An unreliable heart, a lifesaving intervention and a precious chance to reboot

It probably does not happen often in a person’s life to be able to experience a reboot — a jumpstart, if you will; but I had one last week and survived. And I am not talking about those times before, during or even after the High Holidays when people try to change something in their life and improve themselves. I am speaking about a real reboot featuring cardiac surgeons, experienced anesthesiologists, caring and professional nursing staff armed with highly technical medical equipment and jolts of electrical currents passing through my heart in an effort to fix its rhythm. It is something healthy people take for granted daily. I never do and neither do the hundreds of thousands of cardiac patients around the world who are awaiting their own rebooting.

I am the fortunate product of caring Israeli doctors and a health care system that the United States healthcare industry really should emulate. Having had to rely upon both countries for my very life, I can say that I am lucky to be alive. Of course, I am not entirely lucky because I have yet to be added to that magical “list” of those awaiting heart transplantation, and as strange as it is to say, I hope I am one day considered sick enough to meet that criteria and receive a properly functioning organ. But until the transplant networks repair their own criteria, I, and the many thousands like me, wait and hope to beat those odds. I was lucky last week, or about as lucky as someone in Stage IV heart failure can be. True, I ignored some classic signs that I needed immediate medical treatment, but everything began with a good old-fashioned virus and the subsequent warning signs were incorrectly attributed to it.

I am a ranking member of the lemonade school. I believe that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade — or even lemon meringue pie. It is not a very religious attitude, but it has served me well for decades. As my grandmother’s favorite saying went: “Do the best you can”. And when facing death, a little pie never hurts.

All of the folks who took care of me in the two hospitals where I found myself are scientific, medically-trained professionals. A few of them were also strong believers in faith and the power of prayer. As a true doubter in all things religious, I did give some thought to the words of a florist who brought me the most fragrant of flowers from one of my favorite people. She exhorted me to believe I would get better and that God would intercede on my behalf. I am not sure I truly believe in God, but I sure do believe in gardening and making the world a greener place. Just being able to think of spring and nature’s rebooting ability, gave me more hope than I assumed I had left. At some point in everyone’s life, and not necessarily after a life-threatening experience, we should all try rebooting ourselves. Think of things you have yet to see, feel, hear, or even say to someone who is important in your life. Feel it. Say it. Hear it all. And do so while you still can.

About the Author
Rachel Grenadier was an olah from the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2003 who returned to the United States in 2015. She really wanted to stay in Israel, but decided that having family members nearby was better for her health than a bunch of devoted, but crazed, Israeli friends who kept telling her hummous would cure her terminal heart condition. She has her B.A. and M.A. from George Mason University in Virginia and is the author of two books: the autobiographical "Israeli Men and Other Disasters" and "Kishon: The Story of Israel's Naval Commandoes and their Fight for Justice". She is now living in Virginia with her three Israeli psychologically-challenged cats and yet, denies being a "hoarder".
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