It’s James Ramsey and his wife Dee’s 15th-annual vacation down in Florida.
A cool summer breeze blows over the beach softly, mingling with the ocean. The water ripples. The sand shines under the sun. Life is peaceful.
But suddenly, James cannot breathe. He feels a pain in his arms run up his neck. A man in a golf cart drive him back to his condo, and after taking the nitroglycerin, James feels better.
James thought this heart attack was just angina, which would improve with treatment. However, later that night, he had another heart attack, and this time, the nitroglycerin did not fix anything.
“Okay, we’re going to the hospital cause we have done it so many times,” James said, “but this time, the doctor says you’re not going home.”
So James had two choices: Stay, or die.
He would have to have the bypass surgery on the first day of his vacation.
Yet, James said he was neither afraid of the surgery nor death. The only thing he fretted was the impact of this surgery on his part-time career, that of a reserve police officer.
James, at the age of 54, wondered if he would have to give up the job he loved.
He didn’t want to. He said he still remembers the moment he decided to be a police officer for the rest of his life.
It was 24 years ago. The 30-years-old James was volunteering at the police department.
One afternoon, James and another officer were working on a crash. The accident blocked the road. People driving by were looking at what was going on while James was directing traffic. At that moment, it hit him – he was making a positive contribution.
“I wanted to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” James said, “and as a police officer, I was part of the solution, and that was what drove me.”
James finished the police officer training academy at the age of 48 with outstanding performance, and he started work as a reserve police officer in the same year.
He said he looks after his gun and his uniform as his child. He hangs all his badges and his award certificates on his wall.
But what about his health? Is it worth his life to continue his work?
James remembers his father, who he said influenced him the most.
His father had him at the age of 17, and James jokes that children raised him up. Through his childhood, his father played with him, took him to different places, and did many fantastic things. His father taught him how to hunt, James remembered, they were like best friends.
James was even named after his dad, James, and he considers himself the extended version of him, the guy who will get up and go to work no matter how sick he was.
“I watched him hacking and throwing up and he would go to work,” James recalled. “There was a running joke where he worked in, ‘If Ramsey did not show up, he was dead.’”
Since his father could stick it out, why couldn’t he?
After all, he has Dee, the caring wife who always supports him. James says Dee is around whenever he needs help, and Dee packed a lunch for him every single day he was on duty.
Even during the unexpected surgery, Dee said she tried to be organized.
She recalls getting up to walk the beach before going to the hospital every day, sitting in his room even if James was sleeping from his medication. She asked friends to pray for them, and found help from her sister to fly down to Florida.
Even after the surgery, Dee still supported her husband being a reserve police officer, because she knows he just wanted to help.
She says it’s the reason she married him 40 years ago.
Eight years after bypass surgery, James retired in 2015 at the age of 63. He feels much healthier than before, and has started the new challenge of learning Chinese.
So if someone asked James, “Is doing what you love worth your health?”
His answer would still be yes.