For reasons of no particular interest here, a perfect storm of conditions recently caused my first-ever COPD flare-up and subsequent five-day hospital stay, the only time in 77 years I’ve been in for more than same-day surgery. The process left me somewhat chastened and realizing that using good genes as an excuse to ignore my health was probably not a viable long-term option. I will therefore have to take seriously the task of regaining and preserving as much as possible of my health going forward.
The process also left me with some memorable experiences which I will chronicle here, in case anyone’s interested.
We hear of one’s “life flashing before their eyes” in life-threatening situations. I was not really at serious risk – I could have driven myself to ER – and I long ago came to terms with my own mortality in the sense that death does not frighten me. The actual messy, drawn-out activity of handling declining physical capabilities, however are a pain in the butt.
I had recently been contemplating writing a novel wherein the decay and downfall of an empire (think the tottering American hegemon) would be chronicled via the metaphor of an individual’s physical and mental decay and downfall. Before I could really plot this out, events seem to have done it for me.
As I was enroute to the hospital via ambulance, I looked out the back window and watched the road I’ve driven thousands of times. It was familiar, yet unfamiliar, unrolling instead of rolling up. I remembered every inch of the journey. I got the feeling that if we just kept driving, I’d end up back in the mountains of Colorado, 8 years old. Then they turned onto a road I’d driven only a few times in 40 years and I recognized very little. It occurred to me there might be similar pieces of my life I hadn’t paid much attention to….
I am in a hospital room. The floor has a outside corridor/balcony; view says high-rise, Middle East, perhaps Saudi, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi/Dubai, etc. There’s a sliding window opening to the outside and it shows white Arabic script on black background. When I open it, I find an Arab man and his son, perhaps 9-years old.
The boy greets me and extends his good wishes for my health. I thank him and ask if that sentiment came from his father or his heart. He says it came from his heart. I tell him it is good to listen to one’s father but also good to listen to one’s heart – and to always know the difference. Not sure he understood that but the father did and was pleased. We bid each other Salaam and they walked on.
Same place a few days later. This time the son had grown up and had two daughters with him. He introduced them and I asked them if he had taught them to listen to their heart. They smiled and one said she would become a physician because her heart told her to help people. The other said she would be studying history, anthropology, psychology, art, etc because her heart told her to understand people. I spent a few minutes giving her clues to that process, since I’ve been on that same journey all my life. She seemed overjoyed to get some new ideas for her quest. We bid each Salaam and went on our way.
…to be continued…