I Want to Go Outside

I cried today, because I went outside.

A year ago, I wanted to sail around the world. It took years to get my boat, Ariadne, ready for this long journey.  She was at the entrance to the Panama Canal, ready to pass from the Atlantic to the Pacific on February 6, earlier this year, 2017.  I was living on a sailboat, and flying around the world to do my work, leaving Ariadne wherever she was. Now she is in a slip in Florida, for sale, where Hurricane Irma passed over her a few days ago, leaving no damage.  Ariadne got a power washing as other boats were beaten, scarred, and sunk.

I came to Florida on October 12 for two days, and passed out while driving. An ambulance ferried me to a Tampa Hospital where I had open-heart surgery to replace a leaky valve.  Three weeks later, in early November, I came out of a coma in Florida Hospital in Orlando, after a helicopter ride on life support that I don’t recall.  I had a drug reaction to a blood thinner that clotted my blood instead of thinning it, causing a massive heart attack.  From a weakened state in November, I left the hospital in a wheel chair, my sailing plans dashed, my sights lowered and objectives changed.  I wanted to walk again, and to get a new heart. I wanted to go outside, as opposed to living outside, as I had done.

Six weeks or so after I passed out, Zamarys wheeled me outside. I guess it was late November, the first time the sun kissed my face. I remember it as if God touched my face. I cried then, and I cried again today, only this time, on my feet.

I worked to restore my body for months as I waited for a heart.  My heart began to fail at a faster rate beginning in August, but a few drugs postponed the inevitable, and a transplant became more urgent. Once again, I am in a hospital ward, the intensive care unit at Florida Hospital as I await a heart to transplant.

I don’t think of sailing around the world. I do think of going back to work. But even that is not foremost. Now, I want to take a shower without tubes in me.  I want to sleep at night and not wake up, no tubes or wires to pull at me.

I want to go outside.  Today marked another month inside, a window keeping me from God’s world. Yesterday, I asked Dr. S, “Do you think I could go outside?”

I knew how difficult it would be and I was reluctant to ask, but he agreed. One nurse said, “The doctors always say, yes.  It’s the nurses who have to do all the work.”

There had to be a wheelchair, although I walked.  A large battery bank had to come along, just in case the power on any of the machines failed. They brought one of those machines that shock your heart back to life. There were three nurses and two technicians.

Three times a day I pass by the doors that lead to the elevator bank on my short walks.  Today, I passed though them on the way outside. It seemed like a milestone, as I thought I would only make it past that point on a stretcher on my way to surgery. The entourage got into the elevator. As we went down, one nurse asked me what I thought.  Already, I couldn’t speak, glad I was wearing a face mask, but wishing it covered the tears running from my eyes.

“This is the first time we have been able to get him not to talk.”

We made it off the elevator, then outside onto an isolated walkway, just us to avoid germs that might keep me from surgery. I just looked around, breathed in the air, so grateful just to be outside. We overlooked the lake behind the hospital.  Such beauty, so often taken for granted.

“It is moments like these that I love being a nurse,” one said.

I never want to forget these simple moments, the simplicity and beauty of God’s space.

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11 thoughts on “I Want to Go Outside

  1. Ah, John…beautiful. I spent the morning on the Columbia River chasing Silver salmon, arguing with sea lions, and spending time with one of the best pals I will ever have if I live to be 200. While I did not take my morning for granted, it took your piece here to bring home to me how vastly special it was and how incredibly lucky I am. Thank you, my friend.

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  2. I love this, John. It hurts when someone you love cries. But people cry and sometimes it is good. The way you say things is so powerful. I wonder how many cried as they read this piece.

    This one made me think of mom. It would be so hard on her. “Dont worry Mom” …

    I can’t believe it has been almost a year. A really tough year and you accomplished things that most would not. You are a good person inside and out … not just good, John … your are a great person. I admire you and I pray for you every day. Many do.

    Keep writing.

    I love you, John.

    C.

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  3. For whatever reason your new heart has not arrived, your time has not been wasted. It seems your soul is being spiritually polished. Your two days in Florida were extended without your consent. So far you have been given the miracle of a second chance, surviving your accident, your coma, your continual wait and even surviving hurricane Irma. Your life has been completely turned upside down, no longer in the sun, no longer sailing in Bocas. Yet your heart remains so beautifully open to others, so aware of what is truely significant and so accepting of what is while remembering what was. May your new heart be blessed with all the goodness and tenacity of the old. Perhaps that is the reason for your wait. God is looking for a very special heart that is the perfect fit for you. Meeting the challenges as you have, He surely will not let u down.

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  4. You have trained for this operation. You are ready physically and spiritually. The good news is you will have lots of “outside” time coming with a new heart that will take you wherever you want to go…even to SEAsia. You have seen Toby so you know that you too will be out and
    about post transplant. I think the waiti ng would be very hard for me. This stressful time will fade quickly as you focus on recovery from the transplant. Maybe you will never take going outside for granted again but I know you will choose to live your life fully in honor to the donor and his family as well as for the doctors, nurses and staff ( not to mention your fan club at Bartch house) who all are cheering and praying for you.
    Molly

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