Here we are nearly in June of 2013, and there is all this possibility.
Endings and beginnings, all in the same week. It’s been a busy but productive time.
I’ve completed my 12 weeks of cardiac rehab. Wonderful program and wonderful staff. So, what now?
Other than cardiac rehab, tweaking my eating plan along with general reflection and healing, I’ve been playing around with metal again. I’m also writing. JEWELRY! Finally…….It’s so nice to be back in the game of making art.
In the meantime, Stone Island continues to be a truly wonderful place to recuperate. Enjoy the photos.
“There’s no retirement for an artist, it’s your way of living so there’s no end to it.” Henry Moore
“Unexpected intrusions of beauty. This is what life is.”
Saul Bellow, Herzog
“Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art.”
“The artist is the only lover; he alone has the pure vision of beauty, and love is the vision of the soul when it is permitted to gaze upon immortal beauty”.
© jacqualine-marie baxman 2013
April 8, 2013 marks three months since my heart valve replacement surgery. I am a lucky gal, indeed…
The way we see miracles
Is not to look at all
The eyes through which we see
Are often tainted with ideas
Archaic and dead
Like the leaves of another season
What beckons us is Love
The willingness to be silent
For silence is the color of all Seers
The intention to control
To filter our Light
Is the only sure road to darkness
Let everything go through you
Grasp only the heart
The gate we wish to enter
Is without a key
Keys are puzzles for the wingless
We, however, can fly
© jacqualine-marie baxman 2013
Today marks exactly 2 months since my open heart surgery. I would love to celebrate with a few shots of Patron, but not yet. I’ll save that for the 6 month mark.
My last blog post was January 31, 2013 and while I’d intended posting again shortly thereafter, I decided to wait until I had something truly interesting to say. There’s just so much to say about the details of surgery, home health care, and moving from the recliner to the front door and then outside and being able to breathe while doing it all. Once the initial event is over, focus goes to real healing and concentrating on one’s life - and the details of life are different for all of us.
I’ve been thinking about this blog post for nearly 3 days. It occurs to me that, really, I don’t have much to say – not at this time. There are thoughts and epiphanies dancing around in my head as if Baryshnikov was on his way to join in. Dancing, dancing, dancing – privileged and beautiful like the light that comes through the window at 3 o’oclock in the afternoon. It is a dance to re-learn presence, awareness, and certainly gratitude. So, nothing profound written here today.
I’ve decided, instead, to show you more of what I’ve been looking at while going through this transition, this learning to balance what I want, what is expected of me (there are people who count on us, who need to know we are there), and which dream of my many is the most fascinating to me (why not all, I think). The photos above are what I see when I walk, when I am quiet and introspective yet open to what is around me. I have a new iPhone. We are learning more about each other, how we work, how we create, what we find necessary to record. I record things, always, one way or another. It is who I am. I am in love with my animal neighbors and with anything that grows. Quiet, beautiful, and without criticism, everything seems to live together in the moment, in harmony, perhaps the way humans all should if we were less calculating.
I will add that I have begun cardiac rehab. Having completed my second full week, I am enjoying the idea of being monitored – a peculiar thing, indeed – and of being watched and cared for in a new and different way. I will “graduate” from cardiac rehab in 11 weeks. In the meantime, between my last post and this one, I have simply worked on healing. Tales will follow – maybe, and insights…if they ever stop their crazy dancing. I’m not sure I want them to.
“Every human has four endowments- self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.” Stephen Covey
(Please read the previous posts related to heart surgery if you haven’t been here before, thank you)
On Sunday, I began a walking program, albeit brief and slow. Instructed by the physical therapist who visits, I began walking in 10 minute increments – outside. Not so exciting, you say? Let me tell you, this is exciting.
I have a new heartbeat. It isn’t the old one that skipped and rolled. I have a steady, ordinary beat. Nothing special. No more drum rolls. No more thoughts that it might permanently stop after each pause. Ordinary. Reliable. Consistent. Like an old metronome for music practice, my little piggy valve beats on. Walking is a gift. I had almost forgotten since prior to surgery I was only allowed to stroll, and strolling isn’t my style. People with heart valve issues often work much harder than the average person when they exercise. We use more energy to do ordinary things. Our blood doesn’t flow fully to the required parts of the body. The heart valve (in my case, it was the aortic valve) tries to do the job but it fails, with the interior portion of the valve being beaten up, thickening, narrowing, etc. Now, I have this beautiful and ordinary heart beat. So far, so good.
I’ve wandered all over the neighborhood wearing my white surgical support stockings beneath my clothes, my too long hair in a pony tail, and my darkest sunglasses. I’m quite the sight. This morning, I graduated to a full 20 minute walk. The photo above is the only one that has survived my unsteady hands and there is no connection between it and my text other than I have fallen madly in love with this leaf. I love the color, the shape, the “hope”. I love that I am walking slowly because I’m forced to stop and look at what is around me as opposed to spotting ahead for something of interest. It is a beautiful leaf. It was a beautiful day today.
My thoughts during this third week after heart valve surgery, most of them unrelated and random, none of them profound:
1. Nothing is ordinary. Our consciousness dictates what we pay attention to. You might see a dead leaf where I see the most beautiful orange and yellow I have ever seen.
2. Cats are the most amazing friends. However, they really want you to just get out of their chair.
3. Love is an act, not a word. Say what you want, but if you don’t “do” love, then it isn’t real and it certainly isn’t necessary.
4. Glitter never leaves your work space. It hides in every single corner to remind you of what you’ve done and inspire you to do more.
5. The people I saw when I first woke up in the hospital were not healthcare workers. They were angels. I will always believe this.
6. Your friends are not who you think they are. They might be thinking the same thing about you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
7. I am still recovering from hospital food.
8. Your bones creak when they heal.
9. Healing is a miracle. We forget this.
10. We are worth everything.
“She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” Elizabeth Edwards
(Please read the previous posts if you haven’t been here before, thank you)
As promised, here is a likeness of the little piggy valve that is in my heart. This replaces my own, defective aortic valve. It is a tiny little thing, perhaps no bigger around than a half-dollar or so with three leaflets (mine only had two) through which blood pumps.
My card arrived in the mail this past Friday. Barcoding, bracelets, and wallet cards are typical for anyone with a medical device or serious health issue (allergies, etc.) so I’m not surprised. I left the hospital with a temporary card, yet seeing the permanent card conjured up strange feelings. “They” know everything about me. “They” can track me. “They” know……my creative mind went on a field trip for a few minutes, but I put the card in my wallet and my sense of freedom is back where it should be.
I’ve been home for eleven days, wearing my funny socks (uh….they don’t look as good on me as on the model), taking my medicine, using my AirLife Volumetric Incentive Spirometer, and doing what I’ve been told. I’m a good patient. But I can’t get the cat off my lap. She won’t budge. In the ten plus years that I’ve had her, she has never been on my lap. Suddenly, she won’t leave. It’s an interesting little turn of events.
I’ve been home from the hospital for eleven days. Here are eleven things I have not been able to do well, at all, or on my own:
1. Pull up my panties easily
2. Pick up anything I’ve dropped on the floor
3. Sleep in a bed (I am sleeping in a recliner)
4. Wash dishes – any type of cleaning
5. Lift anything weighing more than five pounds
7. Walk alone
8. Feed the cat
9. Bend forward or backward
10. Do my hair (I have very long hair)
Here are eleven things I’ve come to appreciate more than ever:
1. The power of friendship
2. Taking a shower
3. Technology – specifically, the Internet
4. Being and not necessarily Doing
6. Receiving mail (I’d nearly forgotten how wonderful it is to receive a card, something handwritten, and will now do more send more handwritten things))
7. Organic canned soup
9. The unconditional love of a pet
11. My body, with all its flaws
“There is a voice that doesn’t use words, listen”….Rumi
More to come…..
(Please read previous post first if you haven’t been here before, thank you)
There. I’ve broken my rule of never posting photos that aren’t mine. However, not having any pigs around I thought it would be fine this once. First, I came across an article on Mail Online (click on link to read) that I found interesting because it reminds me of my question to my cardiologist (who now thinks I’m a bit odd…LOL) about vegetarians and animal rights activists. Does anyone refuse a Bovine or Porcine valve based on ethics? He’d never encountered the issue. It was an easy decision for me. Reality is often a bitter bite, and I am grateful for being alive, as I am grateful to the pigs. (I will post of photo of the valve next time).
Moving forward to more interesting things, I hope…and a little background before we go further into healing.
In 1994, my mother had quadruple by-pass surgery. I’d followed her in and out of the hospital for several years, and after a third and nearly fatal heart attack, the doctors decided she needed quadruple by-pass surgery to save her life. Everything was routine. I still remember saying goodbye to her as they took her to surgery. During surgery, she experienced seven embolisms and was pronounced to be in a “vegetative” coma. I can still tell you in detail the color of the family waiting room as I sat there alone, waiting and waiting for hours as one family after the other was assured their loved one was fine, and the waiting room emptied out slowly, with happy families hugging each other and surgeons coming and going with smiles on their faces. It was a dreary day in New York City. The trees were still. The sky was unusually dark. I was alone in the waiting room in the late afternoon when I received the news that there had been some problems during surgery. My mother never knew what happened. She never recovered. She lingered for nine days on life support. After much difficulty both emotionally and legally, I signed the papers to terminate my mother’s life. My brothers and I had consulted and agreed. The doctors were reluctant. She did not have paperwork in place. We spent time with her doing all the things you do for people in a coma, playing music, talking to her, saying “I Love You” often, but after nine days of this and negative test results, we terminated her physical life. It was my hand that would sign the papers. Was it the adult decision to make? Absolutely. It was also one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. This weighed heavily on my mind as I prepared for my own surgery. I tried to push back the persistent memory but it popped up continually like a computer virus.
I am a strong person. Vocal, yes. Dramatic at times? I’m sure. But strong. Yet, no matter how strong we are there are events in our lives that stick with us regardless of how well we’ve adjusted to them or how adult we’ve become, or how spiritual we think we are. My mother’s death was one of these events. As I planned for my own heart surgery, I struggled with this memory. What if? The question just seemed to stick around. Well, I thought, if its going to stick around, then let’s face it. What if? Even though the circumstances are different, even though I’ve done my best to have a better approach to health – What if I die? Worse. What if I am in the small percentage who never fully recover? There are always risks. I did my research, my paperwork, made my plans, followed the requests of my cardiologist to do every feasible test to rule out issues and risk factors similar to my mother’s and I dealt with the realities of the What if? issue.
After countless MRI’s, blood tests, dental prep (genetic issues) I faced the dreaded (dreaded only by me and, actually, was painless) Cardiac catheterization on Monday, January 7, 2013 to decide whether a by-pass procedure was needed in addition to a valve replacement. If necessary, both procedures would be done at the same time. But when? I still didn’t know, nor did the doctors. Everything seems to depend on everything else.
Results. A miracle. A huge miracle. No blockages. I, who come from a family of ill-health, an older brother who has had several major strokes, a younger brother who died from liver failure, I have no coronary blockages. I have no coronary blockages. I let this sit in my spirit and suddenly, although the What if? was still there, the voice wasn’t quite so loud. I have no coronary blockages. I can do anything. I can do anything. I can do THIS. (we will revisit coronary blockages and health in a different post)
The following day, Tuesday, January 8, 2013, somewhere around noon, I had the valve replacement surgery. Here I am. Blogging about it. It’s actually a rather common surgery, but not for me. This is my experience, my heart, my What if? dragon that needed conquering, and my life. So, I’ll blog about it until I no longer want to blog about it. Maybe one person will be soothed or helped in some way by reading this. If so, then I’ve done my job.
More to come…..
It’s fear of the unknown. The unknown is what it is. And to be frightened of it is what sends everybody scurrying around chasing dreams, illusions, wars, peace, love, hate, all that–it’s all illusion. Unknown is what it is. Accept that it’s unknown and it’s plain sailing. Everything is unknown–then you’re ahead of the game. That’s what it is. Right?