As I Lay Dying
Ted Rheingold

Congratulations on your recovery.

My story is very different and yet similar. I came down with acute heart failure caused by pneumonia. I felt weak but that was it. My heart efficiency (ejection factor) was approx. 14% (measured twice by different operators and machines). I asked the cardiologist what I had to do to get better. He replied that there wouldn’t be a heart transplant in time. My wife and parents had to leave the room.

For 18 months I was below 20%. I slept 12–14 hours a day and now have little memory of the three years after the ‘event’. Death was my constant companion. I knew that every time I went to sleep it could easily be my last. I learnt to live with death. A few months after the event, a friend and paramedic said that it was the mental anguish rather than organ failure that killed many patients in my position. They simply stopped taking their meds.

It’s now eight and a half years since the event. My heart efficiency is over 50% (normal is 55–65%). I see my cardiologist once a year. There was never any surgery or other intervention. My body just decided to live. Yes, life is the bucket. That I can totally relate to.

There is one thing you didn’t mention though, and it probably applies in your situation. Before the event I didn’t know what to say to people who were dying of cancer or other disease. I felt very uneasy. Now I have no problem talking at length with such people. You and I are extremely lucky — we survived. Most people will not. But I am happy to be with them and console them in their last days or hours. It’s part of having lived with death for that period.

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