Rico Provasoli celebrates his “non-death day anniversary.”
Three years ago today I had my heart stopped for five hours after the surgeons cracked me open like a walnut. The day before, when I had been rushed to the Emergency Room, I was told by the young doc, his peach fuzz looked like he might be all of sixteen-years-old, that I cut it kind of close. “Two minutes later, sir (what if I had caught a couple of red lights in traffic) we probably could not have saved you.”
While I waited for the open-heart surgery, I reviewed my life and all the turns and turns of fate, decisions and everything I had been through. Before I made much progress in making peace with myself, before I had time to prepare myself for the real possibility that I might never wake up from the deep sleep of anesthesia, I was wheeled into the Operating Room.
My blood was pumped outside of my body and after intubation, I was breathed by a machine for several hours. With my heart stopped, my lungs not working on their own, might I be clinically dead? Meanwhile, five new coronary arteries were fabricated from my saphenous vein in my left leg and ten grafts were sewn in place. The heart was jump started, the surgeon examined all his stitches, no leaks observed, so they buttoned me up. The scar still looks like a mid-chest zipper.
Recovery was worse than twelve weeks of basic training with an angry Marine drill sergeant. My daughter took time off from her teaching job, flew across the continent, and cared for me as I careened between sobbing, despair, joy, laughter (good God, that hurt the most). And, especially poignant, gratitude.
So, today I am celebrating the miracle of being alive and profoundly thankful to wake up every morning ecstatically happy that I am not dead.
I suppose today could be called my non-death day anniversary.
No matter what may come to pass, each day is wonderful. Even if during the night I’d been to the bathroom six times with my twitchy prostate. As the winter sun slowly appears in the eastern sky, the chilly morning not slowing down the gaggle of squirrels overhead in the trees, I sip a strong Italian roast cup of coffee, sit quietly with the birds chanting, crowing and cooing, I realize, again and again, that there is no such thing as a bad day. Nope. It’s all wonderful. Just to be alive is no small miracle.
As we read the news, the constant flood of racism, voter suppression, climate change catastrophes, hand gun murders and wide spread political and corporate corruption, I don’t deny any of the information. The joy of living far outreaches the sobering facts. Instead, I realize how profoundly lucky I have been with outstanding medical intervention, good health care insurance, the means to pay for it and how the dice rolled in my favor during that mad dash to the hospital with no red lights.
For this holiday season, my heart-felt (no pun) wish is that no one has to undergo such gruesome surgery in order to learn what is important.
That is the only coin we have to spend when it is our time to leave, maybe it’s smart to practice gathering this currency before we need them. You never know when you might need it.
And especially important not to hold back the most important of all holiday greetings – Mucho love to all.
Cremation can wait – Rico explains his choice between quality of end-of-life peace at home over high-end medical care in the ICU