Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Grandfather...

As a preface... I wrote this a couple of months ago. The situation has since changed, but this was my reaction that day...

Even though medical technology can create life-altering and life-extending miracles, it can still be incredibly frustrating. My grandfather's aortic valve function has been deteriorating over the past several years and is only currently functioning at about 10% of normal aortic valve capacity. Due to his previous heart surgeries, he isn't eligible for a traditional aortic valve replacement. Due to such poor valve function, his heart is not able to circulate enough blood and oxygen to his brain and body. Up until about a year ago, he was a voracious reader/ crossword puzzle enthusiast and went to the gym three times a week. Now, his short term memory is failing and he has become too frustrated to even attempt his daily crosswords. Not only has he had to give up the gym, but he doesn't even have the energy to walk from the living room to the dining room table and instead must be wheeled around in a wheelchair.

At times, his frustration has been so extreme it's almost palpable. He's completely aware of his diminished mental and physical capacity and feels helpless about it. However, a promising new FDA clinical trial has enabled him to keep up hope in the past 8 months or so.

When we first first found out about the trial, it sounded like a perfect fit for him. The procedure, transcatheter aortic-valve implantation, was developed specifically for high risk patients like him who are unable to undergo traditional valve replacement surgery. But two days before he was scheduled to go in for the first of a series of tests to determine if he was a candidate, my grandmother found him slumped on the floor next to the breakfast table. After getting him to the hospital, the doctors determined that he had had a stroke.

Of course, for many people, the stroke would have ended all hope. Not my grandfather. Only days after my grandmother found him slumped on the kitchen floor, he was asking me about my job and reminded me at 3:30 that I better leave on time if I wanted to make it to work at 4. When the nurses asked if he knew where he was, he told them "outerspace" and then looked my way and gave a knowing smirk.

The stroke delayed the tests for many months. After spending a few weeks in the stroke unit at the hospital, he was transferred to a rehabilitation center. His rehabilitation from the stroke (which was in part caused by his poor aortic valve function) seemed miraculous to us. He kept telling everyone that he just wanted to go home. The nurses, doctors and physical therapists said they had never seen a patient as hardworking and dedicated as my grandfather and in about six weeks, he was able to go home. After that, he continued outpatient physical and occupational therapy until he was strong enough to undergo the tests for the valve replacement.

When I saw him for Rosh Hashanah dinner, he was in high spirits and he told me that the next day would be the day he found out if he was a candidate for the FDA clinical trial. He said that he was keeping his fingers crossed and asked me to do the same, but that no matter what happened, he knows he's had a wonderful life and is grateful for every extra moment he gets.

The next day, we found out that he is a candidate, but his heart is too big. They don't currently make a valve big enough to replace the rusty one he's got right now. His doctors assured him that a new, extra-large valve is being developed right now and that they predict it will be ready by the end of this year.

I don't know if there's a higher power or not. I don't know if the engineers, scientists and doctors who are working on the extra-large valve can work any faster. But for my grandfather, the man with extra-large heart, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they finish developing the new valve in time for it to help my grandfather.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A post for my love...

Love is a funny thing. It is a big and encompassing thing. And most of the time it is absolutely wonderful. But the enormity of it all presents strange problems. I have struggled with my own sense of identity. My goals have changed drastically. I'd like to think they have evolved. I never thought I would care more about someone else than myself, but I do. And there's no other way I'd want my life to be. But sometimes it makes me think about the changes I've made and I wonder what my life would be like if I never met you. Maybe I'd be in Illinois, still pursuing my PhD. Maybe I'd live in California or Canada. Maybe I wouldn't be living at home. Maybe I would have roommates and maybe I'd be dating someone else. But none of that is true and I would never want to have lived the past 4 and a half years without you.

I think the hardest part of love is the fact that sometimes it feels inescapable. What dumbass kind of person would want to escape love? I certainly don't want to, but sometimes I wish it was possible. Just to know that I could exert my free will and be completely alone if I really wanted to. And the moments that I feel that way are fleeting. Of course I don't want to be alone. To be completely honest, I think that the inescapability of our love is what I treasure most about us. I couldn't leave you, couldn't be without you if I tried. Love is eternal. It transcends anger and disagreement. It continues on even after our bodies wear out and our memories fade. Love is a force of life that continues even after we die. Love gives strength. It is supportive. It is the glue that holds lives--my life-- together. Love has made me a stronger, more patient, more understanding person.

Love has made me question whether or not I have free will. Is loving you a choice? The me I was before I met you valued free will and individuality above all else. But I don't choose to love you. Just by the virtue that you are the person you are forces my hand. I need to love you. I am destined to love you. I can't help but love you. Your patience, your intelligence, your compassion, your nerdy sense of humor, the way you smile, the depth of your gorgeous blue eyes. These are just a few of the many many things I love about you. And every day I discover more things about you I love. And your love has changed me. I am not the girl I was before I met you. I have grown into a more confident, more accepting, more patient person. My capacity to love has multiplied beyond belief.

Without you, life would be less. My joy would be muted, my expectations would be lowered, my determination would be weakened. Falling in love is like seeing in color for the first time after a life time of grayscale. Black and white may have seemed like enough, but after experiencing full vibrant technicolor, anything less would pale in comparison.

Some people would say that their significant other completes them. But I'd like to think that you enhance me. I was a whole person, but now I'm a better person because of you. You are my light in the darkness. You are my comfort during sorrow. You are the sunshine on a warm summer day. You make me happier than I ever thought I could be.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I used to love writing. Poems, short stories, journaling. I wrote lots and lots and lots. I'm not sure when this happened, and I think it was a gradual thing, but I don't write anymore.

It's funny looking back on it: When I was growing up, I always saw music as my creative outlet. I definitely had moments of release when I was playing the piano or clarinet, but I never felt creative when I was making music. With music, I became technically proficient and even deeply expressive player, but I was always playing someone else's music. There was always someone who had played the same exact thing I was playing, but better. I was always very conscious of the fact that no matter how good of a classical musician I became, there would always be a million people out there better than I was.

I guess the same could be said for writing. I know that no matter how good of a writer I become, there will always be someone better than I am. But for some reason, that doesn't bother me about writing. When I write, I write for me. Sure, I'd like to get my point across. I'd like for someone to read my writing and be moved by my words. But the writing itself, the process of putting words to thoughts, is something magical to me. It's therapeutic and invigorating. Every time I write, I'm creating something new. The combination of words I use is unique. Even if it's not terribly exciting or well-written, it is unique.

Writing is the one thing I have ever done where I didn't worry about being perfect. Sure, when I wrote things that I wanted people to read, I edited and re-edited and worked long hours to polish. The difference is, that with writing, I'm not afraid to be less than perfect. And I think that is a huge advantage for my writing. There have been so many things that I've quit, or self-sabotaged, or not even tried doing because I was too much of a perfectionist. I do think I am a very talented person. That may sound stuck up, but it's true. But my awareness of my talents and my intelligence sometimes paralyzes me. Knowing I am smart makes it so much worse when I fail to perform intellectually. I feel defeated and unworthy and I hate myself. I have been critical of my writing in the past, but a less than perfectly written piece doesn't make me hate myself. I guess the point is that I think my expectation of greatness from myself is one of my biggest handicaps. I get praised for the things I have accomplished, yet I never feel like I have truly accomplished anything. I know I am capable of so much more, yet I am terrified of trying and failing. To think of it, I don't know that I have ever given anything 100%. To me, I'd trade in all the intelligence and talent in the world to be gutsy, to go balls to the wall, to not be afraid to (in the words of Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus) take chances, make mistakes and get messy.

I think the key to changing all of that has to be in writing.

That all being said... I'm setting a new goal for myself. I would really like to write every day. Journaling, short story writing, poetry... whatever. Every day, I'm going to sit down and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be). And you know what else? I'm going to publish my writings. Even if it's only on a blog. I'm going to take the raw material and edit it and post it and try to get feedback on my work. Maybe after a while of doing that, I'll even start submitting some of it to be published. Who knows? All I know is that I love writing and I'm going to start doing a lot more of it.