Written June 19, 2018
This isn’t a blog I really want to write. But I feel like I can’t write anything else right now so I better just write it and get it out of the way. I’ll figure out whether I want to publish it later.
I am nearing the 10th anniversary of the heart attack that should have killed me just prior to Labor Day Weekend in 2008. I am a bit obsessed by the date. I can’t get it out of my mind.
Fortunately, I’m feeling pretty good physically, but the knowledge of the 10-year mark is driving me nuts. I know it is only a “date,” but 3,500 days since my friend and doctor Chris Costas wheeled me into the Emergency Room himself at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, IL makes me feel both grateful and vulnerable.
It is not like a “yahrzeit,” which in Judaism is an annual ritual of remembrance of a parent or sibling who has died. My case is marking my survival. There is a prayer in Judaism for that also—“the Shehecheyanu,” which is said to mark a special fortuitous event. You say it when a child is born, when the Cubs win the World Series, when you survive an accident or when you reach a milestone like living 10 good years following a heart attack.
Tomorrow I have an appointment with my cardiologist, Dr. Matthew Sorrentino. It’s a routine long scheduled visit, but it is adding to the drama I’m feeling. I know doctors say they schedule appointments six months ahead to assuage the drama, to normalize the appointments that are built in to eliminate crises. I wish it always worked that easily for me, and this 10-year appointment which I feared might never come is now gratefully upon me.
I know I need to quickly move from fear to gratitude, but honestly I’m feeling those emotions sometimes simultaneously while other times alternating between them.
Writing this piece 22 hours ahead of my doctor appointment is therapeutic. It helps to identify my fear and massage it. I can’t make it vanish. I know that. I think of the events of 10 years ago every morning. Every day that I wake up and touch my wife Risa and identify a small tapestry on my wall eight feet away, I know I’m alive and get to experience another day. Doing 2,500 steps in 20 minutes on my elliptical energizes me further, and then taking a hot shower following it zonks me out. It’s a reflection of my life these days—up and down, gratitude and fear, the joy I feel about all the blessings I have, the knowledge that life is fleeting and health can be a vapor.
I appreciate somehow finding the strength to write this piece and your patience in reading about my daily struggle. I know I am not alone in experiencing these kinds of feelings.
I am fervently hoping to walk out of my cardiologist’s office tomorrow whispering the special prayer of gratitude and relief, the “Shehecheyanu,” with great feeling and a huge exhale.
(Fast forward to June 22.)
The appointment two days ago went great. My doctor at the University of Chicago said the 10-year mark is meaningless today with good diet, beta blockers and ACE inhibitors.
June 20 was a beautiful day.
Question: Name three things you are grateful for.