The Longest 60 Seconds

Sixty seconds isn’t really a very long time. Not in the entire scheme of things. Sure, it may feel like a long time when you’re on hold on a phone conversation, or you’re waiting for traffic light to change, or if you’re waiting for a loved one at the airport who you haven’t seen in a long time.

Or if you’re sitting in an emergency room cubicle with your husband who’s just been rushed there by ambulance because he passed out at home three times within ten minutes. Fortunately the ambulance drivers had called ahead and the ER staff had a cubicle set up for him with every monitoring device imaginable, as well as IV’s, meds, and a portable defibrillator. And we watched as they wasted no time hooking him up to all of it.

One minute you’re talking to him, and the next you’re watching him as his eyes roll back in his head, and he’s gagging for breath. While his heart monitor suddenly registers nothing. And the ER staff is so busy trying to save him they don’t even have time to ask you to step out of the cubicle into the hall. All you can do is sit there with your daughter, frozen to your chair. Not believing what you’re seeing.

Those sixty seconds become forever. And even longer. All you can do is pray that he’ll survive and be okay. There’s absolutely no time to think; no time to cry; and no time to scream. Time totally stands still as your life with your loved one flashes before your eyes, and you don’t know whether the movie playing in your mind of your life together will have any more scenes in it.

We lived that scenario a little over three years ago. And I would never ever wish that on anyone else. Ever. It’s a time when you have nothing at all to go on except your faith.

It wasn’t the first time I’d gone through heart problems with my husband, but it was definitely the worst; the most serious; the one that was life-threatening…and life changing.

Not even a year after we were married, my husband started experimenting chest pains. Typical of a young man, he ignored them and never mentioned it until one night after returning home from a concert he casually told me what had been going on. Let me just say we were quickly in the local hospital emergency room!

The next day we discovered his aortic heart valve was leaking, which necessitated open heart surgery to replace the valve. I was terrified that I’d be a widow before my first wedding anniversary, and was never so relieved when he came through the surgery with no problems. Bear in mind, this was 32 years ago, and heart surgery was not nearly as common as it is now. And although it’s still a scary prospect, it’s a procedure that’s dramatically advanced since that first surgery.

Natural replacement heart valves don’t last forever, though, and 16 years later the procedure was performed again, replacing the pig valve with a bovine (cow) valve. It was still a bit unnerving, but nothing like that first time. His recovery, fortunately, was much quicker as well.

But that moment in the ER almost ten years later when he literally was dying in front of me and our newly engaged daughter was the worst moment, and the longest 60 seconds, of my life.

There are bits and pieces from that long minute we both remember, although they’re much more vivid to me. But the most memorable, at least to him, was the young doctor who looked straight at him during the ordeal and said, “Mr. Newell, you aren’t going to die on my watch!”

And he didn’t, thank you, Lord!

Although he does joke about it now, and says he should’ve asked her how long her watch was for! But right then, at that moment, no one was laughing.

We came very close to losing him that morning. Closer than I ever want to think about. The ambulance personnel had left their EKG strips in there with him, and when a friend of ours who had been on the rescue squad for many years saw them and read them, she told us how close it had really been.

Another 60 seconds and it could’ve been a different story.

The very next day we walked out of the hospital, Ben with a newly implanted pacemaker, and me with a very grateful heart and a huge answered prayer. Thankfully God still had plans for my husband. Plans for him to be able to walk our daughter down the aisle at her wedding the following year. Plans for him to meet his first granddaughter who arrived a year after that wedding.

And I am convinced there are many more plans we don’t even know about.

Sixty seconds can be just a short stretch of time, but it can also be the longest day of your life.

Sixty seconds can be a life-changing experience. You just don’t know when it will happen.

1 thought on “The Longest 60 Seconds

  1. To this day I still wonder what was going through my daughters mind while she was holding my legs down during that 60 second life changing ordeal. Love you both very much!

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