It’s been a slow, steady climb out of the trauma toward the light of normalcy again. It’s just over there. I can see it from here, but it still eludes my grasp. Many of you keep asking for an update, so here it is.
It’s still hard to fathom that a week ago today a surgeon cut into my chest and heart to replace a valve that had reached the end of its usefulness. Before surgery he told me I had a fifty/fifty chance of surviving 24 months without surgery and after it that my life expectancy is now what it would have been if I’d never been born with the offending valve. The marvels of medical science is astounding.
Just remember I’m still in my post-surgical haze so everything is clouded by that. This has not been easy. Dealing with the trauma my body has suffered is unlike anything I’ve been through before. My medical team says the metabolism of my body dealing with all that trauma is like running a marathon every day for about two weeks. I can’t imagine that since I feel so lethargic and unfocused, but I’ll be glad when those two weeks are up. That said, I notice every day that things are improving, some pain less intense or of less duration. I have a bit more strength to breathe deeper, walk further, or stay awake longer.
Two days after surgery I was released from the hospital to continue my healing at home. It was great to get her, though my world is still pretty small at this point. I’d hoped I’d be able to do some writing or at least some reading in the great expanse of uncommitted time now available to me, but I can’t focus enough to do either. So instead I am learning to rest and let this body heal. It’s so weird just sitting around, having the time but not the energy to do things that I love.
I had to return briefly to the hospital yesterday due to a potential complication, but that situation turned out to be a fall concern so I’m still on track. Though the next week is still the most difficult, I get the idea that I won’t be doing much through the end of the year. I can’t say that God has been overwhelmingly present in all this as some have prayed, but I know he has been there alongside holding me in his presence and the guiding hand behind so many other hands who have touched and inspired me.
One of the great joys in this has been finding an astounding medical team just down the street. When this began I had friends push me toward the best medical care available to me in Southern California for this kind of operation. It turned out that one of the leading surgeons had just been hired away from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center by our local hospital to create a new world-class heart-care center in Ventura County. Fortunately I’ve gotten to stay close to home and he and his team have been fabulous. I couldn’t be more grateful for their skill, care and their accessibility.
More than anything I’ve come to appreciate the love of family and friends. Even though Sara has been dealing with her own medical challenges for the last few months involving some significant back and hip pain she threw herself into the breach to help with my needs and fully supporting me emotionally through this entire process. Even though I knew this surgery was in my future, when it all came down, it did so far quicker than I could process. I was three days from flying to the midwest when informed that surgery needed to be done right now. It all felt so disorienting and yet her calm and caring presence would cut through the options and help me clarify what needed to be done and when. None of those choices i liked, however. (On the positive side, having it so quickly means I’ll fully recover in time for the Israel Tour I have at the end of January.)
My children and grandchildren have been great as well. Offering very welcomed distractions and helping Sara with my needs. I’m so grateful that they wanted to be with me through all of this and I have treasured the extra time I’ve had with all of them and the concern they have demonstrated for me.
I have also appreciated the brief visits of good friends from all over the world. Someone even came by from Tennessee who was in LA on business, and I’ve had others connect by phone or by Skype. You can’t imagine what a delight it is to have someone show up unexpectedly in a long, slow day and bring a spot of sunshine into it. So if you want to check in don’t be shy. If I’m not up to it we’ll be honest, but please don’t assume I’m not. Conversation with good friends is incredibly healing and if I can’t take your call, please know that hearing from you still brought a smile to my face.
One last thing. Here I am on Monday night with a Lindsay the birthday girl who wanted to celebrate by being with Sara and me. Her family also got me that cute little Panda, named Pepper, to grasp to my wound when In need to cough. Every time I do, I reminded of their love. It turns out that Lindsay, who initially blamed herself for hurting me because my incident first happened playing soccer with her, is now being credited with potentially saving my life. That incident alerted the doctors to a more immediate surgical response than they had planned. One said she’d probably saved my life. So Lindsay pulls the hero card when she needs, as when she wants to visit, but cannot due to other needs prods further with: “But didn’t I save his life.” So incredibly Lindsay and tirelessly cute!
So thanks for all your love and prayers. I’ve been well-carried through this bump in the road and am so grateful to all of you, many I’ve never met, who walked with me through this ordeal. Please be aware of others around you may need this kind of care and may have far less people who care than I do. Love goes a long way to healing a broken heart, of whatever stripe.