Friday, March 6, 2009

Day One at LifeCare Rehab Hospital

Until I can play catch up we are going to jump ahead to where I am now. But I promise to go back to my hand written journals and tell the stories and lessons I learned while entering this world of heart disease. In the meantime, here is the daily journal of learning how to start over.

An Open Heart Journal
LifeCare Hospital. Fort Worth
Day One
March 6, 2009

DAY ONE - Strange, humbling, learning day

Today was one of those strange but learning days. I left Baylor after being there one week where I experienced passing out during a chest xray, being the subject of an RRT (Rapid Response Team) call, one day in ICU and the joys of having a 24 hour stomach virus for 48 hours while trying to cope with chest pains at the same. I’m glad they were able to get me one more day to stabilize but I’m a little miffed that I haven’t seen Dr, Feingold and didn’t get to say good bye to him. He won’t be my doctor at LifeCare and I have no idea how things will work out as to who IS my cardiologist once I’m back home.

LifeCare is a fully equipped hospital with stellar rehab facilities. They will be much better suited to meet every one of my medical needs and hopefully work me physically enough I return home with the ability to care for myself, cook, clean and well, have a life. No more thoughts of returning back to work right now. I’ve got to be content with being left alone safely and moving about with freedom. Of course, all I can think about is the lack of income but I battle those fears and try to be content with the hope of finally going home in 30 days. That means sometime around April 8th or 9th - three full months since I first had a heart attack while riding an exercise bike in Baylor Cardiac Rehab January 9th. Talk about living the unthinkable. I though open heart surgery would be the end of my challenges but now I’m facing a whole new world - the world of true cardiac arrest and stents. Little did I know that in just a few more days I would be the proud owner of seven bright and shiny titanium stents thanks to the giftedness and determination to bring a valid change to my life of Dr. Thelman.

To recover from the stents and hopefully give me a few weeks of cardiac rehab I was transferred to Heartland Manor Care. I made the simple but potentially fatal mistake of not listening to my roommate and chose this short term over a long term with the suggestion of the Social Worker and Doctors. I found out the difference between long and short term and L Tech facilities the hard way and by February 28th found myself back in the Baylor ER with uncontrollable high blood pressure and sugar levels of 31. The first promise I made to my roommate (a Cardiac R.N.) was to listen to her suggestions next time. Well, after trying to get into a brand new facility I was accepted in her first choice “LifeCare Hospital of Fort Worth.”

Oddly enough I have been here before - but as a visitor to a dear friend last Spring - never guessing I would be a patient here myself less than a year later. What made the day start out strange is that I was first taken to the wrong LifeCare facility. When we arrived they didn’t expect us, didn’t have any paperwork and ended up setting me up in a room that looked more sad and deplorable than my last unfortunate experience and in a bed next to an 80 year old woman who reminded me of my mother in her last year of a nursing home. I laid there mentally refusing to unpack my belongings hoping there had been a serious mistake. “God, I prayed, “Please don’t tell me I’m spending 30 more days here.” Within a few minutes I saw my transport driver heading toward my room with a wheelchair - Yea, HE had brought me to the wrong location.

Even though this particular LifeCare Facility is further away from my friends and family I know when we pull up it is the correct place as I quickly recognize the location from my one previous visit last Spring. We go in and immediately the receptionist recognizes my name and send the driver pushing my wheelchair toward Room 113C. As we go down the hallway I see a gym as big as the one I used to go to in Junior and Senior High. I think this is going to be a much better experience.

The next portion of this blog is actually very embarrassing but contains a story that needs to be told. When first arriving at the correct location there was a patient sitting in her wheelchair in the foyer that made me a little fearful initially. She was very large, coughing and appeared to be needy of much physical and medical attention. By the time I was brought into my room I realized that the same person laying in the second bed was the same patient I had encountered. I started to choke at the thought of this particular roommate and I’m embarrassed to say that my thoughts were neither gracious nor loving. I was about to eat a big serving of humble pie and all I can say is that except for my public admission on this page the Lord allowed me to be humbled privately.

A couple of visitors arrived after supper for my new roommate. The teenage daughter appeared and talked like she was seriously mentally challenged and the man was a tall version of Santa Claus. To be honest I felt like I was back in the mountains of East Tennessee where I had mission-worked several years ago. You would think that just that clear association with people I dearly came to love would slap me the one time I needed but it didn’t. It took a serious jolt from the Father to get my head back on straight. The guests were loud but cheerful and it was clear this man tenderly loved his wife. But it was what happened at the end of the visit that made me repent repeated throughout the night and opened my heart to pray instead of bitter. The TV suddenly went off and even through the curtain it was obvious the trio was holding hands and the man began to sweetly ask his Sweet, Precious Jesus to come that night and be with his dear wife that night. His prayer was one that not only broke his heart but mine as well and I am sure the heart of OUR Savior Who I knew we all loved no matter what name we called Him by or how we looked or even smelled. My repentance softened my heart and through the night I found myself listening for my roommate’s labored breathing and responded by calling the heat of the room or other things I knew troubled her to the nurse’s attention. I went from bitter to caregiver before morning and I’ve found myself blessed with a sweet friendship with a family I would have never met had it not been for the room selection obviously done by the Lord and not man.

So today, getting moved, feeling the sun on my face for the first time in a while and traveling throughout most of Fort Worth where just months ago I drove, shopped and worked. Yes, I cried when we passed a corner close to my apartment thinking, “If only I were going home instead of another hospital.” I’ve learned a very hard lesson and once again my heart has been “stented” by the Lord Himself. I get ready for bed hoping the battery on my iPod carries me through the night so I can sleep.

From the Heart,