We all face our own mortality although some of us are good at pretending it doesn't exist. Usually I'm able to ignore thoughts of dying or of losing someone I love, but sometimes the concept slaps me in the face and can't be ignored.
Last week I had one of those slap-downs when we were waiting at the hospital while my husband, Don, got a heart catheterization. A catheterization, according to the American Heart Association is a procedure where a cardiologist threads a thin plastic tube (the catheter) into an artery and manipulates it into the chambers of the heart and coronary arteries. Also according to the AHA "the test measures blood pressure in the heart and how much oxygen is in the blood." The catheter injects dye into the coronary arteries that can be viewed and studied with an overhead camera.
Don had four heart by-passes done about eighteen years ago and, I'm told, they usually have a life spam of ten-twelve years. Sure enough, Don's catheterization revealed that one of those by-passes is completely shot and "will never come back." Two are still going strong and the forth may be a candidate for a stent someday. Maybe.
Before the cathe started, Don was wheezing from what I thought was a cold so they sent in a pulmonary doctor to do a breathing treatment. He kept asking ominous questions regarding Don's past smoking history and he seemed surprised that he wasn't using oxygen at home. In short, he scared the blissful, head-in-the-sand attitude right out of me as thoughts of emphysema and lung cancer filled my head. The next hour of waiting for a blood test to come back that would prove one way or another if Don's wheezing was from bronchitis or something more serious was extremely difficult. When a person, like Don, had been a heavy smoker for a lot of years you can't help thinking that lung cancer is going to be the piper that demands the last coin in their pocket. Thankfully, the cause of the wheezing was ruled to be 'bronchitis' so they went ahead with the catheterization instead of admitting Don. He dodged another bullet.
For the next few days I worried about the 'what ifs' ahead of us, borrowing trouble from the future and generally forgetting the caregivers' Cardinal Rule about living in the moment and appreciating what is here, right now. The bottom line, I finally had to tell myself, is that after all the testing and all the worrying nothing has really chanced. Don is still in my life and he still finds life worth living. We don't have to say good-bye just yet and I don't have to make my way alone in the world. So I made a conscious choice to go back to a land where ignoring our mortalities makes sense in a crazy kind of logic that demands no explanation from those who have been there, done that. ©