Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Happy Thanksgiving

I will be the first to express that I do not get excited about the approaching holidays.  It is not that I am some sort of Scrooge.  But rather, I have had to deal with so many unfortunate circumstances around this time of year, I am almost fearful of what the holidays will bring.  In December of 1976, while celebrating my birthday, the house I grew up in suffered damage from fire.  Several years later, on a Friday the 13th in November, my mother and stepfather were in a car accident.  In November of 1988, I was diagnosed with cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma just days before Thanksgiving.  In the mid-90’s my first ex-wife’s father was mis-diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, an error that cost him four years of his life, all due to a medicinal error.  My stepmother was hit by a car crossing her street just days before Christmas.  And even recently, I am facing another issue, not health related for once.  You get the idea why I am not fond of this season?

But I have a wonderful Thanksgiving story to share.  In my decades of counseling cancer patients and survivors, no Thanksgiving could ever be as more meaningful as one family is about to celebrate.  Just over a month ago, this day may never have come for one cancer survivor.  Just barely finishing chemo, this young man suffered a near fatal side effect from the one chemotherapy drug, combined with another physiological issue.  What began as a simple and seemingly harmless cough, would worsen to the point that instead of waiting to go to the soonest doctor appointment four days later, a decision was made by one concerned mother, to take her young adult son to the emergency room.  The next six hours would turn into a nightmare as she would hear the words “code blue.”  The doctors were able to rescucitate him, but the news this mother would recieve would not be much better.  Her son’s condition was getting worse.  And as if it could not get any worse, the hospital was not equipped to handle such an emergency to the skill needed for this particular case.

He would have to be medivaced to the nearest facility that had the best chance to treat his condition.  This was a great distance away from home, which meant that they family had to travel, leaving their home behind for an unknown period of time, until they all could come home together.  Emergency surgery would be needed totalling nearly fourteen hours just for the one procedure itself, and several minor surgeries to make adjustments to his medical condition.  But that night of the surgery was no breeze either.  The following forty-eight hours would be the most important.

He is going to need long term care at home, something that is normally done by skilled and trained doctors and nurses, now to be done by his mother, and anyone else who may be trained.  I am certain this is not what the mother had dreamed of becoming when she gave birth to him.  But I am also certain that she is glad to have this chance to take care of him.

A month later, this story appears to be having a happy ending.  As I write this blog, this young man and his family, especially his mother are happy, nervous, and excited to be heading back home.  It will be a long ride home, as this time there is no helicopter transporting him.  I have taken that long ride home from a hospital myself, following my heart surgery.  A lot goes through your mind during that drive.  Gratitude is one of them.

No matter what I have gone through, I have two beautiful and wonderful daughters.  And I actually do welcome these holidays, not for me, but for them.  My ten year old still believes in Santa.  As our home deals with another seasonal struggle, I keep in mind the anticipation and excitement that my children have for these holidays.  But even more so, I will remember this Thanksgiving holiday as one family prepares to be thankful for the greatest gift of all, the life of someone so young, a true fighter and survivor.  If there were ever a definition of a miracle, you are reading about it right here.

No matter what holiday you celebrate during the upcoming season, my wish is that it be happy, safe, and healthy.  And to my young friend and his family… Happy Thanksgiving.  And Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

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