Readers Reflect: The first year of the rest of my life

As part of JPost's High Holidays competition, one reader shares her story of how making a brave decision led her to want to live life to the full.

By JUNE GLAZER
November 13, 2011 21:47
4 minute read.
Hospital beds can be lonely

Hospital bed 521. (photo credit: Illustrative photo)

At JPost we asked readers to share their experiences from the past year that have inspired them to make a change. June Glazer shares her story:

Last year, four days before Rosh Hashana, I underwent open heart surgery at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem. Mitral valve prolapse—I became aware I had the condition about 30 years ago when I was in my mid twenties. It had never bothered me before, and other than going for a yearly cardiac checkup, it had little impact on my life.

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The situation started to change a few years ago, about the time my husband and I made aliya. I began to notice subtle indications that things may be deviating from the status quo—more acute shortness of breath, unexplained pain, a “rusty” feeling when I breathed deeply, a malaise that sometimes lasted for days. At first I chalked it up to the stress of leaving family and friends behind—to adjusting to a new country, a new culture, a new phase in life. But that small voice that lives within each of us kept whispering in my ear: it’s your heart. Listen to your heart.

So, I listened, and made a mental note to discuss my concerns with our family physician the next time I saw him.

Around that time, my father became critically ill and I returned to New York to be at his bedside. Six days a week for six long weeks I drove 30 miles each way, sitting vigil at the hospital with my mother and sisters while he fought the valiant fight. During those weeks, I gave little thought to what might be ailing my heart, only knowing that it was aching and, after he died, that it was broken.

After I returned to Israel, my symptoms became more pronounced and I could no longer ignore them. I made an appointment with our doctor and we finally had “the talk.” Yes, he agreed, I needed to see a cardiologist. He recommended a few names but he also suggested that I ask around. A wise idea, but when I went home I hadn’t a clue where to turn. 

Now comes the part of the story when our protagonist fills with foreboding because she knows something is terribly wrong. And when, deep in the night, she bargains with God and surrenders up all control.   

The next morning, I remembered that a young couple lived a few floors above us and that he was a cardiologist at Hadassah Ein Kerem. It occurred to me that, even though my problem was outside Josh’s area of specialty, he must know the appropriate people who can help me. But, I hesitated—procrastinated. It was frightening to take that first step—committing to a course that might end with me having to go under the knife. It took a couple of days before I worked up the courage to speak with him.

Josh was gracious and concerned. He took it upon himself to make an appointment for me with the head of echocardiography at Hadassah—the director, and within a few weeks I was sitting in the office of my new cardiologist. He explained to me the arc of this disease—most sufferers live their entire lives unaffected by it or even unaware they have it, he told me. It’s only an unlucky few who progress to the point where surgery is indicated.

Tests soon confirmed that I was among them, and that I needed it sooner rather than later. I was actually relieved—at least I had a problem that was fixable. Of course, I wanted the best surgeon, but who? How to find him/her? Again, Josh came to the rescue and made an appointment for me with the head of cardiothoracic surgery—the chairman.

Over the summer, my husband and I returned to the States to visit family and to consult with my former cardiologist. While we were away, my symptoms worsened and by the time we returned to Israel and met with the surgeon, I was feeling sick and weak. I wanted that surgery as soon as possible. But with the High Holidays looming, the question became: Should we wait and do it afterward? While the surgeon assured me I was in no immediate danger, he felt it was best not to delay. And so, we set the date for a month hence—four days before Rosh Hashana. I would be spending the New Year, 5771, in the hospital.

As we mark the onset of 5772, it’s been a year since the surgery. All went well, thank God, and I’ve spent the past 12 months recuperating and regaining my strength. I’ve also had plenty of time to think about things and to count my blessings. In fact, I’ve come to regard the surgery as a rebirth of sorts—the proverbial first day of the rest of my life. A second chance, if you will, with which I want to live my life to the fullest.

But, how?

In truth, I don’t know, and I’m open to suggestions. But here’s my New Year’s resolution: I plan to spend 5772 figuring it out. 

Even if it takes ‘til I’m 120.


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