A Medical and Spiritual Journey

Oct 2014

Until now I have left my personal life almost completely off of this website. This has been about the stories and the planet Kassidor and the ideas around them. Recent events have nearly ended my journey thru life and my writing about Kassidor and the ideas I wished to express thru it. If anyone looks regularly you have noticed it has been some time since I made any updates to this site other than a couple reviews. Well I've been away in the city for the last month. The city in this case is Hartford, most people may have heard of it by now, especially if you watch any college basketball. But no I didn't go there for the arts scene, the numerous nightclubs, the historic sites or even the business community. All these things are there, making the city what may be the most underappreciated 18 square miles on the face of the Earth.

Nope, instead I spent my time at St. Francis hospital and Mt. Sinai hospital. I originally went in for an angiogram and a possible stent. They found I was too far gone for that and I needed a double bypass. This was most unexpected as I'm relatively thin and far from a couch potato. We ate relatively healthy, an occasional pizza or grinder but mostly the produce of our garden and chicken. Just about every minute that I'm not writing I'm building stone walls, woodsheds, landscaping by hand, digging in the garden, etc. I'd had a little angina (that's what brought me to the doctor in the first place) but up till then I mowed our acre and something with a non-self propelled mower, shoveled our 400 fooot driveway by hand (it took three days sometimes). So words of wisdom number one, genetics plays a tremdous role in heart disease and if you have a family history, make sure you stay on top of it.

So the surgery is bad enough, but I was doing OK the first day. They had me up and walking and said I was going to be a poster child for recovery. But the second evening after the operation I had a stroke that left my entire left side completely paralyzed. I'm a lefty. We were looking at a motorized wheelchair and the end of Kassidor. It would have been very easy to give up at that point. The hardest thing I ever had to do was call my wife in the morning and tell her what had happened. She came in as soon as possible and we spent the day going over our options. We talked about wheelchairs, special one-handed keyboards, who we could get to maintain the homestead, things like that. Important lesson number two, you never appreciate what you've got till it's gone. I know that's been said before, but it is especially true for me because I was always one to overlook the roses while attempting to build something bigger and better. We spent many tearful hours that Sunday remembering the things we've seen and done. It was only then that I realized how good my life has been in spite of not having the social skills to save the company I worked for.

The only functinality I had left at that time was I could make the fingers on my left hand wiggle just a tiny bit, every other part was as animated as a cut of meat in a supermarket. But being Sunday, a hospital chaplain came in. St. Francis is the second largest and second best rated hospital in Hartford, but it is a catholic hospital so there are chaplains. I believe in God and Jesus but I am not a practicing catholic or a churchgoer of any kind actually. As it turned out, this chaplain was ordained as a Rabbi. We had a long conversation, mainly about hiking on the appalachian trail and beards. Just before he left he offered a blessing for my recovery. Within an hour I could touch each fingertip of my left hand to my thumb. By the end of the next day I could move my wrist and elbow. By Thursday morning I could write, not well, but I could hold the pen and make marks that others could read.

The staff thought that was pretty miraculous. They sent me for cat scans every day to see what was going on. By the way, they have a old cat scanner down there with bearings worn just right so that the song it makes is quite the industrial-space-pop ditty. But anyway, important point to note number three, the power of prayer is real. No laws of physics were broken, they never are, but nerve growth occured above and beyond the norm.

The cat scans determined that the stroke was centered in the motor control for my left leg and that I should be glad that I was regaining the use of my arm. At this point we were talking about a regular wheelchair that I would be able to push with my hands and not a motorized. The staff asked about how our house is set up and where we could put a ramp and if we could modify it for one level living. Our house is a tri level, with a great room on the top level with enough room to bring a bed up there. They thought that was good.

I would like to take a second at this point to publically thank the medical, nursing and caretaking staff at St. Francis. They are overworked, as everyone is today, but always smiling, helpful and compassinate. As an added bonus, they range from beautiful to gorgeous. I began to work with a couple absolutely wonderful therapists while I was there who really aided my recovery. Even though my leg was still as limp as a dead fish, they got me to the point where I could sit up, stand with my good leg and their assistance, and believe that I would at least get to the point where I would be functional as possible, though wheelchair-bound.

On my last night in St. Francis, a woman down the hall was in terrific pain. I realized again that however bad things are, they could be worse. I said a prayer for her, asking to relieve her suffering. Not only did that happen, but within ten minutes I could make my toes twitch. So the fourth important message I took way from this is that God really does care that we care about each other.

The next evening I was sent on to Mount Sinai rehabilitation hospital for three weeks of physical and occupational therapy which would permit me to live as well as possible with my limitations. By then I could move my whole foot just a little, but the rest of the leg was still acted like it was hanging in a butcher shop. The nurse signing me in asked what my goals for the therapy were. I didn't mince words, "To walk out of here." She said it was nice to have lofty goals and wrote it down, though I could tell she didn't believe it, but I was now as sure of God's love as I could be. The therapists at Mount Sinai are amazing, as are many of the doctors and nursing staff. I WALKED out that door in TWO weeks, in time to see the "Within Tempatation" show we'd bought tickets for months before this happened.

So with God's and the therapist's help, I've taken my life back. I'm sitting on my deck on a beautiful fall day pouring my soul onto this page, hoping it reaches someone and helps them appreciate whatever they have. I've been given a powerful lesson in what can be accomplished with the right mindset and a little faith. I realize that I've been given another chance to be what I always wanted to be when I grew up, a science fiction writer. How successful I am is up to you. I can't call myself a professional since I'm in the free market and intend to stay that way (I'll never make as much as I do from social security.) I know you've heard this before but I'll say it again, treasure every second of your youth and never let go of your dreams.

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