Joey Passes Out, Hits Head on Curb, Doesn’t Die

If I’ve been a bit radar silent here on Art, Life & Faith for the past week or so, I have a really good doctor’s note. You’ve just read the Cliffs Notes version of my past week: Joey Passes Out, Hits Head on Curb, Doesn’t Die. Has all the makings of a bestselling book, doesn’t it? After two and a half days in South Coast Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach, I have a whopper of a story for you. It all started with that wee little flu bug that’s going around… Read on…


A week ago Sunday, right when my new year was starting off great, I came down with flu symptoms. A slight fever. Stomach cramps all day on Monday (no vomiting or other torrid intestinal behaviors). During the day, I only had only tea and water. And one banana.

That Monday night, I went out to The Habit for burgers with Krista and my two teenager boys, Joseph and Aidan. The last thing my stomach needed was a bad habit of greasy burgers and fries. All I felt was increasingly nauseous. When I came outside, the nausea got worse (this is not a foodie critique of The Habit). Krista, Joseph and Aidan hopped in the car, but I stayed outside on the passenger side because I felt like I was going to get sick.

I crouched down and stayed down for a couple minutes because I felt like I was going to-you-know-what…over-sharing now?

Next thing I know, TIMBER!

I passed out and hit my head on the curb…Curb-1, Joey-KO.

Busted glasses and all…

Krista and Joe heard moaning and hopped out quick. When they came around the car and saw me passed out in the gutter, the next thing that happened was me going into a full blown seizure from head to toe. Kinda like doing the “Worm” dance in high school, but different.  During my seizure, I saw 1000s of images in seconds. Bright shining lights. The weirdest dream state I’d ever been. And to think people pay money for illegal drug trips for the trip I got for free!

I woke up and dispatched 12 Ninjas with throwing stars…not really.

All said, I was out for about 40 seconds. No voices from heaven or bright lights drawing me upward, which was a bit disappointing because waking up in a small pool of blood and a dirty gutter is a bit underwhelming.

While I was unconscious, Krista tried to get me up, which didn’t sit well with Joseph (16 years old) who is currently taking an EMT class. When Krista tried to pull me up saying, “Joey, wake up! Get up!” Joseph took control of the scene and said, “Mom, don’t touch him! I know what I’m doing. I’ve got this under control!” Proud of my son. Great up and coming wing-man.

Krista took me to South Coast Mission hospital. Two stitches on my eyebrow and thus began a battery of tests…

EKG. Blood work. Catscan. Dogscan. Carotid artery ultrasound. All because my heart was now in A-fib. No bueno.

A-fib stands for “atrial fibrillation,” which means your heart is beating irregularly, which can lead to pooling into the heart, which can lead to a clot, which can lead to a stroke, which can lead to death or at least, serious paralysis. Translation: No bueno.

The blood tests confirmed I wasn’t dehydrated and my blood sugar level was fine. I was admitted and by the next morning, my heart was back in sinus (regular) rhythm. Thank you Lord!

But the tests didn’t stop there. The doctors wanted to figure out the connection between the seizure and the A-Fib. Now it was echocardiograms, an EEG, which measures brain activity…they discovered I actually have one…a very positive sign. When my brother Neil visited, he looked at the doctors and nurses names written on the dryboard in front of the bed. He searched for a dry-erase marker to add one more important notation: Mortuary…O’Connor.

In case you didn’t know, my family has owned mortuaries in Southern California for about 115 years. We’re a bit of a mix between The Munsters and The Addams Family. Sick humor…I had no desire for any immediate appointment. (I wrote about the important lessons learned at weddings and funerals here.)

I tried to be released by the end of Day 1, but they kept me a second night. To cross my South Coast Hospital fun run finish line, I had a stress test (which really should have been administered to Krista). It was my best 12 minute run in the previous 3 days. My cardiologist said I was in great shape and my heart’s in perfect condition. Her conclusion was the A-fib resulted from passing out and subsequent seizure. The neurologist says I probably had a seizure because I hit my head. I’m all clear now, though I know many of you will question that and have for a long time now.

I have one more EEG retest today and meet with the neurologist again on Tuesday. Until then, it’s no driving or swimming (My doctor seriously cares about your safety), but he said nothing about skydiving.

A definite highlight of the whole hospital stay was my 91 year old WW II Vet roommate, I’ll call him Harry, who was in for double-hernia surgery. He was in a lot of pain and though I felt fine (a bit tired after the wonk on my head), I was grateful to be there to pray for him and hear incredible WW II stories. He was a B17 gunner who dropped bombs on Berlin, which means he probably bombed Krista’s side of her German family. Harry actually married a girl from Berlin after the war!

When you think about it, say a prayer for Harry tonight. He’s still in a lot of pain and I get to be home with my beautiful wife and kids, for which I’m grateful.

When I got home from the hospital, the first thing 13 year old Aidan deadpans to me…

“Wanna go to The Habit?”

“God is good and His mercies endure forever.” Psalm 136:1 (Click here if you’d like to Tweet this.)

A Final Note: You’ve heard of the best-selling near-death books 90 Minutes in Heaven & Heaven is for Real? My upcoming bestsellers will be 40 Seconds in the Gutter and Curbs are for Real. A concrete reality…

Questions: Name a time when a hospital stay or sickness has taught you some important things about life. What did you learn?

I’d love your comments and feedback.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, snarky or off-topic.

  • Annette

    That conk on the head certainly ramped up your humor! Are you taking your show on the road? 😉 Seriously, glad all is well.
    My only hospital stays have been to have babies, talk about life changing! And I find it interesting to note that illnesses or injuries that have made me reflective have been not my own, but loved ones. Parents going through Alzheimer’s, a child having surgery, or in the hospital after an accident, hubby in CICU after nearly bleeding out, I could go on, but you get the idea. All these things must make one think of life, what they are doing right or wrong, reflect on the past, perhaps make some atonement. I don’t know as I have made any life changes, but I know I am changed.

    • Joey O’Connor

      es, I do like to ramp up the humor when I can! Thanks Annette for what you said. Glad to have thoughtful, reflective people like you in my life!

  • Nancy

    Glad to hear you’re okay. Loved the comedic way you wrote about your mishaps! Why is it that we are drawn to reading things about tragedy? I put off reading your posts sometimes because I feel too pressured with day to day things to deal with serious thoughts or change. I don’t like that, but that is the truth! I barely look at the news, so I’m not hooked on bad news, but your title caught my attention and I had to real the whole story. Hope the tests went well. And prayers for Harry, too.

    • Joey O’Connor

      I just came back from the doctor yesterday and received a clean bill of health. He even downgraded the seizure to “convulsions.” Evidently, a fainting spell can lead to convulsions, which look a lot like a seizure.

      I totally understand about not being able to get to every email, post and correspondence. My read pile is always thick and deep. Thanks your comments Nancy (and your prayers for Harry)…love having you here on Art, Life & Faith!