Sometimes the worse moments in life happen at the most convenient times.
On May 24th, 2011, at around 3 o’clock in the morning, Police Officer James Mitchell had a heart attack which occurred with perfect timing.
How so? How can a heart attack possibly occur at the right moment? Well, early that day James and a friend spent 8+ hours driving back to Cincinnati, Ohio from Atlanta, Georgia. And he never experienced a heart attack while on the road. Not while he was in Atlanta for a class reunion/cookout. Not while he was driving 75 North in Tennessee, and not while he was stuck at a gas station in Sparta, Kentucky because of a severe rainstorm. No, James had the blessing of experiencing his heart attack a couple of hours after he got home, while in bed with his wife – a nurse at Mercy Fairview Hospital.
After all the hours James spent on the road, it wasn’t until he came home when he started to feel a throbbing pain in his arm. He was able to figure out that he was having a heart attack in a peaceful setting. He started to perspire, asked his wife if she felt the room was getting hotter, she said no, they prepared to make a trip to the hospital as a result, he ended up collapsing on the bathroom floor, and his wife took care of him until the ambulance arrived. Once it did, EMTs transported him to Mercy Fairview. There, he discovered that he had 100% blockage in his right artery and was immediately operated on. He has since made a full recovery and has continued his work for the past two years with the Cincinnati Police Department.
James said, “It could have easily happened when I was out on the highway. I feel abundantly blessed to have been with my wife.”
Talking to James, I found it really awesome how relaxed he was about the incident. Clearly, he perceives it as a more of blessing than a memory that another person may not wish to look back upon. He told me, “The incident changed my total outlook on life. I now value every moment.” The event may have been a tragedy, but God took that moment, made it something James could handle, and helped him to grow from it.
Because of the heart attack, he told me how he even valued the moment my dad and I briefly met him, after the Cincinnati Reds’ game at Great American Ballpark. Homer Bailey, one of the Reds’ starting pitchers, threw a no-hitter, so practically all the fans were there until the last out. It was still a packed stadium, so we stuck around the area until the parking lots were empty. As we walked around, we bumped into James, who was on-duty, and had a short, very friendly conversation with him. He said it’s not like he wouldn’t have appreciated our conversation before the heart attack, but that now he appreciates such conversations in a new light – greater than before.
The heart attack seems to have helped him embrace the kids at the high school he works with. Through the Cincinnati Police Department, he has been specifically assigned Hughes High School, and additionally takes care of and provides for 14 other schools in the Cincinnati area. He spends each day, talking to kids for hours, whether on the phone or in person. He says he tries to make sure he interacts with every student in at least some way – he’s been known to give everyone he sees a handshake. He even visits the elementary school, with the hope that he’ll one day know all the kids before they reach high school.
In his free time, James mentioned that he simply enjoys being at home with his wife, mowing the grass, working on cars, riding his motorcycle, and bowling. He has five kids who are out in the real world, and looks forward to every time they visit. He added that he has an old car hobby. He has fixed up a 1985 El Camino and took it to a few car shows.
Again, all too often there is good which surrounds tragedy. I find that there are always blessings available in response to suffering. You just have to look for them.