Update From Cecil Van Houten #6
02.18.13 | | Comments
A Matter of Perspective
Written Feb 15, 2013 8:53pm
Medical update: God has been faithful again this week. My overall condition remains stable. A few weeks ago I mentioned that two out of three cardiologists found me to be a boring patient. Yep, it happened. This week I'm three for three. Oh well. Thank you for your ongoing prayer support. No one but the Lord knows how long the wait will be but your prayers continue to make all the difference.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I was talking with someone this week and the conversation inevitably turned to how long I’ve been here on “the Rock” – which will be 16 weeks on Tuesday – and they asked what it was like to be in a different environment for so long and to have to give up so many things. My first reaction was that it doesn’t seem like that long. But I thought more about it and as I recounted all the events of the last few months it did start to seem like a long time. Here’s what I mean.
On a daily basis I have a steady flow of things to do. I’m still working remotely from here so every day there are emails to handle, input on decisions to be made and details to be followed up on. The routine medical stuff takes a good chunk of time every day. I’m writing the blog and other things as well. Friends and family stop by to visit. All this activity keeps me busy and focused. The days go by surprisingly fast so it doesn’t seem like I’ve been here that long.
But as I zoom out and consider the broader view it seems much different. When I came in at the end of October there were leaves on the trees. It was warm. The grass still needed to be cut one more time. The first two or three weeks were all about getting settled into the daily routine of long-term hospital life; tests and x-rays and blood draws and ultrasounds; being tethered to a pole with IV systems, a heart monitor and more. The Swan-Ganz catheter was inserted in my neck and threaded through the right atrium, the right ventrical and into the pulmonary artery. (Now we're having fun.)
The weather turned colder and trees outside my window became dark silhouettes against the sky. Conversations turned to Thanksgiving and the holiday season. I went two weeks without the catheter while they treated an infection followed by several weeks where my kidney function was in question. Meanwhile birthdays and family events came and went, and even though I saw photos and Facebook and talked with people, I felt strangely distant from it all. By the time Thanksgiving arrived I’d been here nearly a month and while it was different to be in the hospital, the whole experience still seemed fairly new. December meant planning for Christmas. I usually do some shopping online; this year everything was online. One person in the unit received a heart. A couple people came into the unit and a couple left. You don’t always know what their stories are since the conversations that would have been a normal part of the daily buzz in the past are muted these days by HIPAA laws.
The New Year’s arrival was uneventful. Connie and I did what we would have done if we’d been together – ate, watched a little TV and fell asleep. By 10:30. Through January my vital signs maintained acceptable ranges, my major organs functioned as well as could be expected and the goal shifted from getting things stable to keeping them that way. Another patient received a heart.
Now, halfway through February I’m on my fourth catheter and my twenty-fourth roommate. I’ve met over fifty people whose profession ends in “ologist”; eaten over 250 food service meals ("Please sir, may I have some more?") and had about 18 pints of blood drawn. Along the way I’ve met seven people who’ve had heart transplants, my ICD has fired twice to correct severe arrhythmias, I reconnected with a number of old friends I haven’t seen or talked to in decades and received hundreds of cards, emails and FB comments. I guess it has been a long time.
Putting time in context is, in part, a matter of perspective. But so are the things I’ve “given up”:
Almost any semblance of privacy
The freedom to come and go as I please
A good night’s sleep (yeah, right...)
Being with Connie and our dogs Cricket and Ella
Eating a meal uninterrupted by something (In the real world we go about our lives and deal with interruptions when they happen. The reverse is true here – each day is a series of interruptions marked by occasional flashes of real life.)
2-ply toilet paper (but thank you for all the gifts I’ve received since my last blog. The staff stopped asking questions after the second package arrived)
Certain food items (not that I’m restricted from eating them but they’re not on the menu)
Going to church for worship and fellowship
Playing the piano (with the exception of the grand piano in the lobby of the Wilmot Cancer Center ‘after hours’ sometimes)
Interacting with folks at work, doing the work I love
The ability to take a shower (who knew people really used moist towelettes for moist toweletting?)
True mobility (to quote Austin Powers, "Freedom, baby...yeah!")
Breathing fresh, outdoor air
Doing routine things like voting, Christmas shopping, going to Wegmans, going out for dinner, etc.
A decent, reliable wifi connection (even Jimmy Stewart didn't stutter this much)
It seems like a lot doesn’t it? And in some ways it is. But look at it from a different point of view. Here are some of the things I have not given up:
The privilege of waking up each day and thanking God for it
My legal rights as a citizen of the U.S.
Voting (absentee ballot)
Good quality medical care and a team of skilled “ologists” (who are among the best in their fields)
The ability to freely exercise my faith
Seeing the kids and grandchildren
Being able to listen to, talk with and pray for people
The prognosis for a reasonably good quality of life after this period
(Thank you God for) Netflix
The ability to think and make decisions, having all my faculties (or as many as I ever had)
The regular bills that need to be paid
Reading the Sunday Times
The opportunity to write and express myself
Pulling pranks on the nursing staff (For one thing they’ll never take another call from a very insistent guy wanting to know what room Harry Butts is in)
Being able to appreciate a good cup of coffee (made in my French press – thanks Goose & Jeremy)
The joy, comfort and peace that comes from my relationship with Connie
Opportunities to share the faith with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations
The ability to listen to music
Having wonderful, caring friends and family who pray for us and do thoughtful things like make blankets and scarves, send surprise packages and rubber chickens (don't ask) and bring in treats from Don's Original (and yes, for the record, those ARE heart-healthy onion rings)
Reading a good book (currently “The Future” by Al Gore)
Laughing and being able to make people laugh
The opportunity to learn something new (at least one thing) every day
When I compare the two lists, much of what I’ve “given up” are simply conveniences or accessories, not things that are essential to a life well lived. So what have I given up? Not much. What do I still have? A lot, thanks be to God.
It’s all a matter of perspective.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Father God, we are grateful for all we have. We acknowledge it comes from the abundance of who you are. Everything we are and everything we ever hope to be are gifts – unmerited yet freely given – by you. Even the notion of a life well lived can only be fulfilled as we understand that all our beginnings and endings are found in you. Find us faithful, Lord, as we seek to serve and follow you. Give us a right spirit. And grow in us the hope of heaven as we seek your face day by day.
ARCHIVE BY MONTH
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010