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GSBN:Re: (Off-topic) A note about Mark Piepkorn

At 02:01 AM 7/11/2005, Joyce Coppinger wrote:
>...Mark Piepkorn had a heart attack while he was at the
>Peaceweavers' Natural Building Colloquium a week ago.

Thanks all for the kind notes, off-list and on. For those who care to know, here's what happened:

I'd been digging in hard pack, hauling rocks around and laying them up, shoveling clay into the back of a dump truck. Like-that. The next day I felt like I'd "sprained my lungs" (as I explained it to a couple people, still not aware of what was going on). If I didn't move around much, everything seemed normal. But anything requiring any effort at all Ð like walking up a hill Ð made breathing hard: breaths came in small gulps, and my lungs felt strangled. It didn't hurt, really. I had a little sore throat, and thought the problem might be part of an oncoming cold Ð if I took it easy, maybe it would all go away.

Next morning there was some pain with the short breath; I walked slow and sat in the shade a lot. After noon I was at our tent while other participants of the week-long event gathered across the field for lunch. Suddenly breathing became very painful Ð very painful Ð and my hands started to tingle. I knew I wouldn't get far walking. Our truck was parked nearby; I got to it and drove... either a smart thing to do, or not. In the brief time it took to get to the other side of the field, my vision was pitching. Lots of pain, high up in the middle of the chest. Hot. I had a hunch what was going on. Getting out of the truck, I asked somebody Ð I couldn't see who it was Ð if they could please find me a ride to a hospital.

Members of the event staff - the Peaceweavers - were there in seconds, including a licensed EMT. Somebody brought me ice water; I splashed most of it on my face, which felt good. I asked for aspirin. I couldn't fix my gaze, making it seem to me like my head was wobbling around. Maybe it was. I was sitting on the ground by then, searing heat and pain, grimacing shallow breaths. An ambulance had been called, and they were going to drive me to meet it in one of their cars, air conditioner blasting. Terrible pain. They did all the right things.

In the ambulance it was nitro, morphine, nitro, morphine, nitro, morphine. "One to ten, how much does it hurt?" Eight and a half. Nine. Nine and a half. "How old are you?" Shallow, rapid, painful breathing. Hands, feet, and face buzzing. "What year were you born?" Tired. Oxygen mask. "When were you born?" Siren. IV bags dripping. "Stay with me." Focus, focus; I consciously stayed conscious. I felt the choice to live or die was mine. Taking blood, talking on the radio, taking blood, talking on the radio, taking blood. The ambulance ceiling was full of little holes. The ambulance guy told me I was 43. I thought I was 42. Most days I have a hard time understanding that I'm not still 21.

In the emergency room I told them, "I've seen this on TV." They asked, "What year were you born?" I wondered why meat shutting down should be so painful.

The big artery in my heart was clogged. They sent a roto-rooter up through a vein in my groin Ð a tiny balloon tucked inside a collapsible wire mesh scaffolding at the end of a thin tube. At the blockage in the heart the balloon was inflated, opening up the vein and expanding the scaffolding Ð a "stent" Ð which stays there to hold things open in the future. That's angioplasty. Immediately, the pain was gone.

The average elapsed time from the beginning of a heart attack to hospital treatment, I was told later, is over 90 minutes. In my case it was about 30, though it seemed like hours. The supposition is that a tidy amount of damage was avoided because of the quick action; appointments to assess this damage are slated for later this week. In the meantime I'm learning about naps and bland food. I feel far better than I ought to - the occasional twinge of a bruised muscle healing. I'm following the doctor's orders, though not always without grumbling. I'm thinking about things.

Satomi and Tom Lander, who were at the colloquium leading the installation of an earthen floor, completely changed their travel plans to help. Satomi was my "best man" when I got married, and she still is. Their help and support - from before I even got to the intensive care unit, all the way through coming home with us - was invaluable. Steve Paisley, a friend from Ithaca who was at the colloquium too, also gave much support and time. Having the three of them with us was precious. The Peaceweavers, and all the attendees of Building With Spirit, were tremendous... before, during, and after. While I don't recommend having a heart attack, I heartily endorse the Peaceweavers and Building With Spirit.

Tom and Satomi Lander - <a  target="_blank" href="http://www.landerland.com/";>http://www.landerland.com/</a>
The Peaceweavers - <a  target="_blank" href="http://www.peaceweavers.com/";>http://www.peaceweavers.com/</a>
One of the articles that appeared in local papers about Building With Spirit - <a target="_blank" href="http://tinyurl.com/a434n/";>http://tinyurl.com/a434n/</a>
Angioplasty - <a  target="_blank" href="http://www.angioplasty.org/";>http://www.angioplasty.org/</a>

Mark Piepkorn
<a  target="_blank" href="http://www.potkettleblack.com";>http://www.potkettleblack.com</a>

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

S'pose you got work an' there's
jus' one fella wants the job. You got to
pay 'im what he asts. But s'pose they's a
hundred men wants that job.'pose them men
got kids an' them kids is hungry. S'pose
a nickel'll buy at leas' sompin for the
kids. An' you got a hundred men. Jus'
offer 'em a nickel - why, they'll kill
each other fightin' fer that nickel.
                         - John Steinbeck

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