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The Heart God Gave Me
At home I looked over at the mound of medicine bottles on the ledge built into the side of my wooden frame futon bed. They were like a small city. At night the tops of the bottles shone in the light from the windows. Anything connected with death seemed louder to me, and I began to wonder what it would be like to not be here. After a few months of this, I decided to give it another try, to push on with living and to do it with the heart God and my parents gave me.
I’d advise anyone struggling with a life-threatening illness is to take full responsibility for your own health. I recommend compliance with medical experts when it seems necessary. Treat them as human beings and expect no less in return. The highest compliment I have ever been paid by a doctor was that I was the reason he stayed in the business. Doctors have their own problems, and are not immune to illness themselves.
After being sent home, I was assigned to the cardiac treatment center and my cardiologist was sure my clogged arteries were indeed the culprit. She wanted to give me a catheterization test, which has associated dangers. After resisting, I agreed. The test came back negative, so the open heart surgery believed to be my answer was no longer viable. In the tech room, one of the technicians made the announcement.
“Mr. Weaver, the good news is your arteries are clear. The bad news is that your heart is only functioning at between 15 to 25% efficiency.”
It’s important to research your condition. Try and understand what your body is supposed to be doing and/or what you have been doing to inhibit your good health. Technically, the heart’s left ventricle is supposed to pump out at least 50% of the fluid that comes into it, mine only 15 to 25 percent. I was placed on Lasik in order to drain excess fluids. I was very “wet,” as the terminology goes, and wetness is reflected in your breathing and the swelling of the ankles, the medical term for which is edema.
Third, consider taking inventory of alternative medicine that may apply to you. As always, consult your physician and understand there are no guarantees.
My history doing Taijiquan helped me understand some basic concepts about Chinese medicine, like the body’s dependence on its energetic system or Qi. On a fundamental level this energetic system is a combination of breath and the flow of vital fluids in the body. I knew what my body felt like when I was healthy, so I had a basis for comparison. I would call it one’s experiential data of internal systems.
“For example, once I was walking up to my apartment in West Philly after being hospitalized, and I noticed the energy struggling to come up over my back, what Chinese medicine calls the governing vessel. I knew I had to return to my Taiji, although my western doctors put little to no credence in the approach. I returned to my Taiji teacher. I decided the doctors were wrong to think exercise would trigger my heart to fail and began aerobic walking. My heart rate went up, as it should, but then it came back down. Personally, I opted for Vitamin E instead of blood thinners. These were decisions that I feel worked for me.”
I also explored all the meanings of the heart as a vessel of love, meaning with three failed marriages I began intensive therapy to see what made emotional intimacy so difficult for me. I discovered the mother lode of unhealthy stress, an abusive childhood.
Afaa Michael Weaver is a highly respected poet, playwright, author, and journalist. Visit his website here for details about his published works and other events. Stay tuned right here for the next and final installment of his story of surviving CHF. Nothing in this article should be interpreted as medical advice. Always consult your physician regarding your condition or illness. This article reflects the experience of Mr. Weaver.