Perfect Storm turns day of infamy into thanksgiving

By John Sheehan
Executive Director
Plumas Corporation
12/23/2009


    This Pearl Harbor Day was both infamous and wonderful, since I lived through it. Along with a few other Plumas-ites, I’d attended a forestry meeting in Sacramento and was coming home, by myself, through the Canyon on a spectacular winter storm day in Northern California.
    It had already snowed large on Mt. Diablo. The Canyon was a mix of sun and layered clouds and wind and snowgoing on the road. I’d stopped at a familiar spot and was gathering a few river rocks for a home gardening project. The last rock got hefted into the trunk when it happened.

    The sneak attack on my heart was like a great beast or devil grasping and shaking and not letting go. I pondered my fate with no cell service, no companions and no help available when providence seemed to intervene.
    Passing by on the highway were two cars, the lead vehicle looking like one containing two friends. I did not know if I could drive or not, with no relief from the pain in every breath, but decided there was no other choice.
    It took five miles or so to catch them and another two or three more to urge them to pull over, with flashing lights and horn honking and swerving. Both cars pulled off simultaneously and I stumbled from my vehicle, announcing my presumed condition and pleading for help.
    The strangers had some aspirin and I ingested that. My friends bundled me into their vehicle and we plowed ahead through the snow to try to fishtail it up the hill alive.
    At the Wye, a highway patrolman looked to be prepping for a shift at the weigh station, and we sought his help. He called the dispatch and started the ambulance out of Quincy.
    He also began to soothe the pain with a bottle of oxygen. The wait seemed interminable and the pain never really lessened. The ambulance showed up in short order along with attendants I knew, including the fire chief.
    The ambulance raced up the hill (lights, no siren), through the gathering storm and darkness, while I was slapped with monitors and tubes and pain pills.
    At the hospital they gathered my family and gave me choices of what to do and treatments to stop the onslaught. The weather continued to close in and flying became impossible.
    They bundled me into the ambulance again and hauled me over the snow to St. Mary’s in Reno. We arrived about 9 p.m. The hospital in Reno decided that, because of the wise care I’d received along the way, they could wait until the next day to operate.
    The next morning, I received a “stent” in a big heart artery and am laying low in our little town through the holidays. My health condition or treatment is not unique. Many others have had numerous attacks and stints.
    A change in any of the numerous things which happened along the way could have caused an “infamous” day to become my last.
    Providence may not have urged me to surmount the hurt and followed my friends when they appeared, in passing. The aspirin from the strangers may not have been offered.
    The highway patrol could have been elsewhere and the road to Plumas District Hospital could have proven to be too long for me, without the ambulance care from the fire department.
    The trip to Reno may not have happened if the doctors and nurses hadn’t known how to make the choices most profound.
    I’m thankful I live here where such a perfect storm of wonderful people and institutions kept me alive.


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