What a strange year it has been (originally published 23 August 2019)

This weekend marks the first anniversary of my near-death experience. Last year, I suffered spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) on two consecutive days.  The first one resulted in several stents; then the artery began to disintegrate in the other direction, and I was rushed back to surgery again, this time for a double bypass.

My recovery has been slow and hampered by complications.  I was hospitalized the end of September after only being home a few weeks for what turned out to be a pulmonary embolism (PE).  In December I was back in hospital again, this time for fluid management as my chest cavity had filled up making breathing very difficult.

In January 2019, I had a lung scan that revealed I now had two PEs, one in each lung.  I was started again on anticoagulant therapy and between that and micromanaging my diuretic medication, I started to see some small improvements.  

Over the winter I worked at becoming more active in my home, first becoming more independent in my own personal care, then taking on small chores.  It was a painfully slow process. I continued to lose weight and eventually settled at 185 lbs, a full 40 lbs lighter than I was. Given my height, I hadn't thought of myself as carrying too much weight.  I lost a lot of muscle and muscle tone during that time that is only starting to return.

As winter faded, I began getting outside more which did me the world of good.  I ventured back into my studio to gather information needed for tax time.  It was hard going out there. It seemed like someone else's life and I mourned the loss bitterly at that point, as I couldn't ever see a time when I might get any of it back.

This time last year, I was on the verge of joining the Economusee Network, and opening my home studio to local and international visitors.  I was working on my first collection of larger, sculptural pieces and had my first gallery show scheduled for January 2019.  I felt good about where my life as a craftsperson and artist was heading.

When I was first released from hospital mid September last year, I had it in my head that things would be back to normal by Christmas.  It wasn't until November that I realized I had congestive heart failure, a badly damaged heart, and was facing a long recovery that would not likely end in a return to my former capacity.  By December, all my plans were cancelled and I spent Christmas in a hospital bed wondering what the future might hold.

At present, I am doing much better.  I still tire easily and have to pace myself.  Some days I'm up with the birds while others I sleep until mid morning.  Some nights I fall asleep no trouble while others I'm awake until dawn.  My blood pressure starts off the day in the 90-100 range but can dip as low as the 70s in the afternoon.  I also have to watch my fluid intake and output carefully, especially in the heat, but I'm managing.  I joke sometimes about how much of my life now takes place from a sitting position. Adaptation is a fact of life now.

I've been gardening and doing small chores outdoors this summer.  These activities have been good for my mental health as much as my physical well being.  But the single biggest boost has come from getting back into my studio to work on my art project that was funded through ArtsNL and the City of St. John's.  It has been a slow process, but I am making headway.  

The project's name is "Underwire Couture" and the first piece is a stylized stiletto shoe in copper wire.  The picture below shows what it looked like earlier this week.

I've also got a little bit of last year's jewelry stock on display at The Grand Wabana Inn here on Bell Island.  The owner, Alfred Hynes, graciously offered me the opportunity to display my work and for the first time in almost a year, I'm daring to hope that I might be able to resume some semblance of my former life sometime down the road.

Of course, it is too soon to tell.  The PEs in my lungs haven't cleared and my cardiologist hasn't decided whether he will be sending me for transplant assessment.  I've got appointments in September which should shed some light on these matters.  

The future is far from certain and every once in a while, I have a day where I'm as weak as a lamb again to remind me that I'm working with damaged parts, so to speak.  

In the meantime, I'm keeping my Etsy Shop closed and am foregoing doing shows as I can't count on my health to cooperate.  I plan to keep working when I can on my art project, to fulfill my commitment to ArtsNL and the City of St. John's, and to myself as an artist.

There.  I said it.  I may have a damaged heart but my soul says I'm still an artist.  

As I wait for answers, I shall spend time in my garden and visit with my family and close friends.  

And of course, I will bend wire for that is who I am.  :-)


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