I Believe in Miracles
Judaism teaches that every new day is a miracle. Indeed, our morning prayers acknowledge this precious gift each person receives upon arousal. From the day I arrived at UW Medical hospital on July 7 and told that there’s nothing left for the doctors to do to save my life until today, I’ve felt the true power of each G-d given miracle. These days are nothing short of manna from heaven.
Since arriving at the hospital last Wednesday, I quickly succumbed to my failing lungs, requiring upwards of 10/12 liters of oxygen and more. Within a day of arriving, the act of standing to urinate or walking to the bedside commode to defecate caused my breathing to go into super drive. Doctors offered little explanation on what’s causing the issue and less advice on how to deal.
The best guess remained an infection like pneumonia. Although, some speculated on the return of the toxicity, one doctor hypothesized bleeding caused by the anticoagulant, and others spoke of the horrific possibility of disease progression. Whatever the case may be, after a few days of heavy rounds of antibiotics with no reduction in oxygen needs, it appeared apparent that the drugs were ineffective. The only thing readily apparent was the fact that I continued to deteriorate.
I recall a scare late one night. I found myself helpless at the bedside commode, shit and piss all over the place and me breathing like I sprinted a 100 stadium stairs. I tried to be inconspicuous for my college friend staying the night to help – how foolish is the fool when he last gasps for air. But my friend rose and responded to my command to get the nurse. Imagine what she saw – one man barely breathing and incontinent from the heavy rotation of antibiotics, and another man baffled by the whole scene and lost in confusion of a friend dying with nothing he can do. She was one of the good RNs; however, and gave more oxygen and waited and talked to me until my breathing was in control. Then she handled the pooh and pee with dignity and respect, cleaning me up and settling me back into bed.
The next day, speaking with the doctors on rotation about the current situation, they gave me a little more than a week to live, emphasizing a prognosis made days earlier with now an end date in mind. I didn’t doubt the prognosis considering how I felt. But it was also that day where we turned a corner. Through the urging of my wife and best medical care provider – she saw my anxiety and fright, she pushed the doctors to give more meds to control air hunger and alleviate my nerves. We also chose to move to Bailey-Boushay hospice in Seattle. And that Monday July 12, I moved a few miles south to the warm, hospitable, and nurturing grounds of this once former AIDS hospice, now serving all kinds of needs. The diahrea, likely caused by the slew of antibiotics, passed within a few short days here. What’s more my breathing improved to where I’ve been able to lower the dosage from ten to six liters. I’ve had fewer and fewer episodes of air hunger and my endurance and stamina are building up thanks to PT and OT.
When word got put out about my condition, family and friends from all aspects of my life came through to support me. This felt no less miraculous than the dawn of a new day. From London to Winnipeg and Baltimore to San Diego, by planes and with cars loaded with spouses and children, these lovers of mine came to support and help in any way possible with no condition or expectation. It gave strength not only to me but to Kim and the kids in our greatest time of need. There’s a book out right now called Council of Dads written by a sarcoma survivor. I have not read it but I get the gist. I’m fortunate because these brave men, without question, volunteered to be my council, which I’ll hopefully elaborate on in a future blog post.
For now, I feel much better than I did 12 or so days ago when I checked into the hospital. I glow in the aftermath of a delightful miracle. I bask in the sunshine of love in the beauty of each interaction. Under the circumstances, each relationship has grown deeper, every conversation ascended to new heights in what was perceived as final moments but what will be classified as living life to the fullest each moment we are given. Although I’ve past the most dire predictions, I am still not out of the woods by a long shot. And, I admit, hospice is the right place for me. I can die at any time considering the predicament with my lungs. But that’s no excuse to stop living. In fact, it’s a prescription to grab each moment of life and carpe diem.