LRJ Prepares for Open-Heart Surgery

As far back as I can remember, I was medically diagnosed with and treated for asthma; but there was an underlying heart condition left untreated, which clouded the water for an accurate health assessment and may have prevented a progression of today’s heart disease.  Fast forward to today tho’—I am getting the Best!, and I wanted to use this medium to share my Heart with you this last month of 2012: what a year it has been!  This is the short version:  during 2012, I earned my Master’s degree, ventured to the Republic of Turkey; a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and Southeastern Europe; the travel included eight surrounding Turk cities, including its capital, Ankara  and Istanbul.  (A related ‘Oppression of Women’ series to follow in 2013).   Also during 2012, I registered for my national counselor certification, CASAC-T, and EMDR certifications, I adopted my eldest daughter’s cat, Asmara; now I have two cats, I battled heart disease and was hospitalized twice for heart failure.

After a long and arduous battle with heart valve disease, I’ve made peace with the fact that I must now endure a complex surgery to repair my mitral valve before it’s too late.  Right now, the valve leaks severely.  This means that my Hearts’ left ventricle is now very dilated; it holds the regurgitated blood in its chamber, and the chamber is significantly enlarged thus not able to pump blood adequately throughout my body.  I need the surgery soon to abate needing a heart transplant should I wait much further to fix this.  The news is life-altering; mind boggling, at best.  But I accept this life-altering ‘Event’ because I want to Live!   And so life, for me, will be a departure from the one I knew for a little while.  Things will change—for a little while.  I learned from my doctors today that the repair does not mean I will never scuba dive again, YAY!  It means I will dive more shallow depths and not the over 70, 80, 90 feet dives I remember so well.  So, heart surgery does not mean we stop Living!  Living gets postponed, somewhat.   Embracing a different way of living for the short term creates a profound realization however: in spite of ‘My Now’ challenge, Mother Earth still has plenty of work for me to do—and I’m not done yet!

What I know about is the importance of grieving the life as I knew it to be—it’s surely a process.  Part of this grieving process is ultimate acceptance.  Grieving teaches us to respectfully feel our feelings, thoughts and emotions as part of a healthy passage.  Though life revised is my ‘invisible’ reality at the moment, in a way, I’m on my way to life renewed.

I can hardly wait to find out what else God has stored up for me.  He certainly is keeping me busy now.

Without health care insurance, it has taken several months to work out the tangles of our formidable health care system, albeit medical coverage related to pre-existing conditions.  Since Obamacare health insurance exchange has yet to fully kick in, the need to be resourceful became my mantra.  As I built on a network of healthcare providers, clinical professionals, administrators, and politicians; family and friends, it became clear that I had to advocate hard for myself.  At every ensuring pass, the message seemed the same:  “We can’t get you in there (Mount Sinai)”, and “Your coverage will not pay for the surgery”, and “the doctor you’re requesting is ‘out of Network’ ”, and, “Sorry, it can’t be done.”  It felt like a war… and ultimately, I found myself on a serious letter writing campaign; having conversations with local news editors as well as influential policy-makers.  Advocacy, new laws and legislative advances can be confusing, at best.  Consider Obamacare:  Health Care Reform Timeline.

This is the juncture where skillful patience with the engagement process become crucial because to change conditions takes a long time.  That’s just the way it is.

Moreover, in order to advocate, something must be missing to begin with, and so in that sense, it’s worth arguing about!  As a professional counselor, when I confront sociopolitical barriers to what might be missing, I try to get it right, but sometimes fail.   Then, I stop—for a minute!   In confronting barriers, an approach at the political level must be made at a point if you want to bring societal needs (environmental) in line with societal concerns (injustices).  This is what spawns action toward an end goal.

I BELIEVED receiving the healthcare I want and need could be done with the doctors I want.   From my perspective, when we put more things out there that are different from conventional boundaries, we are taught to use more of what God gives us: hands to reach out, eyes to see the need, ears to listen, and skills to help grow and learn.  Securing my treatment at Mount Sinai is a good example of social justice.  Like Love which runs on a positive continuum with love on one end and hate on the other, so too runs self-advocacy with empowerment on one end and all manner of social injustice on the other!  This means we ultimately will take action to enlarge the understanding of what is needed (the problem) in both non-harmful, non-threatening ways;  we confront the barriers to originate meaningful change.

One little coda, however, is the danger of becoming emotionally drained by the process.  It can lead to burnout; and possible, giving up.  Never quit.  Set realistic expectations for the action you intend to pursue.   Evaluating what works; question what does not.  Most of all: trust the process.

LRJ Wisdom:  When your back’s up against the wall, Persist!

The thoracic surgeon at Mount Sinai teaches that we must seek to ‘preserve’ our hearts’ ventricles and treat the ventricles with care and respect, to attend to the delicate environment therein.  This delicate environment consists of deep tendons that support the mitral valve and the tricuspid valve in the heart, commonly known as heart strings.   After all, the Heart is a sacred place—a place where perhaps God chooses to dwell.  It’s where Love is.

In the final analysis, I emerge with the best doctor to do the tune up on my heart strings and repair the mitral valve:  I am pleased about this care team.  It is not only the ‘over the top’ presentation; it is also the Love that comes with it.  Now I perceive that my Heart is in very good hands.

In the short term, I will get through this surgery and recovery.   In the longer term, I dream to take up horseback riding, and “throw caution to the wind and run free too!”

“To achieve really great things, one must be willing to risk failure.”

With Joy, LRJ

2 responses to “LRJ Prepares for Open-Heart Surgery

    • Thanks, Marie, for checking in. Just home from the surgery and doing well with the transition thus far. The road to recovery is long and sometimes very hard, but my spirit propels me forward. Lucky for me that I am not deterred by life’s adversities, but rather, am more motivated than ever to get on the other side of this thing. Keep those prayers coming!

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