I wake up every morning around 4am, answer a few emails from SXSW and friends and then zip out of the house by 4:30 to start my hour-long dawn Nordic Walk along the Harbour Jetty, North Wall Breakwater and beach. It’s only a five minute concert ride at high volume to the water where I start the trekking poles waving as the first brush of soft pastels start to stain the dark sky. As the walk evolves, more vibrant colours fill my eyes along with cloud patterns and washing waves against the shore. The air is sweetly salty, the breeze just right in speed and temperature and the cadence and heart rate hit 120 as I zone out on the beginning of my day. What an incredible way to start every day that it doesn’t rain! Made even sweeter by the way I got here.
I only realized this morning that on my 68th birthday November 17, it had been 1000 days since I had died in the Honolulu airport for 10 full minutes and was then revived by two angels who came to the rescue. Though neither of them are on Facebook I do have to send thank you notes to them for what they did to give me a whole new life. Terry Trelli was the woman who was employed by Alamo to open the door out front of the station and she was within arms reach as I dropped dead and saved me from smashing my head on the pavement by catching it at the last possible second. She then held my hand and tried to talk me back to life and after that started cursing at me with great emotion to try to get a response from me. She and I have reunited several times in Hawaii since then and I love her madly. Except for her immediate reaction, I’d have been a vegetable, or worse.
Meanwhile sitting on a bus that I’d just gotten off was another young woman, Beth Hansen, who saw me fall as she had just grabbed a seat to leave for the terminal and realized that she may be able to save my life. She had taken a CPR course only six months prior in Washington DC and I was her first. She zipped off the bus while a companion pulled away her luggage back to the curb came over to me hopped onto me and then started pumping furiously for 10 full minutes as I lay there that. Luckily, she had paid attention in class and though I later suffered massive chest pain from it, she managed to smash a few of my ribs with her compressions which is what made sure that my blood flow was circulating. Ten minutes may not seem like a long time but when you are pumping furiously to the rhythm in your head of Saturday Night Fever, 110 bpm, then it is an eternity as you are wearing out all the way through the exercise.
Fortunately a lovely dreadlocked native electrician also came to the rescue and asked Beth what he could do to help. She breathlessly told him to start giving me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and he complied since he also had taken a CPR course and knew what he was doing. Between the two of them they worked furiously and only paused momentarily as someone else laid a pair of paddles from an IED resuscitation device on my chest and gave me a charge. They tried this three times with no result and only when the ambulance finally came were the paramedics able to fully resuscitate me with one massive jolt of juice. Obviously they were using an American-made quality IED not a Korean cheapo model.
You can read the gory details and see some equally gory photos on my personal blog that I did back then as I was laying in the hospital bed at http://philtripp.com/shock-to-the-heart-a-life-renewed/
I have a huge amount of life to thank my angels for, a thousand days may not seem like a long time but for me it is been my second eternity, and it’s all been pretty pleasurable. So you know the statistics, of 100 people who get the type of cardiac arrest that I had (not a heart attack where a clot intervenes, but your electrical system failing and your heart going into fibrillation), 95 of them die and stay that way, four have permanent brain damage but live, and only one comes back with most of their functions, able to speak, walk, laugh, and live longer. But the amazing thing about dying that I’ve learned after three incidents of it is that nothing gives you a greater perspective on life than losing it.
Physical recovery of balance, gait, speech, healing of the chest pain from the broken ribs, and the opiate haze that rendered me somewhat constipated was all pretty much wrapped up within a fortnight and I was home back in Australia. Picked up by my friend Darren Bromell at Brisbane airport, reunited with my beloved parrot Jackson who only had a couple of weeks of carousing with his fellow citizens, it was a woozy drive back to my hill top idyll and its spectacular sunrises. Since then I’ve packed a lot of adventures, joys, and revelations into those first thousand days.
Though I missed SXSW in 2016, I made up for it by extended trips to Texas and the US for the following two years. I also jetted off to Hawaii only three months after the incident and fell foul of Honolulu airport again when I broke my arm going up an escalator of all things. In that one year my travel insurance paid out over $510,000 in medical expenses, but hey I got a state-of-the-art pacemaker out of it that they didn’t even have in Australia but they put in while I was in Hawaii recovering from that cardiac arrest. Lucky me. Since then I’ve made the point to have four trips to Hawaii which includes picking up Kona coffee from my favorite grower, Jesse Colin Young, whose Sunrise Blend kicks off every day here in Coffs. I’ve also taken a few helicopter rides over the islands, a lovely sailboat trip from Maui to Lanai and played public stomach at more than a few fine dining and hole in the wall eateries.
I didn’t quite make it to New York as planned in 2016, but I made up for it with a long trip through New England in the Australian winter/US summer which included fabulous concerts, a road trip through the wooded mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire, my 50th high school reunion in the deep woods of Maine, and taking advantage of the low price of Maine lobsters due to Donald Trump’s tariff boondoggle. Also I was able to enjoy my beloved Cape Cod and for the first time go to Martha’s Vineyard on a ferry with my car.
Like the last two years I will be going to my old hometown of Atlanta as well as visiting my good buddy Murray Silver in Savannah who is a co-conspirator with me on the book that I am desperately trying to finish. My reward after Savannah is a week in Jamaica with a private concert for 500 people by Little Feat and Lucinda Williams plus Anders Osborne with the Rambling Horns in a private resort closed to the public for five days. I then head off to Miami for a few days before returning to Australia after a six week long journey that began that begins along the Mississippi Blues Trail., Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice Louisiana and the requisite accompaniment of 850 delegates +60 bands to SXSW in Austin.
And through the miracle of corporate travel insurance by my canny broker, I plan to make extra bucket list trips in 2019. First one is a couple of weeks between Darwin and Broome on the Northstar luxury cruiser. And I’ll be hanging out with the Pigram Brothers who I used to manage. The other trip will be to the Maldives to take in that beautiful place before it’s inundated by climate change. And before I’m unable to travel great distances any longer. If I make 2020, it will be a cruise down the Rhine and Danube from Amsterdam to Budapest, train trips in Switzerland and other countries as well as a quick jaunt to Iceland.
When you’re over the hill, you pick up speed.