Saturday, July 26, 2008

Random thoughts on a heart attack

As you can imagine, my mind has been racing since my apparent heart attack last week. So many thoughts, so many concerns have been whirling in my head…

First there’s a sense of dread for what’s ahead. I hate being cast in the role of “patient.” I haven’t had much experience with that role, having only been in the hospital twice in my entire life, for the insignificant procedures of having my wisdom teeth extracted and having my tonsils taken out as an adult. I haven’t had very positive experiences with doctors, either, having been sexually harassed by two (at a time when I didn’t even recognize what sexual harassment was), mocked by another, and in general being consistently treated in a condescending manner by most. A couple of years ago my best friend was going through treatment for cancer, and all I could think was, “I’m not strong enough to endure something like that.” Right now I am desperately hoping that all I’ll need is an angioplasty and a stent, rather than a bypass. The one silver lining here is that the cardiologist I wound up with seems to be a good one who assured me that he would take care of me.

And of course the overwhelming concern is that I need to stick around as long as I can for my boys. When my mind dares to consider what will happen to Marcus, Gabriel, and Tevis when I’m gone, I almost go crazy. Yes, of course there are group homes, but I want to know that they will have someone who cares about them. In recent weeks, I have been doing a lot of reading about cohousing, and what I’d like to have in place at some point is to be part of a cohousing community, so that when I’m gone, the boys will be part of a community, with relationships that will support them. I want them to have people in their lives who aren’t paid to be there. Ideally, family would fill that role, but I have to be realistic and acknowledge that my family just won’t be there for the boys.

As always, money is a big worry. I’ve finally gotten my caseload up to an acceptable level, and my expense down, where I actually have a surplus at the end of the month. But I have very little PTO saved up, having used most of it when Marcus had his surgeries. Yes, I have short and long term disability coverage, but it only pays 60% of wages, and I was reading the policy last night and discovered that they go back 12 months to determine your wages. Well, that will take them back to include some lean months when the company wasn’t giving me enough patients, so the disability payments will be low if I have to be out for a considerable length of time. Then you add the additional financial burden of the medical bills, and it doesn’t look good. So there’s another good reason to desperately hope for an angioplasty over a bypass!

And then there are the thoughts of all the practical, nuts and bolts sort of things that need to be done…revising my will (just in case), getting in extra groceries and making sure the boys’ prescriptions are all filled, catching up on the laundry, getting the house presentable in case people are coming in to help the boys, etc.

Finally, even though I plan on hanging around a long, long time, an event like this does tend to hit you over the head with a sense of your mortality. I can’t help but start thinking of a “bucket list” of all the things I wanted to do and haven’t yet accomplished, and when I do that, I have a sense of regret. But something changed my perspective yesterday. I read about the death of Randy Pausch and have been listening to his “Last Lecture,” which I had not previously heard of. Hearing him talk of realizing his childhood dreams has led to me think of what I have accomplished, rather than of what I haven’t. But I guess I’ll explore that more fully in a future post.

So, enough of maudlin thoughts…time to get busy.


Thom said...

You have a lot of good thoughts here about taking care of others. Thinking about yourself in this situation is not being selfish, it is critical. Yes, I don't have to tell you that this changes everything. But I have always admired your strength.

Do what you need to do but remember that compassion begins with yourself.

Galen said...

Thanks for the reminder, Thom.

Joy said...

Galen, you have a lot on your plate and thank God you were able to even write this post. I have a good feeling that it will not come to a bypass procedure. Don't forget to take care of yourself in little ways during this time.

Joy said...

Galen, I just finished reading the stories of your kids. You are one special person.

Galen said...

Thanks, Joy...keep that good thought about the bypass!

Pirate Aggro said...

This is a serious thing, no doubt, and causes a lot of worry; I don’t want to diminish what you are feeling. But heart related medicine has come a long way in the last 20 years and outcomes are generally positive, even for those who have a major heart related event. I hope the stent will be the only procedure you will have to endure.

Good luck. My thoughts are with you.