, Port Arthur, Texas

April 24, 2013

Second chance at life and love

Donia Caspersen Crouch
The Port Arthur News

— Second chances aren’t as rare as one might think. People get them every day. They come in different forms, too. Some folks get a second chance at life while others get another crack at love.  

My brother in law knows what I’m talking about. He used to make a living by delivering automotive supplies. His daily route spanned 180 miles each way. One day, halfway finished with his commute, he passed out behind the wheel of his truck. Amazingly, he didn’t injure himself or anyone else after losing consciousness on the highway. He opened his eyes to a half dozen strangers surrounding his truck. They were banging on the windows and yelling, “Are you okay?”  One of them called 911. The paramedics were on the scene ASAP.  He had suffered a heart attack.

After being shocked back to life in an ambulance, he was delivered to a nearby hospital where the doctors assessed his coronary needs. The day after the accident, I went to visit him. He shared the dramatic story, at least all that he could remember, of his “close call”. “The doctors believe I was extremely lucky”, he said. “Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.”

We laughed at his joke, but there was nothing funny about his scrape with death. He was lucky in two ways: no one was injured when he crashed and he suffered no permanent brain damage from the lack of blood flow from his heart.  Thank God for cell phones and record response time by the emergency medical technicians.

It happened on a Tuesday. An overloaded surgery schedule in a busy hospital forced him to be patient.  He waited three days for his turn in the operating room. Throughout that time, his intake was restricted.  Liquid diet, but plenty of food for thought. His older brother died at the age of 67 from heart disease. My infirmed in-law was following in his deceased sibling’s footsteps. Seventy five pounds overweight with high blood pressure and diabetes, he received specific post op instructions.  “Lose weight and exercise.”

It’s hard for most people to maintain exercising programs.  It’s tougher for him because, thanks to four years on the high school football team, his knees don’t have any cartilage to speak of. Just walking to the kitchen is difficult for him. Finding ways to burn calories will be a major challenge. From where I’m sitting, it looks as if he has no choice.

Stuck in an Intensive Care Unit waiting for life-saving surgery? It’s a blinking red caution light if ever I’ve seen one. Passing the rooms of seriously ill people on my way to visit him, I wondered how many of his fellow patients would make it out of there alive. My brother-in-law’s story had a happy ending. His heart surgery went well. A week later, he was issued his discharge papers; a second chance at life.

Some get a second chance at love. Like the couple whose wedding we danced at last night. They have both been married before. Standing on a hill in front of 100 friends and family, they pledged their vows with the evening sun warming all of our faces.  His three young children stood beside them — dressed up and smiling. They welcomed their new stepmom with enthusiasm. That’s something to be thankful for all by itself. The rehearsal dinner was joyful — loved ones passed the mic one to another to offer their heart-felt toasts. The groom’s teen-aged nephew made us laugh with his advice: “Make this one last!”

Back to my brother-in-law with the repaired heart: he knows how lucky he is. Upon leaving the hospital, he beamed like a man who had won the lottery.  No more chicken fried steak for him. He also said he would start doing some kind of exercise. He probably would have promised the moon if that’s what it took to get him out of there. “I really hope you’ll do those things,” I said, hugging him goodbye. “You’re lucky to get a second chance.”

As I turned to walk away, he called out in his booming voice, “So do you!”  I gave him a puzzled look. “Everybody gets one,” he explained. “It’s called tomorrow.”  

Donia Caspersen Crouch was raised in Southeast Texas and lives in Austin. Contact her at