Saturday, June 12, 2010

Learning to Count

Grams is aware that she writes fairly frequently about Grandad's health problems and how frustrating they have been. I will admit that sometimes it just gets me down.

The day we spent this week at the Texas Heart Institute has reminded me that it's time to learn to count again. Sometimes this quest for diagnosis and cure has seemed never ending and I've forgotten to count my blessings.

One of my favorite hymns out of the old Baptist Hymnal that I grew up using at least three times a week is "Count Your Blessings." The words were written by Johnson Oatman, Jr. in 1897. I've always remembered this hymn and have turned to these words often on nights when I'm letting bad things roll around in my head and sleep is elusive. These words have helped me find comfort in many of the difficult times in my life. Somehow, counting my blessings always helps put things in perspective. Whether I was struggling with being the mother of teenagers, taking care of my aging parents, or problems on the job, I've found comfort in counting my blessings. It's kind of the same thing that Oprah advocated in encouraging her viewers to keep a gratitude journal. It helps put life back in the proper perspective.

I thought of this old hymn on Wednesday when we spent the day at the Texas Heart Institute only to end up being sent home to wait another week. Some of the people I met and saw while waiting that day reminded me how truly blessed we are. When we walked into the very first waiting room (there are many) Grams became immediately aware of the weariness and weight that many of the people in that room were carrying. It was clear that many of them had been there many times before and quite a few of them had already been there for a long time at 6 a.m.

A Mom and her daughter were sitting across from me. The daughter was the patient and she couldn't have been more than 15 years old. It was clear that this was a place they had been many times before and would probably be many more times, if they're lucky.

I met a woman who was there with her husband who was there for his ninth surgery on his heart. She definitely knew the routine and seemed resolved to waiting again and again if necessary.

The roommate Grandad had while being prepped that morning had already survived quintuple bypass surgery and was there to have a stint put in because his arteries had begun closing again.

Then came the last roommate of the day. When they first came in I thought it was a daughter and her much older father. It turned out that she was his wife and he wasn't old, he just looked that way. You see, six weeks ago he was healthy and robust. Then his heart was attacked by an unidentified virus and within a week it was only functioning at ten percent. Three weeks ago he received a heart transplant. Every week for the next six months, they will go in through his neck and cut out a small piece of his heart to biopsy it. He told us it was no big deal. I was in awe as the nurse reviewed his medicines and his instructions and emphasized how important it is for him to carry the medicine everywhere he goes for the rest of his life. Something as simple as a flat tire or a missed bus could result in heart failure and/or death if he misses even one dose of his medicine.

I wasn't able to get the story of the most intriguing person I saw that day because the hospital is adamant about protecting patient privacy. It was a middle-aged woman who was wheeled past the doorway during our wait. She was coming out of the cath lab after having a procedure on her own heart and she was lying on the gurney wearing a hospital gown and a pair of black patent-leather high-heel shoes. I asked several nurses to see if anyone knew the story and couldn't find out anything.  But I know there's a story there. I think it was her own way of saying "I will survive!" And I must say, I like her style!

All of these stories, and the hundreds of others whom I didn't meet or see have helped to remind me that as bad as Grandad's health problems have been, it could always be worse. We are truly blessed and I'm reminding myself again today to count my blessings.
When upon life's billows
You are tempest tossed
When you are discouraged
Thinking all is lost
Count your many blessings
Name them one by one
And it will surprise you
What the Lord has done

Are you ever burdened
With a load of care
Does the cross seem heavy
You are called to bear
Count your many blessings
Every doubt will fly
And you will be singing
As the days go by

Count your blessings
Name them one by one
Count your blessings
See what God has done
Count your blessings
Name them one by one
Count your many blessings
See what God has done
Grams is counting her blessings today and hoping you will too.

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