Mending Ethan’s broken heart
“Ethan is the sort of person who makes the world better, and I can’t imagine doing this whole life thing without him in it,” said Greensboro bartender Mikey LePard to me on Monday.
She was talking about her friend Ethan Archer, who suffered a debilitating heart attack on Jan. 13, and whom she’s determined to do anything she can to help him.
“I have two people I call my best friends,” she said. “But they’re more than that to me. They’re my family and my world, and this one has been there for me in ways most people aren’t aware of.”
One of those ways happened when Mikey was undergoing severe depression a few years ago. “Ethan would come over and tell me to quit being a loser and get up and brush my teeth, as he was taking me out to eat. He knew I hadn’t done that in two days.”
Mikey tends bar at Westerwood Tavern at 508 Guilford Ave., but she first met Ethan at another one. “He was working the door, and a large man hit me in the face over jukebox credits. Ethan handled him for me and then sat with me to make sure I was OK. He’s the kind of guy that will miss a Thanksgiving meal with friends because another friend’s car broke down two hours away.”
That’s why she was so shocked when Ethan nearly died on that unluckily-numbered Sunday 17 days ago.
Unlike Mikey, I’ve known Ethan more as a friendly acquaintance than a friend, but he’s somebody I’ve seen around the neighborhood for years, and whom a lot of my close friends have always spoken highly of. And I’ve talked to him enough to know that, under normal conditions, he’d be perfectly capable of eloquently describing his experience. But having had one myself, I also know what near-death experiences take out of you, and how hard it is to talk to anyone but your doctors and very close friends when you possess much less than half of your normal energy level.
Which is why I interviewed Mikey, my favorite neighborhood bartender, rather than the man she’s now spending almost all her waking time helping when she’s not behind that bar. The last thing Ethan needs is some annoying writer asking questions.
Mikey described Ethan as originally going to FastMed on Battleground on Jan. 13 because he was experiencing chest pains. “He told them he felt like he might be having a heart attack.” Instead, he was diagnosed with walking pneumonia. Despite his initial concerns, that seemed reasonable enough. “When you’re his age, you don’t think of yourself as being at risk for heart failure.”
But he was still suffering severe pain in both his chest and his arm six days later, so on Jan. 19, he went to Moses Cone, where he was given an EKG and told he’d recently suffered cardiac arrest.
Mikey, who was with him for that diagnosis, described hearing it. “It was one of those surreal moments where the room starts spinning, and the floor dissolves. All I could do was ask a million questions to understand what was happening and try to understand.” Because he was adopted, Ethan doesn’t know his family’s medical history. “Because of that, we have no idea what we’re actually up against.”
Ethan was kept in the hospital from the evening of the 19th until the afternoon of the 24th. He underwent a battery of tests and had two stents put in his heart. Mikey said she has a cynical suspicion that his lack of insurance might have something to do with his being released after four days. “It seems as though if you don’t have health insurance in this country, it’s almost easier to just give you a pine box.”
But the enormous hospital bills aren’t her, or his, immediate financial concern. There’s the daily business of living and all the mundane expenses it entails. Ethan won’t be able to return to his job in the kitchen at Kau, the restaurant, bar and market that recently opened at Revolution Mill in Greensboro, for at least two months, which makes it hard to pay rent and bills.
That’s why Mikey and Westerwood owner Mike Bosco are holding a Valentine’s Day fundraising party and silent auction for him at Westerwood Tavern on Feb. 14. On Feb. 9, Blue Denim at 217 S. Elm St., will host a shrimp boil from 2 to 4 p.m., with all proceeds going to Ethan. Bites and Pints and Kau are also planning fundraisers, and with Westerwood, are all donation drop zones.
Pam Cooper, co-owner of Revision Vintage in Greensboro, started a GoFundMe, “Let’s mend Ethan’s broken heart,” on Jan. 25. As of 11 p.m. on Jan. 28, it had earned $11,388 of its $20,000 goal.
Ian McDowell is the author of two published novels, numerous anthologized short stories, and a whole lot of nonfiction and journalism, some of which he’s proud of and none of which he’s ashamed of.