Friday, January 1, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Life Isn't Fair

Happy New Year everyone!

So how did you spend New Year's Eve? Was it spent partying and drinking with friends? Did you quietly watch the ball drop on the television and all the fireworks afterwards? Did you thank God that this year was over because it's been such a bad one for you? The new year has got to be better than the last one! I fall into the latter category as you can imagine.

New Year's Eve started just like any other day for me. I forgot it was the last day of the year. I really haven't exactly been in a celebratory mood for months. Sure there have been some happy moments that I'll cherish but nothing totally lifted me out of my grief. But I've put on a happy face and continued on.

I didn't even realize it was New Year's Eve until my physical therapist told me and asked if I had any plans or a special meal I fix for the occasion. All the while, he was searching for trigger points to deaden with dry needling.  I actually felt pretty good. The autumnal slump with my Botox was history and the new series was working as advertised. My shoulder which had a torn rotor cuff was healing, or at least wasn't painful when stretched. I'm actually 15 degrees away from full rotation again which pleases me to no end.

My cell phone in my shorts pocket rang. Yes, you read that right. It was around 80 degrees here today. I didn't recognize the number so I let it go to voicemail. Nothing interrupts my therapy unless someone is dying. Of course, if anyone I cared about was dying, I'd have their number in my phone. Makes sense, right? Whoever it was left a voicemail message so I didn't worry about it.

During my therapy session my phone started signaling a low battery so I turned it off. We finished the session an hour later and I drove home to charge my phone. As soon as it had enough of a charge. The unknown number showed up as a missed call. I called my voicemail to get the message left.

The one number I didn't have was my stepmother's cell phone number. Her voice was on the message. My father had been admitted to the hospital for chest pains. He was having a heart cath done, but his cardiologist assured her he'd be just fine. My father had had a heart attack and had quadruple bypass done a dozen years ago. I knew this was serious.

I kicked myself for stopping at the drug store and grocery store before going home from therapy. I should have spent that time at the hospital. I kicked myself all the way to the hospital. My stepmother had told me his room number in the message. It did not register in my mind that he wasn't on the surgical or regular telemetry floor until I got off the elevator on his floor. He was in the Cardiac Critical Care Unit!

I walk into his room and was jovial offsetting my fear. I asked him how he was doing and told him it was obviously my turn to visit him in the hospital instead of the other way around. He chuckled and told me what his cardiologist had said during the heart cath procedure. He couldn't bust through the clot to open it up. In other words, he was still in his heart attack phase with the clogged artery denying blood to the lower half of his heart. Just like with a stroke seconds equals brain cell death, a clogged artery equals heart muscle death.

They started him on some potent blood thinners, were giving him nitroglycerin, morphine, and ativan. That hopefully, this would dissolve  the clot and return blood flow to his heart. Because of his advancing age (80+), the degree of coronary artery disease, his diabetes, and the scarring from his previous bypass...another bypass was out of the question. There are a whole lot of risks managing a MI this way. The clot could dissolve from its 100% blockage state and he'd be fine again (best case scenario), the clot could break free and could possibly go to his brain giving him another stroke (moderate case scenario), or the clot could be stubborn and not dissolve, and kill him (worst case scenario). I should mention at this juncture that I've never heard or seen the best case scenario happening. That doesn't mean it couldn't happen. I'm just saying.

Later, I texted my physical therapist about what had happened and his wife (my old speech therapist) called me. They are both head of my stroke group and I count them as friends. 

She exclaimed, "It just isn't fair! You've already had so much go on!" 
I retorted, "Whomever told you life is fair? Life isn't fair. It just is."

Life happens. Good, bad, happy, or sad. All we can do while living it is hang on the best we can and adapt to the changes. Living is adapting to changes, accepting them, and moving beyond. So once again, I'm awaiting another life change. One that comes to all of us if we live long enough.
       O God, give us the serenity to accept
        what cannot be changed,
        The courage to change what can be
        changed, and the wisdom to know
        the one from the other.
                                           --Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971)
Bet you were wondering where to Serenity Prayer came from. Now you know. But more interesting is the rest of the prayer...
         Living one day at a time,
        Enjoying one moment at a time,
        Accepting hardship as a pathway
        to peace,
        Taking, as Jesus did,
        This sinful world as it is,
        Not as I would have it,
        Trusting that You will make all
        things right,
        If I surrender to Your will,
        So that I may be reasonably
         happy in this life,
        And supremely happy with You
        forever in the next.

Now you know where this principle in my life comes from.

Nothing is impossible.


  1. Very nice article but "Sunday Stroke Survival" is on Friday it is different :-) :-)

  2. Hi Jo - I'm so sorry to read this - you certainly have rather more than most on your plate ... and I hope your father's health improves - I know you'll update us ...

    With many thoughts and hugs at this time ... life does happen - but really it could pass you by and give you some peace - let's hope ... cheers Hilary

  3. Movies and TV create such unrealistic expectations of what we should know and do when someone is sick. I hope you stop kicking yourself and your father gets better.


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