Noah challenged me yesterday as he often does. He said to me, “Dad, what three things have you learned in the last week?”
The question forced me to assess what thoughts have had an impact on me, something I seldom do unless I am writing a daily diary.
This week I’ve learned about resilience.
I have been corresponding with a casual friend who used to live in my neighborhood. She and her husband, a doctor, moved to Buffalo for a medical position more than a decade ago. He was struck down by a near fatal heart attack a month ago.
The story was so eerily familiar to my own. Doctor Mike and his wife Barbara drove to the hospital because he was feeling lousy but not awful enough to call an ambulance. The nurse listened to his heart, quickly called the emergency room and cardiologist, and Dr. Mike was whisked off to surgery.
A quintuple bypass operation in the nick of time barely saved his life. Since then, he has been in and out of the ICU, and on and off of a ventilator. He has suffered from arrhythmias and scared his wife almost to death. Part of her therapy has been to write to family and friends.
Because of COVID, only one person has been able to visit Mike at a time. The couple had recently moved to the Washington DC area where their daughter and grandchildren live, but there are very few people there who they know.
My connection with Barbara is that I can tell her about what it is like to have a heart attack, almost die, and live to tell my story 12.5 years later. It lifted her spirits and her children’s to learn of my experience. When you see your husband for days and days on a ventilator, hear the fears of the doctors that flit in and out, always cautious and frequently covering their behinds by telling the possible worst case scenarios, the time passes slowly.
I was happy to relate a real best case outcome for her to take home to her lonely apartment in DC. My wife, Risa, also wrote, telling Barbara what it was like for her when I was in the hospital.
Mike was supposed to come home today after more than a week of ups and downs in a rehab facility. Risa knows what it is like to be the first line of defense when there are no medical professionals around.
I was never that close to Mike and Barbara in Chicago, but this experience has brought us together. I wrote to her a few days ago, telling her that the fear never totally goes away. Live every day.
Another story of resilience Risa told me about yesterday concerns the daughter of her Tae Kwon Do Master who lost her teenage daughter to cancer two years ago. She also suffers from multiple sclerosis. She is well into her 40s.
She had an enormous desire to have another child and was able to harvest her eggs for an in vitro attempt. Her younger sister, who already has four children of her own and is also over 40, agreed to carry the potential baby. Against huge odds, they are midway through the pregnancy with high hopes for a healthy birth and baby.
Monday night, Baylor beat Gonzaga to win the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. It was Coach Scott Drew’s 18th season at the school. He arrived in 2003 at the age of 32 after one year as head coach at Valparaiso.
Scott was attracted to Baylor because the basketball program was in shambles. One teammate had shot and killed another teammate, and the former coach had been caught giving under the table cash to team members. The NCAA took away most of the team’s scholarships. Scott took the job nobody wanted, perhaps because he felt there was no way things could get worse.
His first year, Scott held tryouts to find players. Most of the kids who tried out didn’t even go to the school. But Scott Drew was tenacious and Baylor received a bid to the NCAA tournament in 2006.
The program got stronger and stronger, and it developed a reputation for being able to utilize the skills of different types of players.
Last year’s team would have been a #1 seed if the tournament had not been canceled by COVID. This year, Baylor was ranked number two all year with Gonzaga undefeated and #1. The two teams had been scheduled to play one another in December, but COVID again had canceled that game.
Monday night, Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears absolutely slaughtered Gonzaga.
Question: When has resilience come into play for you?
Several times. In 2002, I was in the ER with a rapidly declining pulse rate. It fell from 56 to 38 in 20 minutes. The aortic valve had quit, just didn’t quit closed. The heart had already suffered other permanent damage. Chances of survival-less than 10%. Anointing with oil was performed. Prayers of faith and healing were asked. Afterward, my dear wife simply stated: “We are going to be ok. We just have to weather the storm.” We did.
Since then, I have diagnosed with arthritis, gout, diabetic, and parkinson disease. In 2018, I also had to have another aortic valve replacement.
Resilient? yes. But in addition to that, blessed to still be here by the faith and prayers of myself, my family, and neighbors.
Willis, you are in inspiration. Thank you for sharing it with us
That’s incredible, Willis. Wishing you better health going forward.