Faith Grief

“Having a heart attack is WAY EASIER than getting hit by a semi truck…”

Written by Bailey Koch

Well I feel the need to write – shocking I know. After a much more eventful weekend than we were hoping for, our family is home and having a very lazy day with plans to have a lazy week. You likely have not heard that Jeremy, my healthy and active 33-year-old husband, suffered an NSTEMI heart attack early Saturday morning, July 4, 2015. Jeremy was given his third flight for life helicopter ride to date as he was air lifted from Lexington to Kearney Regional Medical Center.

Normal cardiac enzyme levels are less than 1 mcg/L (usually around .2 to .35 mcg/L). Are you ready for this? A blood test revealed that Jeremy’s cardiac enzymes were at 19 mcg/L in Lexington. By the time we reached Kearney, his enzymes were up to 23 mcg/L.

I snapped a picture as Jeremy was leaving on his third flight for life ride.

I snapped a picture as Jeremy was leaving on his third flight for life ride.

The doctor stated that Jeremy’s enzymes were “sky high” and he was indeed in the middle of a heart attack. By all counts, at this point Jeremy should have been in complete cardiac arrest. Yet he was only complaining of chest pain at a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. Surgery was needed to clear any blockage but something was weird. The EKG performed in Lexington was normal. Then the echo cardiogram performed in Kearney was normal. A heart cath exploration would hopefully reveal the blockage and Dr. Azzam was 100% sure he would have to perform an “intervention” and insert a stint to stop whatever blockage was there and not showing up on any other tests. Jeremy was wheeled in for surgery and we waited – but not for long.

Within 45 minutes, Jeremy was back in his hospital room and Dr. Azzam came in to talk with us. He was all smiles and said, “He did not need a stint. His arteries were wide open. I was wrong; it doesn’t happen very often.” What he did find was a heart condition that Jeremy was likely born with. He has an artery that was having spasms. Jeremy had been having flu-like symptoms and horrible back, shoulder, and neck pain for two days prior to the heart attack and was absolutely freezing – all of these were impending signs of what would eventually move to chest pain. Dr. Azzam injected Nitroglycerin directly in the artery having the spasm to open it even more than the Nitro drip and pills were doing. His cardiac enzyme levels immediately began decreasing and Jeremy had survived a heart attack at the age of 33.

Jeremy resting after heart cath surgery.

Jeremy resting before heart cath surgery.

My husband will begin medications and a cardiac diet to prevent his heart condition from ever becoming a problem again. It is comforting to know that this was bound to happen, nothing he had done or could have done could have prevented it. But now that we know, we can prevent further problems.

Yesterday, on July 5th, Jeremy celebrated his 33rd birthday with a huge firework show one day late at the lake after being released from the hospital. As we were leaving he said, “So people say having a heart attack is like being hit by a semi truck. Ha! I’ve done both and having a heart attack is WAY EASIER!” And so it seems.

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Jeremy woke up on his 33rd birthday after having a heart attack the day before.

We have learned to be extremely open and honest people; and I like that about us. We joke about the difficult situations we have been in because we can and because we have to. Yes, Jeremy has attempted suicide five times during his struggles with severe depression. Yes, Jeremy was nearly killed when he was hit, head on by a semi truck at highway speeds in 2012. We have talked about it in much detail in “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith.” And our pastor added yesterday that this is “just another chapter to add.” We make people uncomfortable and have had to learn to be okay with that in order to help society understand the reality of mental illness since Jeremy suffers from depression. We have been through so much that it can be difficult for others to understand our take on life….

You can either laugh about life or you can cry about it. We choose laughter.

This doesn’t mean we never cry or get worried, but it does mean that we have learned to truly believe in the power of prayer and understand that God is in control and we are not. The day after Jeremy’s heart attack, I walked around in Target by myself sobbing uncontrollably while trying desperately to find him the perfect birthday gift since he had to wake up in a hospital after having a heart attack the day before he turned 33. We joke now that Jeremy is officially on life number 7. After 5 suicide attempts, a near-death car accident likely due to a medication reaction, and now a heart attack at the age of 33, it is obvious that God wants to keep him here on this earth.

But watching your husband fly off in a flight for life helicopter never gets any easier. And after three times, my emotions were on full blown red alert.

So do we waste time falling into the “We just can’t catch a break” attitude? Or do we turn it around and understand that we have caught breaks – a lot of them. Jeremy is still here.  He’s living because we have learned to believe wholeheartedly in the power of prayer. We have no hesitation with asking for prayers when something in life requires it. And we readily give those prayers to others. It is obvious Satan does not want us together. Why? Because we have learned to be true followers of Christ who will do anything to spread His truth and His good to this world. And now – we want it even more than before. You lose again, Satan.

We will fight every single day to spread good in this world and help others understand that God is good all the time. Even in the most terrifying moments of life, God is there. Believe in Him and He will make all things good again. We will thank Him every day for keeping Jeremy here with us yet again. We will continue to fight and stay the path of our mission. We know what we are supposed to do.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” Genesis 50:20.

God wins again! Jeremy was dismissed from the hospital only 36 hours after suffering from what should have been "complete cardiac arrest".

God wins again! Jeremy was dismissed from the hospital only 36 hours after suffering from what should have been “complete cardiac arrest”.

So God wins again, and Jeremy is still here. We get knocked down and we get right back up again (yes that song is playing in my head now). Having a heart attack is easier than getting hit by a semi truck, and Jeremy gets to officially go on record saying this since he has been through both. Nearly losing the love of your life over and over only brings us closer together. Truly understanding the beauty and the short span of life on this earth helps us move past the little things quickly. Understanding that God is good and is all we need helps us be okay with the fact that our honesty is often too much for some. There are those to want to believe people ask for prayers to get attention; and that’s okay. But know this…there is a reason people ask for prayers.

It is because we truly and fully believe in the power of prayer. It works. And it did again. Thank you, prayer warriors, for helping us keep Jeremy here again.

And when you need those prayers, like you do right now just like we all do, we will pray for you too. We will pray that God will use your situations to help you see Him and come to Him…that’s all He wants. He loves you and wants you in His kingdom. We will pray that your eyes will be opened to seeing His good. We will pray that God will continue to use us to help others come to Him.

Our story isn’t over yet; God’s not done with us.

Just this past week, Jeremy and I got our matching semicolon tattoos that Jeremy designed in honor of mental health awareness and the semicolon project.  "A semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended, but chose not to. The sentence is your life and the author is you." - Project Semicolon.

Just this past week, Jeremy and I got our matching semicolon tattoos that Jeremy designed in honor of mental health awareness and the semicolon project.
“A semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended, but chose not to. The sentence is your life and the author is you.” – Project Semicolon.

Read more about our journey in our book that was published in March of 2015. “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” is available on Amazon and at www.jeremyandbailey.com.

About the author

Bailey Koch

The story of Bailey Koch finding her love for and strength in writing begins with near tragedy. In February of 2012, Bailey’s husband was nearly killed in a head-on collision with a semi truck. As a method of getting information to friends and family, Bailey began a Caring Bridge page. Immediately, others began commenting that Bailey should be a writer. “Yeah right!” Bailey thought. “There’s no way I could do that!”

“Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” was published in March 2015 and is written by Jeremy and Bailey Koch. It details their struggles with severe depression and the journey toward understanding their purpose, accepting help, and finding faith. High school sweethearts, Jeremy and Bailey know their lives were meant for each other and to help others by being honest about their story. They are proud parents of two beautiful, and often rambunctious, boys. Hudson and Asher are 10 and 7 years old. You can learn more about their journey and even purchase the eBook or paperback copy of “Never Alone” at www.jeremyandbailey.com.

Jeremy and Bailey found their purpose in helping others find hope when suffering from a disability, especially unseen illnesses like depression. Jeremy, who suffers from suicidal thoughts, continues to learn to live, not simply stay alive, through hope from God and the acceptance of help. Bailey is his biggest supporter and left her teaching job, after being in public education for seven years, to focus on what the two know to be God’s plan. Bailey now works as a Lecturer in Teacher Education at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and will graduate with her doctoral degree in Special Education from Walden University sometime in 2018. Jeremy and Bailey co-own and operate Natural Escapes, a landscaping and greenhouse services business that also includes a paint your own pottery and canvas family art studio. The passion to advocate for those who can’t easily advocate for themselves is strong. Bailey has a message of hope and acceptance for all; she has plans to completely demolish the societal stigma attached to mental illness.