In this latest of a continuing series of blog posts, Tom Howard shares the results of his angiogram. While he should be elated by the good news, Tom still has doubts and wonders what is truly going on with him from both a physical and professional standpoint.
So I survived my angiogram. I know that it’s a big deal to think about how they take a camera and look at your arteries from the inside but I really felt as though it was no different than going to the dentist. Kind of weird but really it is what they do all day. So now I know I have no blockages around my heart. Great news, right? Well yes it is but at the same time it leaves me wondering what is going on. I had felt this tightness on three different occasions, I know something isn’t right and now I am right where I started, not knowing.
What I am now experiencing is that most everyone, hearing that I had no blockages want to do a high five and move on. Problem is I am still standing here feeling broken and not knowing why. I don’t want a high five, I want answers! I want to be fixed and I want to be at the firehouse working my shift.
As I wait for my next appointment I find my thoughts drifting to that place, making lists of the things that maybe I shouldn’t or can’t do anymore. I like being outdoors, being physically active. Will I be able to continue to do the things I love? Part of the problem is that they cannot duplicate the stress if firefighting to see what’s happening with my chest.
I found that to be telling in itself. I know our job is hard but the stress level is so great the doctors cannot duplicate the same levels. What we, as fireman, sign up for is to be prepared to stretch our limits and push ourselves beyond measurable stress. When you stop and think about it you might think, why.
I have of course already received a call from the work-comp adjuster to get my statement about what happened. He began by asking me to describe my work duties. Really, how long do you have? When I told him we drove to the scene he asked if I was alone. I wasn’t sure how to reply. The fireman in me wanted to hammer him with an overly sarcastic remark, while at the same time I couldn’t help but wonder if this guy was messing with me.
Once we got around to the angiogram and the fact that it showed no blockages his response was, “Well maybe you were just dehydrated or something.” I’m sorry doctor, I didn’t catch your name, oh right, my bad, you’re not a doctor. My mistake. This just exemplifies the fact that most people outside the fire service just have no comprehension of what we do, what we put ourselves through both mentally and physically.
I remember a few years ago meeting with a back doctor about my ongoing back pain. He took a quick look at my x-ray and MRI and told me I had the back of a 65 y.o. man. Too many years of jumping up in the middle of the night, carrying people down stairs, and the list goes on. Whatever is going on with me right now I can’t help but wonder, how many years I have lost because of my chosen profession.
I have to clarify though, while one hand I wonder how many years I have lost, at the same time I would never have chosen a different path. I know that each of us is given certain gifts, we have been made wonderfully by the Lord. This is where He wanted me. I feel blessed that I have been able to serve so many over the years.
Still there is that nagging question that won’t go away. How many years I have lost? I want to see grandkids graduate. (If and when I have them) I have an amazing wife and I want to spend time together enjoying life. The deeper question that is lurking in my brain is assuming they figure out what’s going on and I get released for duty, how much longer do I want to do this?
This experience has really opened my eyes to understanding that I really am finite. I have had a beginning and I will have an ending. I am not old by the world standards but just like dog years it would seem that I am old in fire house years. In the mean time I will wait. I will hold off on the high fives and rest in the Lords grace.