Thursday, April 30, 2009

Who am I?

That’s one of the things I keep asking myself on those long walks with Bernie. I’m not who I used be; that sick guy who spent so much time in doctor’s offices and hospitals, who siphoned off so much of my wife’s life. Thank God for that. But I’m not who I was before that, either. To be honest, I hardly remember him. It was almost twenty years ago when I was first diagnosed with C.O.P.D and began the long slide down.

In the beginning of my recovery I was the man who had a double lung transplant. That persona enveloped my life. I wrote a poem about Camellia Rose, the bed and breakfast in Gainesville where I stayed in my first days out of the hospital (that’s it behind me in the photo on this blog). When I got home I ordered several golf shirts and a sweat shirt imprinted with “Transplant Inside” from CafĂ© Press on the Internet and wore them religiously. They almost always attracted attention and provoked conversations.

But eventually even the best material wears out – cloth and well as transplant stories. That’s when I started thinking who am I – really? And realized how fortune I was. This new life has given me a new chance to decide. And every day, Bernie and I are working on it.

The real point here is that whether you’ve lived though an extraordinary experience or not, you have a chance everyday to decide who you are.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The routine

This morning I was interrupted by a knock on the door. It was UPS. I thanked the guy, he smiled, and then handed me a 12x12 box of medications. That got me to thinking about “the routine” as I call it. And all the other souls out there that wake up to the same kind drudgery.

My particular version goes like this – every morning. I get out of bed and weigh myself. Then I shower, get dressed and go upstairs to the kitchen table. On the way, I take the NPH insulin out of the refrigerator and set it next to “the basket” which contains all my “stuff.”

First, I record my weight. Then I…

  1. Take my temperature and record it.
  2. Blow into a peak flow meter to get my FEV1 (forced expulsion volume – how much air you can blow out in one second) and record it.
  3. Take my blood pressure and record it.
  4. Poke my finger to get my blood sugar level and record it.
  5. Draw 10 ml of NPH insulin into a syringe and inject it into my stomach.
  6. Eat something, usually a banana or cup of yogurt.
  7. Take my morning medications which include Prograf, Prednisone, Septra, Clotrimazole, Prevacid, Rythmol, Mag Oxide, Nu Iron, Oscal, and Lopresssor.

Finally, I take Bernie out for our first mile walk.

I know it seems like a lot to go through before you get your day started. But I remember when I could hardly get out of bed. When my world was limited by a 50-foot piece of tubing connected to an oxygen concentrator. Then it seems like small price to pay for a whole new life.

So, to anyone out there with their own “routine” I’d like to say KEEP IT UP! IT'S WORTH IT!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Swine flu

Are you taking all of the protective measures recommended by the CDC? Wash your hands, carry a sanitizer with you at all times, don’t shake hands with people, steer clear of people with coughs and small children, and wear a mask when you’re with groups of people, such as in a doctor’s office, shopping mall, cinema, or elevator.

Great! Keep it up.

Those of us who’ve had transplants or lived though similar extraordinary experiences had a head start on this one. That’s what the doctors have had us doing all along. :)

Monday, April 27, 2009


We all bring along a certain amount of baggage on this trip. Some of it can be from a past we don’t quite remember or didn’t know. This weekend I learned a little about how to stow that kind of baggage.

On Saturday we were at the wedding reception of a beautiful young woman who once worked with my wife. There were several other people there who had worked at that same company. Naturally, they enjoyed the reunion as well as the reception, introducing spouses and swapping stories. One particular man in the group was especially gregarious, and just as popular.

Later in the evening, after the toasts, when the dance floor had started filling up, my wife leaned over and told me something that absolutely devastated me.

She said she had a funny story about the popular guy. Apparently, he had always been as “social” as he was tonight. One day, not long after she had gone to work for the company, he came by her desk and asked if she had a dollar; he really needed a soft drink. This was when we were really tight on money, she told me. Back when she had to tell the kids they couldn’t go to McDonald’s. She had a dollar, but It was the only one she had. You can guess how the story ended: she gave him the dollar anyhow.

I don’t know what my face showed, but I chuckled with her for a moment. Then, thankfully, one of girls in the group asked her join a dance line. She never saw that my eyes were welling with tears. I took the opportunity to go out into the hall and then outside into the night air. Trying to think it though, I finally realized the most important thing about her story. It wasn’t that we had been that poor and I didn’t know. It was what she called it: a “funny” story.

She had put it behind her. And that’s what I had to do. We can’t change the past. We can only work on our futures.

More about Bernie and me...

Chasing Dragons

We have a lot in common
Bernie and me
Our names end the same
We were both rescued
Not long ago
We walk together
Two or three miles a day
And neither one of us
Has much to say
While I enjoy looking after
My health with him
Looking for lizards gets
His tail waggin
And that’s another thing
We have in common
Chasing dragons

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Walking the dog

I do a lot of it. That’s where much of this musing starts; on long walks with Bernie, the puppy we rescued last August. We got him because the doctors prescribed a rigorous exercise schedule for my recovery that included walking daily. It didn’t occur to me then, but Bernie and I had a special connection from the beginning. We were both born in May of 2008. Okay, I was re-born. Still, we’re moving forward on a clean slate, learning together.

The first thing I’ve learned is that exercise is one of the big answers. I highly recommend it, not just for “extraordinary experience” people, but everyone. If you want to feel better, think smarter, live longer, exercise. And you might want to bring along someone like Bernie. He’s a great listener.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

To begin with...

...lets clear up the mystery: the "extraordinary experience" in the title of this blog. On May 13, 2008, at the age of 68, I had a double lung transplant.

I'm not sure I'll ever be able to fully explain how that surgery has changed my life. However, that's what this blog is about; how an extraordinary experience can not only give us a new life, but a new way of looking at almost everything. Of course, I'll talk some about what happened to me -- the how and why. But only to let you know where I'm coming from, or to make a point. And without whining or bragging, at least not much.

In the process, I hope to provide some small help to others who have faced, or may face, extraordinary experiences in their lives. I guess that includes all of us.