“No Free Water” said the hand-written sign taped to the wall in the hospital room. It seemed like such a funny thing to say, but then you see the “Gatorade only” written beneath it and you figure out that it just means, “no plain water.”
Here I was again, sitting in a hospital room in Atlanta, GA. But it was a different hospital, and I wasn’t here to donate a kidney, even though I wished desperately that I could spare another.
My mother just had by-pass surgery to unblock some arteries leading to her heart. Her electrolytes were running low, so they wanted to make sure she didn’t flush any more out by drinking plain water. This surgery only came about because the doctors finally (FINALLY) realized that she has Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) in her legs and the arteries leading to her kidneys. One kidney is already non-functioning, and the other one is at risk. In about six weeks, she’ll have another surgery to unblock those arteries.
Now, her mission is to get stronger so she is ready for that surgery, which she is keen to have sooner rather than later. After caring for my step-dad while he was on dialysis, I suspect she doesn’t want to go through that herself. She’s already had what must have been the most distressing several months ever, where doctors thought the pain she felt in her legs was caused by sciatica. She even had what turns out to have been a totally unnecessary back surgery that, needless to say, did nothing to relieve the pain. She must have thought she was going crazy… or that the doctors thought she was.
I’m so grateful she is finally getting the treatment she needs, and not a second too soon! One thing that was throwing off the doctors was that her heart is still quite healthy, and nothing was pointing them in a vascular direction. I always knew my mom had a strong, beautiful heart!
As we sat for many hours in her recovery room, we got to hear the doctors, nurses, and physical therapists encourage her to breathe into her inspirometer and do at least three walks per day around the ICU corridors. Only by getting stronger, they said, could she go home and start the road to full recovery… and then prepare for the next major surgery. The message was clear: She still had a long way to go.
That sort of threw me into “coach mode” and I became a little overbearing with my mother. I was asking her over and over if she was ready to go for a walk. And, as you would expect from someone feeling nauseous, weak, and in pain, she was apprehensive and wanting to rest ‘just a little while more’ before getting up to scoot her walker around the nurses’ station. Inside, I knew she deserved a break after all she had been through. But on the outside, for some reason, I felt the need to play the tough-love card.
It made me wonder why I wanted to push her so much. I’ve thought a lot about it. And, I guess that when you’ve trained for an Ironman, you have a different perspective. You’re constantly looking at the goal and thinking, “I won’t ever be able to go that distance if I can’t first go half that distance…” I knew that if my mom only walked once yesterday, trying to do it three times today was going to be hard. And not just physically, but mentally. It’s almost more about what you *think* you can do. And, proving to yourself that you can go to one limit, allows you to think you can reach the next.
Another thing that occurred to me was that in a race, you know where the finish line is and you know what the time cutoff is. It’s just a natural motivator. Either you’re going to reach that finish line and make it within the cutoff, or you’re not. If you haven’t trained for it, you can sort of guess what the outcome might be. But, in life, we don’t know where the ultimate finish line is. Or if we’ve done enough to get there. Is it next year? Next week?
If we knew, would we be more motivated to do those things that we know we need to do? Right now? Without waiting a while longer? Lose weight, quit our vices, exercise more, relax more, enjoy our family more.. What kind of inspire-ometer would that be … to breathe life into us and put wind in our sails?
Hello my old heart How have you been? How is it, being locked away? Well don't you worry In there, you're safe And it's true, you'll never beat But you'll never break --The Oh Hellos