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Reflections

They’re such innocuous words – cardiac incident – meant to cover the spectrum of what is a life-changing experience; an experience where you really do get to confront your own mortality, usually well after the turmoil of the incident has been well looked after and you have time to reflect on the enormity of what you have survived.
"Looking back, I realize how lucky I have been in my recovery. I heard it said that one creates their own luck, but in my case it was created by an excellent support person, my husband, and a good attitude that looked on each day as a step toward a new life, a second chance at life. Lots do not get that!"

"It’s been over four years now since my bypass, I’m glad that I had the heart attack when I did ... and not later when the outcome could have been far different. It got my attention in a big way. I’ve changed my lifestyle drastically and I’ve never felt better."

"You’ve been given a very valuable second chance, an opportunity to start your life all over again. Don’t blow it. I don’t want to go back to hospital or have any more procedures, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I don’t. How do I do that? By keeping up the exercise, by monitoring the food I eat – and for me, that’s a difficult thing because most things are bad for us, pâté for example, which is full of fat, is something I love and is hard for me to resist. But I’m trying very hard because I don’t want to be back in the hospital."

"You’ve been given the marvelous opportunity of another chance at life. Let it be all that’s required to get you to take the steps that are important, and to ensure you are doing all the necessary things so that you won't be back for a repeat of the event."

"I didn’t really want to retire so early in life. It was a cash-flow situation. But then I asked myself, What is your goal in life? I realized I could enjoy life without a whole lot of money. I figured I could live with my pensions and savings I’d made through the years. And I’m glad I did that because I realized I could die tomorrow. I had to live it day by day and to the fullest, day by day."

"I’m not a very spiritual guy but I did get a bit spiritual after the operation. In my own way. Not by going to church but by being out there with nature, what nature has created. I really respect it. I have a whole different outlook now. Just sitting, smelling the roses. I love smelling the leaves when they fall off the trees. When I look at things now I really look into them, see things I wouldn’t have noticed before. Really see things, hear things. And I notice I appreciate all that’s around me."

"Strangely, I never had any fear of dying. Because I hadn’t read any books about the operation. Had I, I think I would have really been afraid. But when the auxiliary lady led me into the operating room I figured, This’ll be a piece of cake. And it was. But, given the other medical complications I was experiencing, I’m just very glad to be alive."

"We discovered you have to do the things that get you through the day. You have to enjoy life and each other; enjoy the moment. Enjoy family. Take trips. Hopefully it’s a long life with a lot to accomplish."

"There was a moment a few weeks after I got home from the hospital when I was sitting in the garden and I realized I was seeing things differently. I was seeing the birds and the flowers, hearing all the sounds around me. It was like watching life through a close-up lens. And I realize I’ve become so much more aware of the world, the people around me."

"Stay positive. Laugh every day. And walk every day, or cycle, but do something. The attitude, the emotional aspect of it, the exercise and diet part of it – they all go hand-in-hand toward recovery."

"Sometimes I think we become absorbed in private thoughts, survivors and caregivers, going over what happened, what might have happened, and the impact it has all had on relationships, attitudes, the future. Before the event I think we didn’t pay too much attention to the future. It was way off somewhere; we’ll deal with it when we get there. And then, suddenly, out of left field, we were there; the future is now. It certainly made me look closely at my life and I see it differently. I see my wife in a new light – not that I didn’t appreciate her before – but now it is with a much deeper love, in a more meaningful way, appreciating every little thing, gesture. And the world around me. It’s fantastic. The recovery period, and it goes on for quite a while, made me get my priorities in order, has made me look at the future in a very positive light. Maybe people who haven’t been through that kind of experience are missing an opportunity to reevaluate their lives, to make a mid-course correction, and they’re missing something important."

"Live every day. Try not to think of the past too much, except remember all the things you’ve learned as a result of your illness. Resolve to do what the doctor told you. People who have had heart surgery can’t afford to ignore that. Many of us talk about being given a second chance at life, and that might sound melodramatic, but I can’t think of a better way to say it."