A couple of weeks ago, my faithful gardener Juan, took his last breath in my front yard. I am required to have CPR training because I teach fitness. After years of practice pressing on a dummy’s chest, this time it was real. My neighbor rushed over. We kept compressions going until the paramedics arrived. They were efficient, truly a well-oiled machine in action. But it was Juan’s last day. A man with only a touch of gray hair, a man I thought not more than 60 years-old — gone in what seemed an instant.
Surprised? Confused? Shocked? Yes. I don’t have a lot of experience with death.
In my conversation with a paramedic bearing the name tag “Gibbons,” I learned Juan’s cardiac arrest was not related to any other condition. Paramedic Gibbons paused, looked me in the eye and said, “It’s a fragile thing, you know.”
I’ve written many columns about heart disease. But since my experience with Juan, my perspective has been forever changed. I write today from a more personal place. The website www.MSNBC.com reports more than 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease every day. That’s about one death every 39 seconds. So as 2,200 people take their last breath, they're leaving behind a lot of folks as shocked, surprised and confused as I was.