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Intensive care unit (ICU) LCD monitor with an ongoing surgery in background
24 Jan 2018

“Your heart stopped for three and a half seconds,” the cardiologist said, after I answered the phone in my kitchen. “Did you feel anything two nights ago?”

“No.” I did remember falling into a deep sleep after getting up in the middle of the night.

“How do you feel today?” he asked.

“I feel off today,” I answered as I smelled the freshly-brewed coffee.

“If you faint call me,” the doctor said. “You will need a pacemaker.”

After some silence he continued, “The heart monitor you have shows that your heart only slows down at night. That is good.”

After I hung up the phone I wondered if being so alone and lonely at night contributes to a slow heart, a broken heart? Is living alone longer worth going through surgery?

Yesterday I asked for a ride from Rachael. I didn’t feel well enough to drive but didn’t know why.

I go twice monthly to the senior center for the bereavement group; I lost my husband two years ago and found the group helpful. Sort of a like after saying kaddish for a year, my son David had many more friends in his shul. I now have many more friends in town.

Rachael had asked, “Are you okay?” as I wobbled badly and had to hold on to her as we walked. I was glad to get home and rest.

The next time I saw the doctor he said, “You can wait to fall and have to deal with both the aftermath of the fall and the surgery, or you can schedule the surgery.” So I scheduled it for after Thanksgiving.

The day of the surgery the doctor asked, “What’s wrong with your eyes?”

“I don’t want the operation. I was crying.”

During the operation I was partially awake but it was not as bad as I had expected.

“I already feel better,” I told the doctor while they were finishing up the surgery.

“Your color has come back,” he said.

I passed my two children, David and Debra, waiting in the hall. I waved and said, “I already feel better.”

A nurse explained, “You didn’t get enough oxygen. You have bed rest until three. Push this red button when you need something.”

Those first few hours the nurses were very attentive, then came the night. I pushed the button and someone came in and said, “I will tell your nurse.” An hour later my nurse came in.

Later in the evening it happened again: the wait. I tried my breathing in, counting down from ten, then breathing out, “God is with me,” but the tears of being alone and helpless poured down. I knew the operation was needed but how was I going to get over the recovery?

So this is how people feel when they are seriously ill in the hospital, alone like I feel at night at home. Is being so vulnerable worth living? Was the operation worth all this? I tried to think of all the people who prayed for me. I will be okay. I will survive with their help.

Finally a nurse entered my room and spoke with what could only be described as a New York Jewish accent. I mean this in the kindest way. She said, “I’m Susan. I’ll help you to get comfortable then get your nurse to give you more painkillers.”

Almost an hour later, Susan came back carrying my pills. She was followed quickly by my nurse, who got ahead of her to administer my painkillers.

In the morning, the doctor came by and allowed me to go home but with restricted arm movements so as not to disturb the pacemaker. The nurse helped me get dressed, even having to put on my shoes and socks. I had a sling on my left arm to remind me not to move it too far up or too far back.

David helped me put my coat on over the sling and get into his car backward as the nurse advised.

Once home, I told David to push the button on the coffeemaker, which I had left ready. I had hard-boiled eggs ready in the refrigerator and tried to eat. David poured glasses of juice, readied the coffeemaker for the next morning and did everything he could since I couldn’t lift anything. “I’ll be back tomorrow to help,” he said.

It was a long, difficult night of pain, not being able to turn over or reach without worry about the moving the arm the wrong way.

The next day, David coaxed me to eat and decided the sling was not helping me.

I slept better and was able to at least make my own coffee and pour my own juice. Debra came with by with cooked food and said, “You’re making progress every day. I can tell.”

I fell asleep easier by reminding myself that I was not alone. I breathed in, counting down from ten, then breathed out, “God is with me.”

That Wednesday, I put on the news. I saw and heard President Trump explain why he was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Seventy years ago, I was alive when President Truman recognized the State of Israel. I am thankful that I lived to see this day. God is with me and I will be well.


The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.