Friday, September 28, 2007

So, Where's God in All This?

I'm going to take a quick break from my recollections for some theological/philsophical ramblings.

I have to confess that immediately after the surgery - even my brain surgery - God really didn't enter my mind. At least, not directly. I remember trying to pray a few times, but it was so hard to focus.

But it was my embolism that really challenged my faith. It was hard to reconcile my utter lack of memories with anything spiritual. But soon I realized - because of what I was told - that there were a number of things I *should* have remembered because I was *conscious* at the time. The fact I had lost so many memories was somehow a comfort. Not only memories when I was apparently awake and responsive inside the MRI during the repair of my (two?) embolisms, but also the complete loss of memory (save for some notable exceptions) during my "awake" time during my brain surgery.

I said in an earlier blog entry that I've always been fascinated by the blend of physical and non-physical (brain vs mind vs soul). Now that I have some distance on this experience, I can give you my thoughts on it.

I am still a 'dualist.' That is, I still believe there is a separation between the soul (in the Jewish/Christian sense) and the body. The fact that I can't remember certain events is simply a function of my brain's capacity to retain pertinent information. It exists (or rather *doesn't* exist) purely in the physical realm. Therefore, there is really no good reason that I can see for abandoning my faith in a spiritual realm - and specifically in a Christian realm.

As the weeks went by, my faith became even stronger than before. It's still difficult for me to focus in my prayers. My mind wanders, seemingly with a 'mind of it's own!' But it's slowly improving.

The bottom line is this: If faith has not been a "front burner" issue for you, I encourage you to make it one, right now! I've never regretted my decision for Christ, and I'll bet you won't, either!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Recovery (Part 3)

The TCU had one nurse for every two patients. I had some wonderful nursing care, especially the day staff. Beryl was one of my favorites. She gave me excellent care, all the while with a smile on her face. She even shaved my face for me - probably the first time in several weeks that had happened.

We started out with four patients, but within a day or two, we were down to three. That was nice! But as all good things must end, so too did this little perq. They brought in a guy in even worse shape than me. He had some sort of an aneurism in his brain, and it was bleeding. He was so out of it, the nurses finally got the doctor to approve a knockout sedative. Of course, all this occurred in the middle of the night. Needless to say, I barely slept.

Actually, it was hard getting a good night's sleep, anyway. The nurses kept waking me up every two hours to check my vitals!

There's a sign in the elevators: "UCLA rates Number 1 in patient care in the West, and in the top 5 Nationally." After experiencing both the ICU and TCU, I can only agree!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Recovery (Part 2)

I was in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) for a couple days (at least - I'm still a bit unclear on how long I was actually in there). Somehow, Shirley was able to get permission for the kids to come in for a brief visit. She waited until I got the breathing tube removed before letting them see me (she said she wanted to wait until I looked presentable!). I think those were probably my lowest moments - waiting for them to "excavate" me; hearing them discuss the process, and not be able to say anything! I very clearly remember the day they finally decided the tube could be removed (about 2 days longer than I thought was necessary!). What a relief!

Next after the ICU was the TCU (Transitional Care Unit). This is a special unit for patients requiring additional care, beyond the 'general population.' I received excellent care in both units. I got almost daily CAT scans and a couple Echo-Cardiograms (a non-invasive, ultrasonic procedure). Shirley asked if I was ready for visitors, and I asked for my pastor and one close family friend. I got to share the Gospel with my friend, which meant a lot to me (and, I hope, to him). It was very natural, the way it worked out. He asked me if anything had changed for me, and I said there was one thing - my sense of urgency about sharing the Gospel. "Well, lay it on me!" he said with a smile.

More on the TCU tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"I Think I'm Having a Heart Attack!"

I vividly remember saying those words to the Physical Therapist. She reacted quickly, and soon there was a whole roomfull of doctors and nurses. They gave me a nitroglycerin tablet and an aspirin to hold under my tongue. Then a second nitro tablet.

The doctors were all leaning over me, asking me questions: "Is the pain getting any better?" ; "Can you tell me how many fingers I'm holding up?" ; "Will you sign this consent form?"

I recall one of the female doctors telling me that they were going to do everything they could do for me, and the next thing I knew, I was in the ICU with a breathing-tube down my throat.

I later learned that I'd had a 'filter' inserted in the major blood vessel going to my heart; that I'd suffered a pulmonary embolysm. Maybe two. Maybe a mild heart-attack. Both of my lungs collapsed.

Shirley says it was relatively minor, considering what I was there for, but believe me, it's not something I want to go through again!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Recovery (Part 1)

Gee, I see that it's been about a month since I updated this blog. Honestly, I haven't felt very motivated. But I know a lot of you are reading this blog for updates on my condition, so that SHOULD be motivation enough for me to update it more often. So, here're my recollections about the week after my surgery:

I'm unclear about the first 24 hours, but after they brought me to my room, I remember more. For example, I remember my wife being there EVERY day - she had to leave the kids in the waiting room, as they weren't allowed in my room. She was wonderful!

I also vividly remember Mark, Niro, Jeff, and Colby's visit. I didn't have any movement, yet, on my right side, and I was still having trouble expressing myself verbally. But I think I got more out than I expected.

I remember having a good appetite.

I remember the "Physical Terrorists" ("Therapists," actually) who came to work with me. I remember the one therapist who was there when I had my pulmonary embolysm. But that story will have to wait until next time! For now, I'll just say that I felt bad for her - she wasn't doing anything strenuous with me at the time. Just one of those things! I actually saw her a couple weeks later; she was still doing PT, so I guess there was no lasting "side-effects" for her!