Saturday, February 17, 2018

Broken Hearts this February - Remembering Bill Paxton and Those Who Grieve

Red Jasper
The Warriors' Stone
In February . . .

as children, we gave valentines to our classmates.

growing up, we learned about "Heart Month" - a time to focus on heart disease.

feeling invincible, we found our very own heart-mate, our one and only valentine.

later, we learned about BAVs and aneurysms, and wondered why we had never heard of it.

one went into the OR and the other waited as our heart-mate had open heart surgery.

some remained in the fight to overcome BAV and aneurysm.

And, in February, some lost their heart battle.

Yes, February is still about valentines, chocolate and flowers.
For some, it may be the month their hearts were saved.
And, for some, this month our hearts are broken.

Bill Paxton

We were almost ready to leave the hospital a year ago, following my husband's third aortic valve and fourth open heart surgery, when Bill Paxton's death became public. He should have had what all BAVers should have, a successful surgery, his first. What could have possibly gone wrong?

When someone with BAV is lost, we all lose. 

I did not know Bill Paxton, but there are things about him I know well. Like my husband he had rheumatic fever as a child. They also were both born with BAV and over time an aortic aneurysm developed. Like the majority with BAV, he was high energy and gifted, described here by co-star Mary Kay Place.

Video clips show him as the youthful picture of health, almost too perfect, that is typical of BAVers. Others may not notice this detail, seen in some BAVers, but in his smile I see the slight gap in his front teeth. My husband's gap was more pronounced.

If it hurts me to look at video clips of this vibrant man, what indescribable grief Bill Paxton's family must be living through now, the time of the one year anniversary of his surgery and then 11 days, one by one, until his death.

It is extremely painful to read the law suit just filed by his wife and children, grieving the loss of their husband and father. The words take us into a place of horror, with no escape for Bill and his family. 

The Right Hands, Not the Right Buildings

There is no time we are more vulnerable than when signing the papers, giving our hearts, our lives, into the hands of a surgeon and all the others involved. There are up to 100 "Does" listed in this lawsuit, their names unknown at this time. 

Having been through 4 open hearts with my husband, two of them in that hospital, I can easily picture the physical setting. How much of what is written in the lawsuit can be proven in a court of law? I do not know. I do know what is alleged is indescribably horrifying and tragic.

It reminds me of what I heard once - that buildings don't provide care, people do. The absolute greatest challenge for those with BAV is to find, not the right buildings, but the right people to undertand us, to save and extend our lives.

It is a challenge that my own family and other dear friends continue to face.

My February Memories

Memories may not comfort those who grieve at all. They haunt us. I have my own February memories, including two open heart surgeries in this month. We fought for about 8 months after that last February surgery before losing the battle. 

Others tell me the "firsts" are the hardest. I cannot tell you whether this is the case. It is too soon.

I can tell you that this is my first February without my husband, and I am among those with a broken heart. 

This February
may I rise beyond
 the grief and sadness,
and be
more understanding,
more empathetic,
and more caring.

                    ~ Arlys Velebir