I am a triple bypass heart survivor.
There is a heart on the side of the Columbia hospital.
It is blood red and a big as a billboard.
I am glad that it is not shaped like a valentine but is imperfect like mine.
My world spun completely out of control on a routine Sunday drive to purchase a copy of The New York Times. I thought the sudden dizziness would disappear, but it didn’t. All I could hear was my own rapid pounding heartbeat- dlup, dlup, dlup– as I entered the hospital.
As a result of my heart experience and my subsequent 21 days in ICU, including 9 days in a coma, I knew that my heart required much more healing and so I established this blog, All Heart Matters.
Shortly after I started writing about my experience, I was drawn into other stories written by doctors, nurses and patients still reeling from their own experiences or witness to illness.
Everyone agrees that social networking allows both the health professional and the patient to better connect with one another. After communicating with Dr. Kevin Pho, one of the most popular doctors engaged in the use of blogs, I learned about some of the pressing privacy issues surrounding the use of this technology. On my blog, I began to solicit stories from those individuals who wish to share their unique story via the World Wide Web. I agree with Dr. Abigail Zuger, a regular contributor to The New York Times Health section, “ I know one thing for sure: there’s no story out there that is not a great story. Every single one contains pathos, courage, comedy and surprise to power it right to the top of the charts.”
And so my blog attempts at least three or four times a week to identify those literary medical bloggers writing their Chekhov-like stories, firmly rooted in the individual’s ability to make sense of illness, to address healing, and to find a moral compass in their new life. I have received numerous stories and poems from people like Frank Israel, who is fearful about undergoing a heart operation for an ICD implant. Oscar Houck, a screenwriter, poet, and substitute teacher writes a compelling poem about his second chance after experiencing a heart attack. Jane Butkin Wagner shares in her story, “Tomorrow” a window on her feelings of losses, some of them premonitions and others all to real like her mother’s massive stroke.
Patients, especially heart patients, demand to know the uncertainties, mysteries, and progress of their heart. No doubt many of these stories in my blog, reinforce Dr. Arthur Frank’s three defined types of illness storytelling: restitution or recovery, chaos narrative and the quest narrative. He writes in his book, Letting Stories Breathe that “ for all you lose, you have an opportunity to gain closer relationships, more poignant appreciations, and clarified values. You are embarking on a dangerous opportunity. Do no curse your fate; count your possibilities.”
James Borton teaches writing at the University of South Carolina Sumter. He’s a devoted grandfather to Eli and an avid sailor. He’s currently at work on a book, Heart Chronicles, and research on literary medical weblogs.