Living with a Cardiac Rehabilitation Exercise Physiologist (say that three times fast) leads to some very precise conversations when medical emergencies occur. Whether they are emergencies with positive outcomes (like my Mother’s multiple hospitalizations for congestive heart failure) or emergencies with negative outcomes like the sudden death of Michael Jackson (from cardiac arrest). All of the major news networks keep repeating that Michael Jackson was taken to UCLA Medical Center in full cardiac arrest which is NOT the same thing as a heart attack. The helpful newscasters tell us that heart attacks occur when blood flow to the heart is interrupted. Cardiac arrest is when the heart goes into ventricular fibrillation and ceases beating. Heart attack is plumbing. Cardiac arrest is electrical.
This evening, I learned that very few heart attacks are caused by prescription (or other) drug abuse while cardiac arrests (especially if there is no underlying coronary disease) are more likely to be caused by drugs (prescription or illicit) or chronic conditions like Anorexia. Several family acquaintances are coming forward to talk about Jackson’s effort on and desire for a wildly successful “comeback tour” which was supposed to start on July 13th. Staying in a rented house, Jackson had been reported to be working incessantly on the show. In a variety of interviews, people would say he was like Anna Nicole Smith, a casualty to fame, incessant drive and self-serving sycophants. IMHO, Anna Nicole Smith didn’t have the talent, stature or global impact that Michael Jackson did. So, perhaps Michael Jackson is this generation’s Elvis Presley.
I remember Elvis before he was fat; I remember when Elvis was all talent and sass and music. His voice blared from radios everywhere. We watched him on television, in movies and on concerts. And then he was obscenely famous. He became more isolated. The only people who were allowed near “The King” were the doctors and handlers who gave him whatever he wanted, whatever would keep him going, regardless of the consequences for his health. I saw a photo on the Daily Mail of Jackson on his 50th birthday (left) and was stunned at how emaciated he appeared in the photo. Frail. It was shocking. Lisa Marie Presley must have some interesting karma to have been touched by both of these remarkably talented, remarkably charmed, remarkably doomed men. Of course, this is the moment for the caveats … the official cause of death is yet to be determined, yet to be announced regarding Michael Jackson. At this point, it’s a collective web experience of the unexpected, premature passing of one of this generation’s most amazing musical talents.