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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