It’s Like Spring…

February 18, 2012


Yes, yes, I know it’s only February 18.  And yes, I know I begin to harp on Spring every year at this time.  But this year, in the sense that Spring is the penultimate rebirth, it truly is the first day of my Spring…the anniversary of the rebirth of the love of my life.  Mike gets two birthdays a year now.  One in October, the other on February 18…the day he was basically dead for 55 minutes and somehow, miraculously, came back to us, to life.

It’s been a weird several weeks for me.  The whole year has been pretty surreal but for the most part I didn’t have time to think about much more than Mike’s recovery.  As the acute activities around healing bedsores, continence training, swallowing, balance, speech, gait and cognitive have wound down and I’ve come to accept the level of recovery we have, I’ve had more time to think, for my mind to wander…and unfortunately, all too often it wanders to instant replays of last years hideous events from February through March, the painful and still frightening days from April through May and the totally exhausting and bewildering days from June through probably October.  Mostly, though, the hideous days of February and March.  I wish I could drive them from my mind but there they are, in vivid Technicolor, appearing at the strangest, most unbidden times…sending me into tears.

You would think that today, on the anniversary of Mike’s heart attack and arrest, that I would be jubilant.  After all, given the prognosis, his survival was miraculous, his level of recovery nothing short of astonishing.   Truly, I am happy…and so very grateful.  I can’t explain the tears.  I guess fear.  While one year out from such a serious heart attack without significant cardiac impairment is fabulous, I am not fooling myself for a second.  He has a stented left main artery.

Statistically, stented arteries begin to block again pretty quickly if only from scar tissue and get progressively worse as plaque and cholesterol deposits build up again.  It’s only a matter of time before we face ischemic symptoms again and the need for bypass surgery.  Or, if we don’t recognize it quickly enough, a sudden heart attack that will undoubtedly be fatal.  Will he be a candidate for bypass?  The risk of further neurologic insult on bypass is very high.  Could he withstand it?  Could the family withstand it?  Will CT surgeons be willing to undertake bypass?  For now, I try not to worry about these things and take it one day at a time.  Though not a pessimist by nature, I am certainly a realist, and these things are difficult to erase from my mind.

Knowledge can be both wonderful and terrible.   Right now I’d like to be temporarily less knowledgeable to give my poor brain a rest.  Really, it’s probably just my normal winter funk at the root of the whole silly sadness.  For all intents and purposes we are still living a quite charmed life where I continue to see improvements in Mike’s neuro function.  And ultimately, this is no different than the uncertainty every individual, every family somehow knows they face…but think it will never happen to them and haven’t had the opportunity to give it a trial run.   Geez.  I’m not even sure what I am fussing about.  I think I need a little pink pill (I had a patient once who used to say, in the sunniest of voices, wearing the brightest of smiles,  “pink pills for pale people” every time you took her meds in.  That preceded the SSRI anti-depressants…but not xanax)

As for Mike.  We’ve settled into a routine. He struggles to find words…and names of objects, places, people.  His memory is decimated, yet, at the same time, I see fits and spurts of memory, both short and long term returning.  For example, today at breakfast I told him it was the first birth anniversary of his rebirth after his heart attack.  Both of our girls came to see him late this afternoon with CONGRATS YOU DID IT cards.  Lara asked if he knew what today was and he told her exactly what we had talked about.  Or yesterday, I told him how pleased I was and how proud of how hard he has fought to recover…and he told me, “You had a lot to do with that.”   He struggles to make sense of his self-worth because he recognizes his deficits and is frustrated by them.  He finds it unbelievable that I love him as he is.  He no doubt worries if he’ll be alone at some point.  He realistically knows he…or I…could die at any time.  There are no guarantees. He has told me that…recently.  On the other hand, convincing him it is time to shower, shave or change his clothes can be a challenge sometimes.  There are times he cannot recall he takes pills and convincing him to do so can be tricky.  There are only two days in his week…every day is Saturday or Sunday and the month never makes much sense.  Or tonight.  I’ve told him no less than 5 times in 10 minutes that his other sneaker is downstairs because it needed to be washed off and dried.  But he just got down on his hands and knees to look under the couch for it…because he couldn’t remember I told him it was downstairs.

For now though, I’m looking forward to the happy times, the pleasant things, trying to put the past events and my future fears aside .  Spring IS around the corner.  It was beautiful yesterday and when I commented to Mike that the birds were singing it was Spring, in his typical Mike fashion said, not quite yet.  But it would be nice.  (he remembered our earlier discussion of how I am always chirping about Spring when March 1 is only two weeks away).  When I asked what he wanted to do in beautiful spring weather, his eyes lit up and he smiled as he said “Fish!”  Me too.  We’re going to get the line wet a lot this year.



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