10 Years...and I'm Still Here (Part 7 - The Conclusion)
If you haven't already read the first installments of this series, you can find part 1 here: I'm Still Here (Part 1)
THE REST OF THE STORY: April 14, 2013-Present
Through bold determination and a newfound stubbornness, they released me from the hospital on a Sunday morning. My oxygen was still a little low, but closer to normal than it had been. I was encouraged to continue working on my breathing treatment (A clear plastic tube with a ball that, when you exhaled into the air hole, the ball would rise and tell you your lung capacity). I'd been using the breathing-thingy for most of the week and I hated it.
I was now able to walk several times around that wing of the hospital without the rolling walker. Taking it slow, the last thing I wanted was to trip over my own feet. I had already learned just how much it hurt to sneeze with the gaping holes in my chest, and I did not want to find out how much falling would hurt. I kept having these images of striking the ground and all my staples pop out of my chest and the wire holding my ribs to my sternum would all pop and there I'd be, on the floor, clutching my own heart to my chest in horror.
Finally home, I settled in to recuperate. Of course, I couldn't drive and Deb needed to get back to work, so I resigned myself to rest as much as possible. If I got tired of lying down on the bed, I'd move to the recliner. That first week home was grueling because I could do hardly anything for myself. The second week brought a little variety when I started physical therapy. I mostly walked the indoor track, but at least that was something—I was building back my strength, and I was determined to reach that six weeks mark where I'd be released to drive and get back on the tennis court.
When that six-week mark finally arrived, I was ecstatic. I was part of a men's tennis league and on that very night we had a scheduled match and the team captain scheduled me as one of the doubles players. I couldn't wait to get back out there—it didn't matter that I hadn't swung a racquet or hit a ball in more than six weeks. But that didn't matter to me. I was ready to play. The first set went about as well as you'd expect. I was extremely rusty—I over hit a lot and double faulted regularly. However, my partner kept encouraging me and helped bail me out of point trouble. I don't know how we did it, but we ended up winning that match!
The next decade was a mixture of ups and downs. A year after my surgery, I went to the hospital for a scheduled stress test. My cardiologist, after examining the scans, discovered a shadowy spot on the back of my heart. She couldn't see it very well from the side-view scans, so I was scheduled for another procedure where they would knock me out and drop a scope down my throat that could sonogram the back of the heart. With that procedure, she discovered an indention in the lining of my heart—and abscess or round thinning area. In other words, there is a nickel-sized area on the surface of my heart that looks a little like a crater on the moon—and it had been there all my life! Apparently, as a fetus, our hearts and lungs are connected to promote oxygenation. As we grow, the organs separate and, most of the time, the hole in the heart heals itself. You often hear about babies undergoing heart surgery to repair a hole in their heart? This is what causes it. My aunt had to undergo just such a surgery because it wouldn't close and heal. In my case, the hole closed, but did not heal completely.
So now there were more restrictions placed on me: no lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying anything heavier than a gallon of milk. Sorry doc, I'll follow those orders with most things, but I have two grandchildren now and there's no way I'm going to go through the rest of my life not lifting, hugging, or carrying around those precious babies.
While I have not had any chest pain since my initial surgery, I have had a few instances of pressure accompanied by weakness and/or shortness of breath. It wasn't a lot, but it was enough to make me concerned something wasn't quite right. Two years after that surgery, in 2015, another heart catheterization to determined that I needed a couple of stents to reopen some vessels that were beginning to close. I received another two in 2017 and two more in 2019. Since 2019, I have not had any symptoms or concerns that my heart isn't working like it should.
I'm grateful. It's been 10 years...and I'm still here, but I never expected to be. I follow the old saying, live for today because we are not guaranteed tomorrow. And while my weight has Yo-Yo'd more than I'd like, I'm finally beginning to lose weight and maintain that weight loss. My last family doctor was right; it's easier to maintain a slow weight loss program. The faster you lose it, the faster it will come back, but if you lose just a pound or two a month, you are more apt to keep it off—and I'm seeing that.
After the heart attack and subsequent stents, I was bound and determined to live a healthier life. I went through times where I'd eat healthy and times where I backslid. I joined a health and wellness social marketing company and had great success in not only losing weight, but making our bank account look a little better too. And just when we thought our little business was about to explode even more, we discovered the person that introduced the business to us was sniping our contacts. What I mean by this is, she was signing up people that we had initially contacted and signing them up behind our backs. If it would have just been a single person and if she would have apologized, we might still be successful with that company. However, a few weeks after the first incident, it happened again. We confronted her and showed her all the proof that linked this individual back to us, showed where we'd contacted them first, added them to the private Facebook group, and even started a group chat on messenger that included our sponsor. She KNEW what she was doing.
To this day, I can't figure out why she did this. Not only was it unethical, but we were in her organization...having those individuals joining under us still helped her! We brought our concerns to our up-line and when nothing happened with them; we approached the corporate compliance line. They wouldn't do anything either. It was then Deb and I decided to leave the company. We hated to do it and felt we were abandoning everyone that we'd recruited and were helping, but we just couldn't remain a part of a company with representatives that had no moral or ethical values.
Deb and I spent the next years searching for another company like the one we'd left. Deb is in long-term healthcare and has a heart for helping people, so another health and wellness company was what we wanted. However, try as we might, we couldn't find one that was a good fit. Either they had a great business package, but their products weren't great, or the products worked, but they tasted terrible. In other cases, it was both—tasted terrible and didn't work. Then, just a few months ago at the end of February, 2023, we found a company that had everything we wanted and are now building a side business while helping others get their physical and financial health in order.
I tell you this last because there are several points I want to make in closing to this little jaunt down memory lane.
Love everyone and tell them you love them—often!
We are not guaranteed tomorrow.
Never let the sun go down on an argument.
Find something you love and pursue it.
Become a part of something greater than yourself.
1 & 2 go hand-in-hand. If you have family and close friends, be sure to let them know that they are appreciated and that you love them. At 50, I beginning to see more of my old classmates from school pass away before their time (or, what we believe is before their time—remember, God knows the number of hairs on our heads and the days we've been allotted...there's a reason for Him taking us home early).
3 - This is another throwback to statement number 2. Imagine having an argument with your significant other and going to bed angry with one another. Then, during the middle of the night, the Lord calls your significant other home. The last thing you'll remember about them is that you were arguing. I've seen too many instances where a family member regretted, for the rest of their lives, not apologizing to a loved one that passed away. I'll say it again, we are not guaranteed tomorrow.
4 - It doesn't matter what it is. You could love to draw, or sew, or give beauty tips through your YouTube channel. We are most happy when we do something we love. For me, it's tennis, writing, drawing, reading, and hiking (not necessarily in that order). Find something you love to do and do it for you—not for anyone else. We all need something that is specifically ours and makes us happy.
5 - Finally, find like-minded people to hang out with. It could be a small-group at church, a local art or writer's guild, or a sports/exercise group. I don't suggest this just to be a part of something within a group. I suggest this because these like-minded individuals all have a unified goal within this group. They hold each other accountable, they encourage, they offer advice—they can really help you be the best you can be while at the same time, keep you from getting a big head about yourself.
Thank you for spending time with me throughout these last seven episodes into the life of yours truly. I hope there's something within these pages that will either help, warn, or inspire you—or if anything, help you know me a little bit better. If there's anything more I'd like to say before signing off, it would be this: we all have a testimony and a story to tell. Use that story to encourage or educate others with a Christ-like love. Do it often and honestly.
Until next time, thank you again, dear reader.
Here's to the next ten years!
About the Author
Christopher J. Thomasson was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1972. At the age of two, his family permanently settled in the piney woods of East Texas. He discovered a love for reading and writing at a very young age and until the mid-2010's he only ever wrote for himself, his family, and his closest friends.
He currently lives in Smith County, Texas with his beautiful wife Debra. They have two children, Camron and Megan; and four grandchildren; Braydon, Cheyenne, Brooklynn, and Wyatt Christopher.
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