For you non-golfers who may have never heard of a ‘mulligan’ before, it’s basically a do-over after a bad shot on the golf course. According to Wikipedia, “A mulligan is a second chance to perform an action, usually, after the first chance went wrong through bad luck or a blunder. It’s the best-known meaning is in golf, whereby a player is informally allowed to replay a stroke, even though this is against the formal rules of golf.” The guys I usually play with often permit one mulligan per round and it can only be used on the tee box. No mulligans are ever permitted in tournament play. Hit the ball and count ‘em all.

I recently was gifted the most important mulligan of my life. Last week, I suffered a heart attack and it easily could have been fatal. I was home alone when I felt intense pressure in my chest along with pain in my left arm, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. All the signs, right? This went on for about thirty minutes when I finally knew that I had to do something. Rather than call an ambulance or worry my wife at work, I decided to drive myself to the ER at Confluence Health. In retrospect, it probably was not the smartest decision even though I managed to arrive safely. Through an examination and blood work, it was determined that indeed I had suffered a heart attack and was immediately admitted to the hospital. After more tests and examinations by the medical team, a plan of action was put into place. The next morning I was wheeled into a procedure room to determine if there was a blockage of an artery and if so, what artery was it. The medical team in the room quickly found that the left anterior descending artery (LAD) was 80% blocked and would require a stent stat. When I asked my nurse where the blockage was located, he quietly told me it was in the LAD. He then explained that it was a major artery also known as the ‘widow-maker’. Holy cow, Batman! I’m thankful to report the procedure was a total success and the rest of the heart was healthy and in good shape. Whew!

I was in the hospital for just two nights and three days. Think about that for a second. In less than 48 hours, this medical team found the problem, fixed the problem and provided intensive coaching for a speedy, total recovery and sent me on my way. The miracle of medical science just blows me away.

Right about now you might be asking yourself, ‘What does this have to do with golf?’ It’s a legit question. I’m scheduled to play in an annual tournament in Spokane in a few days so I asked my cardiologist if I was cleared to play and he was hesitant to give me the green light. It’s not so much about the heart but more about the point of entry where the catheter was inserted. In my case, my right wrist. It’s presently bandaged and I’m to be careful not to lift anything heavy for a week or so. My doc is not a golfer and asked me if golf is strenuous. I answered, “Not the way I play.” So, I was cleared to play but not before the first day of the tournament. I found out just last night that one of the other participants in this tournament had a heart attack the day after I did while on the 9th hole at his home course in Kalispell, MT. I spoke to him by phone and our situations were eerily the same. His doc did not clear him to play, however. After I told him my story, he said he would revisit the decision with his cardiologist and lobby for clearance.

I’m in no position to preach about health issues to anyone. But I will state to you firmly and clearly to pay attention to the signs of heart attack and stroke. Chest pain or tightness, pain in the jaw and left arm, shortness of breath are all signs that something is not well with the old ticker. Get medical attention and do it quickly!

As I write this, I can tell you that I feel like a million bucks. My thanks to the excellent staff of medical professionals at Confluence Health. You people rock! And a special thanks to my family and friends for your love and support through this life-changing event.

Thanks, for the mulligan. See you on the first tee.