Where I Found Myself

My name’s Chelle and I was lost. Not lost in the sense that I didn’t know which direction to turn, but more in the sense that I lost who I was. I felt like a shell of my former self.

An old friend recently described me as a “wild girl” in my youth. I was as confident, outgoing, spunky and fearless as a girl at a frat party. These traits stayed with me through my twenties when I traded fearlessness for recklessness and negativity. I was in a bad relationship, worked two jobs while going to school full-time and practiced virtually no self-care, ignoring my cardiac situation completely. When the first indication that my health was beginning to fail, I was worn down by life and a bad marriage; I was barely thirty years old. This was the first time I was truly lost. I decided I had enough of my own BS. I put on my big girl panties and took action. I moved back to my home state, reconnected with my family, made an appointment with a cardiologist and divorced my husband. Pretty soon that spitfire girl of my youth was back, wiser and happier than before.

A short time later I met the love of my life. I snatched him up and we were living the dream. Until our world came crashing down in six words. I think it’s time for transplant. We knew this day would eventually come, but it still felt like a punch in the gut. After the initial shock wore off and we devised a game plan, things smoothed out for awhile. But as my heart failure progressed, I became as insecure and timid as a virgin on her wedding night. I slowly lost my independence, my memory and cognitive function declined, then the extreme fatigue set in. I fell into a massive funk. And I stayed there.

You could say I was going through the five stages of grief, and when I fell upon acceptance I settled there like a cat in a sunbeam. I was waiting for a heart transplant and that is exactly what I did. Waited. I kept telling myself I should be enjoying the time I have, spending it wisely. Instead, I went into escape mode. I escaped into everything but life; books, games, tv, food. This wasn’t like the last time I was lost. Before I was able to resurface and regroup. This was different. This time I was stuck like my boots in the spring time mud. Not going anywhere. Complete halt. I tried every tool in my toolbox; meditation, yoga, inspirational reading, praying and short walks in the woods. Nothing. I completely lost my mojo.

By now you’re probably wondering where did I find myself? Where did I wander off to? I was where I have always been. Within. The path I took to find myself started with a gentle nudge from my therapist. “Journal”, she said. I looked at her like she was from another planet. “You’re kidding right? I hate journaling”, I told her. “Just try it for a week or so” she suggested. I rolled my eyes in disdain, and reluctantly agreed. At my next appointment, I had to eat crow. It actually helped to verbally vomit in my notebook. As I continued spewing my emotions on the page, the universe gave me a huge bump. I reconnected with my birth sister Theresa Ann, who is a life coach . With her assistance I started to see glimpses of my old self again. With encouragement from Theresa and my husband, I took my journal and started a blog. My goal was to inspire other patients waiting for transplant and at the same time educate the public of the importance of organ donation. By the time I was admitted to the hospital 34 days ago, I was really finding my voice. The sparky, sarcastic and positive woman was back.

We all feel lost and alone at some point in our lives. We try desperately to climb out of the muck. Our friends, family and therapists can point us in the right direction, however; it is only when we ask ourselves the tough questions and stare into the sometimes terrifying abyss that is within ourselves, do we transform back into the butterfly.

Of course there is the chance I am completely wrong and it is all the go juice (Milrinone) pouring into my vein. Guess we’ll never know!

Chelle

 

Every Obstacle Is An Opportunity

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Officially, I have end stage heart failure. I am on an end stage heart failure medication that flows directly into my heart. Having said this; I, myself, am far from end stage. I have been on the transplant list at a status 1Ae for 26 days now, but whose counting? Actually, UNOS is counting. Every day you wait, counts. I am finally at the top of the list for my blood type and body size, so our wait is nearly over. It is important you know that a heart transplant is not a cure, it is merely an exchange from a terminal illness to a chronic one. And that is fine by me. I know how to do that, have been doing it my whole life.

Being a long-term patient here as been trying at times. I’ve laughed, cried, screamed (internally of course), shook my head, rolled my eyes, and cried some more. And I wouldn’t trade one minute of it. I have literally stripped down my life. No running errands, no business dinners with my husband, no traffic, none of the day to day distractions. I am left with myself. Just me. Just my thoughts. I could ignore them, keep myself distracted in other ways like tv, books or music. But that isn’t me. I embraced my thoughts. I chose to make this experience into an opportunity. I took a hard look at my life, and asked hard questions. My answers have enlightened me.

When faced with the reality that this surgery could lead to the end of my Earthly existence, I realized I have everything I need. Although I am not ready to leave them, I know my family loves me whole heartedly and any past issues are long resolved. I have created and maintained valued friendships, and found my best friend and soul mate. And most importantly, I have found purpose in my writing. I am fulfilled.

When I arrived here, I felt my world had shrunk. I was wrong. My world is overflowing with love, and I have been enlightened spiritually. My life is richer because I am here. For the first time I am fully present. In this moment. Facing my own mortality has taught me many things. Life is not what I do or what I have, but who I am. And that cultivates love. To fully engage with those around me. To listen with purpose and intent, instead of letting my thoughts wander.

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I expressed my gratitude every day leading up to my hospital admission. All our necessities were met; house, car, health insurance, food. Life was great, and we were happy. But some how, I missed it. There are so many more things that I took for granted that I don’t now; fresh air, birds singing, neighbor children’s laughter, the smell of the hardwoods and dirt, sunshine on my face. Even without these things, I am still very happy.

Without death, life would have no meaning. I am fortunate to learn this at such a young age. My journey is nowhere near over, and I will continue to grow and flourish. If I could give you one take away from my experience so far it is this. Don’t be a slave to your work. Sit in quiet reflection. Engage and be present with your loved ones. Because time is an illusion my friends. You’ll blink, and it will gone.

Chelle 

Click here to register to be an organ and tissue donor

 

An Open Letter To My Future Donor

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Dearest Friend,

I feel we’ve met before, on another spiritual plane, in another time. I’ve spoken to you in the morning dawn and whispered to you late at night. You may not be ready to leave yet, and that is okay. No worries, I have time, I can wait. Live your life, have adventures and find love. You and your family have been in the forefront of my mind quite a bit lately. It is hard to express how much love I have for someone I have yet to meet.  I want to assure you that I will honor and celebrate your life everyday. That you will become part of my family and one day I hope to be part of yours.

Together our spirits will become one. We will hunt and camp together, sing in the rain, act silly under a summer full moon and dance by the firelight. I’ll teach you to write, and together we will finish my book. We’ll meditate, pray and be still together; we’ll be active and strong. We’ll see the mountains of Montana and the deserts of Arizona. When I learn more about you, your passions will become mine. We’ll pursue them together. We’ll root for your team and mine.

There is no thank you large enough in this world for the gift you and your family are giving us. You are giving me back my life. You are giving parents more time with their daughter, siblings more experiences to share, nieces and nephews a chance to learn who their Auntie is and a husband more time with the love of his life. The only way I know to repay you is to live everyday to the fullest, to speak your name, share your story and honor your life.

With love and gratitude,

Chelle

Be a hero. Be an organ donor

My Best Birthday Yet

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“There are those who hate to see their birthday arrive. Ah, but not I. For each year is a gift, each day is a gift. I am thankful and am grateful for this day of my birth. I find motivation within to live this year so let it begin!”

~~Theodore W. Higginsworth 

 

Waking to a light rap on my door this morning, I slid my eye mask up to my forehead, took a deep breath and started another day in the hospital. A young care aid pops in with towels for my daily wash up. “Happy 4th of July,” she declares rambling on about how quickly the day arrived and where did the time go. “One’s perspective is relative,” I answer groggily from my bed. Looking at the confusion on her face I explain,”To you it may seem fast, however I have been waiting for a heart transplant for 324 days. To me it feels like an eternity.”

After she leaves, I wash up and eat my fake eggs. Shortly after, my husband shows up bearing gifts and clean clothes. I think I was more excited for the clean underwear than the gifts! We sit on my bed and get down and dirty. Not like that, gutter mind. I opened packages from my family as well as strangers. I was overwhelmed by everyone’s thoughtfulness and generosity. About this time there was a knock on the door, three mail room employees walked in with donuts singing to me. And that was the beginning of a great birthday filled with off-key singing. The doctors sang during rounds, the nurses sang at shift change, and just when I was ready for bed the food service workers sang and presented me with a small cake. In between vampiric nurses and singing doctors, I managed to video chat with my family which was much-needed. I also got to go outside for the first time since I have been here. It was hot a humid and only lasted five minutes, but I was glorious!

Every birthday has been a hard-earned milestone for me. I say this every year, and every year it’s true; I never expected to still be here, which in itself is pretty amazing. I have learned to think of my heart defect as a wonderful gift. This gift has made me grateful for every day, even the bad ones. Having TGA has forced me to realize how valuable and precious time is and has allowed me time to learn beneficial life lessons. For instance:

  • procrastination is for the healthy and the young
  • every moment is a miracle
  • don’t waste time on false or toxic people
  • always check my feet for slippers before leaving the house

Today I proven once again, no matter what my circumstances, with a positive attitude and the love of family, friends and strangers I can make any day into a wonderful one.

Chelle

Be A Hero. Be An Organ Donor.