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Health and Wellness Coach Jim Teal

Hey! So glad you're here. RENEW11 is about helping survivors to become thrivers. Some more about me .... I died, was shocked 11 times, and came back... Here is my story.

March 11, 2019, was my first atypical Monday morning in years. The Thursday before, I had just quit a toxic and stressful position I had taken with a new employer. I knew if I didn’t quit, it would kill me. On this Monday, an 11 hour workday, like I had done the previous 3 years, was no longer my concern. Spending time with my six-week-old Granddaughter definitely was. Dying was certainly not on my mind. Coming back would surely not have been if I was still at that job! From bad comes good.  Here is my story. I hope my love and gratitude for all are shown throughout.

I hadn’t been feeling quite right for a few days. Menial chores on the Saturday and Sunday before had taken a lot out of me. Monday afternoon my symptoms got worse. My lungs felt like they were on fire (tried shaking that off as cold weather), my chest felt extremely tight, and my level of concern was rising fast. By Monday afternoon around 2 o’clock, I asked my neighbor to drive me to the ER at Unity Park Ridge. When we got there I was starting to feel better, so I said, “Must have been a panic attack, let’s just go home”. We never got out of the car.

Within 20 minutes of returning home the symptoms were back, and this time, more severe. My son was home and I told him he needed to drive me to the hospital. I remember telling him to run red lights, but thank goodness he didn’t listen to me. We got there fine and walked in. I was sweating, and knew deep down it was more than just anxiety causing it. My son called my wife and said “Dad is mad pale and we are at the ER.” As soon as they took my oxygen level, I was rushed for an EKG. From there everything would move at a measured and astounding pace.

I was moved to another room and heard the words, “Mr. Teal, you are having a heart attack”, eliminating the long-shot panic attack theory I held lightly to. I was given nitro and some other pills. The Doctor told me the Cardiologist was on his way and he was one of the best.  They were moving me to the catheter lab for angioplasty and eventually what would be one stent. As I was being wheeled out, my wife and daughter had just arrived to greet me along with my son. He was visibly shaken as he was there when I was told I was having a Heart attack. I felt so bad for him. They asked my wife if she wanted to give me a kiss. She was calm as always and kissed my forehead. My daughter was calm as well, although they both admitted after that I was a pale grey ghostly color.

Inside the Cath Lab, the pain, the pressure, I felt on my chest was unbearable now. I was told decisively, and I believed them, that they were going to find the blockage and fix me. I, however, just couldn’t hang on any longer. The pain was just too great. I knew I wasn’t going to make it. Death was surely a better alternative than the pain I felt. Immediately I felt a rush of true terror, followed quickly by guilt, then anger, and then finally a rush of love and peace… and I went.  

I woke up to the doctor by my side, with my head in her hands, pleading with me to stay with her, that they were almost there. I looked around a little and saw one of the Nurses with his hands to his head like he could not believe what he just saw. Then I heard the cardiologist say “almost there, you will feel relief very soon.” And sure as heck, I did! After dying, being paddled eleven times, and a successful stent, it seemed as though the worst was behind me. I remember saying to the cardiologist “Doc you saved me!” The nurse with his hands on his head said, “Damn right he did!” Doc responded, “I didn’t save you, God did”.

My only daughter, Claire, wrote from her perspective of the event in her Professional Statement for entrance to SUNY's Accelerated Nursing program. Below is an excerpt of the event and the difference nurses make in people’s lives:


"On March 11th, 2019 my father suffered a heart attack, or what you may call a STEMI. With ST-segment elevation, atrial fibrillation, troponin levels off the charts, increased creatine kinase, 95% arterial blockage, flat lining, 11 cardioversions, a stent placed, and a shout to wake him up, my father is lucky to be alive. The Emergency Department (ED) provider shouted so loud, that my dad reports it caused him to awaken from his death. Afterward, the cardiologist came out and told my mother and me what had happened. It wasn’t the smoothest of conversations, as he started off by asking my relation to the patient (my father) and how old I was without confirming my father was alive and as if he was going to give us bad news. This is an aspect of medicine I believe my compassion and empathy will be useful relaying hard information to future patients. We walked into the operating room afterward and the nurses’ faces showed how dumbfounded they were to see my father alive. I was so grateful for the teamwork they provided my father while on the table. My father was then admitted for observation and monitoring, and the nurses that cared for him were all wonderful and so helpful. They continually checked in on my father and reassured him constantly, due to his anxious state of mind. Without all his amazing nurses, I don’t think he would have calmed down and progressed enough to go home when he did, and my family and I are forever thankful.

From this experience, I realized that nursing is something I absolutely wanted to pursue. I wish to become that person for someone else and their family, to help save someone’s father, husband, brother, and son to stay yet another day with his family. On top of this experience, from my role as a medical scribe in the emergency department (ED) at Unity, Rochester General, and Newark hospitals, I have benefited from interacting and observing the way nurses care for their patients. The way patient’s continually express thanks to the nurses gives me a sense of how they make them feel more comfortable, at peace of mind, and grateful for their service. While in my role, I also have experienced several trauma cases in the ED, in which I note the nurse’s significance in the room. I continually learn the many roles of a nurse and want to learn and grow as an individual as they do every day. Through this, I have gained an even greater appreciation for nurses and their receptiveness and caring nature is something I aspire to have."

From late afternoon Monday when I arrived, until late Friday when I was discharged, I felt like the staffs’ number one priority in that hospital! To make a patient feel that way, you know they are doing something right!

My life has been changed for the better from my experience. Gratefulness and optimism have replaced cynicism and pessimism. Decaf has replaced regular.  Alcohol consumption, which was quite often, has been replaced by plain club soda or 0.0 Heineken(btw, easiest of Jedi mind-tricks if you like Heineken). The smell of cigarette smoke I now associate with cardiac arrest, so that was an easy quit. Trying to eat zero added sugars and less than 1500mg of salt a day has been hard. I am happy to be here. Not every day is rosy, but I am finding that I even enjoy those as well.

I currently happily reside in Greece NY with my wife Michelle and our growing family!! Thanks for visiting and make sure to check back regularly! 💯❤💪

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