It’s easy to count your blessings when things are going your way. But what happens when you reach a rough patch with nothing but bad news. I guess the answer depends on how you are wired as a person. I started 2012 as a very intense overachiever. But when the tide turned to negative energy, I also knew that underneath it all, I had a faith inspired by my religious background that could help me when the going got tough. I would need that faith to motivate me to see that the answers may not always be what we want but most likely will be what a higher power decides we need. I admit that insight took a while to occur to me. It took even longer for me to agree that a slower pace and new way to approach life was definitely what I needed. And in fact I still have moments where I think back on my life and still wish I could have the energy that I used to have. But that isn’t in the cards that have been dealt to me.
I had a week off to recuperate when I returned home from the hospital. I wanted to use that time to make an appointment with my primary care physician to get to the bottom of why I blacked out. The doctor I normally saw was booked, so I made an appointment with another doctor at the practice. A colleague/friend from work graciously agreed to take me to and from the appointment since I had been advised not to drive for a while.
After examining me, the doctor had some concern that my blackout may have been due to, or the cause of, a neurological issue and she referred me to a neurologist. I was getting the feeling that no immediate answers were available, and additional medical appointments/procedures would start to become the norm for me. My work colleague took me to the grocery store after we left the doctor’s office and made sure that I had plenty of nourishing food to last me for the week. Even though I had no answers, I was beginning to realize how blessed I was to have good friends and family to watch over me.
My fitness center friend came to check in on me almost as soon as I got back. She wanted to see with her own two eyes that I was okay. In fact, she checked in on me each day to make sure I had enough to eat, and she went to the grocery store for me several times. She also offered to help me clean my apartment, if I needed it. One Saturday night on her way to a party, she stopped by and gave me some really good candy that she had made. But equally important she just came by and chatted to keep my spirits up. We had clicked from the moment we met back in September, even though she is a good 27 years or so younger than me. But each day we talked, we found so many things we had in common and we developed a bond of close friendship that exists to this day. I consider her friendship one of the silver linings in a cloud that loomed over a very scary time.
My fitness center friend also knew that I was worried both about the blackout, and the fact that I was still so exceptionally tired. Just seeing me in the fitness center early each morning, she knew that I had a bit of an obsessive streak in my personality. I believe she wanted to divert my mind from medical issues that might consume me. She did a remarkable job. Thank God for friends who realize your strengths and weaknesses, accept you for who you are, and provide you with a welcome distraction.
I also need to comment about concerns some in my generation (the baby boomer generation) sometimes raise about younger generations. I have a number of young women and men who are my friends and who are the same age as my fitness center friend. Based on all the talent, work ethic and empathy that radiates from each of them I feel confident that these fine young women and men will make us very proud.
Our church had undertaken a fund-raising project to sell Christmas trees. I had signed up for several shifts prior to my fall, but obviously was in no shape to actually perform them when the time came. I felt guilty. The thought crossed my mind that my fellow church members might wonder if I really felt that bad or just wanted to do something else. But I had been told by many that I looked so pale and tired, and they also knew I had been told to take sick leave for a week, see my doctor, and refrain from driving. Instead of making me feel like I was shirking my duty, my fellow members stepped up to the plate, and continued to check in on me. They were truly concerned, and made sure that I was able to get to our worship services and offered to give me rides anytime I needed to run an errand.
During the month of December, I must admit that I did something that defies all reason. I interviewed for a job that would be a promotion back to the level I had previously held. Seriously? Had I lost my mind? After all, I had recently blacked out and fell off a treadmill, still did not have a reason for the blackout, and remained incredibly exhausted. Interviewing for a promotion did not seem like a wise thing to do, but I grew up in the generation that kept striving for “more”, this time the “more” being a job promotion. The blessing for me was that I did not get the “more” because the “more” might have been the end of me. The position went to someone else, and though I was disappointed at the time, the reality of the situation was that I had enough to handle. So another blessing occurred, although this blessing also took quite a while to sink in.
A few days before Christmas, the mother of my fitness center friend came to visit her. I wanted to take them both out to dinner to express my appreciation for all my friend had done for me since my accident. Her mother, who is my peer, was as caring and kind as her daughter and I felt like the three of us had been friends forever. Her mother made me feel positive about myself, telling me that I had a life-affirming nature.
Since I was not able to drive, I was going to take the train to see my family for Christmas. My fitness center friend and her mother insisted on helping me get to the train station. My sister and her husband insisted on driving me home after Christmas. Clearly, my welfare was a priority for a number of my friends and family members.
Often we think of the holidays as a time to get and give material gifts. But the greatest gifts I received in 2012 were the love and encouragement of family and friends, and some much needed rest for my weary body and mind. I had not yet received the gift of an answer for my health setback. I only hoped that the blessing of a diagnosis would come in 2013. Unfortunately the overachiever wanted the answer to come quickly. I was soon to find that this was not going to be something I could control...
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Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. She spent the next 7 years learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth. Then in October 2020, she received a heart transplant. This blog is about her journey of the heart.