I sat on the stool in my doctor’s office waiting. I’d just had an ultrasound and the doctor was evaluating the results. For the past month or two I’d been having what felt like bubbles going through my heart. At first they were intermittent and fleeting but over the past few weeks they’d become increasingly disturbing to the point where they could no longer be ignored. What I expected, foolishly I suppose, was for the doctor to come in and prescribe the usual panacea and directions for a healthier diet, a condemnation of my smoking and drinking habits and a prescription for whatever. What I got was, “Mr Yesthal, you have a considerably large tumor in you left ventricle. It will require surgical extraction and we’d like to admit you immediately because there is an extreme risk of embolism.” I felt like saying, “Yeah, right. C’mon, where’s the camera?” What I got was the doctor, dead pan awaiting my response.
I was very much in love at the time and my lady-love was in Virginia on an assignment for her company. I knew that she would want the news and would want to be there for the operation, so I opted to take the risk and wait until she could be with me for the procedure. I called her that night and she cried. I tried to comfort her by explaining as had been done for me, that the tumor was in all likelihood benign and that the procedure was pretty straight forward. As I look back on it, I was not all that sure, but to my relief, she stopped crying and that made me feel a lot better.
May 5th, 2005. Cinco De Mayo
Fortunately everything was in good order for the operation. They did a catheterization and all my veins and arteries proved to be in good shape. Time for the operation. My sweetheart and I spent some time together and I tried to assure her that I was feeling strong and that everything was going to be fine. We walked to the elevator together but had to part ways there because only the condemned was permitted to ascend to the operating area. I will never forget as long as I live, the unmistakable look we shared, that may well have been our last. Sometimes I dream of that look. I’ve never told anyone this, but when the doors slid shut my eyes welled up. It was a fleeting thing because I had to steel myself for what was to come and I knew it.
Here’s something I have always wondered…They stopped my heart, cracked open my chest and cut open my heart. Was I dead? If so, where did I go? I know that they removed all of my blood, stopped my lung activity and my heart. I had no out of body experience. No great revelations or any kind of recall at all. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect any different, but since the operation I have often wondered at this.
Is this what it will be like to be dead? Like being on that operating table but just not waking up from it? After all, for all intents and purposes, I was dead. Well that’s neither here nor there, is it? When I came to in the ICU, two of the people I love most in the world were there waiting for me and I’m here now, aren’t I? I’m thankful for life and the bigger questions will wait comfortably for answers. I’m in no rush. I want to thank a very special person for seeing me through that and sticking by me through some very trying times for her afterward. She knows who she is. I thank God for her still.
A very true story about a very…well, you decide.