Monday, November 21, 2011

Dammit - SCA Claims One of Our Own

We survivors of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) meet one another on various websites - much like 'survivors' of anything in this age.   On one of these sites, I have 'met' some friends and people I care deeply about.  We exchange our stories, our experience, our fear, our hope, our successes and at times, the despair of loss or impending loss.

I am an incredibly lucky survivor.  I had my SCA inches away from defibrillator paddles and a few feet from people trained to use them.  My heart - which had stopped without warning -  was restarted after three shocks from the paddles - in a matter of moments.  In less than a couple minutes.  In other words, I recovered without heart damage and without brain damage.  Lucky beyond lucky.  Unlucky that my heart has taken to stopping, but incredibly lucky about where I was when it first happened.  My heart stopped and I didn't die.

So we find one another.  Survivors, those whose loved ones did not survive, and the ones that make your beating heart ache - the loved ones of those who are hanging on, who are battling against devastating brain injury.  Their victims are often young (SCA doesn't discriminate by age) - their loved ones are 25, 32, 47.  Their screen names are both proud and plaintive statements - these people want some help, they want miracles beyond what we survivors can offer.    They are Mike's Mom, Jim's Mom, Jenny's Sister, Dee's Mom.

Mike's Mom suffered her final loss this month; Mike who had survived with extensive brain damage; Mike gave up his ghost. When Mike's heart stopped the first time, with his SCA, he was 47 and just passed a physical with flying colors.  This is the tyranny of SCA.

I ache for Mike's Mom and for all the others.  I am again so humbled and grateful for the SCA experience I had - brain and heart intact - with the welcome addition of Skippy the implanted defibrillator.
Mike could have been me.  It could be you.  It could be someone you love.  You could be Mike;  we could all be Mike's Mom.

Today I regret every trite, whiny post I've put on this blog.  Every post about my alcoholic-addict men/boys,  the disappointing buena man,  each post about my SCA fears, every post bitching about having to give up scuba diving.  Shut me the hell up.

Today belongs to Mike's Mom and all the others who battle through those post-SCA injuries that I somehow skated away from.  Please accept my deepest, most heartfelt condolences.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cranky: Shingles Belong Only on Roofs

OK, I'm not in a good mood.  Could even be called a rotten mood.  I don't run in the direction of self-pity very often, but today, I may indulge it.  Well, maybe for 60 minutes.

I have shingles.  On my forehead and scalp.  Yes, I have been to the doctor, yes I am taking antiviral medication, yes I had chicken-pox as a kid  (I was one of 7 kids - we got everything).  Aside from the pain - which is nothing to sneeze at, here is why I am cranky---------

Today, I believe that if one gets Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) in your thirties and has Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in your fifties, you should get a flipping bye on some of this other crap like shingles.  Yes, I know that RA raises the risk of shingles (compromised immune system and all that), yes, I know the medication for RA further raises the risk (more compromising), but still.  Should get a bye.  Certainly, all survivors of SCA should be able to skip this one.   Really --- just because I say so.  Well, I'll bet we would all say so.

Cranky, self-indulgent, irritated.  Don't like having to take pain medication during the workday.  Fretting about how to wash my hair.  To crawl out of this pity session, I will remind myself that generally, I don't care about infirmities that I know will be going away in a few days.  But screw it, I'm going to just be cranky for another 45 minutes or so.

This could be the most boring post I have ever put up there. Or I sure hope that it is.  Blessedly, it appears it will be short.  I can't seem to make shingles funny.
Welcome any help there is on that.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lurking - I Have Become A Lurker

Guilty admission: I have been lurking in men's 12 step phone meetings.   I'm not a man, so I know it's weird, I know it's embarrassing - or should be.   Here's a few more effects of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA); 1) I've probably become more honest and 2) I don't give a rip about things that should embarrass me.  I think the motto of SCA survivors may well be "F__k it".  

So yes, I've lurked this week.  I'm a veteran 12 step program person - Alanon.  That's the one for people who supposedly don't have an addiction themselves, they/we just happen to love or care about or obsess about a person who does have one.  So I know the lingo, I know the ropes.   But this is different; I've been shocked by the men with whom I have lurked.

Alanon saved my life a few years back, it truly did.   I had surrounded myself with so much alcoholism, some I believed by unwitting choice, some by genetics.  I was a mess by the time I first stumbled in;  my dad had died of cirrhosis, a cousin lost by 40, my marriage unraveled, an understanding that my older sister was a way-down-the-line alcoholic.  She would be dead at 51, but we didn't know that quite yet; there was a little bit more blessed ignorance on that one.

So I became an Alanon devotee, and it worked.  You can regain your footing, you can let the alcoholics go, you don't let their disease/crap/'ism' dominate your life.  Then you can turn back to your crap.  Then something else happens, the dirty little secret.  There creeps in a smugness.  We are subtle about it, or we think we are - if we have any awareness of it at all, the creeping smugness. We wrap the smugness up in kindness, in sympathy,  in tolerance,  in coo-ing recovery type noises.  But it's there.  Smug.  They, the alcoholic/addict/gambler/eater - they are screwed up - I'm fine.   At the end of the day, when we are privately honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge our belief that our emotional health would have been intact had we not been forced to associate with the alcoholic/addict.

Of course, I had sought out some of them - not the sister or the father or the cousin, but the others; I had sought them.  I have come to understand  that this is my crap; they are symptoms of my mess.  This I learned from lurking in men's meetings.  Phone meetings; I figured they'd never know.  And there, on those lines, were healthy recovering men. Far healthier than me.  Far healthier than I had guessed men could be.

So I lurked. I stayed muted. They'd never know.  I was stunned.   With that latent smugness of mine, I have grown so accustomed to thinking of addicts/alcoholics as flawed, as less than.  These were the men who were the bane of my existence, the ones I tolerated, loved, hated.   These meeting men were different.  They were breathtakingly healthy.  Their spiritual life is on more solid ground, their emotional health stronger, more honest.  They had come to terms with their shortcomings and compulsions in ways I never had.  They are searingly introspective, deeply committed to living the fullest life possible, they have firmly put into the number one priority slot: their health and the health of their relationships.  These are not the men who pass through life just putting one foot in front of the other.  They aim higher, far higher.  They aim at happy, joyous, free.  They aim for a shame-free life,  eradication of self loathing and self destruction.  They choose health and they choose the work it takes to get there. They are heroes.

Lurking there - it was humbling, disturbing, inspiring, a little scary, slightly embarrassing, and I am going to do it again.  

Aren't I ridiculous.

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