Big bump in the road …
23 years ago when I first started dating Tom, he took me for a walk and warned me he had something to tell me. He was so serious and I suddenly felt nervous. I imagined all sorts of awful things. I was actually relieved when he told me that he had diabetes! It didn’t seem like a big deal then, and it hasn’t seemed like a big deal over the years. Tom has had some complications over the years, but nothing really serious. That changed this summer.
Looking back over the last few years I guess maybe there were signs – but they weren’t the typical ones that suggest heart disease. No high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Just increasing fatigue (but if you aren’t super active, that wouldn’t be so unusual, right?) So the events of this past July were kind of shocking.
Tom was concerned enough about his shortness of breath to talk to his doctor about it. As a precaution, a stress test was scheduled. That morning (a Thursday) Tom texted me repeatedly about how expensive it was going to be and that he thought maybe he should just cancel it. Ultimately he decided to go ahead, only to have the technician stop the test almost immediately. The cardiologist came in and talked to Tom, explaining that he likely had a blockage and they were referring him for a heart cardiogram and likely angioplasty and stent. It was scheduled for Monday morning. It was all a little surreal for me and I can only imagine how Tom was feeling.
Monday morning I drove Tom over to Littleton hospital for the procedure. It was supposed to take an hour or so and, while he would likely have to stay overnight, it was considered little more than out-patient surgery. When the doctor came out to talk to me, however, it wasn’t to give me the “good news”. They’d found a 95% blockage in one of Tom’s major arteries and he would have to have bypass surgery. They were going to transport him by ambulance to Porter hospital since they didn’t do heart surgeries at Littleton. I went back to see Tom as they got him ready to go and I think we were both in shock. How had we’d gone from normal existence to medical emergency?
Tom had triple bypass surgery Monday evening. The surgery was successful and uneventful. He had a great surgeon and excellent nursing care. He was sent home that next Sunday. Now into his fifth week post surgery he’s driving again, started back working from home, had his first full day without a midday nap, and starts cardiac rehab next week.
I remember sitting in the hospital room, waiting for them to come take Tom for surgery. I couldn’t even let myself think about any outcome except the one we got. I felt like I had to be optimistic and positive – that nothing else would do any good. Only once did I find myself in tears – but there were nurses in the room doing stuff with Tom and he doesn’t even remember. Even sitting in the waiting room while Tom was in surgery – Spencer was with me for awhile and I definitely wanted to be positive for him – I didn’t want him to worry. But over the past few weeks as I have let myself think about how easily I could have lost Tom, I’m overwhelmed with grief – all the fear and sorrow I didn’t let myself feel before I have been feeling now. It seems a funny reaction to a completely positive outcome.
Things I’m grateful for:
- Tom didn’t have a heart attack, so his heart is still healthy and his surgery was done under ideal circumstances, rather than as the result of cardiac arrest.
- While his endocrinologist had been treating Tom for possible circulation impairment (pretty standard for diabetic patients) his treatment will be more aggressive in the future and hopefully they can halt or even improve that side effect of diabetes.
- Tom should have more energy and feel better once he has fully recovered from his surgery.
- I don’t have to face being a widow and single mom in the near future (knock on wood).
- I still get to live with my best friend – I don’t know what life would have been like without his sense of humor and his compassion in my life.
- Great doctors and nurses.
- Family and friends who have stepped in to take my kids (thanks to Sarah and Jen for keeping them the whole week Tom was in the hospital!), have fed us many home cooked meals and filled our freezer with more meals, and sent cards and flowers and well wishes.
Life bumps along with each day more or less like the one before it and you get to feeling like nothing ever changes – and then something big comes along and you are reminded how things can change in an instant – an accident, a wrong choice, an illness. There’s so much that is outside our control and the only real thing you can do is cherish those ordinary days and make them count.