This post was named and started out in reflection of a friend, a former co-worker, a neighbor who died suddenly from heart-related causes. It was going to be about the rest of life going on without him. Even though our relationship had evolved to only the occasional chance meeting at a store or at an event, or maybe a how-do-you-do when we were out for a walk, his sudden loss leaves a big hole. I don’t process change very well at times, and this change was not a welcome one.
Before I could finish that post, I found myself in our own family Transitions. Everything got put on hold in the wake of my husband’s unexpected heart attack and aftercare, less than two weeks after our neighbor died.
The short version is that we got to the right hospital, in enough time to save this man with whom I have pledged my life, “abiding by the will of God.” We are now in the midst of setting up aftercare: the rehab appointments, the doctor re-visits, the adjustments to medications. We are each tentatively back at work again. He is working “as tolerated” and I am working where ever the various follow-up trips and appointments don’t interfere.
He is doing well, with better circulation than he has had in years, and a growing improvement in his comfort and quality of life. He has to remember that he is still recovering from a huge event, no matter how great he feels. I am getting by, though I suspect I am more exhausted than I care to admit. I have to remember not to nag him that he is doing too much — at least not as often as I want to. Such is the life of the caregiver.
We face transitions now on every front, with work, with our meals, with our lifestyle. Our kitchen ingredients are being overhauled to reduce or eliminate the foods that are not on a heart-wise diet. We dropped to a lower percentage of milk, cheese, and yogurt products and we use them much less often. We cut salad dressings and other condiments by half with non-fat yogurt, plain tomato sauce, or water and vinegar. Even then, we alternate them with other heart-healthy choices. We are learning how to snack in healthier ways, to order the right foods in restaurants, to eat before we leave the house and avoid fast food or restaurant eating most of the time.
I thought I had been conservative by serving red meat no more than twice a week (which is twice in 21 meals). The hospital cut that back to twice in a month, two meals out of 90. The cardiologist suggested to go in the direction of a vegan diet, as much as we could manage to do so. Now there’s a new mindset.
It isn’t just the mechanics that are in transition, either. It’s our outlooks, our perceptions, our automatic responses that are being re-tooled. We strive to make substitutions for things we used to do by habit. That certainly goes for food, but also for exercise, for awareness of our bodies, for looking for healthier choices on every front as a lifestyle goal. I thank God with my entire being that we are still able to make those transitions together.
(c) 2018, J. Cools