A New Reality

This is a sort of ‘follow-on’ from yesterday’s post - it’ll probably make more sense to read that first.

As you may have gathered from some of my earlier posts, God’s people are very important to me. They’re important to God too. It’s through His people, the church, that God is manifest in the world. He chooses to partner with people in almost all He does; and in one sense He’s only as good as those who are willing to work with Him. I am truly blessed in having a bunch of amazing saints around me, who have ‘represented’ Him in a tangible way during my recent troubles. Those who’ve listened to my rants; soaked up my anger and frustration; helped out practically; mopped up tears; hugged me when I felt abandoned and bereft; prayed; shared testimony of their experiences; and so on.

And, amazingly, there have been times when God has stepped into my mess and confusion and acted personally. For instance I am one of the privileged few to have had probably not just one (which would be startling enough), but two visits from angels. The first I described in an earlier post; the second happened just before the ablation procedure, in the Catheter Lab...

The electrophysiologist introduced me to his team - ‘These are my nurses and technicians; they’re very special, and they’re here to see that you’re properly cared for, they will make sure you are looked after and will keep you safe; nothing untoward will happen while they’re looking after you.’ - which was so similar in content and tone to what the angel had said in my earlier dream/vision that it was uncanny - so I began to relax properly. I didn’t see much of his team - they were busy, mostly in other parts of the lab, but one did flit through my field of view a few times during the procedure (I had to stay very still and couldn’t look around - yes, I was awake throughout) - a ‘girl’ with a mop of curly brown hair - was she ‘my’ angel? That was odd. But very comforting, whether or not.

The procedure itself was ‘interesting’, and not painful apart from when he ‘punched’ a hole through the septum from right atrium to left - then I thought the top of my head was going to fly off! Having hiccups (violently!) during half the procedure was odd to say the least! Allow me to explain that, at least. He was concerned, because of me being a swimmer, not to risk damaging the phrenic nerve (which controls the diaphragm), which would have severely impacted my ability to swim (and breathe!) until it healed. So he induced hiccups, electrically. By doing so he could be sure that, so long as I kept hiccuping, he wasn’t damaging the nerve!

The procedure took about half as long as he’d predicted - my arrhythmias turned out to be simpler to deal with than expected. He pronounced himself very happy with how it had all gone when he finished, and he holds out very good hope for a complete cure. Almost all of the time, already, my heart is beating perfectly normally - which isn’t quite what they expect. It does have little runs of ‘ectopic’ beats very occasionally, which shows that it’s not completely back to normal yet, but the signs are good, and it’s much better than they said it would be at this stage. Praise the Lord!!

Swimming is going quite well - I am very, very, slowly increasing the effort and the distances. Partly it’s about confidence, partly about giving myself time to heal. I need to decide how fit I want to be too… It’s a matter of being fit enough to do the things I want to be able to do, whilst not increasing my risk of triggering another arrhythmia.

And how do I feel?

That’s a difficult one.

Physically, I still tire easily. But I can ‘roll’ upright straight from lying supine to standing without fear of fainting. I am significantly less breathless. I can swim front crawl, full stroke, for several hundred metres - whilst I was ill, I could really only manage to swim front crawl arms only (which requires less oxygen) for a couple of hundred metres (the rest of the time I was mostly swimming back crawl). I’m beginning to be able to walk up hills, or multiple flights of stairs, without having to stop for frequent rests or being ridiculously breathless by the time I reach the top. I’m slowly learning to ‘trust’ my body to do stuff; I’m gradually unlearning things like the need to stand up very gradually. Some of the time it’s quite frustrating - recovery feels slow - indeed sometimes it feels like ‘two steps forward, one step back’. Sometimes, I’m quite breathless, and I worry that it’s all gone wrong again - but then I feel my pulse, and realise that it’s still strong, slow and regular - the breathlessness is just my lack of fitness. But those backward steps can be pretty demoralising…

Having said that, I’m slowly realising that they usually come right before a significant improvement.

Mentally and emotionally, I’m not sure. It’s a bit like having gone through a long dark tunnel, and to have come out of the other end and only to find that one is in a different country, unexpectedly - cue a sort of ‘culture shock'. Things are not the same: I don’t feel like ‘ill me’; nor do I feel like the old ‘well me’. Instead, I feel different; increasingly well, but different.

One thing which is different from before I was ill is that I’m struggling with motivation. The illness gave me a different perspective on life - it sort of ‘pared away’ all sorts of things which I thought were important but which really weren’t. And that leaves me in a very different place. Happy to sit and contemplate the divine; far less driven to dust and hoover, or clean out the cupboards, or whatever. That isn’t a problem initially - but once one is knee-deep in dust, and sneezing whenever one moves, it’s going to become a bit of an issue. That’s a flippant example - but really it’s affecting nearly everything.

It’s a matter of perspective. And my perspective on life, having been ill and ‘come out the other end’, has changed profoundly. That’s the new ‘place’ I’m in - the new country. One thing I’m beginning to notice is that people are even more important than before. There might even be a subtle change in my personality - I'm not sure that I am quite so much of an introvert as I was. I crave company in a way I never did; not all the time - it’s often, still, a blessed relief to lock the door. But it’s there nevertheless. Maybe it’s just a reaction to having more energy and not being forced to spend long hours sitting or lying, alone, recovering enough energy to do the next ‘important’ task. Or maybe it’s because there are no chatty children at home any more. And maybe the reason I can’t be bothered with the ‘important stuff’ is because for months and months I have been unable to do anything else - that was all I had energy to do, so I had to save myself for that, and now I am, consequently, utterly fed up with ‘chores’ and desperate for something different.

My wife and I have booked ourselves a short ‘retreat’ at a Christian centre in the Lake District, which will take place after I next see the electrophysiologist. I’m hoping that’ll allow me to regain some perspective on life, recharge my batteries a bit, and start to recover some of my usual equilibrium and enthusiasm.

A third part will be forthcoming, once I’ve decided how to express what I want to say.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2022