Saturday, March 29, 2014

Springtime in Ohio

It's hard to reconcile with the fact that, though we're almost to the end of March, it's snowing outside. This winter just won't let go! Our favorite peach orchard here in Ohio recently announced on Facebook that the hard freeze we had thanks to the Polar Vortex killed off its trees so there will be no peach harvest this year. That's is so sad since those are the best peaches ever, from anywhere.

I'm ready to start screaming and running for the hills (though my husband likes to point out that the weather would be even colder at an altitude) any minute now if this weather doesn't take a sharp turn for the better. Thirteen years in Ohio and I'm definitely not used to, and never will my Caribbean soul get used to six months of winter.

On a brighter side, I did get out of the hospital a week ago today and, except for another scare on Monday that eventually resolved itself without an ER visit, all has been quiet on this front. I'm afraid to even whisper it since these arrhythmias are so unpredictable but so far, so good. Feeling normal is priceless and, I have to say, that this situation has given me an even greater appreciation for the days I feel well.

Because things have been as they've been, the 12th anniversary of the surgery at the Cleveland Clinic that saved my life went unremarked and uncelebrated this past week on March 25. But I'm ever grateful that my husband got a job in Ohio 13 years ago and that it allowed me to get to the place where they were able to give me this second chance at life. It's a good reminder that every day, really, should be lived as if it were our last, even if it's just to be grateful for the good and the bad.

In not-so-good news, after my post-second-ablation scare on Monday, the new doctor scheduled a third ablation, this time an AFib Ablation, which is more complicated and dangerous than the other two I've already had. I don't really want to spend a lot of time thinking about it since it only produces anxiety but, maybe, just maybe, this third time will be the charm and I will regain some normalcy again, just like I did after that other surgery more than a decade ago. This next ablation is in May so maybe that will be another anniversary to mark and celebrate. We can only hope and pray it is so.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Cultivating patience

Well, not only did it snow here in Ohio yesterday when spring officially began after noon, but I'm actually back in the hospital (at least not in the ER this time), in the heart unit, because I had a bad episode of arrhythmia Tuesday afternoon (while having dinner with dear friends after my first day back at work and after teaching two really good classes). That episode turned worse Wednesday morning after I woke up and my new doctor direct admitted me into the hospital where I'm still at, awaiting to see whether the sixth and seventh new heart medications I've been on in as many years will work and allow me to recover some semblance of the life I knew before September 2013 when my workhorse heart decided to become a caballo desbocado.

I'm supposedly being released tomorrow, if my EKGs stay the course, when, in keeping with the universe's sense of humor lately, the weather is expected to take a 30-degree plunge and go from the sunny 60s today back into the wintery 30s. I'm tired of gripping about the winter but it's hard not to when we've had six months' worth of it this year!

Staying in the hospital, which I've done too many times since before being diagnosed with Crohn's Disease in 1988 (at least six since 1987 and that's not counting emergency visits), is one of those experiences that I always try to move through as quickly as possible and then try to forget just as fast. Still, I do remind myself that de los males el bueno (it's not the worst of evils) since I'm not battling terminal cancer or something equally hard.

Thus, I try to look forward to the good things I hope are coming, like returning home to my husband, my furry children, and my lovely home; traveling to my nephew's college graduation in May and to a conference in the Berkshires in June; and, celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary in July! They say one shouldn't live in the future but in the present, but that's when the present doesn't suck. When it sucks, having a future to anticipate and look forward to is crucial in getting through the present.

I remember a card I've seen in stores that says something like when you find yourself in the valley of the shadow of death, move quickly. That seems like sensible advice to me.

In the meantime, here are some recent photos of an expectant (and pleading) Chiquita, looking forward to one of the cheddar puffs I usually have for lunch that she loves so much, and a "breaded" Hamlet, who kind of overdid it with the catnip recently.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hopes of spring

Spring arrives in these parts on Thursday but you wouldn't know it with the furnace running at full blast even past the Ides of March, and the temperature outside today staying at a stubborn 24 degrees when it's supposedly forecast to reach 45 today (or about 10 degrees below the normal average by this time). Yes, this winter of our discontent feels eternal and even my favorite weatherman, who loves snow and cold, is now saying so when he looks at weather models forecasting a cold end to the month.

But what I like most about Spring, as I write pretty much every year on these pages, is that sense of resurrection. That no matter how cold or cruel the winter may be, the green will sprout, the birds will sing, and, on the best days, the breeze will caress us with warm promises.

On the home front, we have a dedicated Mr. Robin, who now often waits for us (on the snowy colder days) for his ration of expensive dessicated worms, and we have valiant snowdrops that have pushed up into the sun all over the yard, making pledges of spring with their delicate (yet hardy) white blooms.

March for me is a month of two important anniversaries and now I'm hoping I can add a third. I had the second heart ablation on the 14th at the Ross Heart Hospital, part of the Ohio State Medical Center, and while the experience was much more painful than the first (hard as they tried, they couldn't get my heart to replicate the crazy heartbeats that have assailed me now for seven long years), the care and the quality of the hospital was truly impressive. My new specialist is confident that he knows what's going on and that he "got it," so now we just wait and hope and pray that nothing happens. I had my huge let down last time a week after the first ablation, when the crazy heart returned, so I'm trying not to get my hopes up at all so I'm not terribly disappointed again. In any case, at least now there's someone who thinks he knows what's going on, which is an improvement from my first specialist who told my mom and my husband one thing and then couldn't remember what he'd said to them when I followed up with him. "Time to get a second opinion," I thought. And I'm glad I did.

This Wednesday it'll be 13 years since I moved to Ohio, in the wake of my husband's earlier move in February 2001 for a job that changed our lives, nonetheless because it allowed us (through his health insurance) to afford the surgery on March 25, 2002 that saved my life and has given me these subsequent 12 years of at least a Crohn's Disease-free life. Of course, other complications have ensued, like this relatively new heart problem, so when someone says lightning doesn't hit in the same place twice, I just laugh. But I'm always thankful that while these are health setbacks they are not catastrophes, and that I'm ultimately very blessed and very fortunate.

While spring break wasn't much of one (I spent the time being anxious about the second procedure and battling the return of an annoying cold that started before I arrived in Puerto Rico in February but seemingly had "cured" itself once I breathed the Caribbean air) there's less than two months to go before this semester, this entire academic year, concludes. Time does go fast, doesn't it?

Perhaps, like everything around us, I also will get some springtime-of-life this year and my heart will settle down and I will resurrect some much-longed-for tranquility into my expectations of what each day may bring. At least in my heart (perhaps ironically), hope does, like the season we look forward to after the hard finality of winter, always spring eternal.