Premonitions from a Dream
A dream that is not interpreted is like a letter that is unread.
In September 2000, I dreamed:
An airplane with a red, four-cylinder engine is leaking oil, and smoke is coming from the engine. The plane takes off, but then immediately crashes.
I woke up, and the first thought in my head was, “I am having heart problems.” I immediately set up an appointment with my doctor. We talked about what to do. I had no symptoms. I had no difficulty exercising. My cholesterol level was good. He told me that the best diagnostic alternative would probably be to run a “thallium treadmill test,” which involves injecting a radioactive dye into a vein after maximum exertion on a treadmill and then scanning the arteries for blockages. I wondered how I could justify doing this test on the basis of a dream? I didn’t particularly want to have some radioactive substance pumped into my bloodstream, or to needlessly run up a large medical bill.
Four months later, I was walking up a hill at midnight about 100 yards from my house when I started getting dizzy and sweating. I had to kneel down three times to rest before I finally made it home. I telephoned the physician on call, and was told to go straight to the emergency room. Six hours later I came home, but only after promising the doctors that I would fly to Anchorage, 350 miles south of Fairbanks, and get evaluated by a cardiologist there the next day.
When I reached the cardiologist’s office, I was dizzy and sweating again. The cardiologist said he wanted to wait two weeks before he did an angiogram. (In an angiogram, they insert a catheter up through the femoral artery near the groin, insert dye, and take pictures of the blood flow and plaque in the coronary arteries.) He was concerned that I had an infected tooth, which could increase the danger of additional infections during the angiogram. He sent me home.
When I arrived home later that day, I quickly went on the Internet and researched my condition. Everything I read about my symptoms indicated that I probably had “unstable angina,” which was a life-threatening situation. I called Dr. C. in San Francisco, a friend from my college days. He advised me to fly down to San Francisco immediately and to put myself in the care of the heart experts at the California Pacific Medical Center.
The next day I was on a flight to California with my family. Walking made me lose my breath; I experienced everything as very gray and muted. I kept thinking of Emily Dickinson’s last words, “I must go inside, the fog is rising.” For the first time, I accepted a ride at the airport in one of those motorized carts for handicapped people.
The cardiologist I was scheduled to see, Dr. H., called me at the hotel. When he learned that I had recently taken three nitroglycerin tablets (which oxygenate the blood and prevent heart attacks) and was still feeling strange and weak and nauseous, he told me to go the emergency room immediately. The angiogram they performed there showed a long ninety percent blockage of the left descending coronary artery, and a stent was put in to open up the artery. I had just missed a massive heart attack.