I always thought that things would stay the same for me forever. I thought that I could be content with who I was and where I was and what I was doing for the rest of my life until death, but that was before the forceful pull of reality dragged me in its robust arms and whispered the darkest truth in my ear.
I was unaware and completely stupid back then to believe that I could keep my simple life that I so strongly loved and enjoyed. I admit that I’ve been ignorant of previous things in my life, and I’ve always been a little oblivious to signals pointed out to me, but I never imagined my stupidity to tear down my whole life right in front of me. I never even apprehended the idea of something in my constant, peaceful life to stir or even…change. That hopeful dreamer that once lived in me is now dead all because I found out that I would soon be dead too.
Two days ago, I woke up in the morning feeling chest pain. I had a small cough as well, but I didn’t think much of any of it. I thought that it was just like any other day where I would spring up early in the morning, sometimes feel a throb in my chest and let the pain subside and fade away while I drove to the elementary school to teach my kindergarteners. I’d been having chest pain every now and then for a while now, but I always just ignored it and thought nothing of it. Day after day, the pain grew worse, until one day, the pain was so unbearable that I couldn’t get it out of my head as I was driving to work. My heart felt like it was on fire; it felt like there was a hole burning in my heart that was growing larger and larger every second that passed until my heart was a pile of black ash. The pain was so torturous and excruciating, it drove me to drive to the hospital instead of my normal everyday workplace.
Too many voices crowded my head while my vision seemed to get blurrier as the doctor told me about my condition. Too many thoughts circled in my mind, too many eyes stared at me, and too many tears poured from my eyes.
They told me I was lucky, but I didn’t feel lucky at all. They told me I was among the fortunate ones to still be living after having a deadly disease residing in me for years, but I didn’t feel fortunate at all because they told me I would probably be dead in a couple of months too.
Ischemic heart disease or coronary artery disease is what they called it. All those signs I had experienced before in the past years of my life hadn’t told me a clue. Even after numerous times of feeling chest pains, heart palpitations, and constant numbness in my legs and arms, I never thought that something was wrong with me. How could I be so mindless? How could I ignore all the symptoms that matched up perfectly with a heart disease? I blamed myself endlessly for not figuring out that I was dying soon enough. I threw my own life away out of my stupidity, and I could only be angry at myself.
After carrying a disease for years and not doing anything to treat it, there was nothing I could do to save myself from dying now. There was no cure for the disease, but even starting to take medications now would do nothing. I could try taking medications, but I was too far along with the disease now. I had already allowed the plaque in my coronary arteries to build up for an extensive amount of time now. There was only a thin stream of blood passing through my blood vessels, and my arteries were immensely narrow. The change the medications would make would be insignificant. Doctors told me there was a chance my two months of living time could be extended if I took a bypass surgery, but I was already doubtful because the success rate for me was only 10%. What good would extended time to live be anyway? I would just be expecting my death, knowing I only had a limited time to live everyday.
After hearing the news, I gave up on life. I gave up on hope. I gave up on everything. I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore when I knew I could be ripped away at any time from my kids. I didn’t want to do anything anymore when I learned that I could be taken away immediately as easily as an insect is crushed on the ground. Everything seemed pointless when I knew I was going to die any day. My once carefree, little life was now a life full of dread and regrets that had no meaning. Everything felt like it had changed.
Although I had no hope in the surgery, I decided to give it a chance just for a shot at living a little longer. My surgery was scheduled to be in one week; if I waited any longer than that, I’d risk getting a heart attack and dying anytime after. There was a chance that I would die from the surgery, but more importantly, there was a slim chance that I’d live. Even though I no longer valued my life as much, I was still grasping on to that little part of me that wanted to live. I still longed to live, and there was still that tiny spark in me that just wanted to live for a year more even if it was in despair. I didn’t want to die yet; I was still young! I had only graduated from college a few years back. I shouldn’t be dying now!
A week passed by in the blink of an eye, and soon I found myself walking into the hospital on an early thursday morning for my scheduled coronary artery bypass surgery. I was scared, terrified really. My hands shook as I walked, and my legs felt like hollow rods. Panic coursed through me; I feared that I wasn’t going to wake up again after entering that bright hospital room. I thought that the last people I’d see would be the focused surgeons wearing blue scrubs and masks I would stare up at before falling asleep. I found myself laying on a gray hospital bed, and I stared at the bright lights on the ceiling while my mind slowly drifted away from the world.
I hazily opened my eyes to the intense, white ceiling lights again. I had survived! I was alive, and I had been changed. I knew that death would be inevitable for me years later, but now, I didn’t focus on death; I focused on my life instead. I would no longer live in hopelessness and desperation; I would change myself starting from now. My experience has remade me, and now, I understand that life has value. My life has value, and everything I do impacts others, so I will continue to live my life to the fullest for all the time I have left to live.