A Healthy Heart

I cannot bear my son Hayden leaving for college in 10 days and then again, I cannot wait for him to go. I was reminded of this when we went for his heart check up.

On Friday, Hayden was released from the pediatric cardiology unit at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Dr. Pass guaranteed the heart would last another 80 years. Hayden asked, “90?”

“I can’t guarantee 90.”

Being back in pediatric cardiology sent me in a tailspin, remembering the angst as I stood outside the ER, my son in surgery for his tachycardia, his rapid rate. He had gone under general anesthesia three times to fix this. The last time, June of 2009, Dr. Pass fixed it.

He is fine and we have almost forgotten how far we have come and how we lived through nights in intensive care.

I am proud of how we managed. I did not make too much of it or too little of it. I did not cover him in bubble wrap, hover over him like a hot house flower or put him on meds. (Well, actually he was on medication, a beta blocker, to prevent tachycardia, but only briefly as it seemed to make him groggy.)

Because he had this heart problem, my heart was connected to his. I watched over him, making sure if he did go into tachycardia, on the playground after school, that he would stand on his head and his heart rate would return to normal, often, he reported, with a somersault in his chest, not slowly back to normal, but with a thud.

On Friday, I told my boy/my 18-year-old man, “You were brave, never complained. You never asked, ‘Why me?’ You got through it. I am proud of you.”

And I got through it, too, with the buoyancy of my daughters to help. Because when you have one sick child, there is nothing like the life raft of two healthy daughters to carry you home.

Maybe in some ways, the girls were sidelined by his heart challenges and, yes, his charisma. This, more than anything, is why I am looking forward to my son going off to college. Because my Catherine and Charlotte deserve the limelight too. My 15-year-old daughters are separate and complete universes. They have been referred to as “the girlies” or “the twins.” They are their own people.

They are ready for their closeups. Their healthy hearts, too, are worth celebrating.

Be grateful for the healthy heart.

me and kids
Me and the kids (at Barbara and Chris’s wedding a couple of years ago).

5 Boro Bike Tour

Coming back on the ferry

I did it. Along with more than 30,000 other bicyclists. The 5 boro bike tour. I can cross it off my bucket list.

I started around 8 am in Manhattan right before Central Park South. (I’d heard the beginning of the tour at Battery Park was a zoo so skipped to the Park.) I finished 45 miles and four hours later in Staten Island.

After a while, all the bridges and boros (boroughs) looked the same. Was I in Brooklyn or Queens? I knew it wasn’t the Bronx because that leg of the tour was brief.

Occasionally a family would be picnicking on their front steps, cheering us on. That felt good. I’d yell to them, “Thanks! We love Brooklyn.” Then I’d wonder, ‘Are we in Brooklyn? Or do I love Queens?’

Although I ride my bike almost every day to work, I’m not  a spandex-wearing hottie. In fact, I only just bought bike shorts for the tour. (Still, my tush is a little sore today!)

I usually use my bike just to get someplace. Yesterday, my bike got me to every boro and then at the end, I got to the NYU Hospital. Not for a problem though. It was a celebration for all kids who have had heart problems called the Mend-A-Heart party. My kids love this annual party. And my son is so proud, “Look because of my heart problems, you get to go to this great party!” Yay for broken hearts that are repaired!

Back to the tour — my new bike rocked. It’s a hybrid, not a racing back like most of the bikes on the tour.

I think this was Brooklyn

I was glad I had a basket to throw my banana peels and health bar wrappers into. Also, I could peel off layers of clothing as the sun and exertion warmed me. Occasionally after hitting a pothole, I had to pat down the contents of my basket while riding so my water bottle wouldn’t go flying.

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

Of the 5 bridges you cross on the 5 boro bike tour, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at Mile 35 was the deadliest. It just kept climbing for miles and miles and miles. At several points going up, I had a mirage that there — just ahead — it was about to go downhill. But no. It was completely uphill the whole way. Okay, maybe the last two minutes I hit some down hill.

I was thinking that whole way up — what goes up must come down. Then just when I felt like giving up, I was inspired by my friend P’s text, “Stay strong,” she wrote. “Free massages at the end.”

But I didn’t need one of those free massages, I just needed to lay down in the green grass of Staten Island. Really exhausted and really proud.

Health Care for Caregivers

Just checked out the www.1010challenge.org

Everyone has a health care story. This is the first one I read.

As a United Methodist Minister and Health care worker I affirm the church’s position and pledge my support on this issue. As a small membership pastor I do not have health insurance because the congregation I serve cannot afford the rates of the church sponsored plan. Since my health care job is on a “as needed” basis (prn) I do not qualify for health insurance. – Allen Noah Converse, TX

I do not know Allen Noah. But I believe he should have health care. I do not know a lot of people, but I believe we should all have health care. 

I have a place in my heart for people who care for other people – pastors, parents, caregivers, teachers, and doctors. I believe they especially need care. Just because someone does not have a traditional job that offers health care, that person should not be penalized or denied.

Is a small-town pastor less important than a big-time CEO? I don’t think so. As a follower of Jesus, I want to love, care for the least, the lost, the lonely. I want the above-mentioned pastor to have health care. I want the parent who opted out of the workforce to care for her infant to have health care.

I believe a country pastor or a stay-at-home parent is as valuable to our nation – even more so – than a corporate mogul who carries health insurance for his or her family.

I know several parents at my girls’ NYC public school, who have health care for their children, but not for themselves. They cannot afford it. They are parents who have jobs, but those jobs do not offer health care. And even if they did not have jobs, they should still have health care. I worry about them, I worry what would happen if they required major medical care.

God know, my family has needed major medical coverage over the last several years. My 12-year old has had three heart procedures. My husband had radiation for cancer and care for his Parkinson’s Disease. I have absolutely no doubt these procedures, treatments and doctors’ visits would have bankrupted us, had we no health insurance. Surely, we would be a million dollars in debt.

As we in the United States debate how to provide universal health care, I suggest we remember parents and pastors. Let’s not forget people who care for other people. Their work is priceless and too many of them are not insured.