Thank You

Just over two weeks ago, on April 7, my chest was cut open and blocked arteries were bypassed by sections of veins cut from and taken from my legs.  The day before, I experienced pains so severe that I thought this might be it, this might be the end.

Today, I had a follow up appointment with Dr. Stone, the heart surgeon who quite simply saved my life.  Nearly all of the incisions, the several cuts to my legs and the deep channel down the middle of my chest, have either healed or are well on their way to completely healing.  He told me that other than lifting or pulling or pushing ten pounds or more, all restrictions are lifted.

I still have some pain and tightness from the incision in my chest, but even that’s improved to the point that I’ve scrapped all the prescription pain pills in favor of the occasional Moltrin.   I still have ten weeks of cardiac rehab (I go three mornings a week, and am in the middle of my second week) to complete, so I am by no means a finished product just yet.

Still, it boggles my mind how far I’ve come in these fifteen days since I was sliced open.  It’s taken a team of nurses and doctors, led by Dr. Stone, as well as the kindness and support and aid of friends and family.  I owe these people everything, and intend to start the payback by taking the rest of my recovery as seriously as possible. I have no choice -it’s going to take a mighty strong heart to express the love and gratitude that these remarkable people have all earned.

Today is Earth Day, and my normal impulse is to rail against the selfish and thoughtless harm that humans, in their greed and self-absorption, have enacted on this amazing planet. But while those sentiments may be true, this year I’m also aware that I have benefited from the incredible capacity for kindness and caring and love that is the best of human nature, and I’m reminded that we’re all in this thing together. I am convinced more than ever that we can and we will fix this planet, and that we can overcome our petty differences and do what is right for each other.

Whatever I can do to help – well, sign me up.

Coming Home

Last Thursday, I missed the first big spring storm of the season. It occurred without me, and it left behind a fresh layer of dark green on the grass, and gave birth to flowers that popped up from the softening earth and blossomed and bloomed. It’s an annual rite of passage, the announcement that spring is here to stay, and that the warm air and the music of songbirds will be the norm for a while.

I’d heard the rumble of its rolling thunder in the night, but I couldn’t look out my window to see its driving rain, the puddles that formed on the sidewalks, the sudden creation of backyard rivers and lakes. All I had was sound, the sound of tumult and violence, and the driving waves of rain against my window. Beyond the window was a foreign darkness that revealed nothing to me.

I was far from home, in a foreign place. According to Google Maps, the distance from the hospital bed I laid in and my home was only fourteen minutes by car.  But measured in terms of where I was and where I’d recently been, I may as well have been galaxies away from home.

Home is an apparition, a state of mind, a moment in time, longing, things lost. It’s familiarity and comfort, it’s the aggregation of all we care about and love. It’s illusory and tangible, both real and fabricated. It’s memories suppressed and exaggerated.  It’s sacred.  It’s the place we all hope we’ll return to at least one last time.

Last Tuesday, I had emergency triple bypass heart surgery, after checking myself into the ER on Easter Sunday with bad chest pains.  I came home yesterday after just over a week’s stay in the hospital. There was a period of time that I wondered if I’d ever see home again. In fact, on Monday morning, the pains were so severe that I actually had the conversation with myself, the conversation that asks the questions, what if I die, right here and now?  What if this is it?

During the operation, they cut about seven gashes in my legs, to harvest the vein segments they’d use to bypass the heart arteries that were as much as 99% clogged. The gashes in my legs look harsh and violent, but are nothing compared to the one that runs deep and wide from the top of my chest to my abdomen.  But as I began healing, it became clearer that I would recover and make it home again.

My wife took me home yesterday, in the middle of a bright and warm spring Monday afternoon.  I marveled at how, while I was away, the landscape had transformed from brown and dead winter grasses to the bright green and growing carpet that now covered the ground.  And it occurred to me that a storm that had taken place in my heart had transformed me, too, driving seeds of rebirth and regeneration deep into my moist soils.

Spring is birth and growth, promise and opportunity. Home is the place where these things are realized, where they come into fruition.  Home is the reason for spring, and the place where we rest our souls and nurture our beating hearts.