It’s not that often that I can come up with a triple-entendre. So first, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted to this blog, but I’m still here.
Secondly, I’ve just had an interesting experience. I woke up last Monday morning feeling fine. I worked for an hour or so on MetaConnectors, tracking down the cause of a failing test and writing a few more.
Then Carol and I did our morning meditation, and I showered, did my morning exercises, and went downstairs to eat breakfast. With the first few bites of breakfast I started feeling intense stomach pain. I couldn’t eat any more. So I went back upstairs to lie down, thinking it would pass in a little while.
It didn’t pass. By afternoon it was only getting worse. Finally around 5pm I called our health plan advice nurse, and after asking a bunch of questions she sternly ordered me to report to the hospital emergency room to be evaluated.
Carol drove me to the ER, I walked in and stood in line to be seen, and was brought into an exam room for an EKG and blood tests. I was quite surprised when the doctor came in and informed me that I was having a heart attack. Mind you, I was not weak or dizzy, had no trouble breathing, no “elephant sitting on my chest” or any of the symptoms I’d read about. Just intense pain in my lower chest in the area of my stomach, radiating up my esophagus into my jaw and into my left arm.
But, I was told, there is a very specific enzyme that the heart releases when it is in trouble, that never comes from anything else, and I had a high level of it in my blood. And although my first EKG had looked pretty normal to them, they did another and were now seeing changes.
So it was off to the cardiac catheter laboratory with me. When you’re lying flat on your back on a wheeled bed being pushed through the halls of a hospital, all you can see is the ceiling passing by. I recognized the movie cliché right away — I’ve seen this view of the corridor ceiling lights passing by in more than one movie.
Entering the “cath lab” as they called it was a different movie — the one where you’ve been abducted by aliens or robots and you’re in a room with an array of techno-medieval devices hanging off the ceiling.
There were a lot of people around me being very busy — I don’t know how many since all I could see was the impressive ceiling. At the time all this was happening I didn’t feel the least bit scared, just alert (I thought) and rather detached. But then, who knows what kind of drugs they were pumping into me through the three iv’s they had started. There was an electronically amplified voice (perhaps someone in another room?) commenting on the proceedings. There was a doctor who began describing what he was doing in truly impenetrable jargon, and the voice would repeat what he said and sometimes ask a question. I couldn’t feel what they were doing to me at all. Every now and then someone would ask me how I was doing, and not knowing what else to say (I’m in an alien abduction movie and my stomach hurts like hell) I would say “OK.”
After what seemed like 10 or 15 minutes had passed (it was really more than an hour), someone asked me if my pain was any better. At that very moment it was worse, a lot worse. “It should be better” one of the doctors said rather querulously. Then there ensued a bunch more jargon, and then lo, it was getting better.
With the release of the pain I must have drifted off, because the next thing I remember is seeing Carol’s face looking down at me. And the next thing after that was a sweet-natured young ICU nurse introducing herself to me as my nurse for the rest of the evening. It was 1:30am.
I’m told that one of my coronary arteries had been 100% blocked, and another one 80% blocked. I am now the proud possessor of two PROMUS Everolimus Eluting Coronary Stents, and the paperwork to prove it should you doubt me.
What to say about all this? For the 3 days that I was in the hospital afterwards, I was in good spirits and cheerfully demanding that they let me out now — I’m fine! Once I got home, I started on a roller coaster of emotion. Something like this changes who you think you are. It’s a new phase of life, a new archetype. My previous method for dealing with any physical pain was to first try to push through it, and if that didn’t work go lie down until it went away. For the first time in my life that modus operandi didn’t work for me. I’m no longer invincible.
Ah, well. There’s still an anti-social network generator to launch, several books to write, a wife to be devoted to, a daughter to admire, grandchildren to adore, friends to have intellectual jousts with. A life that I’m very far from done with.
Which brings me to my third entendre. In the very first post to this blog, I quoted the mathematician G. Spencer Brown1:
“Those of us who have gone back and remembered our births, remembered what we knew,and remembered the covenant we then made with those standing around our cradle, the realization that we now have to forget everything and live a life…”
There’s an ellipsis at the end of that quote that carries a lot of meaning. The only way I know of to embrace it is to …be still, …be here.