Saturday, June 19, 2010

Three Years and A Day

Three years ago yesterday, I experienced the unexpected: Quintuple Heart By-Pass Surgery. Not one, not two but five by-passes or as we in the club refer to as "full re-wiring."

Up until five weeks before the surgery, I had no idea how close to the cardio edge I was walking. I knew that I wasn't feeling good, but I had dismissed it to everything that had been on the front burners in my life.

When a angioplasty procedure failed, I was told by my doctors that I needed "just one" by-pass. Thus I was whisked off to Christ Hospital in Chicago for surgery the next morning. I was not told how serious my condition was, but the hospital contacted my cousin Rocky, who was in Texas hearing a arbitration case and got him on the first flight back to Chicago - about 15 minutes before I was taken into surgery.

After waiting for four hours, my doctors came out to inform Rocky that I had to have five by-passes. I am told that his response was, "Well, Jim never does anything in moderation." How well he knows me.

Surgeries such as mine does not cure a person of cardiac disease. It gifts us with time - time for life and the opportunity to re embrace it. But the important thing is that we have to find every opportunity to embrace it and in doing so we have to make some radical changes in our lives.

The physical part of the recovery process takes between 10 to 12 months. This is only for the physical part of the healing such massive surgery. The emotional, psychological and spiritual part of the healing processes takes longer. A lot longer.

There are four things that are guaranteed to undermine the well-being of cardiac patients: stress, bad-diet/no exercise, depression and stress. (you noticed that I said the word stress twice.)

If cardiac patients are not able to avoid unnecessary stress in their lives, we simply will kill ourselves before our cardiac disease will do it for us.

I must now willingly admit and take responsibility for permitting so much unnecessary stress to drown so much of these first three years of my post-opt journey.

Ironically, most of the dysfunctional stress of these past three years was came from the least expected avenue within my life - my faith community.
Having my life saved has changed my perspective of life on so many levels. I now welcome the gift of each new day and the opportunity to make the most of each day.
I am a cleric within the Evangelical Catholic Church. My priesthood and my episcopal ministry is the totality of my life. I did not become a priest for the title, social standing or for any of the other perks that so often become attached to clerics, religious and bishops. I became a priest because I accepted God's invitation to serve and to be part of something that is greater than myself.
The purpose of this particular blog is not to go into the sad dynamics I permitted myself to struggle with during these past three years. Rather, the purpose is to encourage everyone to do whatever it takes to spare themselves from the unnecessary and avoidable stress that does such harm to our physical, emotional and spiritual health.
It took three years of various forms of hell to finally start dealing with the various forms of stress undermining my life. For non-confrontation wimps like myself, confronting those who were wearing me down did not come easy. But I finally found the courage to stop being a coward and to start protecting my health and well-being.
And if I can do it, anyone else can.
So on this third anniversary of receiving the gift of life, I find my physical, emotional and spiritual life happy and peaceful.
I still find myself wondering how and why this all happened. Considering how critical I was, I often wonder why I survived my operation and returned to my life when so many others did not.
But I do know one thing. I have today to make the best of and God-willing, I will have tomorrow also.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
+James Alan Wilkowski
Evangelical Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of the Northwest
Chicago, Illinois

1 comment:

  1. Obviously you still have much more work to do .... just maybe now destressed.