“You need to know, you are in sudden danger of dying at any moment.” Not necessarily the words one wants to hear from his doctor, but there they were. The next thing I knew I was being rushed to Cedar Siani Medical Center in Los Angeles and promptly landed in their Cardiac Critical Care Unit. The feeling was surreal. There were all these specialists running around, poking and prodding me with various tubes, hooking me up to several monitors, taking countless blood samples, rushing things to the lab, and it was all so serious. The intake nurse came to my bedside and began to ask the basic questions: my name, where I lived, phone numbers, insurance, and then she asked me my birthday. I simply said, well if you do a really good job, I’ll be 43 next month. December 12th to be exact.
Then the attending doctor came in. He was quiet and pensive. He looked me right in the eye and said, “You need a heart transplant. And you need to get your affairs in order, as we don’t know if we can do the protocol in time to get you one.” Then turned and walked away.
Upon hearing those words, something extraordinary happened. I had a spiritual awakening. No big flash of light or burning bush mind you. It was clear, visceral and quiet. I became acutely aware that I was not my body. It’s important to note, this was not an intellectual assessment, it was simply my knowing. I distinctly thought, well if it’s time to go I am perfectly OK with it. I got that I was not this physical apparatus, with arms and legs and organs and skin and bones. I had this keen sense of knowing that I was an eternal spirit, that I was simply inhabiting those things temporarily.
And at the same time I recall thinking, well if I was to stay here on planet earth, I was OK with that too. I honestly wasn’t attached to either way. It’s like I became an observer of this drama that was playing out in the emergency room. I was filled with peace, a peace that was beyond anything I had ever felt before. It’s like when our book talks about being rocketed into the fourth dimension. Talk about freedom from bondage! My conscious contact was as though I had become one with this Infinite Intelligence, with my Higher Power. I don’t know how long I was in this euphoric state, but it lasted quite a while. And then I made a decision, that I was going to find a way to heal my heart.
It’s like when I walked into the rooms of AA and made a decision to get sober. I didn’t know how that was going to happen, but you told me all I had to be was willing, open and most importantly, honest.
So if it worked for one fatal disease, I decided to approach this in the exact, same way. The fact that it was my heart told me that something was off with my personal integrity. That I was not in alignment with my core values and therefore God. And in hind sight, I clearly had not been for a long, long time.
After 30 days in the hospital, with my trial medications and a pacemaker /defibulator firmly implanted, they sent me home to wait for my new heart. Over the next several months I began another rigorous moral inventory, one that rivaled my cardiac rehabilitation. I had to dig deep and see where I was not being honest with myself. I was in a relationship for over a year and a half which was very unhealthy, where I compromised my values. And my body was trying to get my attention. The anxiety, loss of energy, stress, unhappiness, frustration, etc. were all early signs that I had ignored. The irony that it was my heart that became sick had not escaped me.
This is a much bigger story than can be told in 650 words, but I will tell you this. Through the 4th Step inventory, I became very clear about my part. I realized I was not a victim of the circumstances. I took full responsibility for my actions, cleaned house (sound familiar), trusted God and kept going to my morning meetings.
Fast forward to my 9-month cardiac check up. The doctor sat me down and said the following: “ In my 28 years of being a cardiologist, I’ve never seen this. Not only do you not need a new heart, you no longer need your pacemaker. And quite frankly, I’ve never taken one out!”
Well, to the point, I did end up healing my heart. But I am under no illusion. I believe just like with recovery from alcoholism, it is a daily reprieve, based on my spiritual condition. I must continue to clean house, trust God and help others.
What an amazing and powerful program we have. It truly is a way of life. For Real!
Love, Joe : )