Posts Tagged ‘Fight’

Stay in the Race

July 20, 2009

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses…let us run with patience the race that is set before us. – Hebrews 12:1

Foot on the line; lean forward.


Out of the starting gate not with a blast, but with a whimper. Unusually enough, I can’t seem to get my feet under me, can’t find the rhythm. Instead of a smooth stride, I stumble and trip and almost fall at the 5/12th of a mile mark of the race. I’m losing – badly. I never expected to win, but I wanted to make a decent showing. Let everyone see that I gave my best.

But the crowd is really screaming, and they seem to be yelling at me. Yeah, if I were watching I’d be yelling at me, too. But no, they are cheering, and the worse my feet seem to tangle, the more they shout encouragement. Hey, I recognize some of these people… that’s Dr. Blalock! Vivien Thomas is next to him, shouting my praises as I struggle by.

I get my balance back – slowly – and soon I have a smooth motion going. Gotta pick it up, all I’m seeing is the backs of the other runners. Dr. Taussig waves at me as I pass.

My feet get tangled up again at mile 10 and I go down, coughing blood as I fall. Somehow I get back up – hard to do when your legs don’t want to do what you tell them. They’re working again – but still a little weak – by mile 11 and then I really start cooking. Steady and smooth, chasing the pack down. I’m not gaining that much, but at least I can still see them.

Then at mile 22 I fall flat on my face. I can’t even get up.

“Keep moving!” a little girl yells. “Never stop!”

So I’m dragging myself, pulling myself along with my hands, and this same little girl yelling at me to keep going, try harder, I can do it. She’s familiar, but I don’t…. Eileen Saxon. The first one of us.

Slowly I get to the point I can push as well as pull myself, then back to my feet and into my familiar half walk, half stumble. I get my stride back until mile 36, when I go down again. I can’t feel my right side at all.

“Come on, you aren’t going to let a stroke stop you?” another little girl asks. It’s Gracie. “Come on now, you cheered for me, I’ll cheer for you.”

But you lost, I think as I feel my energy start to drain away. I’m losing, too.

“I lost, ” Gracie says, reading my mind. “But I fought. That’s the important thing.” So once again I’m digging in, pulling along with one hand, keeping a forward motion and not much else. Slowly I get the feeling back in my right side, and then I am able to stand and shuffle, and eventually run.

I passed the 42nd mile mark a while back and I’m getting close to mile 43. I wonder who I will see next… and what I will do if it is someone I am close to.

And I wonder how long this race is. The longer the better, and if I can help it, I’m not going to go down on the course.

I’m going to cross the finish line standing.

On the Street Where You Live

November 6, 2008

This past week I’ve spoken a lot about Katie, sometimes I wonder if I’ve said a little too much. I’ve been asked, both online and in real life, if maybe I’m paying just a little too much attention? It’s not really a surprise, as I thought about it myself.

I’ve never met Katie or her parents. All I have learned about them, I’ve read on their website. It’s been a hard thing to try to follow the recent news about her, because it hits so close to home. Katie is five months old – the same age I was when I had my first heart surgery.  She’s had the Bi-Directional Glenn; I’ve had the original version of that operation. Katie is at Yale New Haven Hospital, where Dr. William Glenn himself lived and worked. I’ve read that Dr. Glenn, despite being a world famous heart surgeon, would leave his home on Saturday mornings and walk to Yale’s football field to cheer on the home team. He sounds like my kinda guy.

Katie has Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). I have Tricuspid Atresia, which is occasionally referred to as one of the defects that make up Hypoplastic RIGHT Heart Syndrome. (HRHS) The term HRHS wasn’t even invented when I was born (I don’t think anyone had thought of HLHS, either) so I’ve always just referred to myself as having Tricuspid Atresia. But when you think about it, Katie’s heart and mine are nearly mirror images of each other.

Spooky. As the title of this post notes, it hits you on the street where you live.

After my surgery at Johns Hopkins in 1967, one of the doctors mentioned in passing that we were one of only two families who had made it in that night. The other child had been born premature, and despite being healthy in every other respect, hadn’t made it. The doctor shook his head. “Some children…they just aren’t fighters.”

There’s no doubt about it, little Katie is a fighter. She’s hanging on for all she’s worth, clawing and spitting and digging her nails in. Keep fighting, Katie! I’m pulling for you!