It was almost 5:30am on Thursday, March 2. I had just finished a 3-day custody trial in Austin the day before. I had prepared for trial the week prior and had sent my life partner of 7 years, Dennis Ackerman, to our Dallas apartment so I could prepare for trial and try the case without distraction. What we didn’t know is that he had been suffering a heart attack(s) in those 10 days. His symptoms were unspecified arm pain, which was not bothersome, but when he couldn’t sleep at night and the pain became more localized to his chest, he went to the doctor on my last day of trial and presented with an abnormal EKG. He was sent to the ER where he waited for hours and then was admitted to Baylor Scott & White Heart Hospital in Dallas and was scheduled for a heart catheterization on Thursday to see what was going on. He thought he would have another stent, after having stents placed post mild heart attacks in 2011; he knew the drill and wasn’t concerned. I was taking the 6:00 am Vonlane from Austin to Dallas to be with him. He waited to tell me what was going on after my trial concluded on Wednesday, as one does when you live with a trial lawyer. I had talked to him in the early morning hours of Thursday and then hung up to pack to get on the bus. When my phone rang at 5:24am, I thought he was calling to say goodbye before I had to catch the bus.
Instead, it was the Heart Hospital who told me Dennis had to be resuscitated and was alive after several rounds of CPR chest compressions and after shocking him several times. I had just spoken to him, and he had been fine. It was incomprehensible and then terrible. I spoke to him as they were wheeling him away for the heart catheter procedure and made him promise me not to die. Then I had to notify his kids and get on the Vonlane to Dallas. I don’t remember most of it.
By the time I arrived at the hospital in Dallas, Dennis was out of the procedure. His Lower Anterior Descending Artery, the artery that supplies over 50% of the blood to our bodies, had been 100% blocked. This is the artery they call the “widowmaker.” The doctor showed me how the left side of his heart was not receiving any blood prior to the procedure, but he placed stents in the artery and opened it back up, and blood flow was at 100%. Good, healthy blood was now flowing through Dennis’ heart, with expected discharge the next day. But while we were celebrating the procedure’s success, I saw Dennis leave us. He closed his eyes and leaned forward and the next thing you heard was “Code Blue” “Code Blue” and 40 medical professionals came running into the room as they whisked us out into the hallway. What followed was harrowing fear and confusion as we heard them trying to revive him; about 20 minutes later, they were successful, and he was alive. Two massive heart attacks in one day. The good blood flowing was too much for the damage to his heart, and it couldn’t maintain its rhythm on its own. The doctors were clear with me that the next 48 hours were critical, and that his heart function was very poor. But he was alive.
When we first got together, one of the conditions of our relationship was that we would not get married – you can imagine how cynical I was about marriage in my line of work and after not being successful at it before. But right before we parted for my trial preparation, Dennis had said he thought we should be married. He thought it was time we were really a family, with all our kids, and that true love would win. I wasn’t prepared for this, but his reasons were compelling, and I knew when I was on that Vonlane heading up to Dallas that it was the right thing to do. When I saw him after the procedure before the 2nd heart attack, I said one word to him: “Yes.”
He fought to stay alive for us and for our family, so now, getting married quickly was the most important thing in the world. I enlisted the help of our dear friends in Dallas, Julie and Chuck Quaid, and we surreptitiously planned a hospital wedding over the weekend. For the legal part, Julie came to the hospital for us to sign the marriage license application. Only Tarrant County in Texas offers remote marriage licenses, and we got an appointment for the following Tuesday. We had Dallas County District Judge Mary Brown on standby to sign the 72-hour waiver once the license was issued. Chuck agreed to officiate and wrote the vows, our kids decorated the room and dressed us, and during the quiet of Sunday afternoon at the Heart Hospital, we were married in a magical ceremony in Dennis’ hospital room that had everyone on the floor in tears. The Quaids brought wedding cakes from Susie’s Cakes, and we fed all the hospital staff, the patients and their families. It couldn’t have been a better wedding.
We had to do it all over again on Tuesday, because we didn’t have our license yet over the weekend. When the hospital found out, they told us we were the first wedding at the Heart Hospital, and they treated us like royalty. For our second “ceremony,” the hospital threw our family a reception, with a gourmet dinner and flowers and gifts.
And then the local news picked up the story, and we were interviewed while still in hospital. Looking back, it was an incredible, overwhelming, beautiful, bright spot in what otherwise was a terrifying experience. Baylor Scott and White Heart – Dallas was so good to us. Dennis’ case was extremely complicated, and they were able to figure it out and save him. They celebrated with us and cared deeply about our family. I will never forget what they did for us.
So, now I am a married woman. We are back at home in Dallas for two more months, as Dennis completes his cardio rehab. Eleven of his ribs were broken during the CPR, and that is the complication that is most difficult to deal with, but he is almost healed. His heart is miraculously healed, with normal rhythm and great heart function. He will need medication for the rest of his life to keep it that way, as we hope to celebrate 20 years of marriage in the future as we grow old.
The lessons: love heals; good things can come from terrible events; and if you have any unexplained arm or chest pain, go to the hospital or your doctor to get your heart checked out.
I want to also thank our Lazar Law Team for holding down the fort during March, and to my colleagues and the judges who graciously gave me more time on deadlines and court appearances. Caregiving duties kept me from being able to concentrate on work for most of the month, but now we are in the swing of a new routine, and I am back at my desk being productive, even if it is at a slower pace.
Each day is a gift. It is not a cliché.
Known as one of the most popular Mexican restaurants in Austin, Matt’s El Rancho is a favorite for locals and visitors. Matt’s El Rancho, also known as “Matt’s” has a long history and has earned the right to be called an Austin classic.
In 1923, Matt Martinez began selling tamales from a wooden pushcart in Austin. At this time, he was only 6 years old. In 1952, Matt and his wife, Janie, opened up El Rancho on East 1st Street with no employees.
Matt worked in the front of the restaurant and Janie worked in the kitchen making all the food from scratch. Matt’s El Ranch, now on South Lamar, has come a long way since the 1950s. This restaurant seats more than 500 people but has continued to prepare all the food from scratch. Today, Matt’s is still
family owned and is run by Matt and Janie’s daughters: Gloria, Cecilia, Cathy, and daughter-in- law Estella.
When you go to Matt’s it is a must to order the famous Bob Armstrong Dip. The dip is made up of queso, beef taco meat, and guacamole. Although there have been many attempts to imitate this delicious and addicting appetizer, nobody does it quite like Matt’s. The dip is served with fresh, hot, homemade tortilla chips. Be careful not to fill up on the Bob Armstrong dip and to save room for a delicious entrée.
The menu at Matt’s El Ranch is extensive but filled with all the classic Tex-Mex you can imagine. Many different combination plates give guests an opportunity to try a little bit of everything. My go-to order is the green enchiladas or the chicken flautas. Sometimes, all you need is a classic beef taco to satisfy those Tex-Mex cravings as well. The fajitas are another wonderful option to try out.
Don’t be surprised when you go to Matt’s and learn there is a wait for a table. Depending on the day of the week and time, the wait is usually lengthy, but it is worth it. While you wait, you can go to the bar and order a famous margarita to sip on while you wait for the time to pass. The margaritas are made from scratch with fresh lime juice and cold pressed juice made daily in the kitchen. Matt’s El Ranch has the highest liquor sales in the city. As a seasoned Matt’s patron- I can guarantee that the wait is not ever quite as long as the host will tell you it is.
The service at Matt’s is friendly and quick and you will always feel right at home when dining at the famous Matt’s El Rancho.
2613 S Lamar
Austin, TX 78704
Prenuptial agreements are contracts, drafted by lawyers, that change how the law would normally apply to the spouse’s assets in divorce and death. If you live in Texas, the assets you own at the time of marriage are your separate property. You DON’T NEED a prenup to confirm the separate property you own coming into your marriage. A prenup is helpful to specifically identify your assets, but without a prenup, you can still prove that you owned an asset prior to marriage in other ways. Be aware, though, that it is your burden to prove your separate property assets by clear and convincing evidence – a high burden.