I love when I am reminded that insight and truth often come from the most unexpected people, places and circumstances. There I was last week deep down a necessary rabbit hole gathering information about replacing some very important lifesaving supplies for the dojo. I received a call back from Rob my old AED go to guy. I’ve had the privilege of working with him several times over the past 20 years and he is in class all of his own. His knowledge, insight, good intention, and experience in the AED space is unequaled. Adding to his credibility and awesomeness is that he himself is a survivor of a cardiac arrest only because CPR trained people had timely access to an AED. Needless to say, for Rob AED’s and proper training are way more than a vocation.
After we talked shop regarding the best additions and adjustments to make with my equipment, Rob asked if I knew he was again the benefactor of AED technology and medically trained ordinary folks. I told him that I wasn’t aware of any other episodes. He goes on humbly to tell me how over the past few years he’s had multiple near death episodes. One that stands out occurred just a couple years ago when he was vacationing with his family in Mexico and he went into cardiac arrest at the resort and ended up being life-flighted out. His humility, vulnerability and sincerity took me fully out the rabbit hole of buying things and reminded I was talking to an extraordinary human being that has had the hand of death wrapped around his throat more than 23 times.
He didn’t tell me his story to sell me or to gain my sympathy, he told me his story, at least in part because he knew he had a man on the other end of the line who cared and who he felt would probably live differently with this new personal information. He’s was right, his share, updates and his bravery in the face of monumental circumstances have already changed my life and my perspective profoundly.
As we segued back to some strategic buying options I stopped and without any clear intention I informed Rob that I too had danced with death, 7 times in the last 4 years, in the form of 4 strokes and 3 mini-stokes. I don’t know why I shared that with Rob, I almost never do, but it somehow felt important and necessary in that moment. I suppose that’s some of what authentic kinship feels like.
What transpired over the next 20 minutes was some of the most loving, empathetic, intelligent and caring counsel I could have ever hoped to receive. I went on to tell Rob of my steady recovery from depression, loss, feeling of hopelessness and my renewed and determined attitude of acceptance, humility and vulnerability which requires my active attention daily to keep my recovery moving forward.
After a brief silence, Rob said, “You’re a survivor Cris. There is a reason none of those 7 episodes killed you and I can hear in your voice the enthusiasm you bring to your day, to living a worthwhile life and clearly to every person who walks into your gym and probably just about every person you meet. I have no doubt that’s a big part of the reason you’re still here.” Pause…Then my deep, quiet and soul level tears came as Rob spoke powerful, tender words of encouragement right into my heart.
He was right, I Am a survivor. And I was a survivor long before my first TIA and hospitalization 4 years ago to the day, October 4, 2019 in Stamford CT. Through scores of tests, hundreds of needle pricks, 30 plus CT scans and MRI’s, multiple hospitalizations I always thought my illness would be labeled and resolved, but It hasn’t been. 25% of strokes are of no identifieable cause, and my episodes fall under that category. That uncertainty is a difficult thing to with. So on I go as a survivor because that’s the only good options survivors have and like all of we survivors and like my fellow survivor Rob we go on with absolutely no guarantee of the next moment. Walt Whitman’s words massage this tempermental reality for me,
“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.”
You are a survivor too. I am sure of it. Maybe not from a stroke or cardiac arrest or another life threatening thing but I am sure, big or small, all of you with your eyes on this piece have lived through circumstances that have wounded and perhaps destroyed parts of you. The good news is, if you’re reading this, the physical or emotional trauma you have sustained has not taken all of you, and you’re clearly Not Done either.
Be brave, be resilient and for the good of yourself and us, your kin, please stay committed to those things that matter to you and committed to finding the support you need. We need you.
Perhaps most importantly, please remember you’re walking amongst a civilization of other survivors, whether it feels like it or not and you are not alone. Not alone in your pain, loss or any of the crushing disappointments you carry.
Know that you are loved and your last word has not been written.