GENEVA, WI – It was on July 2, 2013 which is five years, 55 days or
five years, one month, 24 days since my life changed. Yes 1,880 days
since I almost died.
That morning, I woke up early at my Lake
home to prepare for my return to the Milwaukee Summerfest grounds
working as a live performance photographer on assignment. Suddenly, I
had trouble breathing. It was rapidly getting worse. My experience as
a firefighter told me that my condition wasn’t going to get better
without medical assistance. I called a friend a few doors down to
help me by calling 9-1-1 as I was so short of breath I was not
speaking very clearly.
Within minutes, a police unit arrived
and gave me oxygen to try and relieve some of my distress as we
waited for the ambulance. This would be the first time I was the
patient in the back of the ambulance instead of the other way around.
The trip to Mercy Medical Center's satellite
a few miles west was not the smoothest ride I’ve been on. But
knowing I was getting help, put me more at ease. The doctor in the ER
assessed me and determined within a few minutes that I needed to be
transferred to the main hospital in Janesville, Wisconsin for further
it was determined it would take longer for the Flight
for Life helicopter
to pick me up, one more ambulance medic was added to the crew and on
the road to Janesville we
went. After what seemed like forever, but in reality only about 45
minutes, I was rushed into the cardiac catheterization lab. It was
there medical staff determined I had not one, but three blockages of
99%, 95% and 97%. It was the “Widow Maker;” none of the blockages
could be relieved in the lab.
the thoracic surgeon was already performing bypass surgery on another
patient, I would have to hold on for three plus hours while he
finished, ate and rested up. The Lab placed a ventricular assist
device up through a vein in my leg to relieve stress on my heart
while I waited my turn for the operating room.
hours later and a quintuple bypass, I was recovering in the ICU. Once
I was awake and was able to speak with the doctor, I found out how
bad it was. They needed spare blood vessels to make the repairs. So
they took some from my lower left leg and my right forearm. In
addition they relocated an artery in my chest. As it was described to
me, it was pulled through my chest muscle and used to supply more
blood flow to my heart. To this day, my left chest still itches at
times to the point of irritation. My surgeon was aware of how active
I am so he closed my chest using wire, plates and screws. After
talking with other bypass surgery patients, I am glad for this as my
chest never hurts when the weather changes.
six days of medication changes, trips up and down hospital corridors
and stairs, I was able to go home with one requirement. Because I
lived alone I was to have someone stay with me for at least two
weeks, not just for safety, but to keep me from lifting anything more
than ten pounds.
two weeks really can be an indication of who your family and friends
really are. Those that took turns staying with me, taking off work
and keeping me in line - you know who you are and I will forever be
it took a full six months to recover, I went through cardiac rehab,
which was a specialized gym with active heart monitoring. As I mostly
sat around those six months, I did do some work, but I also did
research. Trying to figure out why I developed this issue. I was told
that my blood work didn’t indicate anything like that of a
potential heart patient. Then I found it. One little mineral –
all of my blood work indicated my levels were “fine”, my research
found I only had 10% of what we all need in our blood. The rest
resides in our muscles and tissues and is needed to conduct nerve
impulses and also is needed to activate and use other vitamins and
minerals such as Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin K and others. When we
become Magnesium deficient, our body panics and does things it would
never normally do.
starts to pull whatever is left in our blood to the heart to keep
things pumping. Doing this also moves normal levels of bad things we
all have in our systems along with it. This means you can go from no
heart blockages or even restrictions to full on blockages and even
missed heart beats.
my surgery and reading about all of this, I started to take
supplements. My occasional skipped beats have stopped and my
cardiologist has now ruled out a pacemaker that he thought I might
financial aspect of all that was happening started to take its toll.
As we go through life, if we have really good parents or role models,
we are taught to have at least six months of savings in case we lose
our job or get sick. I ate through my savings and then some! Going
back to work was not like riding a bike. It was taking time to get
back into the groove. Now here comes the next slam; I started to have
other physical issues. At first, it looked like a UTI and after
testing ruled that out then my GP thought maybe a kidney stone. Nope!
no pain, It took five months to get a CT scan and it was finally
located. I had a tumor in my bladder. And yes, it was cancer.
of 2014 was my first bladder surgery. Ten weeks later, was another
surgery to make sure they got it all. After three months of recovery,
I was somewhat back to normal - well almost. The surgeries triggered
other issues I had never had in my life and I was adjusting to them.
A year later I started to have the same symptoms; and yes it was
back. I was never much of a gardener, but I could sure grow bladder
tumors. After two more surgeries, then I had to wait for six-to-eight
months and then have a camera inspection to see if anything was
I was waiting, I did more research, this time for bladder cancer;
this all while trying to keep my businesses going. Some of my clients
felt that me being unavailable for just a few days was unacceptable
and they cancelled contracts. This really hurt not only my bottom
line, but can really destroy your faith in people. Loyalty surely
doesn’t exist any more. While I always give my customers 100%, they
don’t seem to believe they need to return the loyalty – truly an
indication of the downward spiral we see every day in things like the
year 2017 was the worst. After being found clear of new tumors, my
doctor recommended I go through a form of chemo called BCG (Bacillus
It is Injected directly into the bladder to trigger my immune system
to kill off whatever cancer cells might be left over. There are three eight-week rounds of BCG treatment with multiple-week breaks in between.
My last treatment ended just before Christmas 2017. Because of all of
this, last year my income was lower than when I started working at
age fifteen. My home of 30 years is in foreclosure. Even when I was
granted enough funds to bring my mortgage current last year, my
mortgage company refused the payment. Who refuses to get paid?
here I sit in legal limbo, paying lawyers to try and get this mess
solved so that I may keep my home. Yes, I have tried Go
but I guess I am not as popular as that ghetto rapper that wants to
fund his first EP or that girl who wants to go on vacation to Europe.
There is no assistance available for anyone that suddenly gets sick,
or at least I haven’t found any.
five years after getting sick, I'm 60-years-old and have slid back
financially to my early teen years. Of course my body at times feels
like it has gone in the other direction.
anyone reading this takes anything away from it – don’t get sick!
It can be a lonely existence for many people. I can’t remember the
last time I was visited by family other than my daughter and she is
now moving out of state to try and advance her career. I have friends
that call and occasionally stop by, but when you get sick and you
don’t have a spouse or significant other, you are alive, but truly
Note: We are thankful Bill Stephens is still with us and we wish him
the very best. The "Go Fund Me" page was discontinued in a timely manner and Bill wishes to thank everyone who donated to his cause. Thank you for your consideration and for