On the upper floor of a city building, l am gazing quietly out of the window at the daily activities happening below me. The vastness of the view feels wonderful, as if I’m seeing everything for the first time. Tears begin to form, as the truth of being able to live within this personal moment start to overwhelm me. Over the last few days, my emotions have been very close to the surface. Any thought, or encounter, with anything that I value personally, has brought me to tears. I am surrounded by people who are looking after my welfare, they are doing everything they can to make me comfortable. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the care and patience they show me, but my usual patience seems to have disappeared, as I try to deal with these raw emotions.
I have never felt this alone or vulnerable before, this is my personal encounter that no one can share. A TV programme the other day, sent five moderately famous people onto the streets of Melbourne, to live as homeless people for ten days. They went with nothing, which meant, they had to quickly become street wise. They all seemed genuinely sympathetic to the plight of the homeless people they interacted with. Plenty of tears were shed by all of them, but after ten days, they would of course, return to their normal existence. I’m not saying that it wasn’t carried out with the best of intentions. But they couldn’t have possibly experienced the true feelings, of someone’s personal life, that has possibly exsisted for years.
Beginning my personal encounter.
I’m sure you remember the time, when someone tried to tell you how they felt, while going through a personal crisis. Like me, you probably nodded your head and said the usual words, “I know how you feel” without really having a clue how they felt. I have an older friend, who has had heart problems for a number of years. Up until a few days ago I said those very words often, “I know how you feel” now, I really do have a proper understanding of how he feels. This wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I’m pretty fit, look after myself and don’t smoke, I have the occasional drink and have what I would consider, to be a healthy diet.
I have said a number of times though, that as fit as I feel, something can hit me from left field, that can sit me on my arse. Well it did exactly that, the pain in my chest was without question, the worst pain I have ever felt. Very shallow breathing was the best I could manage, but luckily, good enough to get me to the hospital. Straight into the emergency ward, I was hooked up to various machines and given pain killers. As the pain started to subside, I felt like an imposter. All these machines and I only have a bad case of indigestion, what a relief. Then the words came, “your blood tests confirm, your having a heart attack.”
Personal encounter with the unknown
There is very little, if any awareness of what’s going on within our body. It’s a complex system, that has millions of processes happening at any given moment. The lungs absorb the oxygen, the blood leaves the lungs and is carried to our heart. The heart then pumps it throughout our body, to provide the cells in our tissues and organs. As the cells use the oxygen, carbon dioxide is produced and absorbed into the blood. The kidneys and liver are doing their job as well and if your like me, you probably don’t even know where they are located, let alone what they do. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. These processes are happening constantly, but we are unaware of it.
Once, during the early stages of meditation, I was following one particular practice, amongst many others, of counting my breath in and out. After a short while, I became acutely aware of my breathing. As if I came off auto pilot for a short while and had to take the controls in my own hands. It almost took me to a crash landing, as in became out and out became in. “Don’t worry about your heart, it will last you as long as you live” (W. C. Fields) Obviously the person that put this quote up on one of the notice boards in the hospital corridor, had a sense of humour. There is no doubt, helping people to have a glimmer of humour within a very stressful situation, is very beneficial.
Personal heart encounter.
Well it looks like a fennel root to me, something l would buy at the local supermarket. I suppose romance, flower arrangements, balloons and the people I have seen holding their fingers up in the shape of a so called heart, require it to be more user friendly. Follow your heart, lead with your heart, have a heart, to name a few, adds to the central role it plays. My heart is certainly playing a central role, looking at it on the large screen, to the side of the operating table. Seeing the wire pass up through my groin towards my heart and being able to watch it, feels surreal. The plastic bin that’s filling up with bloody cloths and the blood hanging next to my shoulder ready for a blood transfusion, make everything very emotional.
What were those complications again? A blood clot could break off and cause a stroke. I could need bypass surgery and if things turn bad, ‘death.’ The bloody clock on the wall said the procedure took 55 minutes, but to me, it felt like hours.
An encounter with reality again.
When I returned to the ward, my fellow inmate put everything into perspective. “How you going mate, how many did you have then?” “one I answered” “bloody hell, I’ve had twelve stents over the last few years. Sometimes I need a pull through to clean the tubes out. I still have a beer and a smoke though, can’t stop living can yer” This reminded me of the neighbours dog ‘Skamp’ many years ago in England, he used to spend his whole life chasing cars, running in and out trying to grab their tyres. He ended up old and grey and couldn’t run anymore. Our other neighbours dog managed to get out once and got knocked over by a car, there must be an irony there somewhere. When l get out of here, I’m going to have a few beers, smoke a joint and relax.