for almost any occasion, but at that moment I was wearing white socks. Changing over to black would be appropriate, but knee-length dress socks might take too long for emergency room nurses to cut away to harvest a vein. So, I stayed with my whites. This was not the time to put on airs.

I considered wearing an older shirt that I wouldn’t miss if it were ripped open for the resuscitation paddles but settled on a slightly newer long-sleeved one. Classic but not too showy, and the vertical striping will provide pleasing symmetry on a gurney.

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