Some people who go through near-death experiences say they see a bright light or a deceased loved one as they linger close to death. Cleveland resident Eddie Brewer said he saw peaceful blue skies and clouds that resembled angels until a jolt of electricity at the hospital shocked his heart back to life.
On Oct. 6, Brewer suffered a heart attack as he was on his way to the woods for a camping trip. He credits Bradley County Emergency Medical Services and the staffs of SkyRidge Medical Center in Cleveland and Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga with saving his life.
“I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart,” he said.
Brewer, who turned 62 on Oct. 9 — three days after his heart attack — is grateful he lived to see his birthday.
He said he and some family and friends were driving in separate cars to head out of town for a weekend camping trip. A friend who was driving the car in which Brewer was riding noticed he was looking ill. He asked if Brewer needed to go to the hospital. He said no, but quickly changed his mind. They turned the car around, and Brewer said he staggered into the SkyRidge ER and told the receptionist he was having a heart attack. He said the staff rushed into action as his health continued to go downhill.
At one point, his heart stopped, and he remembers looking up from his bed and seeing blue skies and clouds that he later decided were angels. Some of his family and friends, of course, tell a different story. They saw a member of SkyRidge’s medical staff shocking him with a defibrillator to get his heart back into a normal rhythm.
Fortunately, everything worked out for Brewer to see his next birthday.
“I wouldn’t be here today without them,” Brewer said.
After he was stabilized at SkyRidge, he was taken to Memorial Hospital for further treatment.
As with many heart attack patients, he suffered some damage to his heart.
“I’ll be on heart medicine for the rest of my life,” Brewer said.
But one positive thing that came out of his negative experience was the realization that he could start again and make positive changes to his lifestyle, including quitting smoking. He had been smoking for about 50 years — since he was only 12 years of age.
“I told the doctor, ‘If you let me walk out of this hospital, I’ll never smoke another cigarette,’” Brewer said.
He lost his wife to a heart attack in July of last year, but he did not think one could happen to him. Now, he cautions people to pay attention to their own health.
According to the American Heart Association, smoking is “the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States.” Smoking can increase a person’s risk for a variety of heart-related health problems.
Brewer had also begun drinking alcohol at a young age and quit back in the mid-1990s when he suffered liver problems as a result. Alcohol can also lead to conditions like high blood pressure than can contribute to heart problems, according to the American Heart Association.
Since he recovered from the heart attack and began to take necessary steps, he said he has been glad he had the medical professionals who helped him. He said all of them — from the ER doctors and nurses at SkyRidge and Memorial Hospital to his physicians, Dr. Ajitkumar Kemkar in Cleveland and Dr. Samuel Ledford in Chattanooga — have been supportive.
“They were excellent,” Brewer said. “They took care of me well. I wouldn’t be here today without them.”
His focus has shifted toward living a healthier lifestyle and spending time with those he loves.
Brewer is a disabled U.S. Army veteran originally from Pennsylvania who most recently worked as a parts coordinator at Maytag in Cleveland before having to retire.
He does have his regrets. He said he regrets not quitting smoking earlier than he did, but said he quit drinking some 16 years ago.
Brewer said he does not know why he survived this heart attack. However, he does know one thing. He is grateful to have gotten a second chance at life.
According to the American Heart Association, cigarette smoking accounts for more than 440,000 annual deaths. Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing several chronic disorders. These include fatty buildups in arteries, several types of cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease which leads to heart attack.