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My Aneurysm And ‘Christmas’

Christmas this year came on December 15th, this year of our good Lord, 2012, but it began three years ago when I suddenly felt a pain in my back. It was a distress differing from any I had previously endured, yet one which was within my medical comprehension.  Despite a negative personal – or family – history of such, your humble correspondent was passing a kidney stone; first time ever; age sixty-three.

Although not an incapacitating pain, it was impressive, so I made my way to the hospital. A CT Scan revealed that I was passing not one, but two stones simultaneously; something of a clinical rarity, much as if the fates were trying to compensate for years of a stone-free existence. Tacked to the end of that report came this rather innocuous sounding after-thought: Oh, yeah, you’ve got a small aneurysm on your left common iliac artery.

Now ‘small’ I liked; ‘aneurysm’ I didn’t much care for. An aneurysm is a weakening of the arterial wall which makes it prone to rupture; and while that weakening was not on the main aorta, it was in that vessel’s first branching – read: if it ruptures, you’re in a world of hurt, Bubba.

All of a sudden, my name was ‘Bubba.’ But, it was small, and so far, intact and likely to remain so. Then, every six months, I would get a CT Scan to see if it was growing, larger and weaker. It did, and it was. To have a weakening in this particular vessel would be pretty much a death sentence.

You must understand, if I suddenly felt a back pain  and a numb leg – the symptoms of rupture – it was not merely a matter of how soon I got to the ER – they could do little for me – the true timing to rescue is how quickly 1] I could get to the ER,  2] be in the operating room with  my belly cut open, and 3] have a qualified vascular surgeon ready to set a clamp against the hemorrhage and pray that blood loss had not proceeded to the point where transfusions were pointless, and I would be featured in the obituaries of the next day’s newspaper.

For a while. the aneurysm grew but slightly; still no serious statistical risk of rupture. But my last CT forced me to shrug off any hopes of size stability. It had grown to the point where my odds of spontaneous rupture grew to twenty per cent. The necessity of interventional surgery were no  longer a contemplation but an inevitability.

So, on 12/12/12, I had an ‘inner-tube’ placed in the stricken artery by Tim Callis, a vascular surgeon who blesses the Roanoke Valley by his mere presence. I have been advised he is the best vascular surgeon on both sides of the Mississippi. I frankly find that complimentary swathe somewhat constricted [how about the world, and Mars, and Venus?]

Well word of my surgery was dutifully spread to family [“I never said a word to them, Gahv, honest! – Love, Sabrina] Then, nothing would do but that my daughters and oldest son had to come to Roanoke to tend their dottering old father as he hovered between sheets, groaning softly, with a thermometer hanging loosely from the corner of his mouth, while simultaneously drooling on himself. God love my kids!

But, imagine their surprise when I greeted them at the front door, upright and robust, with satisfactory vital signs. This was not what they expected. However, my youngest daughter, who lives in the valley, had experienced a reversal of health such that it quickly became that yes, they had been summoned, but not, as they suspected, to help me. They were called here to help their sibling.

We all gathered in our home the evening of the 15th . Against colored lights and shared love, the large Christmas Tree seemed to hold court. My oldest son, John, is a comedian of such talent, you soon beg him to stop joking long enough to catch your breath.

I drew myself back from the evening to better sense what was going on about me. Laughter, good food, and most of all, a deep caring intimacy no other people on earth could offer each other. I watched as each time one of them passed by my youngest daughter, they would pause for a kiss or a love stroke. I watched her continue to heal. I looked at the Christmas Tree; on such a night as this, could Heaven be far behind?

But I realize this is one of Heaven’s ways: patience. Knit one, purl two, again and again. Begin with a kidney stone, and end three years and one surgery later to conclude a never-to-be forgotten ‘Christmas.’ But I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised. Christmas, like Heaven, is not a matter of the calendar. T’is a matter of the human heart.

Look for Lucky’s books locally and on-line: The Oath of Hippocrates; The Cotillian; A Journey Long Delayed; Campfire Tales; Sabonics.

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