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  • Writer's pictureJohn M Donovan

The Second Weirdest Story of the Day

On Friday the 15th I happened to be in the Jordan Creek area around lunchtime and decided to treat myself to some Tasty Tacos. Two originals with hot sauce and a side of Tasty Tators. (Tasty Tacos is a local, family-owned business with five or six locations, and their tacos are freakin amazing. Before the pandemic, they would already have the hot sauce on the tacos for carryout orders, and that gave the sauce time to mix with the rest of the taco by the time you got it home. Perfection. Post-Covid, they just give you a little container of hot sauce—but it’s still delicious.)

Anyway. I got my tacos and Tasty Tators (tater tots with a nice spicy seasoning) and was sitting at the light on 64th, waiting to turn left onto Mills Civic. I spotted a kid—high school age—trying to cross Mills Civic, and while he made it across the westbound lane with no problem, by the time he reached the median the light for eastbound traffic turned green.

But he didn’t stop. He ran past the cars in the left and middle lanes, but the driver of the black car in the right lane didn’t see him. I watched and said something like “holy crap!” as the car bumped the kid. I reached for my phone to call 911, but the kid rolled over the hood of the car, landed on the pavement, popped up smiling and gave the driver two thumbs-up, and continued on his way.

And when I got the arrow, I went on my way too, thinking I’d have a good story for people. I started on my Tasty Tators and looked forward to eating my tacos at home.

I was still on Jordan Creek Parkway heading north when I finished the Tasty Tators. Almost immediately after I ate the last one, though, I felt a pain in my chest, like something shooting up my esophagus and spreading left to right in the heart/lung neighborhood. It subsided for a second and then came back worse. I gasped for breath and considered my options: Stop and get a drink? Call my wife? I had no idea what was going on because I’d never felt anything that bad in that area. I don’t know how many times it happened but it seemed like each one was worse than the last.

Maybe, I thought, this is a heart attack. I pulled into the McDonald’s parking lot and called 911 while writhing all over the front seat with cold sweat pouring off my head. The 911 operator took all the pertinent information and said help was on the way, and right about then is when the pain began to subside a little bit. Within five minutes later a fire truck arrived and four of West Des Moines’ finest gave me aspirin, hooked me to various monitors, and started taking some more pertinent information.

Describe the pain on a scale of 1-10. At its worst, I said, it was a ten.

How is it now? Well, I said, now it’s down to a three.

That’s good, they said.

An ambulance arrived and the paramedics loaded me up, put an IV in my arm, asked some more questions, and generally assured me that everything was going to be fine. The pain was now somewhere between zero and one. I landed at MercyOne in West Des Moines, where over the course of five hours they gave me a chest x-ray, a complete blood workup, and tests to make sure there was no troponin in my system. The presence of troponin would have indicated a heart attack for sure.

There was no troponin. In fact, my brilliant nurse wife read the results of the bloodwork and said she’d never seen anyone quite so healthy. We’re thinking now it was a combination of heartburn (which I’ve never had) and anxiety (which I’ve been having a lot).

So I didn’t have a heart attack. But I would prefer not to have that level of chest pain ever again.

And here’s the weird part. If that kid had been hurt and I would have called 911 to report it, I would have had to call 911 again not ten minutes later. “Hey, it’s me again. I called about the kid being hit by a car. Funny thing, though, now I might be having a heart attack.”

“Sure, buddy. What’s next, flying saucers?”

I want to thank the guys in the fire truck, the team in the ambulance, and the staff at MercyOne for their skilled and compassionate care. You all rock.

But dang it, I never got to eat my tacos.

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