It’s been about a year since we left Chicago, and despite the enormous hurdles of finding and trusting health care in a different location, we accomplished quite a bit. We finally proved his mitchondrial DNA damage. He is taking his L-glutathione IVs fairly regularly. We constantly work on his nutrition. We live a beautiful life despite the medical baggage. In the morning, we wake up to hot air balloons rising outside our window and Michael gets to be there as Aedan goes off to preschool for the first time.
Last night, though, shook me out of any piece of mind I thought we built for ourselves.
It started like any other night. Aedan’s bedtime meant that he, Dada, and I go to his room and lie with him for a while (read him a book, cuddle, sing him a song). He loves it when Michael sings to him. Lately, his favorite song is a sweet ballad by Pearl Jam titled “Just Breathe”
“Yes I understand that every life must end, aw huh,..
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, aw huh,..
I’m a lucky man to count on both hands
The ones I love,..
Some folks just have one,
Others they got none, aw huh,..
Stay with me,..
Let’s just breathe.”
As Aedan drifted off to sleep Michael finished with the words,
“Nothing you would take,..
everything you gave.
Hold you till I die,..
Meet you on the other side.”
These last words will forever haunt us now, for little did I know, but halfway through that song Michael started having intense pain in his left arm followed by a clenching pain in his chest. Last night, while singing his little boy to bed, Michael started having a heart attack.
But this is the thing about Michael- he is so determined to live through those few sweet moments of life that he gets, he just kept singing. He sang to that last line- until he knew his son was sound asleep- before he crawled out of his bed and stumbled down the hallway.
When I found him, his heart rate was elevated to the point of an Olympic sprinter yet he said he was freezing. He put on two sweatshirts and quickly took aspirin. The thing that really got me scared though, was that HE suggested that I might have to call for an ambulance. For a person with normal medical needs this would be a no-brainer. But that’s where it got complicated.
I remember a time when going to an emergency room was like date night. We would go to the best hospitals in Chicago, and yet, it always seemed like Michael knew more about the medicine of his own body than the attending physicians. The waxing and waning nature of mitochondrial damage would completely confuse doctors who needed concrete results. The fact that Michael, having dealt with this for so long, could actually talk and understand doctors using technical terms tested their own knowledge and conceit. There were many instances when he even had to explain that his medicine, L-glutathione, was a tripeptide, a chain of amino acids, and not some crazy drug with adverse side effects. Because of being failed so many times, we learned how to survive a hospital visit and not to just go and trust you will be seen and helped.
This was why we didn’t rush to call an ambulance right away.
We started weighing options instead. How could Michael explain what was happening with his heart along with the rest of his 3 yrs of rare medical conditions to a completely new doctor? Can we trust that someone good will be working Saturday night on Labor Day weekend? How can we be sure nothing that they do for his heart attack won’t aggravate his other symptoms? Soon the super intense pains started to go down- thank God for aspirin- leaving Michael with a different and scary, yet manageable, new sensation.
Lucky for him, this event stabilized enough to get him through the night. I would wake up just make sure he was still breathing. The next morning he checked himself into the ER where they ran blood labs and confirmed what he knew all along.
It is frightening to think you are on an uphill climb and then suddenly get hit with something so fatal that even if you do recover from the event you will still be set back years of struggle.
It is a wake up call for us to stay diligent about every life choice Michael has to make now.
It is a testament to what makes up a man who despite mind-altering pain, will choose instead to lay there with his son and just keep singing until he knows his son is peacefully asleep.