I had a health episode that caused me to spend a few hours in the ER last night. I had just finished signing books Sunday afternoon and said goodbye to some visiting friends. As I closed the door, I felt my breathing change and had to sit down. My heart was fluttering in my chest and beating irregularly. There wasn’t any pain involved which was a consolation, but the uncertainty of what was happening in my body was troubling.
I live alone now. This means I have new decisions to make that I’ve never had to decide before. The chief of which was, “What do I do now?” Beforehand, Karen would have made the call for me to take me to the hospital. That is not an option any longer. So the burden of choice is now up to me.
Initially I thought I should wait it out and see if it passes. I’ve had this same feeling before, but it usually subsides within minutes, not prolonged like this one. About 45 minutes into it, I could tell this wasn’t going away. But it still was hard to know what to do. My inner dialogue proceeded: Should I call someone? What if it’s not serious? What if it is? What should I do?
My conclusion was to drive to the ER and get it checked out. And that’s when it got worse. When you say shortness of breath to a hospital staff member, you become an immediate priority. The nurse quickly moved me to a triage bed and started the diagnosis.
The results showed I was having PVC’s, premature ventricular contractions. The doctor said these are common, which explains why I’ve had them before. His description was “common, but not normal.” Yes people have them often, and usually not serious, but not something to be ignored. And they most certainly don’t last an hour.” He affirmed my decision to bring myself in.
While lying in the hospital bed, alone in Room 17, my mind started in on me. The dark voices were near. They had the same tone I recall from 2016, when my world came crashing in and it was clear that I was about to lose everything. I remember standing at the edge of the abyss of despair and feeling hopeless. These demons were back. But not for long.
I recall the day it became clear that no matter how dark my circumstances got, I still have options. I get to choose which ones I will keep and which ones to burn.
Watching Karen die a long, slow death had some positive effects on me. I’m less afraid of death now because I cannot control death. I couldn’t for her and I can’t for me. It’s as if each of us have an invoice with a number of days on it. When that invoice comes due, death has permission to come collect, but not a day sooner or longer. And since I don’t know the number on the invoice, I have a choice to rest or worry.
As the word got out that I was in the ER, some trusted brothers showed up. I asked The Son of Jephunah to read some of my promises. I can’t describe the picture in my mind as the words floated over me. Beautiful comes across like a cliche, but it’s all I got right now.
It elevated me above whatever was happening to my ticker and took me to a higher place of gratitude. I am a blessed man and I always have been. But three years ago I didn’t believe that. I’m grateful for the transformation.
But mostly I’m grateful for the beautiful people in my life. I am a wealthy man with friends of a lifetime and new friends I’ve yet to get to know yet.
I can’t control the number of my days, but I can control fear. It was a pleasure last night to tell it to leave Room 17. I’m remarkably better this morning. Don’t worry about me. In fact, don’t worry about anything. It really is a choice.
Make today count.