It has been a long time since I have written much of anything. My new heart is working well. Only seven months ago today, I was gifted a new heart. It is hard to believe that this morning I walked two miles and lifted weights on my new weight bench by the pool.
I am doing much better than I thought I would be. I am healthy, physically fit. I walk, lift weights, and ride my bike. I eat well. I manage to get more than 30 minutes of cardio exercise per day, and 10,000 steps most days. I cheat on Sundays.
I owe it to my unknown donor to take care of my gifted heart. I know the heart that is in me might not have been donated, and might have been given to another person. I really am grateful.
There have been a few difficult things to adjust to. While waiting for a heart, I had to live completely in the moment. Not one day at a time, not an hour at a time, but moment by moment, doing the best I could to not think of the future or the past, to control, to limit, what went in and out of my thinking. I have been trained to live such a life, but there are periods when survival depends on it. The ultimate act of survival is living in the moment. Or, perhaps, living in the moment is the ultimate act of survival.
In the course of my life, I have been banged up a few times. I have had broken bones, been cut, nearly lost an eye, had a concussion or two, cracked a few ribs, and nearly broke my neck. I can’t recall the name of a single doctor or nurse who put me back together. Getting a heart is nothing like that. I was a patient for over a year, in and out of the hospital, but mostly in. I know the names of all the doctors at the Heart Transplant Institute at Florida Hospital. One, I asked, “How did you ever get a job here?” He was taken aback. “I thought they only hired bald doctors in the Transplant Group.” He laughed and showed me the growing bald spot on the top of his head. Another was surprised how tall I am. I guess he had only seen me in bed. I know the nurses. They supported me and kept me alive for a long time, encouraged me, and prayed with me. These are special people. I always look forward to my appointments, so I can see my friends, and show off how well I am. Once in a while, I stop on the fifth floor to see the nurses there. They seem to enjoy seeing someone who was so close to death, grateful and recovered. I like seeing the staff folks, the woman who cleaned my room, and brought my meals. Maybe they don’t get to see many who have recovered.
My dream of sailing around the world is over. I didn’t have to come to grips with that until I had a new heart. You see, once I was transplanted, I had to get on with life, and blue water sailing was not to be part of it. Oh, I will sail again. I plan to charter once in a while. My first will be in the Caribbean, soon, I hope, and the next will be in the South Pacific. It won’t be the same, but at least it will be.
I am back to work, doing what I love. I spent the last two months building machines with my son, Sam, for a workshop I will be teaching in Ohio next week with one of my partners from Europe. I will be back in Europe this summer, and visit my cousins in Italy.
I bought a house. It’s a fine place to live, not too far from the ocean. When I ride my bike, I can see boats, lots of boats, few of which are as fine as Ariadne, which has been sold. That was a sad day. Yes, I have a house, but a house is not a sailboat, and a sailboat made my home a place of adventure.
There was a period in recovery that was tough for me. It started a short while after I was transplanted. I knew something was odd, but had no idea what it was. Now I do. One of the challenges for me was to stop being a patient. As I said, I had been put back together a few times in the past, but never got to the point where my being, my existence, was one of a patient. I never had to make the transition from patient to…well, to survivor, I guess, is one way to put it.
When I was patched up in the past, I went on with life, and didn’t give being patched up a second thought. I was on to the next thing. I have not gone a day without thinking of all that has happened since October 12, 2016, when this started, as I passed out driving a car. Every day, I live with gratitude for just being alive. I won’t ever just get on with life, without giving a second thought to those who saved my life. I think of them every day.
But I think I have made the transition from patient, to SURVIVOR.