On being a patient

It’s now nearly six weeks since my heart attack. I’d like to say that it has been a time of reading, reflection and recharging the batteries but it hasn’t. I’ve been able to go back to doing some of the normal stuff of life but with much less energy than I’d expect to have; generally after a couple of hours working on something I’m whacked out. Even so, the experience has started to shape me in unexpected ways.

1. In those first few hours in A&E, when I didn’t know how serious or not the heart attack was, I wondered if I would have another attack and die. Interestingly the idea of dying didn’t worry me, the thing which got to me was the fact that my kids are not yet independent adults. Everything else is less important.

2. Learning to be a patient and to live, however temporarily, with your limitations because your body will not do everything you want or expect requires a whole new mindset. Little pleasures become bigger things.

3. I am mortal and I’m going to die. Our society seems to collude with the idea that we will go on forever. Actually, the realisation that our hold on life is tenuous might make us pay more attention to the things that matter now and worry less about things that don’t.

4. There is no explanation for ‘why’. I’m fairly fit and healthy, I cycle, I eat my fruit and veg, I’m not overweight, my blood pressure is good and have no family history of heart disease. Yet it has happened to me and the Dr’s seem to have no answer to the ‘why me’ question other than ‘it just happens’. No one chooses to be ill, whether it is heart disease, cancer or depression. And people saying, “No, surely not you, you are far too young” isn’t quite the encouragement it’s probably meant to be.

5. I’m not sure I want to return to work. I don’t have a pension fund large enough to stop working (will I ever?), there are parts of my role that I love doing and I’m not planning on stopping just yet. But the last few months have raised the question, what do I want to do for the rest of my working life? And what’s God’s call in this?

4 thoughts on “On being a patient

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  1. Neil,

    Thanks for these reflections

    two quick comments:

    I hope your children never been independent adult, my prayer would be that our children become inter-dependent adults!

    your comments reminded me of great Stanley Hauerwas article Practicing Patience: How Christians Should be Sick

    Praying you will be a patient patient and that you will sense God’s leading through all this.

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  2. I can understand how all this feels after experiencing a life changing major health issue 12 years ago. I can only say do what your body tells you Sometimes you get mad with it and find you can you can do whatever it is after all and you can carry on then again sometimes you find what you’re trying is too much, so stop and maybe try again sometime later and then maybe you’ll never be physically able to do what you are trying to do.It’s all progress whichever way it goes as you’re finding out new things about yourself.Be at peace with yourself and don’t try to justify yourself to anyone, although that can be difficult.The last thing I found out about my work was that I was not a prisoner and could leave if I wanted to. That was a great revelation to me. Not that I am advising you to leave but it’s always an option if you want it. God does work things out in his own time so don’t worry about any of it, remember it’s still very early days.Much love to you and yours. Maggie x

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  3. Thanks Neil. If anything I am the perfect candidate for having a heart attack. I’m not afraid of dying but, like you, I am concerned about how I leave my family (my father was killed in an accident when I was 17 and it devastated our family, we just didn’t know how to cope without him!). Number 5 truly is interesting. It was the question I struggled with the whole time I was away… Praying for you brother! I appreciate you sharing your life journey!

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