Being a Good Listener

In December of 2003, I was halfway through three years of seminary.  While on Christmas break, I experienced a heart attack.  I ended up in the hospital on Christmas Eve, and received a stent for Christmas.  It was definitely the best Christmas present I got that year!  And then in early January, I got a second one.  And then things got scary.  In early February, I knew there was something seriously wrong with my heart.  I went into the hospital overnight, but the stress tests they gave me revealed absolutely nothing.

That night, I ended up speaking with a nurse on the cardiac unit.  I told her I knew there was something wrong with my heart.  She gave me a bit of advice that I never have forgotten.  She said, “No one knows your body better than you do.  Trust in what your body is telling you. ”  As I conversed with my Dr. the next morning, I told him that there was something definitely wrong with my ticker.  He replied, “I not saying I don’t believe you.  But I can’t do anything until I can diagnose and document the problem.  He then had me do another stress test on the treadmill, which I passed quite easily.

The next month was kind of scary.   I knew there was something wrong with my heart, but I had no way to prove it.  As the days went by, it continued to get worse, and I began to experience feelings of dread.  I would feel twinges of pain when I lifted things up off the floor.  I finally ended up going back into the hospital and this time, I failed the stress test.  The next day I had open heart surgery and received a triple bypass.

I’ve never forgotten those words of wisdom that I received from that nurse.  Over time, I’ve learned to listen closely to what my body’s telling me.  Listening allowed me to discern the early onset of my dementia, caused by lesions in my brain.  I was able to catch it early, and to get on medication.  What I have can’t be cured, but the meds I take slow its progress.

I’ve learned the hard way, that my mind and body really do communicate.  The same true is true for all of us, if we learn to pay attention.  The golden rule in medicine, is to catch things early and get treatment.  I’ve wondered at times whether the lesions and my heart disease are somehow all related.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to know, given the current state of medicine.

Train yourself to listen.  Meditate, if you will on what your body is saying.  It will improve the quality of your life, and who knows, like me you just might save it.

Blessings,

Fr Dave

 

Is there life after Dementia?

In the eyes of my dog Paco, I haven’t changed a bit.  I still provide the same lap, provide the same treats, and pretty much cater to his wishes.  It’s a strange thing to comprehend, that my mind is gradually changing, as the Dementia advances.  For most folks, I seem the same today as I was yesterday, a husband, father and an Episcopal Priest.

But behind the curtains, my brain is slowly changing.  My brain is not the same it was a few years ago.  It’s as if someone has moved into my brain and is, well, changing things around.  The changes have been gradual, and haven’t been life threatening.   But there is some redecorating going on, and it often doesn’t feel good.

The medication that I am taking are designed to slow such things down.  They can’t reverse the damage and make the lesions go away.  They each have their own side effects, and have created a “new normal.”  The fog inside my head has become a steady, demanding tenant.

I decided to create this blog, to describe some of my experiences.  Hopefully, it will allow me to help make some sense of things.  One hears the word “dementia”, and often fears the worse;  I don’t think at this point that it needs to be that way.  Life does goes on, and perhaps my musings will be comforting to others.

I hope you will read my musings.  I am not a Dementia expert by any means and can only share those things within myself.  I need to say that I am writing these words primarily for myself.  If others find them to be helpful, I’ll be blessed by that.

For those who share the illness, you will be in my prayers.  I do believe there is life after Dementia, both on earth and with the Lord.  May God bless you and give you strength, as you struggle on your journey.  And I hope, sometime you’ll want to share your story.

Blessings,

Fr Dave