Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Accepting Help

For me, asking for help has never been easy. I learned to do it first around 10 years ago when I had problems with rheumatoid arthritis. Mostly, the help I requested involved travel (asking men to hoist luggage, pick up luggage from the conveyer, carry heavy scuba gear, etc.). Even that was difficult at first, but it became easier as I realized that nearly all men like being asked for help, at least by women. It makes older men feel young and younger ones feel - well.... young and strong, I guess. They all strut a little when asked; but don't get me wrong - I am gracious and grateful for every bit of that assistance.

Beyond the chores of travel, I didn't ask for much help. I was raised to be independent, I cherish the idea and the reality of independence. And now - now, post SCA, post implantation of the Cheney-type device in my chest, I have a myriad of restrictions. So many, I posted them on a calendar with their respective countdowns. To create the illusion of control.

No lifting my left arm over my head (6 weeks); no lifting more than 10 pounds (6 weeks), no golf (varies by swing length - seriously!), and the big one due to having lost consciousness - no driving for 3 months. (Another day, I may be able to talk about the permanent no scuba rule, but too soon yet).
No driving 3 months, or 74 days now. The American essence of independence. I am fortunate in so many ways, and now one more - I can afford to hire someone to drive me around, at least for the major appointments. Or as we say in the South - to carry me around.
It grants me the illusion of independence. There is such a difference between taking kindnesses and paying for the rides.
I am far better at the latter. I pay for help more comfortably than I accept it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Looking at Death

I have been reminded so many times in the last ten days of the W. Somerset Maugham vignette that provided the title to John O'Hara's Appointment in Samarra.
The Vignette includes 3 characters: Death, a servant and the Master. The Servant is in the Market in Baghdad one morning and encounters Death; the servant was terrified and ran back home. He told the Master he was going to Samarra to hide from Death. Off he went. The Master went down to the Market, furious that Death had frightened his servant so. Master confronted Death and Death responded something like:
"I did not mean to frighten Servant; I was just so surprised to see him this morning in Baghdad as I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra".

I've never been one to think that we each have a predetermined "time" or that Death works on a mapped schedule. But I've seen Death now; I'm relieved it was not in Samarra.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wrestling with Anxiety -

Anxiety seems nearly ever-present these days. It's understandable, of course, I had "sudden cardiac arrest" without a known cause; I have a new implanted device that should prevent it, but it's all of 10 days old --- so anxiety is normal.

But I have long believed that for the most part, fear is something to be beaten. I remember when I was certified as a diver - you take all the training, do all the practice and then you dive in the scary deep sea. So you do your safety checks, you stand at the back of the boat and literally take a giant stride in the ocean. Giving up your air.

On my "checkout dive" - the virgin scuba dive, a number of the people who were to go did not - could not, they were just too afraid. Several others did one dive but not the second. I remember thinking - all that training, all that expense of time and money and fear won. For something like that - a first scuba dive - or like this, the first time you exercise hard after a SCA - there is no such thing as "ready". You can do all the prep, and take all the precautions and then there is just you and your "giant stride".

Fear can't win. I rode my bike for 35 minutes, a little hard, just a little - with a helmet --- but I did it!
Fear appropriately made me take precautions - the helmet, the moderate pace - but fear was beaten; it will not deprive me of a favorite past-time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Normal

I have received some wonderful responses from others who are grappling with having survived this or some other near-death experience. With mine, based on what I know so far, you survive or not based on one thing - how long it takes to get shocked with paddles. And now, with a "personal defibrillator" in my chest, I have adjustments to make.
Adjusting to the fact that something close to sheer luck has me alive with minimal consequences; I can find little to no data on the likelihood of recurrence; I don't know yet what it will be like for the device to "fire", though I have heard it is decidedly unpleasant.

Finding my "new normal".

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

SCAA - the wonder of the web

Today I found SCAA - Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association. I don't know much about it yet, but there are many "survivors" who have posted.
I joined and posted a short version of my story along with the lead line:

"I am so grateful to have found you all".
The web defies description; no matter what, you will find others experiencing what you have experienced.

Passed the first test

Well, today was the first followup appointment at the Cardiologist. I have had to hire a driver as I cannot drive for 90 days (80 days now) due to having lost consciousness.

Today was terrific - as with all who have any surgery, this first check of the incision site is all about one thing - WHEN CAN I SHOWER? Well, good news - that is today!'

I am still immersing in my heart education process; learning the difference between the plumbing issues (arteries, blockages, etc ) which is a minor issue for me and electrical issues (bad rhythms or in my case - stopped) - and how they interrelate. It'll be a journey

Monday, September 14, 2009

First Ten MInutes - the start

Why the name?
I recently lived through an episode of "Sudden Cardiac Arrest" - I survived it because I happened to be in a hospital Emergency Room when it happened.
I was admitted for a few days of tests, procedures, monitoring and finally the insertion of my very own pacemaker/defibrillator.
On the morning of discharge, my very witty Cardiologist/electrophysiologist stopped by:
Him: How was your night?
Me: Fine.
Him: Did you sleep OK?
Me: Fine. Like a log.
Him: No problems with your heart?
Me: No. I haven't had any problems with my heart since I've been here.
Him: Well, except for those first ten minutes.............

Check back - this will be a journey of discovery, battle, adjustment, balance. Oh, and learning to accept some facts I just don't care for.

September 14, 2009