Cliff’s cardiac arrest would have likely resulted in death had it not happened where and when it did. The experience led the acclaimed Canadian artist to approach his music with a new-found joy and perspective.
“I owned a cottage northeast of the city and I was driving to the clinic for an eye appointment. As I was driving, I felt like I had acid reflux and I passed it off. I remember popping a Tums. I parked the car and started walking to the clinic and the feeling came back. Then suddenly I broke into a cold sweat and I wondered what was going on.”
“I figured I needed a glass of water, so I walked up the stairs and then I lost control of my legs. I thought, ‘This is weird.’ I went through the revolving door, and I never got to the water. I fell face down in the lobby.”
I woke up in the paramedic vehicle on the way to hospital. The paramedics told me that I had had a cardiac arrest and that I was three minutes not in this world, as they say.
“Apparently, a doctor saw me go down and started performing CPR, with no results. So he called a code blue and other doctors came running. The building housed many different medical clinics. They had a defibrillator and they got me back.”
“For the next week at least, they gave me every test possible to try to figure out why I had the cardiac arrest. In the end, they couldn’t find the cause.”
“They outfitted me with a defibrillator pacemaker, the latest device at that time. It will automatically give my heart a shock should I have another cardiac arrest. But, it has never had to. I have been living with the device ever since – it is now ten years old. I recently had a new device put in. I consider myself fortunate and grateful and all of those adjectives. The defibrillator pacemaker is part of my body.”
“I remember waking up and thrashing around with my arms flailing. And the paramedic saying, ‘Calm down. Take it easy! You’ve had a cardiac arrest and we’re on our way to the hospital.’
“You can imagine, my family was in quite a state of shock. People came to visit, and it was interesting that so many of them had family members who had passed away with cardiac arrests.”
“And I started to think – I still think about this now, after 10 years – that I had been at the cottage by myself.”
If I had not come to the eye appointment, and had a doctor not been getting a cup of coffee in the lobby at the same time as I went down, I might not be here today.
“Sometimes you think, ‘If there’s a message there, I haven’t received it yet. If there’s a greater power telling me I am supposed to be doing something, I am still waiting to figure out what it is.’”
“They have put in a system so they can remotely monitor my defibrillator pacemaker. I thought that was an interesting idea. Each June, they download the information from my device, while I am at home. They call me right after and say everything looks fine. And I say, ‘Great! Thanks.’ And then I move on. Each December, I go in for a clinic appointment. If they didn’t do the remote monitoring, I would have to go for two appointments a year.”
“Some patients feel a lot more comfortable when they see a physician than being monitored remotely. There’s an emotional side, where they feel more confident that they are being taken care of. That everything is okay. I have no reason to doubt that my device is working, I guess because I’ve been so well taken care of since this incident.”
“I’ve had several careers. I travelled as a musician. I was in television for three years. I managed a performing arts center for seven years. After my cardiac arrest, I got more involved in music again. I just finished a new album. So, in the twilight years of my life, it seems I am going back to how it started. And I am getting great joy out of it.”
“Do you think there’s a relationship between the cardiac arrest and your music?”
“I think so. You don’t know how long you have, so you better do what you love. I started writing again. I am enjoying it for the joy of the music as opposed to doing it from a business perspective.”
“‘What does the record company want? What does the manager say?’ I don’t worry about all that stuff now.”
“We’ve done a couple of shows for Heart and Stroke month. We did one here in Kingston and we have played the Grand Theatre. I loved it. There’s a certain magic around playing the music you love. Suddenly it all comes back together, and it sounds in our own minds like it did before. Some people said, ‘Yeah, these people have aged.’ But it didn’t feel like that to me.”
“I’ve been given something. I’ve been given a life that I might not have had. So now I am going to do what I love to do. And not take it for granted. I am not worried about my health. I just make sure that I am taking care of myself and moving forward.”