Posts Tagged ‘heart attack’

What now?

It has been two weeks or maybe two years, it’s hard to tell my body is so weary. When I check the calendar and dispose of the dead flower arrangements, it is confirmed that fourteen days ago my husband had a heart attack. A fortnight since I sat screaming at the UNC basketball team and hiding from a tornado inside a pantry with seven kids and two other moms. A lifetime ago when I stomped around and sulked about what a jerk he had been the night before, while his arteries were slowly choking off blood and oxygen to his brain and heart. A moment in time that marks our B.S. life (before surgery) and our A.D. (another day) one.

I was warned the waiting would be the hardest part. By Sunday morning the surgery was scheduled. I sat listening to the cardiologists say Greg will need triple bypass surgery, blahblahblahblahblah, heart of a 70 year old, blahblahblahblahblah, really great surgeon, blahblahblahblahblah, gonna need church on a treadmill/total change of lifestyle, blahblahblahblahblah. We made calls, parceled out children, asked a friend to walk the dog. I stood angry and scared as I watched my husband bloated with medicines lie helpless in a hospital bed, not needing the change of clothes I had naively brought that morning. Why couldn’t they let him shower? Start clean shaven. Because it would be a totally stupid waste of water and time. Instead they shaved his legs, chest, and wrists twice. Made spaces for ports, and lines, and cameras to be fed down his leg and extract the vein which would be used to replace the defunct arteries in his heart. I tried to get him to do laser hair removal this fall; my way would have been a lot easier.

Sunday night was the worst night of my life. As my middle girl, the one who looks most like her daddy, lay quietly next to me, I jolted every fifteen minutes. I walked through the valley of the shadow of death. It was black and cold, with whisp-like bats soaring directly at my head. I kept ducking and darting, spelunking all around this cave of hell, longing to find the devil with red horns and some fire to warm me up. I felt like an animal in the wild, running for safety, hoping I had enough energy and luck to survive until daylight. I remembered Mrs. Hanchey making us memorize the 23rd psalm in fourth grade. But I could find no rod or staff to comfort me. No green pastures or still waters. I knew perhaps if I could hang on til morning I would be able to find some of those things. I called the nurse at 4 am -thank God for overnight operators and night-shift nurses who serve and pray and comfort even the crazy spouses sobbing into the phone. She assured me Greg was fine, resting better than most and he would be ready in the morning.

And then game day. I showered and dressed ready to knock one out of the park as they say. They wheeled him to pre-op at 10:30, shot his butt with morphine while he sang a song about his “lower back with a crack” which made everyone laugh except the prisoner patient chained to his bed next door. And then we waited. Six and half hours of surgery. 30 second updated every two hours: “all is going as expected”. We ate health-food snacks in the sunny courtyard of the hospital, pretending it was college or “My Own Private Grey’s Anatomy”. We whittled the time away, stopping for a prayer huddle towards the end. We waited and hoped.  They never stopped his heart. While his chest was splayed open like a fish being gutted, the heart thumped the entire time, slow and steady, never missing a beat. We saw him with chest tubes and monitors and holes and stitches all over his body as he lay sedated but fixed. His head turned when I said the girls names and told him Roy wanted a walk. Medicine and surgeons and nurses and discovery are truly miracles for which I humbly thank God.

So what now? Recovery? A new life? It’s not that easy. What took 44 years to break down will take more than 2 weeks to build back up. We are literally being carried by thousands of friends who are praying cooking, driving, sitting, chatting, working, loving for us. The work is shifting from the skilled hand of doctors and caretakers back to us, the owners of these lives. It feels a bit like being a first time parent when you are so tired and emotionally drained from getting TO the baby part it seems absolutely absurd anyone would dream of handing you a life to manage on your own. Only there is little joy in this new life. And it weighs heavier than anything I have carried before. For those who want to know how to help I have two answers. First: Bear with me. I am not myself. I don’t know what day it is or who needs what permission slip to go where or how to write a marketing report or blog post or even how to parent. I don’t know if I have slept or merely closed my eyes. I am trying to put one foot in front of the other but even that is hard. Second: Offer each other glasses of water. Anne Lamott says that’s how we know the light of God is getting through. Be kind. Love your children. Run outside (you can take a hot shower when you are done). Eat good food. You will not find the answer in retail therapy or really anywhere indoors. Breath. Because you can.

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