Feeling overwhelmed, helpless, anxious, cardiac patients go through more than anyone should be asked to bear. At least that’s how I felt the first couple years of my cardiac disorder and all the other problems they bring with it.
Six-and-a-half years ago, a seemingly harmless children’s virus (Coxsackie-B) got into my heart. It decimated the cardiac electrical system, caused Dilated Cardiomyopathy, CHF. Suddenly I was a patient with a serious cardiac disorder.
With minimal heart function, I needed an immediate Transplant. For several reasons, I was not eligible for a Transplant. My husband was told to “Take her home. Get Her Affairs in order. Make her comfortable.”
The doctors had no answers.
We were literally out of options.
Usually optimistic I was discouraged.
Though I had many around me, I was alone.
The only light at the end of the tunnel seemed to be the train headed right at me.
My medical team worked harder to keep this one woman alive than I had ever thought possible. They came up with an experimental complex cardiac device that took over the electrical functions. My heart began to pump oxygenated blood through my body once again.
I developed every complication possible.
Spent most of the next two years in and out of the hospital.
Between hospital stays our house was a hub of nurses, therapists, and healthcare professionals. At one point, each of my organs had its own specialist. Each body system its own treatment team. The time, dedication, commitment of these people to keeping me alive was nothing short of a miracle.
I hadn’t had an easy life.
But I’d always been able to handle stuff.
To handle pain.
To hold onto my faith.
To believe that everything happens for a reason.
To stay optimistic.
If I saw a purpose in it, no matter how many times I was knocked down, I got up, dusted myself off and kept going.
Pain changes you.
Fear changes you.
Being chronically critically ill changes you even more than I could have imagined.
It picked me up and took me places I would never have gone willingly.
It showed me levels of fear, of trust, of faith I never imagined, could exist.
Regardless of any physical healing, I was fundamentally changed as a person.
I had a choice to make.
I could become better or I could become bitter.
l would never be the same.
Though grateful to have been given more time, I saw no purpose in the battle.
I saw no purpose in my life.
I saw no reason to keep getting up.
I lost my optimism.
With an immune system battered by the illness and treatments, most of my time was spent in what I referred to as “Modified House Arrest.”
Twenty-four hours is a long day when you are chronically ill and have to remain housebound. You can only watch so much television and read so many books.
Only post so many pictures from the past to Social Media.
One day I found myself watching a televised Church Service.
I listened to a sermon entitled “Let your troubles transform you.”
The message was quite interesting considering my medical situation:
“Don’t waste your pain.”
“ Don’t hide your pain.”
“ Let God heal it.”
“ Let God recycle it.”
“ Let God use it to bless other people.”
The Preacher said that God. If we let him, uses our pain to help others.
He can use your “troubles to transform your life.”
“Each of us is designed by God for a Specific Mission.”
Not anymore, I thought.
“You have a Mission that no one else can accomplish.”
I could barely walk. What did I have to give?
“God has a plan for you.”
What use could I be to anyone?
By the end of the program, I was yelling at the television.
Spent hours talking to God.
Telling Him how I felt.
Arguing with Him.
Yelling at Him.
Crying out to Him.
Surrendering to Him
My physical battles and pain were, at that point, the only things I had in excess.
I was so overwhelmed, so weak from a battle that seemed to end, I found it difficult to even get out of bed.
Everyone goes through tough times.
Everyone has failures.
Everyone experiences pain.
Everyone faces tragedy.
No one goes through life unscather.
No one goes through unbroken.
There is pain, pressure, and difficulty in everyone’s life.
But resilience, determination; the ability to bounce back no matter how bad things get is all about perspective.
It’s all in the way we look at things.
Growing up, my father had a saying…
“When you can’t think of a reason to continue, you need to think of a reason to Start Over.”
I was still breathing.
My heart was still beating.
Maybe there was a way I could serve.
Maybe I could start living again.
Maybe, just maybe, it was time to Start Over again.
Slowly and quietly I began to reach out online to others dealing with issues related to serious illness.
To their friends and family.
Soon I was fielding questions from patients around the world.
They wrote to tell me that my story brought them hope.
Their stories touched my life more than they could have imagined.
They brought me Healing.
They brought me Gratitude.
I began to see that my life did have a purpose.
I began to understand there was a Mission for me.
Rather than focusing on my pain, my feelings, how sick I was, I began to focus on others also facing a fight with a body that had betrayed them.
Helping them find information and resources.
Showing them there is Hope.
Helping them learn to manage chronic disease.
Showing them it was possible to stabilize our conditions.
Creating change in lives and in communities.
They began to serve as a daily dose of hope for this irrepressible optimist. What a humbling experience it is for me to walk amongst such a group.
I pick their brains.
I learn from their experiences.
I borrow their ideas.
Frightened. Desperate for information.
I bring them understanding and support.
I am humbled to be a small part of this witness.
That we, as patients, face our deepest fears.
That we find an inner strength few will ever know.
That we get through anything once we see a purpose in it.
That we help each other advance from adversity.
That we become Transformed By Our Troubles…