In recent days, blogger friends Diogenes and Stogie wondered why I hadn’t posted anything since the Monday before Thanksgiving.
That post was time-stamped 9:29 AM. It was filled with positive thoughts and notions of Thanksgiving and well wishes for my readers. It was published one hour before my scheduled appointment with my lung specialist. One hour.
Little did I know that I was about to be brought to my knees.
The Wednesday before, I underwent heart catheterization and reported that the doctor who performed the procedure said he saw no blockages in my heart. He even gave me a couple of copies of the angiography images.
When my lung specialist entered the room and sat down, I asked him where I stood in terms of my health. He looked uncomfortably at me and told me that I have diastolic heart failure, something they used to refer to as diabetic “stone” heart. He explained that diabetes damages the heart to the extent that someone with diabetes is two to six times more likely to have a heart attack at an earlier age than other people.
He went on to explain that the right side of my heart, the atrium, remains rigid after pumping out the blood to the body rather than relaxing. He prescribed Carvedilol® to be taken twice daily.
Carvedilol® is used to treat heart failure and patients whose hearts cannot pump blood well as a result of a heart attack. It works by relaxing blood vessels and slowing the heart rate to improve blood flow and decrease blood pressure. He prescribed this medication to improve my chances of survival.
Now I know why the doctor who performed the catheterization gave me copies of the images he did. They were cherry-picked so I wouldn’t worry before I had a chance to talk with my lung specialist and cardiologist. I examined them more closely and found that there were actually at least 49 frames. He gave me frames 32, 34, 44 and 49.
Feeling sorry for oneself is the greatest of all acids to the human soul. Normally, I don’t succumb to self-pity. Normally.
I have always known, as a diabetic, that one of the many complications associated with diabetes is heart attack or stroke. I’ve always known that, but chose not to contemplate it. I’ve always managed my diabetes well.
I don’t recall which product is being advertised in the TV commercial, but in it is a woman who is opening her mail. She opens an envelope and takes out a piece of paper upon which is written, “Your heart attack arrives in two days.”
By electing not to contemplate the risk of heart attack or stroke, this commercial now took on a life of its own in my mind. It did a number on me and the world’s smallest violin began playing.
I began paying attention to my shortness of breath, the little pains in my chest, the achy neck and the occasional dizzy spells that lasted scant seconds and began to imagine the worst. I was becoming a mess.
And then it happened.
This past Saturday, God said, “Look at you. What are you doing?”
And then this happened. I was advised that a group of young children with their parents and chaperones would be entering my checkpoint as guests of the Make A Wish Foundation to take a “flight” on Delta Airlines to the North Pole. Upon their return they would be greeted by Santa Claus at the Delta gate.
Donning the Santa hats that Delta had purchased, we began to screen these remarkable children and the parents who live with the knowledge that their little angels have little time left on this earth.
Their faces were brimming with laughter and anticipation of meeting Santa.
Several flight attendants were dressed as Santa’s elves and one was even dressed as Mrs. Claus.
I met with the pilot of the “North Pole” flight. Each child was issued a boarding pass that showed the destination NORTH POLE. He even had a manifest showing each child’s name.
The “flight” would never really take off, but would have the plane simply taxi down the runway and back again giving the ground crew a chance to change into elf costumes and the gate attendants enough time to decorate the gate to look like the North Pole when the children deplaned.
The airline gave each child a super-cool backpack, blue for the boys and pink for the girls, which looked like a Delta airplane. The backpack was stuffed to the gills with all sorts of goodies. They even decorated the wheelchairs with jingle bells and decals and bows and ribbons.
When the festivities were over, all the kids were smiling more broadly than before and the faces of their parents seemed happier.
I have shared this wonderful story with you for two reasons. There are wonderful people out there who care deeply for others. The other reason involves a certain someone who was feeling sorry for herself.
It took this stark reminder to move me away from the self-pity that engulfed me.
I cannot admit to you that I do not fear my diagnosis, but I can say that God The Father set me straight that night.
I witnessed courage in the faces of the parents—a courage I cannot fathom—and a courage that no one should be forced to find in their lives.
I saw innocence in the faces of the children who are facing their own mortality. It was a testament to life and living and all that is good if we just seek it out.
That is why I hadn’t posted anything in a while. I hope my readers understand my momentary reflection of life.