08/1/16

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Share

I’ve been away. Did ya miss me? Yeah, I’ll bet.

Last Sunday, 07/24, I woke up feeling a bit wonky. Couldn’t quite put my finger on why I was feelin’ out of sorts; I just was. But I had a swell outing planned for the day, so I couldn’t flake. A couple of friends and I were planning on taking the ferry to Bainbridge Island for lunch. The weather was perfect for our little cruise across Puget Sound.

Bainbridge ferry

My friends and I met at Pikes Market, a famous landmark here in The Emerald City, and we walked to the ferry from there. I walk about four miles every day so the 15-minute walk should have been a breeze for me. But something was wrong. I felt lethargic and winded.

pikes market

The 35-minute ferry ride was magical, as always, but upon disembarking and walking to the restaurant I began to really hurt. Not one to spoil the fun I marshaled my resources and made it to lunch.

The walk back to the ferry was excruciating. I was lightheaded, slightly nauseous, and completely winded. My heart was pounding like it wanted out of my chest. My companions became as worried as I was.

Once we docked in Seattle I had to once again disembark then walk to public transportation and to home. I was in a panic. The crush of the crowd around added to my distress. I thought for sure I was gonna faint, or barf, or worse. I was certain that my lungs were gonna give out on me. After many stops to catch my breath and buckets of sweat from the effort I finally made it home.

I’ve been monitoring my blood pressure for several months. (Ya gotta do this when you’re old, like me.) So once at home, I took a reading. My blood pressure was normal, but my pulse was unusually low, a reading of 49 to be precise. A couple of hours later it was 45. This was odd. I had never experienced anything like that before.  Mostly my pulse rate hovers in the upper 70s and low 80s.

I felt much better on Monday. But come Tuesday, I was a total wreck. The least bit of exertion left me exhausted and prostrate. I knew it; my lungs were finally giving out. I put in a call to my doctor and got an expedited appointment for the very next day.

Tuesday’s blood pressure readings were slightly elevated, which was great, but my pulse was way down. I took several readings and each was in the mid 30s never over 40. I still didn’t get it. (This is probably why I’m not a brain surgeon.)

Wednesday turned out to be a nightmare. Unbeknownst to me I was about to began a headlong descent into the maw of the medical industry.

My doctor’s appointment was at 10:30am. The doc took one look at me and ordered an electrocardiogram (EKG). “HOLY SHIT!” She exclaimed. (Or something to that effect.) “How is it that you’re still standing?”

Needless to say, this got my attention right quick. “What?” I inquired. “Although you are not having a heart attack you are this close to the pearly gates. Your pulse is about to flat line, you monkey!” My doctor stuttered. (Ok, maybe she didn’t mention the pearly gates, or call me a monkey, but that was her drift for damn sure.)

Maybe it was the stress or shock of it, but I started to laugh. My doctor asked; “What’s so funny?” I said; “Did you ever see the movie, Death Becomes Her? Remember the scene in the emergency room?”

She gave a faint smile and said; “Yeah, I get it, but this is no laughing matter. Get thee to the Emergency Room ASAP!”

Off I went.

I got to Swedish Hospital (First Hill) Emergency Reception just before noon. The guy behind the desk asked what was wrong with me. I said; “Basically, I’m having a heart attack.” Apparently those are the magic words because the team swung into action. I was admitted immediately, blood was drawn, another EKG, x-rays were taken, and I was hooked up to a heart monitor. Diagnosis: Bradycardia with second-degree heart block.

You need a pacemaker IMMEDIATELY!

We’ll get you a room on the cardiac ward at our Cherry Hill campus, which is just a mile away, as soon as one is available.”

“Oh, OK, I guess,” said I as the severity of the situation finally began to dawn on me. As you can see, I’m not the sharpest pencil in the box.

The fact is, I’m more versed in facing my mortality than the average person, what with the decades of death and dying work that I have done. But let me tell you, staring into the abyss is still daunting.

Back in the emergency room I was laying on a gurney with electrodes and wires sprouting from my chest and back. I lay there for hours listening to the cries, screams, and moans of my fellow emergency patients. Codes blue and grey are being called with regularity and I can just imagine the human misery that surrounds me.

At 5:00pm one of the emergency nurses tells me that a room at the cardiac ward will be available at 7:00pm. “But, 7:00pm is the changing of the shift. So the soonest we could get you there is 7:30pm.”

7:30pm comes and goes. “What’s up?” I ask. “We’re trying to locate transport for you.” Was their retort. “But the Cherry Hill campus is just a mile away. I could walk there from here.” I countered. “But you need a special ambulance, one with a nurse on board, one that can monitor your heart in transit.” “You gotta be kidding!” Said I. “Not at all. You could flat line on the way to Cherry Hill and we’d be liable. Don’t worry, Richard, we will surely have the transport by 10:00pm.”

AMR

The transport didn’t actually arrive till 12:30am. That was twelve and a half hours on a gurney in the ER! And the fun is just beginning.

I finally get to the Cherry Hill campus at 1:00am. I am ushered into a room where I am then interrogated for 45 minutes. (Are you now, or have you ever been…) They called it an intake, but a rose by any other name. I haven’t eaten since breakfast at 5:00am the previous day with only water to drink. Now, even the water was being withheld. I guess they anticipated I would have my procedure later that (Thursday) morning.

swedish cherry hill

Not so fast there buckaroo!

Thursday dawns, but nothing happens. I’m confined to my bed (the second worse bed in the world. The first being the ER gurney I left yesterday) and am attached to a heart monitor. I am faint from hunger and more than a little dehydrated. By noon they decide they need to feed me lest the hunger and dehydration kill me before the arrhythmia.

I scarfed down my lunch like a dying man…mostly because I was.

Allow me to pause my narration for a moment and comment on the cardiac nursing staff. They are superb! And even that superlative leaves me wanting. These women are freakin’ rock stars in my book. One in particular, Nurse Jen, totally got me. We both had the same gallows humor. She is my hero.

Eric Williams

Eric Williams, MD, FHRS

Late Thursday afternoon Dr. Williams, a cardiac electrophysiologist, saunters into my room. He’s gonna be doing the cutting on me. He is a tall handsome black man with the most unassuming manner. He looks me in the eye and talks to me like I’m a human. I’m super impressed with his bedside manner. He tells me my blood work and enzymes are excellent. My x-rays show that my heart isn’t enlarged. (But wait! Every one tells me I have a huge heart.) And there’s no sign that I had a heart attack. We talk about the pacemaker and the procedure. He tells me it’s about the size of a silver dollar. (When I actually see the blasted thing the next day, just before they shove into my chest, I have to wonder where Dr. Williams gets his silver dollars.) The procedure is very routine; he tells me. “Yeah sure, for you maybe.” It’ll last approximately 45 minutes, during which I will be enjoying twilight anesthesia. “Twilight anesthesia, huh? That sounds delightful.” Better living through chemistry, I always say.

I get a sedative Thursday night to help me sleep in my little bed of torture. And nothing by mouth after midnight. (Oh no! Not that again.)

Friday morning my nurses prep me for surgery. First, they have to shave my manly chest, don’t cha know. Nurse Jen takes the lead with a maniacal gleam in her eye.  This is more than a little awkward and also maybe a wee bit kinky.

Finally the fateful hour arrives. I get a second IV stent, because apparently one is not enough for these folks. Then I’m wheeled down to the bowels of the building where I disappear into one of the surgery suits.

1pacemaker0129

Does this look like the size of a silver dollar? I don’t think so.

Two hours later I’m back in my room dopey as all get-out, but still kickin’.

I’m home now, i’m happy to report. They liberated me on Saturday, 07/30, afternoon. And I am only slightly worse for the wear. I have a very distinctive slash across my left pectoral. There’s an unsightly bulge just below it.  It looks like i’m growing a third breast. And a nasty purple and brown bruise that runs from my shoulder to my sternum and from my collarbone to my nipple. I sound like a real attractive guy, huh?

The Moral Of The Story
Life-is-not-a-dress-rehearsal
My friends, life is short! Ought we not live every day like it’s our last? I think so. I have decided that I will try to be more kind to myself and those around me. Because, ya know what?  In a twinkling of an eye, it can and most assuredly be over.

wake up and live

The End

Share
10/3/15

Longfellow And The Deep Hidden Woods Review

Share

To celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the publication of Longfellow And The Deep Hidden Woods I thought I’d share with you a touching review just published on Amazon.

 
 

myste lynMyste Lyn from Bittersweet Blessing shares her thoughts after reading the Longfellow book

bittersweetblessing

 

5.0 out of 5 stars  Much more than a book on loss…

 

A sweet, simple and soft book… more than a book on loss, it’s a book that reminds us of what is important in life.

I was surprised by the quiet beauty that gently touched my heartstrings singing songs reminiscent of old times on my grampa’s farm…

The illustrations are equally touching and I’ve included a screenshot of one of my favorites.This one’s a keeper.

 

004

Thank you, Myste!

For those of you unfamiliar with Longfellow, allow me to introduce you.

Longfellow, the bravest and noblest weiner dog in the world… As our story begins, Longfellow is a puppy learning how to be a good friend to his human companions, Old Henry and Henry’s nurse Miss O’weeza Tuffy. By the end, he has grown old himself, but is still ready for one final adventure. What happens in between is an unforgettable and heartwarming tale that throws a tender light on the difficult truths of loss and longing as well as on our greatest hopes.

longfellow_cover.indd

Share
09/8/15

Join Me on The Death Chicks Crowdcast Show

Share

I’m going to be a guest on The Death Chicks Show!

09/10/15, Noon Pacific and 3pm Eastern

(Does that make me a death dude?  I’ll have to ask them.)

 
 
Who here is an expert in ACTUALLY dying???

Have you done it?

To achieve expert status, one usually has to be proficient in something or have done something over and over again.  Hmmm… kind of tough with the death thing”, eh?.  Even those who have had near death experiences are still amateurs in a way– because they’re back!  They didn’t do it right the first time! 😉

This is why we LOVE the title of this book and the work that Richard Wagner, PhD has been doing for the last 30 years.  Since we are all amateurs at “the death thing”, there is actually a road map for those who are dying and will be dying.  Is that you?

ABOUT OUR GUEST
Richard Wagner, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist/sex therapist in private practice in Seattle, WA, 1981 to present.  He has AGDD_front coverover 30 years of experience working with terminally ill, chronically ill, elder, and dying people in hospital, hospice, and home settings.  He facilitates support groups for care-providers as well as healing and helping professionals.  He provides grief counseling for survivors both individually and in groups settings. He is the Founder of PARADIGM/Enhancing Life Near Death, a cutting edge, health related nonprofit organization.

Dr. Wagner was awarded the prestigious University of California, San Francisco Chancellor’s Award for Public Service in 1999 for this very work.

He is also the author of Longfellow And The Deep Hidden Woods, a critically acclaimed children’s book that touches upon the topics of death and bereavement.

Dr. Wagner was born in Chicago and grew up in Niles, Illinois, a Northwest suburb. He left home to attend the seminary after high school and graduated from Oblate College in Washington, DC in 1972. He moved to Oakland, California in 1972 and studied at The Jesuit School of Theology (part of the Graduate Theological Union) in Berkeley.  He was ordained as a priest in November, 1975 and obtained his Ph.D. in 1981. Dr. Wagner lived in Oakland until 1978 and moved to San Francisco until 1999.  He then relocated to Seattle, Washington where he lives today.

Richard can be reached at http://theamateursguide.com

ABOUT YOUR HOSTS
+The Death Chicks   show was created to shine light on the tabooed topics of death, dying, grief, and loss.  We’re listening to all perspectives and having the conversations that we as human beings who live and die on this earth, need to have, without fear of judgement.

+Patty Burgess Brecht   is the President of Possibility for Doing Death Differently and Teaching Transitions.  She is an End-of-Life Educator and Certified Grief Recovery Specialist.  She is the developer of the End of Life Specialist Training and Certification (CEOLS), and teaches individuals and organizations how to Do Death Differently by not being overwhelmed or afraid of death, but to seek and experience the joy, the passion, and the even the exhilaration inherent in the honor of BEing with the dying.  Her video-based, online, inspiring course is used in hospices, hospitals, home care, colleges and universities across the country and is now open to individuals who are drawn to this work.

www.doingdeathdifferently.com – for Individuals
www.teachingtransitions.com – Hospices and Colleges/Universities

+Myste Lyn  is an Empowerment Coach who specializes in supporting women recovering from loss.  Myste is an intuitive healer who reconnects women with their inner place of peace.  She specializes in reducing fears, alleviating guilt, and creating inner confidence.  http://www.bittersweetblessing.com/

Join  on Thursdays Noon Pacific and 3pm Eastern.

As we like to say NO ONE is getting out of this gig alive!   So we may as well talk about, learn about it, plan for it, lean into it, and feel comfortable with it when it is our time or the time of our loved ones.

Please share and help us get the word out!

Can you think of someone:

  • who is facing their own death and might be comforted by a roadmap
  • who is burdened by very heavy feelings, and could use some help re-entering life after a death?

If you do, please pass this invitation on (or after the fact, recording…).

You never know when a suggestion out of the blue from YOU, can give another a reason to go on.  This could make a true difference for another. And there are people, only a mouse click away to with whom to connect and share.

A GREAT NEW WAY TO WAY TO WATCH THE SHOW:
The new crowdcast app lets you watch the show from Facebook, Twitter, or simply sign in via email, and of course you can always watch it from this page or YouTube.  For those not on Google plus, they can watch it from where ever they are happiest!  Find your happy place here:
https://www.crowdcast.io/e/mystelyn(new)6

See you there!

 

CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW:

The Amateurs Guide to Death and Dying: A Truly Aventurous Way to Explore Your Mortality

 

Thu, September 10, Noon Pacific and 3pm Eastern

Hangouts On Air – Broadcast for free

Share
08/30/15

A Farewell to a great man

Share

I want to take a moment to acknowledge the death of famed British neurologist and author, Oliver Sacks.

1993: Portrait of British-born neurologist and author Dr Oliver Sacks standing in the admittance driveway of Beth Abraham Hospital with his arms crossed over his chest, New York City. (Photo by Nancy R. Schiff/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

1993: Portrait of British-born neurologist and author Dr Oliver Sacks standing in the admittance driveway of Beth Abraham Hospital with his arms crossed over his chest, New York City.

In February, he wrote an op-ed in The New York Times revealing that he was in the late stages of terminal cancer, after earlier melanoma in his eye spread to his liver.

“It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me,” he wrote. “I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.”

Earlier this summer I read Dr Sacks’s memoir, On the Move. I love it. It’s an interesting memoir by a fascinating personality. And while reading I discovered that we had a dear friend in common, Thom Gunn. What a small world! So I decided to send him a note.

Dear Dr Sacks,

I just finished reading your memoir, On The Move. What an amazing life you’ve lived.on-the-move-by-oliver-sacks

Of all the marvelous things you’ve done and all the fascinating people you mentioned in your book nothing surprised me more than your close friendship with Thom Gunn. I was a friend of Thom too and I lived directly across Cole Street from him. I moved to the flat at 1207 Cole Street in 1979. At the time I was working on my doctorate in clinical sexology at the Institute For The Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco.

I didn’t know Thom well at first. However, I would regularly see him walking both in our neighborhood and elsewhere in town. He was always in his leathers, rain or shine, and used to think to myself, “What a mensch!”

It finally dawned on me that he lived across the street from me.

Once he saw me in my roman collar. (I was ordained a catholic priest in 1975 at the age of 25 in Oakland, CA. I had come out to my local superiors; I was a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, before I was ordained. Like I said, I was working on my doctorate to become a sex therapist and prepare for an upfront gay ministry.) Thom smiled at me when he saw me; I blushed and told him what I just told you. He was fascinated, but I also believe he thought I was a twit. He probably was right.

I knew nothing about Thom other than he was my neighbor. Then one day I was in a bookstore on Haight Street and there was a photo of Thom in the window advertising a reading. That’s when I started asking around about him. Despite his cult status within the gay community, he was the most unassuming person. I was honored to have a personal connection with him.small_front

I finished my doctorate in 1981. My dissertation, Gay Catholic Priests; A Study of Cognitive and Affective Dissonance was directed by Wardell Pomeroy. A firestorm of media attention followed. The media branded me as THE gay priest, as if. I think Thom read about me in the New York Times because next time he saw me he clapped me on the back and said, “Well done.”

No sooner did I complete my doctorate, and because of the media attention my public coming out caused, the leadership of my religious community in Rome began a process of dismissal against me. I was devastated and lost. I was even getting death threats. Thom was always so supportive and encouraging.

I fought the church for the next thirteen years in an effort to save my priesthood and ministry. Alas, the writing was on the wall back in 1981 and it was only a matter of time till they had their way with me. I wrote about the travail in a book that was published in 2011, Secrecy, Sophistry and Gay Sex In The Catholic Church: The Systematic Destruction of an Oblate Priest.

Thom was always so solicitous about my wellbeing. He knew how difficult life had become for me. And both of us found ourselves on the forefront of caring for friends who were dying of AIDS. One of my landlords died in 1986.

Thom introduced my housemate and I to Augie Kleinzahler and his girlfriend, Caroline Lander, who lived only a few blocks from us in Cole Valley. We all became great friends and copious amounts of strong drink were consumed. I wonder, do you know Augie?

When Thom turned sixty I surprised him with a homemade German chocolate cake. I told him he was the oldest person I knew. This made him laugh and he called me a whippersnapper.

In 1992 the surviving landlord sold the Cole Street duplex and I and my housemate moved to Oak and Ashbury. Sadly, I didn’t get to see Thom as much as before. I move up here to Seattle in 1999 because I could no longer afford to live in SF. I was deeply saddened to learn of Thom’s death in 2004. He was such a great guy, what a marvelous soul.

Again, thank you for your memoir; it was grand getting to know you on a personal level. I read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat when it came out in the mid-eighties and loved it. But I never guessed you and Thom knew each other or that you actually visited him when I lived across the street from him. What a small world. I wish I had known you back then.

Anyhow, thank you for the bringing me this unexpected flood of memories of Thom. I wonder what he would have made of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision (Obergefell v. Hodges). I contend that we got marriage equality only because we walked through AIDS first. I think Thom would have agreed with me.

All the best,
richard

Richard Wagner, M.Div., Ph.D., ACS

To my astonishment, Oliver wrote back; I mean that literally, a handwritten note. Apparently, he never used a computer.

Dear Dr. Wagner (can I say Richard?), 6/60/15

I am greatly interested and greatly moved, by your letter — your courage in being honest and forthright, at a time and on a subject bound, sooner or later, to cause your ejection from the priesthood. In another few years perhaps, with Pope Francis at the helm, these last bastions of Catholic bigotry may have fallen.

I like to think of you as living across the street when I visited Thom, and glad to know that he appreciated you and your works. I still miss him deeply — there were not too many people with whim I could be entirely open — and I like to think that his ghost is pleased that my title came from his poem. (I find it a huge relief being open now to all and sundry {Oliver came out earlier this year} — I am so glad I completed my book before I became ill).

And what a liberation, an affirmation for us all that the Supreme Court voted as it did. I suspect that Ruth Bader Ginsberg, quite ill now, stayed on to ensure the 5/4 decision.

Thanks for your letter and my very best wishes,

Oliver

Oliver Sacks01 Oliver Sacks02

Click on this link to see a copy of Oliver Sacks’s note.

Thank you Dr Sacks and farewell!

Share
08/18/15

A comprehensive resource for people living with disabilities

Share

I thought I’d take a moment and share with you a resource that has come my way.

This guide aims to help make the federal grants available to seniors, veterans, and disabled people much easier to understand and take advantage of, particularly for remodeling homes for accessibility.

Click on the image below to access the guide

001

 

The reasoning behind Expertise.com is to help people make truly better decisions by clearly laying out their options, with content written by industry experts. Because of their non-biased approach, they’ve been a trusted source for government entities and organizations throughout the US. Many publications and businesses already use our guides as resources for their readers.

So give it a look-see.  I think you’ll be impressed.

Share