Skip to content

Mi Corazon

July 19, 2011

 “I’m on my way to the E.R.” Shelley left me a voicemail last Friday after her checkup at the doctor. “He wants me to get an Angiogram.”

Shelley suffers from Coronary Artery Disease, which means that plaque builds in the arteries that surround her heart. She has 4 stents, placed there to re-open passageways that had been 80-90% closed. In ’05 and ’06 she was in and out of the hospital several times for this, and has since been on a diet as well as various drugs meant to lower her cholesterol.

So with this call I’m jerked from everyday existence, from the Normal Road we usually walk, down to an existential otherland that runs directly beneath it. A land of beeping machines and E.R.s and shared bedrooms with strangers and ghoulish glimpses of the future in the old age home. Not to mention a confused and confusing environment…

“I’m here to take you to your stress test,” they tell her.

“No, I’m here for an Angiogram,” she says.

“But it says here…”

(Unless you’re both a health professional and compos mentis, don’t ever go to a hospital without a friend to advocate for you.)

Not to mention the naked feeling of being horizontally rolled through the busy halls and elevators, public eyes stripping you of any privacy and, it seems to me, dignity.

And this is just from the patient’s husband’s perspective. What Shelley is going through (yet again) I can only guess at. When they take her for x-rays, she seems for a moment deflated, with a sad “I have to go through all this again now” look in her eyes.   

Later, when the cold-eyed anesthesiologist with the shaved head introduces himself with an unpronounceable Russian name (he eventually says, “just call me Igor”) Shelley asks (with knowledge gleaned from experience) that he give her Versed — to be dreamy but awake; and Fentanyl  — for pain. He responds with – I swear to this – “Just say no; just say no to drugs” with a steely smirk on his face like he means it. He suddenly looks like a skinhead to me, and I want to kill him.

Once in the hospital room, Shelley shines. She immediately starts talking medispeak with the nurses, which instantly distinguishes her from all their other patients. When they learn she’s not only an R.N. but also a critical care nurse, they feel both a kinship and an admiration for her such like a cop might feel when he notices the guy in the car stuck on the side of the road is wearing a marine uniform.

Her courage is graceful and her upbeat mood is at least as contagious as any hospital germ lurking about. Lying there in the bed, talking about the possibility of soon getting a sewing machine, she positively glows, and her spirit lights up the whole unit.

And why a sewing machine? It just so happens that this Thursday she’s to be honored for 20 years service at her hospital (it’s actually been far more, but this is to recognize 20 consecutive years at the place) and so they’re offering her a selection of gifts to choose from, including a computerized Singer. The gift catalog had arrived that very day.

I need to mention that, after hearing Shelley’s voicemail late in the morning, and then sitting in shock for a while, I gathered my wits about me and did what I’ve learned from experience to do — offer up a prayer. I’ve found in recent years, with situations large and small, if I first pray for the result I want, and turn over all the worry as well as the outcome to God, it’s akin to setting up a game to win before playing it.

All I can say, yet again, is it works for me.

At one point Friday night, I need to leave for a while, and tell the guard I’ll be back. I return some 90 minutes after visiting hours are over. On the way into the lobby I debate whether or not to pray to be let back in. What if I do, and I’m not? Would that indicate God isn’t listening? Then I’ll be worried sick over the Angiogram the next day.

But while walking to the elevator I quickly decide on just such a prayer, and only then notice there’s a different guard on duty.

“Sorry,” he says. “Visiting hours are over.”

“It’s ok!” someone calls out from behind the desk. “Let him go up.”

And then the rest of the time in the hospital goes as smoothly for both Shelley and me.

A day and a new stent later (and after receiving those medications she requested) the Cardiologist, Dr. Haq, shows me a video of what he’d done. The pulsating arteries, the intricate intersection of delicate and technical, opening up minute passageways that will allow Shelley to return to Normal Road within days.

Prayer or no, I’m always stripped of my defenses at these intervals, and wonder what exactly I may be facing on the other side of her procedures.  Shelley must feel far more vulnerable of course, but what goes on with her goes right through me somehow, and I can’t help but be shaken and humbled by the fragility of our lives. Especially when I look at that video of the pulsating arteries.

At the end of his debrief, I ask Dr. Haq what to expect going forward.

“Every three or four years or so, she’ll probably need to come back.”

Getting old is a bitch, and doing it with a partner can make it even more so at times. But the alternative to either is none too appealing, now is it?


10 Comments leave one →
  1. John Dillinger permalink
    July 19, 2011 1:20 pm

    Thank G-d!
    For bringing Shelley thru this; for bringing you thru this; for guiding her surgical team; for opening the eyes of our scientists to the amazing, life-extending methods they use today; for leading our researchers to discover things like stents.
    I hope Shelley soon feels fit as a fiddle.
    …. btw … does Shelley take lecithin (removes plaque, lowers b.p., and aids memory).

  2. Dan permalink
    July 19, 2011 1:29 pm

    Wow. Great post. Give my best to shelley!

  3. Laurie Yankowitz permalink
    July 19, 2011 1:39 pm

    An intimate testimony to the love you and Shelley share, her special spirit, and how courage, faith, knowledge and communication make for strong partners during such trials.

  4. stealthbomber permalink
    July 19, 2011 3:49 pm

    Stealth bomber no longer, (revealing myself) I have to say that I feel fine, off from work for a few
    days (I probably could have found an easier way to take a summer vacation).I am on Niacin, but not lecithin. I’ll have to check that out today.Thank you, John
    When going through these trials I always keep a positive attitude, knowing that this is a burp in the grand scheme of live. I don’t dwell on it, just know it will be over soon and then I can get on with the rest of my life. Thank you all for your concern. Shelley

  5. July 20, 2011 1:59 am

    Love to you both, Charlie and Shelley! What a team you two are!
    Thanks for the reminder that our outlook truly DOES help determine how our experiences effect us and can help guide us towards positive outcomes during life’s trials.

  6. ellen permalink
    July 21, 2011 6:21 pm

    Oh, you two, prayers coming toward you. You just dodged a big one.
    My doctor just took me off Niacin, there was a big study, better check it
    But just as important, do what you’re doing: float together through the bad times and cherish the good ones. That’s the only wisdom I can offer you after years of our own
    ups and downs. The terror [we just went through our own ER middle-of-the-night
    visit] gives way to such gratitude for just being together, still in love and in life.
    It’s old news, but — To life! L’Chaim! I hope you continue to enjoy every second.
    with love,

  7. July 22, 2011 2:10 am

    Good luck to you both, and thank goodness for Shelley’s inside knowledge of hospitals and medicine.

  8. July 23, 2011 10:50 pm

    I am happy things worked out for the best, and was touched to read this post. I want to offer you something wonderful, that has helped many people with many problems, and helped some friends of mine lower their cholesterol and triglycerides, and get off high blood pressure medication. It’s called Kangen water, and is made using a device from Japan that takes ordinary water and converts it to alkaline, anti-oxidant water which is better absorbed into the cells than ordinary water. It has hydrating and detoxifying effects, and it reduces acid waste in the cells that leads to different imbalances. There’s a lot of science to it, it has been used in hospitals in Japan for over 35 years. You can read more about it at I am a distributor of this technology and highly recommend it! Animals instinctively gravitate to this water and get great results from it too!

  9. murray permalink
    July 27, 2011 8:56 pm

    I’m really glad to hear that Shelley is better. I also appreciate just how down to earth and funny your responses to this turmoil were. . thanks for putting this scare into perspective.


  1. Shelley’s Stress Test, and Mine « Waking At Midnight

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: