Believe it or not, I recently celebrated my seven-year anniversary.
No, not the seven-year anniversary of my nuptials to my lovely wife, Jody, or the number of years I’ve been on the job at WBAL Radio and 98 Rock.
This milestone is a bit different.
In August of 2009, I died on a softball field. Yes, you read that right. I literally died on a softball field.
God, however, was not ready to take me.
After scoring the winning run in a championship softball game at a field in Owings Mills, I suddenly became dizzy and collapsed. According to the dozens of witnesses, my face turned blue and foam was spewing from my mouth. (Unfortunately, my then-16-year-old son, Brooks, was watching all of this happen from the stands.)
Miraculously, a cardiologist, Dr. Scott Katzen, was also watching all of this unfold and came racing toward me to help. He and another physician there assessed the situation and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), since I had no pulse.
In a matter of 45 seconds, they brought me back to life. How fortunate can you be to have a heart doctor present when you have a catastrophic event happen to you in the middle of a ball field?
The odds were stacked against me.
Only 10 percent of sudden cardiac victims survive. Obviously, I had a guardian angel watching me that day. I was one of the fortunate few to survive.
After the paramedics got me to the hospital and certain tests were given, it was determined that I had four main arteries that were more than 80 percent blocked. This was due to radiation that I had received to cure Hodgkin’s lymphoma almost 30 years earlier.
That cure became my curse, and now I needed quadruple bypass surgery. As I was wheeled to the operating room at the University of Maryland Medical Center, I chanted, “Fix that heart, fix that heart!”
After a grueling seven-hour operation, the surgeons were confident that I would make it. But the recovery was going to be painful and difficult. Each step literally would seem like climbing a mountain. But after 10 days in the intensive care unit, I was strong enough to go home.
If not for the fabulous staff at UMMC and my wife, son, daughter Alix, and my friends and extended family, I couldn’t have made it.
Each accomplishment in the process, though, was met with another setback. I missed many days at my job at the radio station, and it was a big strain in many ways for my family.
But my support network was strong, dedicated and caring. I learned that it’s impossible to “go it alone” in life, and surrounding yourself with the right people is paramount to success and getting over all obstacles and hurdles.
Having a good attitude and a sense of humor also go a long way on the road to recovery. Now, I’m back on the air, doing what I love. I’m back to enjoying sports and my time with my loved ones.
What I’ve learned from this experience is to never give up, no matter how bad or daunting the odds are. That’s my message, and God willing you’ll all be hearing from me for a long, long time.
“Detour Dave” Sandler is a professional inspirational speaker. He is the author, with Dorrie Anshel, of the 2015 book “Taking a Detour: Life Lessons from a Near-Death Experience and the Long Journey Back” (Apprentice House). In addition, Sandler owns Detour Dave Inc., which delivers traffic information to the Baltimore-/Washington area on WBAL Radio and 98 Rock. He also provides entertainment for weddings and other private affairs.
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