Last week my brother freaked me out by texting this photo with no context whatsoever.

tombstoneI thought he was back in the hospital. He explained it was a from a recent checkup in which he learned a new term (and much like “widowmaker,” this one has dark realism to it). After my pulse returned to normal, I asked him to write about it.

Since I have the privilege of living with heart disease and one heart attack under my belt, every six months I go in and have my blood work and lipid profiles done and have a chat with my doctor about how things are going. Every six months until I am dead.

My previous doc has recently retired and so this was my second visit with my new doctor. Because of this, we spent some time going over my old histories and charts and stuff to help him get a better overall picture of me. He pulled up the original EKG from my heart attack two years ago on his computer.

“Whoa” was the first thing out of his mouth. (This is not normally something one likes to hear from the mouth of their physician. It does not convey positive feelings.)

“Whoa, huh?” I asked him, “Pretty bad wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, see this (points to a innocuous looking wave)?  We call that a ‘Tombstone’.”

Whoa is right. Shit.

It turns out you will not find the term in any medical books or classes, but the “ST Elevation” (the actual term) found on my EKG is apparently commonly referred to as a tombstone by medical professionals. Fun.

Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of how close we were to not making it. The reality of my heart attack and heart disease has not been lost on me, but to some degree the urgency has faded. It happens with anything over time — the good and the bad lose their potency the more hours, days, or years come between them.

This is a good reminder to give thanks for the life I have and motivation to continue to do what I can to be ready for whatever comes next.

So what does my “Tombstone” say?

Not today.

10520655_10152490701558195_8982976997093211451_oMike after his second post-heart-attack marathon (and fifth overall) with Scott and our cousin Janna.


  1. Whoa. Scary. Love you all and wish we lived closer. So glad you are still alive to share your story!!