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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What I am thankful for

I had my 5 month biopsy today.  I think 5 months was officially a few days ago, but who cares, 5 months, wow.  I can say unequivocally what I am thankful for is my donor family and the thoughts and prayers the last 4 years I have received.  One of the NPs I saw today said once you get to about 6 months post transplant you become in maintenance mode.  That is an interesting observation because I have been in the heart failure program since 2002, and now I am not:-)    I know transplant is not a destination, it is very much a journey with many twists and turns.   But I am here thanks to the care I have received and the amazing graciousness of my donor family.

I have been thinking about reaching out, initiating contact with my donor family.  Now that I am beyond 90 days I can do so, but it is the sole discretion of the donor family to respond.  I want to tell them how sorry I am for their loss, how thankful I am for their courage in their darkest hour, and how this gift has impacted my life. 

In the past month I have been running 3.5 miles, I have been biking up to 30 miles on a bike, doing an hour on the elliptical etc.  From that standpoint I feel healthy.  I think I have grown a lot during this time as well.  Some of the things I have learner:
  1. Its ok to have expectations - we just refer to them as goals
  2. Goof-off and other commercial grade adhesive removers actually have a place in medicine
  3. This journey is both physical and emotional
    1. For those that have had time to prepare due to a lengthy disease, as I did, the first part is emotional (think of this as grieving), then physical (surgery trauma), and then emotional again.  Once the wounds heal it is easy to contemplate where you are in life and where you are going
    2. For others who have had a quick journey, a rapid descent into heart failure, the emotional tends to dominate.  Fear, why me, what does this mean........
  4. It is ok to be afraid, to be tired, to need space.  You have to be your own advocate throughout the process, to include pushing back
  5. Being a heart disease patient turns you into the family and friend cardiologist.  It is shocking how much you learn along the way.  I relate it to being a Veteran and constantly being asked my views on politics and what I think about the latest troop deployment
  6. It CAN always be worse.  I used to say this to my cycle class when I was teaching.  You never know what someone else is dealing with.  In truth I secretly though it can't be much worse for me.  Then I met another transplant patient in CA.  He had a total artificial heart (meaning he had no heart inside him and was hooked up to a backpack that wooshed all the time), he had cardiac amyloidosis (cancer), and needed a kidney transplant too.  He and I were both transplanted on the same day, July 4th.  I saw him in clinic several times afterwards but one day in particular sticks out.  He had just been into see the kidney doctor where they removed a stent from his kidney.  The shortest path to the kidney is through.............  You get the point.  He wins, that was worse!!!  And yet he was happy to be alive.
I saw a friend today at the hospital.  He and I did time together last spring for a couple of  weeks.  There was a group of us that would gather to watch the NHL playoffs in the lounge.  It was so great to see someone, albeit slightly behind me in the journey, and say "Yes, it is definitely worth it."  It was what he needed to hear and it is what I believe.

The new movie "Unbroken" is coming out.  The story is about Louis Zamperini, and he was a B24 pilot like my grandfather.  I had read the book a couple of years ago, and it is simply amazing.  He passed away on July 3rd late in the day in Los Angeles.  The headlines in the paper the next day, the day I received my heart, are about Louis Zamperini.    Every time I see the trailer it takes me back to that day.

Enough ramblings for today.  Thanks for reading this, I hope it is helpful to others out there.