It has been four weeks since my aortic valve replacement surgery; three weeks of being out of 23 days in the hospital. My life is currently weeks of multiple medical appointments and visits to the Infusion Clinic where my IV antibiotic pump connected to me 24/7 is serviced and my Coumadin levels checked and adjusted. I have good days and times when I feel extremely vulnerable; still I am lucky to be alive.
Constantly wearing this IV pump is a hassle; it is heavy and wearing it on a strap over my shoulder makes my already aching and healing chest ache even more. Yet this experience has also given me an appreciation of what others with more serious health issues must go through. I drop into the Infusion Clinic where my IV pump is quickly serviced and dressings changed. Most of the other patients there are required to hang out, enduring hours of infusion therapy, primarily for chemotherapy treatment. Again, I feel extremely lucky.
In the years prior to my mother-in-law’s, Wanda, death, her life completely revolved around hospitals and clinics. I now have some appreciation as to how difficult a time she was having. She suffered a cardiac amyloid condition; a condition similar to Alzheimers however affecting her heart rather than the brain. Her prognosis was that she would eventually decline, slipping into congestive heart failure. She was never going to get better, only worse. It was not unusual for her to have two or three doctor’s appointments every week, made even more difficult as she was by then wheelchair bound.
When Wanda was told that her condition had deteriorated to the point where she would require kidney dialysis, she decided that she had had enough dealing with needles, procedures and medications. Knowing that without dialysis she would die, she accepted that as the most humane way she could go. She died at home of kidney failure surrounded by her family.
My Coumadin treatments will eventually end in a month or two; likewise I should be free of my IV pump in a few weeks. I am in otherwise good physical condition and expected to make a full recovery. Eventually I will be able to do the things I enjoy; building and remodeling, yard work, riding my bike. I’m told I can expect to feel better than I before getting my new “pig” valve.
But my situation has reminded me of the countless others whose lives currently revolve around simply staying alive, who live within the restricted world of hospitals, clinics, therapies and procedures; many often painful or causing great sickness. My thoughts, at this moment, are for their difficult fight for life.
Did I mention how really lucky I am feeling right now?