Category Archives: Heart Health

The Easter Message: Straight from an 11-year Old

I was texting with a dear friend the other day who recently moved away, and we began talking about her recent move, my upcoming move, and this Easter’s message. A few years ago I wouldn’t have been aware of the messages the universe was sending me. I would’ve moved through the moments, too fearful to really embrace them.

Yesterday, as I was coming home from a day of errands I passed my neighbor’s two daughters whom I often pass as I’m walking inside from the parking lot.  One is 11 and one is five. As I walked by them, the five-year old said to her sister, “She’s so cute.” I chuckled at a five-year old saying a 38 year-old woman was “cute.” Her older sister said, “Yeah, she is. I like her.” I’ve never had much of a conversation with these two other than occasional smiles or “Hello’s” in passing.

A few moments later as I let the dogs out on the porch she was outside and came over to my fence, leaned on it and said, “You live alone, right?

“I do.

That is so cool. I mean you get to come and go as you please. You don’t have to answer to anyone. And you get to dress so cute. When I grow up I want to live alone with two little dogs too.”

What I wanted to say was, “Girlfriend, you have no idea the shit storm I had to go through to answer to no one.” Realizing that’s highly inappropriate to say to an 11-year old, I simply said, “You can do whatever you want when you’re older.”

I felt I had done my very small part in the way of liberating a young girl. Years ago I would have ignored this interaction, but now, I realize that the universe sends us moments and more importantly people to send us the messages we need to hear, to give validation of where we are and the path we’re going down. I didn’t necessarily feel I needed any validation in the choices and realities of the last few years, but I did appreciate the moment for what it was. I appreciated realizing that this Easter, my new beginning was being pointed out for me by an 11-year old. She was indeed a gift.

With my upcoming move, I find myself finalizing the purge of things from the past and rebuilding with new intentions, new visions, new furniture! I’m one who is normally resistant to the urge of buying home goods for the sake of buying home goods. My towels don’t need to match and I don’t need a gallery wall because Pinterest says it’s cool. When I was negotiating why I had this sudden urge to nest in my new home, I asked and my friend texted back and said, “It’s happiness that does that. It used to be too quiet, too still in your home to feel truly at home there. You’ve done the heart work and now you’re creating a space where you can live intentionally.”

I don’t know if she meant to type “heart” work or “hard” work but both are applicable here. The days of surviving and struggling, digging out and rebuilding are over. The moments of new beginnings, refreshing, reviving are here. I have a bottle of Champagne that’s collected dust for a year in the back of my kitchen cabinet. Friday, as the moving truck pulls away, and I sit in the middle of my new beginning, I plan on popping open that bottle and toasting to a fresh start.

It has been a transformational year that has brought me new friends, new visions, new energy, and I’m grateful for all the strong women in my life that have held me up, nurtured me, applauded me along the way. There’s power in a tribe.



Invisible Disabilities

6460_106918074940_3438260_nAs my annual cardiology appointment approaches (on April Fool’s Day no less), I find myself in that annual state of nostalgia that occurs every time around this year. It might have something to do with the fact that my husband and I trek 4.5 hours south of DC to visit my original cardiologist and surgeon. I am more than loyal in this respect.

When I moved to Northern Va over a decade ago I tried to find a new home in the cardiology mecca that existed up here. Instead, I found crowded offices that treated patients like cattle, ushering you in and out before you had time to process any of what they were telling you. Well-oiled machines: yes. The safe space I had been accustomed to: no.

453fb830a28f434d1c4288a6712507aaIt is necessary to point out that I fall under the category of “high-maintenance patients” in that I have a lot of questions and an even higher amount of anxieties. I have invisible disabilities. I need coddling. Thus, I travel to Virginia Beach where my original surgeon, Dr. Gottimukala, practices.

He and the pacemaker technician, April, have been with me in this journey of my heart since the beginning. They consoled me when I first heard of the diagnosis. They have learned the ins and outs of my anxieties and know exactly how to deal with me. They know what I will and will not tolerate. They take my calls, deflate my panic, and they give the kind of hugs that mean something. What I appreciate most: Dr. Gotti will spend as much time as he needs to with me without making me feel like I’m a hassle. I recall one visit, in the midst of diagnosis as well as my divorce from my first husband, when he walked in with his kind face and said, “How are we doing today Carrie?”  I didn’t answer. I sobbed. For at least ten minutes. He pulled up a chair, handed me a box of tissues and waited for me to finish. It could have been hours. He would have waited. Luckily it was not, I managed to pull myself together.

There’s something poignant about the literal and figurative breaking of the heart occurring at the same time in a small office of cardiology in Virginia Beach under neon lights. I remember bringing them a gift basket full of chocolates and crackery snacks after that. I think it’s the only gift basket I’ve ever bought anyone just because I thought they were deserving of it. That’s saying something.

I also appreciate Dr. Gotti’s one-liners. My first surgery went off without a hitch and as he emerged from the surgery he told my dad, “She’ll be walking down the aisle at 70 beats per minute.” (The surgery occurred four weeks before my wedding.)  My second surgery to replace the battery a few years ago went off well too. He appeared out of the operating room and told Jason that in twilight during the surgery I professed my love for him. It might have been partially true. I do love him.

I had my first implant when I was 23, so the issue of having a pacemaker was compounded by the fact that I was young, and believed I was “invincible.” My struggles were different. I was concerned with more vain issues like scar size and placement, and I found myself bothered by displacement issues. The waiting rooms were commonly  filled with patients three times my age. This was an issue I wanted to combat and which is discussed in the article “For Young People with Pacemakers” which gives a shout out to the Facebook group I created, “Young Pacemaker Patients and Supporters.” The group was created to allow younger recipients and their families a safe haven and communal space to share their challenges and concerns. It’s pleasing to see the group has grown in the last few years to almost 300 members.

So tomorrow I will drive down and back in a day to Virginia Beach for what will be a relatively quick appointment to ensure my broken lead in my pacemaker hasn’t wreaked too much havoc on anything. See Image B for a depiction of a broken lead. F1.medium

People are always surprised when I tell them I make the drive to visit him rather than find a doctor more locally. My priorities are different. My expectations are different. My experiences are demanding of difference.

Jeffrey Levine

poetry, publishing, and mentoring

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