Category Archives: heart disease

Compassion over mulch at the White Oak Garden Center

It was a Sunday in early May but not Mother’s Day. I may not have had much sense driving to the White Oak Garden Center to do what I planned to do but I did have sense enough to avoid it on such a special flower day.

I went to get some mulch.

That sounds ordinary enough now, doesn’t it? But it had been barely ten weeks since my open heart surgery and lifting was still tentative, especially a forty pound bag of mulch.

After I had selected and paid for my four bags, I started driving to the back to pick up my order. By now there were several cars with uncertain drivers, including me. Where were we to park for the mulch? There were options which–with a car behind me, one in front, and one on the side–began to irritate me. (I realized later that my irritation had to do with my sudden realization that I was going to have trouble unloading my mulch at home!)

One of my pet peeves is someone following too closely and, although the young guy in the red truck wasn’t actually doing so, in my agitated state he seemed close. I made an irritated face and put my left hand out the window, showing “hold on!”

When he and the other guy ended up next to me, I felt embarrassed. The garden guy took their receipt first and the older man who turned out to be the father said, “She was before us.”

“Thanks, I appreciate that. And–sorry I was in a bad mood driving down here. I didn’t know where to park and was feeling surrounded by cars.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. Hi, I’m Dan and this is my son.”

How gracious! Dan and I shook hands.

The garden guy deposited mulch into the back on my Honda CR-V. It hit me: how the hell was I going to deal with these bags once I got home? I muttered something to this effect.

“How close do you live? We could follow you and get it out of your car for you.”

I couldn’t believe his offer. The Universe seemed to be answering my muttered wish.

“That’s so kind of you! I might just take you up on your offer. You see, I’m recuperating from heart surgery.”

After they got their twenty bags of mulch in the back of their truck, Dan and his son followed me on Sheed Road.
I backed into the side yard in front of the fence gate to the back. They put two bags there and two bags in front by some bushes.

“Thank you so much. You’ve given me faith again in human beings!”

As we talked, the conversation came back to my recent open heart surgery. What hospital, when, and more. Dan told me he is a nurse and teaches at Cincinnati State Community College. What were the odds? I was amazed by the coincidence of being helped by someone who knew so much about health. And was so kind.

They admired my little nature preserve and said their goodbyes. I felt warm and fuzzy inside, trite but true. And will never look at bags of mulch the same again.

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Tears come easily now

It’s not a bad thing. It just “is,” in the tradition of wise speaker and workshop guru Byron Katie.

The tears flow easily down my cheeks when I’m trying to get to sleep or are just waking. In between the worlds. Transition.

The most clear and profound instance was one evening as I was reading about the heart, how it works. It was an online site aimed at children. More easily understood. With no warning it hit me – truly and beyond reason – how amazing our heart system is.

Without attention (unless something goes wrong). Without thanks. The heart beats on an incredible number of times in one life.

These are what I call pure tears–not from sadness or distress, not joy or bliss. Tears of amazement.

My heart memoir may be a project for awhile!

For those of you who don’t know me in person or follow me on Facebook, you don’t know what happened after that post about my chest pains and upcoming hospital procedure. Obviously, I lived! (Phebe lives & isn’t Spring beautiful is my current mantra).

What was totally unexpected was that I needed open-heart surgery. I was told the stents would fight each other, that I had multiple blocked arteries. As fate would have it, one of the best surgeons in the City, evidently (Dr. Answini) had an opening the next day.

The test was Monday, my surgery was Tuesday, I left the hospital Sunday afternoon. My friend and colleague in the arts, Bev Bowers, began rounding people up to spend nights with me, bring me meals, help in those daily ways. My friend Vic Ramstetter quickly made calls that Sunday morning to line up that first week–back home. And my sister Linda Sutton was a true bodhisattva, giving up much of her life for a week to be at the hospital, communicate with the nurses, buy me a recliner, and keep me company.

So it all happened so fast. This is a good thing! I didn’t have much time to be scared of dying, make arrangements, and process it all until these past few months. February 10th was the triple bypass, February 17th my birthday, and I am now taking my coronary heart disease seriously. Cardiac rehab is great, so helpful. I am throwing a party/celebration in two weeks to thank my helpers and honor my 65th birthday three months later.

I will share some of my stories here, from time to time. Plan to publish my heart memoir (Angina Monologues, anyone?) at some point, even if it’s self-publishing just ‘cuz.

It’s all about the heart

For some time I have suspected that spirituality is all about the heart. Now I get to experience my own physical, literal heart.

Tomorrow morning I will undergo angioplasty and cardio catheterization. Sure, I’d heard of these terms, even knew people undergoing them, but never me. This time, I’m in the Cath Room.

After three episodes of chest pains and shortness of breath in less than a week, I phoned my doctor. A referral, please. Something’s going on. Two times were on a treadmill at the fitness center. But when I felt pain walking my dogs in the community center’s field, I knew something was seriously wrong.

I got in the next morning to the Ohio Heart and Vascular Center on Harrison Avenue. How fortunate I was to see Dr. JoAnna English, cardiologist. After an EKG showing abnormal t waves, she insisted I chew five baby aspirin on the spot. I felt safe in her hands:  not only was she intelligent, she had empathy–a combination not always found in physicians.

My task is to be a “couch potato” all weekend. I did pretty well yesterday but spending most of the time on the phone and internet made that easy. I’ve been an activist and doer for decades so this does not come naturally to me. I am enjoying being at home, not having to do even those fun things every day. I have yet to get back to that book I was reading.  I am forbidden to walk my dogs. I am doing a laundry of sofa covers as I write since I am having company this afternoon.

But back to my heart. Cuz it’s all about the heart. Honestly, I’ve taken it for granted. How do I know? Yesterday morning as I lay on one side, I heard and felt the regular and reassuring beats. Thump thump, thump thump. “You’re there,” I thought, “working even as I sleep, even as I forget that you are the most important organ of my body.”  THANK YOU.  In the afternoon I took a short nap midway through reading the pamphlets that go over my procedures in language and pictures that even a kid in 6th grade could understand.

“How Your Heart Works.” “How Angioplasty Treats Heart Disease.” Understanding Angioplasty.” “Understanding Cardiac Catheterization.”  [c Krames Communications]

Step-by-step, they explain what will happen. You see, I’m the kind of person who wants to know, no, NEEDS to know. I’ve always been like that, asking WHY?  to my poor mother. I became a reference and research librarian, after all. Got paid to look things up and help the public find everything they wanted.

So, theoretically, I know. But I am 64 11/12. Ironically, turning 65 has been a Big Thing. I’ll (hopefully!) celebrate this one February 17th–only nine days away. And this year I will certainly appreciate my mortality in a deeper, more heartfelt way.