Note from Elaine: When I look back over the five years since undergoing a life-threatening operation (aneurism repair) and the grueling three-month recovery period that followed, I am grateful to be here. If you’ve every had a life-threatening medical situation, you’ll know what I’m talking about! The brush with mortality that the aneurism represented made me look at my life as a gift rather than something to be endured. And somehow, magically, it brought peace and acceptance about being adopted. Amazing how that worked. So because I want to honor the anniversary of a second chance at life, and also because I’m immersed in writing a new version of my novel The Hand of Ganesha, I’m republishing a post that appeared a few years back. Please feel free to comment!
The surprises began in late May. Just as I was retiring from my job as elementary school librarian for Santa Fe Public Schools, I contracted an intestinal flu that resulted in multiple visits to the doctor. Blaming my “bug” on elementary school germs, I assumed that I would eventually get better. Despite antibiotics, however, I felt worse by the week. My primary care physician ordered a ct scan, and the scan revealed a seriously advanced abdominal aortic aneurism. A few days afterwards, I had surgery.
May 30th at 6 a.m. at Christus St. Vincent’s Hospital: Flanked by my tall sons (who’d flown in from distant locales), I entered the surgery center, was soon a gurney and being wheeled into the operating theater. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. To say that I was concerned would be an understatement. It this was to be the end, I worried, I had yet to finish editing my new book The Goodbye Baby-Adoptee Diaries. Yes, I focused on my book rather than thinking that I might not live through the very serious operation.
The anesthesia took over, and I was OUT. Working for several hours, the brilliant surgical duo Doctors Poseidon Varvitsiotis and Gerald Weinstein replaced my defective aortic section with a dacron stint, sutured it in place, and sewed me back together. My next moment of consciousness was in the Intensive Care Unit, where I would spend the next two and ½ days. Despite exhaustion and a morphine-induced stupor, I was amazed and grateful. My life had been saved!
After six days at Christus St. Vincent’s, I was allowed to go home. Friends rallied, a different pal spending the night in my guest room for a couple weeks, just to make sure I was OK. For a month, I was very feeble and could get about only with the help of a walker. It was a chore to eat, to dress, to do anything at all.
Following doctor’s orders, I took a siesta every afternoon. Some days I just rested; others, I actually slept. When I was at last able, I took a daily half-hour walk outdoors. Along with resting and walking, I edited, proofreading the final galleys of The Goodbye Baby-A Diary about Adoption. At last it was done: the day I received final approval from my publisher, I improved 100 per cent.
So, the operation is history. If all continues to go well, I will not need a check-up until a year from now. My doctor advised me to slow down, to continue taking a daily rest, and to take better care of myself. I’d made that decision as well. Though it didn’t have any obvious connection to the aortic aneurism, I am no longer on perpetual overdrive. The operation and ensuing month of recovery made me realize that, in the big picture, it does not matter if I meet personal deadlines exactly as I’d envisioned.
Thus begins “the new normal,” and it feels wonderful.
P.S. May 30th will always be my personal date to celebrate BEING ALIVE!