Sunday, Jan. 15, 2006
Dear Diary:

My brother-in-law, the spousal unit's oldest brother, had a heart attack on Wednesday.

They rushed him from our local hospital to a much bigger regional hospital where complicated and expensive tests were done and it was pronounced that he hadn't damaged his heart, which is a good thing indeed.

Then he was told that he needed a quadruple by-pass and he needed it quickly. They put him in intensive care and he got his operation Friday.

I would love to report that he sailed through it, but he didn't. He had a heart attack on the operating table, but he was again very fortunate and didn't damage his heart muscle. The surgeon said there had been complications, that he had a 50-50 chance of pulling through, that the first 12 hours after the surgery were crucial.

It was a nail biter of a day. It was particularly hard on my mom-in-law who had the same surgery over 20 years ago when she was in her early 60's. She knows all too well the pain and risks involved.

You know what touched me most? My brother-in-law's surgeon (who was scheduled to take the weekend off) blew off her break. Instead, she set up a cot and stretched out beside him in intensive care during those crucial hours so that if something went wrong she was there to rush into the operating room instantly.

Well, it went right. That very loud whoosh you just heard is our family letting out their collective breath. My brother-in-law made it through that crucial twelve hours, was talking today, and tomorrow will take his first steps since the surgery.

If he makes it through one more day then he's through the most dangerous period.

What kills me is that my brother-in-law did all the right things. He ate well, got lots of exercise, lifetime non-smoker, moderate drinker, kept himself slim. The thing is, the family carries grief in its genes�my mom-in-law has had heart disease, her father died of it, and so did her grandfather. I look at my spousal unit and I wonder what's ticking away within him.

I scheduled my annual check-up weeks ago. When I walked into our small local clinic that Friday morning, the women who work there and my doctor expressed concern and spontaneously mentioned that the spousal unit's brother was in their thoughts. Word about him must have trickled back from our small local hospital.

After my own check-up I made an appointment for the spousal unit to get a good once over. I don't know how I would ever face what my sister-in-law faced, looking through the glass of an intensive care ward, seeing the man I love a mass of wires and machines, wondering if he would ever come home again.

I was touched when the nurse said that if the spousal unit showed the slightest sign of trouble just to call and they'd shoehorn him in immediately.

I read a lot of myths about what it is like to live in a country with universal health care. I have read that care is substandard, that the people who deliver it are uncaring. This is our family's latest experience with the system.

Like I said, my brother-in-law has one more day where things are precarious for him and after that his odds rise substantially. If you can, please spare a good thought for him. He's a good-hearted man and the world would be a grayer place indeed without him in it.


Mileage on the Marnometer: 84.87 miles. Starting over. When does it get easier? Huh? HUH?

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