For the past seven years, veteran local drummer Jason Lee has played in the Kiss tribute band Kissed Alive.
“My first heart attack happened when I was in Target six years ago. I started having chest pains in the dressing room,” says Lee. “I was in my underwear. I forced myself to get dressed because I did not want to be hauled out on a gurney through Target in my underwear. I was not going to be someone else’s Youtube moment. I was doubled over in pain. But because I had long hair and a denim vest, no one would help me. They thought I was a drugged-out hippie.
"I went to the emergency room at a North County hospital, which I won’t name, where they misdiagnosed me and sent me home. I actually walked home with a heart attack.”
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On August 4, Kissed Alive was playing for about 300 people at Campland on the Bay on Mission Bay. “It was my 47th birthday. Twenty or 30 minutes in I started feeling shortness of breath. At first I thought I was exhausted.”
But then came chest pains.
“It took me about 15 minutes to realize I was in the middle of my third heart attack. Looking at my set list, I knew I had a ways to go. I was determined to at least try and finish the show. I should have exited but I was not thinking straight. I played very conservatively. I cut out my drum solo.
“There were all these people waving glowsticks and riding on bikes with neon all over them and I was in this intense pain. All this fun and beautiful circus-like energy, and I’m getting ready to check out then and there. It felt like I was in a Disney-meets-Fellini movie.”
As soon as the house music came up Lee made it to the dressing-room floor.
“My sister was helping me. I told her to get some cleansing wipes and get the makeup off of my face.... There must have been a doctor-in-the-house announcement because someone came up with a nitro pill that helped things considerably until paramedics arrived. When I left the dressing room someone yelled, ‘He’s walking, everybody!,’ and people started cheering.”
Lee says a fourth stent was installed in one bad artery, “...while another is all closed up again and they can’t do anything about it. But the doctors gave me a green light to return to the stage at Campland September 15. I’m going to go back and finish this show.”