Alone But Not Alone
Last week I finally heeded numerous doctors’ recommendations to undergo an ablation at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in hopes of correcting my benign SVT tachycardia (periodic rapid heart rate).
I had been spending too much time in the ER at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, usually at two or three o’clock in the morning, where the quickest way to get me back into normal sinus rhythm was to inject me with a drug that stopped my heart and re-started it, an event that stayed frightening and physically strenuous no matter how many times I experienced it.
For seven years I resisted the advice of all concerned to get the ablation done. What was described to me as a simple procedure sounded incredibly invasive, risky and just plain fearsome.
When the electro-cardiologist who just couldn’t wait to get inside my heart and start poking around decided that because of my sleep apnea, I should be under anesthesia (instead of just heavily sedated), my fear intensified. The ablation had been known to take from six to eight hours to complete. That’s a lot of time to be under anesthesia.
I am alone in life, childless, partner-less, with family members who live at some distance from me, some of whom wouldn’t rally to my side anyway and some who couldn’t. Also, within the past year, my four closest friends had left town for one reason or another and all peripheral friends had fallen away.
Because of the anesthesia, I would be kept overnight at the hospital but forbidden to drive home even the following day. So I needed a ride up to Dartmouth-Hitchcock (a little over an hour from Brattleboro) and a ride back. But most of all I needed support.
If I had had any previous doubts as to why I had been a member of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church for the past 20 years, they have evaporated. I hope that my thank you notes convey this.
Dear Ed and Jane:
I am still marveling over your kindness. Due to the early hour, lack of sleep and mounting terror, the events of last Monday morning feel sketchy and slightly unreal. What is concrete and indisputable is your success at getting me to where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there and your presence in Ambulatory until they wheeled me away. You cannot imagine what it meant to me to have you there, with your medical background, your patience and your quiet, reassuring air. I am ever and always grateful.
Dear God: Please don’t let me die. Don’t let me die. Don’t let me die. Please.
Not only was it fun riding in your very smooth car and getting to know more about you and your strong inner moral compass, I also think it was fitting that it should be one of my ER buddies from Brattleboro Memorial to pick me up and bring me home. I am deeply grateful.
To the people of St. Michael’s:
Words cannot adequately express my appreciation. The gratitude I feel to the people of St. Michael’s is purely a matter of heart.
I give special thanks to Jane and Ed S, who picked me up at 4:15 in the morning, got me through the admission process at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and then stayed with me until the scary medical people wheeled me away, to Linda R for bringing me home the next day, to Mary L for coming over and administering Communion on a rainy Thursday afternoon and to the St. Michael’s Episcopal Church Women for knitting the prayer shawl I love and keep close by.
Thank you for your phone calls, your expressions of care and concern and your prayers. It must be powerful magic, powerful faith indeed, because when Mary gave me the bread and wine in my own small living room on Western Avenue, I felt intensely that every single one of you was there.
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