My best friend Mary Flowers is married to a splendid man named Jim. He's been in the heart center at Greenville Memorial Hospital in Greenville, South Carolina, for eight days. Shortness of breath. Irregular heartbeat. Mitral valve stuck open. Enlarged heart. Yesterday he was having yet another heart catheterization. Here are the text messages Mary and I exchanged over the course of the day:
Mary Flowers: 11:16 a. m.. Jim is having another heart cath. This time through large vein to look closer at the valve and to measure the actual pressure of each heart chamber.
Me, 11:17. Is it happening now?
MF: 11:19. Yes, based on results [the decision will be made] if open heart surgery or not
Me, 11:20. Breathe slowly and steadily
MF: 11:21. I am trying.
Me, 11:23. Fast forwarding between numb and hysterical all in your head?
MF: 11:24. Yes exactly
Me, 11:25. Feels like yr head is going to explode?
MF: 11:32. Yes like I can't tell what is real and what is just in my head
Me, 11:33. Yes. you arent crazy. its normal.
MF: 11:37. I feel like I am spinning out of control
Me, 11:38. Yes. [When my late husband was diagnosed with cancer] I felt as though a nuclear bomb went off in the kitchen.
MF: 11:39. Exactly
Me, 11:40. I hate this for u
MF: 11:45. I hate it too. I just pray that he makes it through all this with some quality of life
Me, 11:47. Yes, its horrif3ying to contemplate. picture him walking a puppy up and down the driveway.
Me, 11:48. And love this very moment.
MF: 11:49. I can do that
Me, 11:49. Also, call yr thrpist. let yr med team be part
MF: 11:50. That great idea
Me, 11:53. When one spouse is sick the others response is physiological as much as emotional
MF: 12:47. Back from cath doc Will be bx soon to talk options
Me, 12:48. So far so good. hes alive. what a wondrful world
MF: 12:50. What a wonderful world indeed
Me, 4:54. U ok?
MF: 4:55. Yes doing more tests.
Me, 7:30. R u eating 3 times a day?
MF: 7:32. Trying to.
And here is the text message I got from her this morning:
MF: 9:43 a. m. Miracle Jim is better may not have surgery at all
This conversation reminds me of when Fred, who had multiple myeloma, would be in the hospital with an infection or some other critical problem. More than once I was told, "If he doesn't die tonight, he'll be able to go home tomorrow." The land of illness is an insane asylum.