“You’ve got an aortic aneurysm–want some Vicodin?” (6/25/2008)

Good news is, I’m definitely getting my electric wheelchair (it’s just a matter of how soon).

Bad news is, I have the beginnings of an aneurysm in my descending thoracic aorta.

Of course, He comes like a thief in the night, just when you are saying “peace and security.” I just saw Dr. Stavrou, my cardiologist since 1989 (save 4 years in VA). Iroincally, I was going on and on about how, for the most part, I’ve felt better than ever (though, when I feel bad, it’s lousy).

Yesterday afternoon, I kind of overdid it. Started feeling really bad.
Finally, at 9 PM, I decided to go to the ER, mostly because our Medicaid ends on Saturday, and my last appointment for review for the electric wheelchair was this morning, so I figured that, if a valve was leaking (sometimes they leak; sometimes, they don’t), I could catch it in a test.

Ironically, for all the times I’ve gone to the ER *concerned* about my aorta, I *wasn’t* this time.

Of course, from an ER perspective, they just want to make sure you’re not dying, or bleeding, or whatever.
In terms of “bedside manner,” it was one the worst hospital visits I’ve ever had. At the triage review, I was trying to explain Marfan syndrome. They kept interrupting and asking questiosn about heart attack, which I answered “no” to. The one guy took my pulse and whispered, “his pulse is normal,” and they’re like laughing and casting looks at each other like I’m some hypochondriac.

Then I get back there, and everyone’s aloof at best, if not downright grumpy. The guy who took me to my CT Scan never said a word; no “hello”; didn’t even tell me where he was taking me. If they responded to my “standard hospital jokes” at all, they took them seriously.

So, I laid there alone till around 1:15 AM, when the doctor walked in and said, “Well, your CT was fine. You have a little dila. . . dilitation . .. dilation in your uh descending thoracic aorta.” He stumbled with the words and then tried to explain it to me. I said, “I know what it is. What size is it?” “3.5 cm” (last I’d heard, it was 2.9).

On his way out, he said, “Oh, would you like some Vicodin?” I said, “I have Tramadol at home. I don’t like the side effects of Vicodin.””OK.”
Gone.

Then, from 1:15 to 4:15, when the cab finally came to pick me up, I got to contemplate my life and my situation. In one sense, grateful to God that, for all the pain I’m in, He’s given me something to show to Medicaid, etc. On the other hand, it’s the proverbial “shoe” I’ve been waiting to drop for the past 12 years, and, since the discoveries about Cozaar, I’d been seriously entertaining the thought that I might live to see my grandchildren, that I might able to do some of those wild and crazy things I’d always dreamt of doing, like teaching high school or moving to some third world country and being a missionary.

Life in this world never mattered much to me, except as an avenue to sainthood. It goes to figure that, once it started mattering, God would pull the rug out from under me.

In practice, it doesn’t mean much. The main thing is we’ll have to throw out any ideas of me working full-time, unless it’s online.
Thank God that He’d already provided a wonderful situation: great new FT job offer for Mary (with another possibly in the wings); I’ll be making $25000 a year online with Kaplan, and I already arranged with Midlands for the most stress-free schedule possible. We’ve been talking about hiring some kind of PT domestic help (my job at Midlands would pay for it), and now that’s a necessity.

I’m gonna need to get a car lift and an outside ramp for the wheelchair, but it looks like Providence and some good advanced planning have arranged that all is happening at the right time.

In related news, Allie had her first subluxed kneecap on Sunday, so we bought her a knee brace. I announced a massive living room cleaning earlier, and she said to Gigi and Joe, “You two will have to do most of the work, because Daddy and I can’t do as much with my knee and his aorta!”

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3 responses to ““You’ve got an aortic aneurysm–want some Vicodin?” (6/25/2008)

  1. As always, your family is in my prayers, and your courage and faith is an inspiration.

    I may be presumptive or selfish in asking you to think of this when you obviously have bigger things on your mind, but a friend of mine is in need of prayers.

    He considers himself agnostic/borderline atheist. He’s a relatively new friend, but we get along swimmingly well. I recently broached the subject of religion and he said he’d talk about religion and faith with me anytime. It’s a terrific opportunity, but very daunting. I really have no confidence in my own persuasive or explanatory abilities, and am leaving this completely in the hands of God. I can pray and offer my own small sufferings for the salvation of souls, but I do often mourn for my faithless friends, and chide myself for not doing more to bring them to Christ. I feel as if I’m being given a gift in my friend’s openness to discussion. Would you and Mary please pray for Christopher?

    On a lighter note, I am always delighted by the little snippets of your children’s words you throw into your posts from time to time. My own provide me daily with a great sense of wonder and love of God. For weeks now, during bedtime prayers, they have prayed for the poor dead bunny we saw on the side of the road on a walk one day. As much as I tried to explain to them that there really was nothing to be done for it at this point, they still insist that the bunny needs only for its mommy to tuck it into bed and take care of it for it to get all better. It’s no surprise, then, that Rebecca’s concept of Heaven revolves entirely around a nice visit with Jesus while Mama Mary takes care of you.

  2. John C. Hathaway

    Hi, Joy,
    Cute story about the bunny! 🙂 Have you told them the one about the blonde finding the dead bunny on the side of the road?

    Prayer-wise, atheists trump suffering Catholics desperately need of confession, any day 🙂

    As for confidence, the key to good dialogue is just the rapport. Sometimes, people come at these questions as veiled attacks, and, often, they can be very fruitful.

    My sister’s husband is an agnostic. Most members of our family don’t even discuss religion with him (including, I believe, my sister). Over the years, he and I have had some very deep conversations, though. I heard a story once on EWTN about some guy who’d married into a Catholic family and converted after like 20 or 30 years of marriage. “Why didn’t you do it sooner?” someone asked. “Because no one asked me to,” he said.

    That’s how I see my brother-in-law. He comes from a very low church Protestant family, and he longs for tradition. Whenever he attends a more traditional Mass with our family, he makes positive comments (he raved over our parish at Clara’s baptism).

    That said, just take his questions as honest questions and answer them. As I tell my writing students, one rarely persuades someone on the first try. But you can have a successful argument/dialogue if you can at least get down to each other’s first principles. Last year, Allie took some music lessons from a nice Pentecostal lady. At one of the last sessions, she started asking me–politely–a bunch of questions about Catholicism. She just wanted to hear from a smart, believing Catholic what Catholics believed, since, she acknowledged, most of the Catholics she’d known well were a) ex-Catholics in her church, b) basically non-believers with superficial religion or c) devout but poorly catechized. She appreciated my answers. We got down to some fundmental principles on which we disagreed, but she could see that I was sincere and well-considered in my faith.

    It’s also advisable to skip questiosn tha require too much “foundation” and start at the foundation.

    Like, there’s no point explaining Theology of the Body to someone who doesn’t accept Genesis, for example.

    I had a couple other thoughts, but I’ve forgotten them. 🙂

    Anyway, will pray for Christopher (appropriate name!). Oh, and here’s the prayer Jesus taught St. Faustina to convert souls with: “O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in You!” He promised St. Faustina that, if someone prays that sincerely for a person, no matter how seemingly lost, that person will eventually be converted, even if it’s only in the final seconds.

  3. StorytellerAngel

    Long time no see, JC! Hope you all are still hanging in there.

    You and yours have been on my mind a bit recently and now I know why, so I will continue to say a prayer or two in your direction.

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