Bruce Cockburn was on my mind as I watched the sunrise from my hospital bed. I was on day five of my two week meditative retreat in early October that was the result of a “bad” urinary tract infection that was “everywhere”, and I had survived into another day. I called it a “retreat” because once the doctors told me what was causing my 103.5 degree fever I knew that I would need a Zen-like approach to overcome it. No TV. No cell phone. Just being present with my body.
The first couple of days my mantra was “gather and purge” as I focused my thoughts on collecting the infection and expelling it. After a very long night of cold sweats and spasms the doctor ordered a change in treatment that finally brought some comfort. I devoured an omelet for lunch, my first solid food in four days and slept soundly through the afternoon.
The mantra for the next three days was “rest and heal”, followed by the “strengthen” phase of seven days in rehab to get me ready to go home.
The irony (or not) of this hospital visit is that it was just a month short of my “Tenth Second Birthday”, the time I celebrate surviving my brain-stem stroke on November 10, 2005. This time was different though. I smiled through my pain as I patted the CT scanner with my knuckles, celebrating a “win” over the machine simply because I held my breath for five seconds of the scan. In my first encounter a decade ago I couldn’t hold my breath for more than a few seconds, one of several things that scared me on my last long night in the hospital.
This time though, not only did I know the hospital routine, knew a lot of staff, which really made for a light, comfortable, and healing environment. Mostly we just picked up the storyline from where we left it off years ago and I don’t know how many times I heard “I’m sorry you’re here, but it sure is nice to see you”. I think I gave them as much energy as they gave me. My doctor even arranged for me to have the best room in the rehab unit.
I was reminded of how grateful I am to have survived the “neurological insult” of my brain-stem stroke that so few people do. This was made obvious when I rolled up to the table for my first meal in the rehab dining room. Of the six men sitting there (all of us in wheelchairs), only two could talk, all affected by strokes or traumatic brain injuries. I was in the non-speaking group my last time there.
My week-long stay in rehab consisted of three hours of therapy a day and brought my energy and strength almost back up to pre-infection levels. I checked out of the hospital in time to have lunch with Yvonne and attend my Leadership Bend class that afternoon. Two days later, to celebrate my “first” birthday, I enjoyed a seven mile “advenchair” with family and friends on the Deschutes River Trail – followed by lots of sleep!
So November 10th is always big for me and my family. We celebrate the day “life shoved us through an unexpected door” and put us all on a new path full of adventures and rich experiences.
“I had another dream about lions at the door, but they weren’t half as frightening as they were before….” ---- Wondering Where the Lions Are, Bruce Cockburn