On this day, December 14, eighteen years ago, I was born.
Well, I wasn’t exactly born on that date, but I was given a new lease on life.
I had arrived at Foothills Hospital in Calgary at around 6 AM in order to begin the long, arduous admission and pre-surgery preparation process.
I remember that day as if it was yesterday.
The previous day I had visited the hospital for a checkup and to receive instructions on what was expected of me the next morning. I was also given a strange looking device that was made up of three cylinders, each with a small ball on the bottom, and a hose-like tube for blowing into.
The idea is to blow into the hose which will cause the balls to rise to the top each cylinder and then to hold them in that position for as long as possible.
I blew into the device with all that I had and the balls did not move as much is 1 millimetre.
I remember the sad look on the attending physicians face as she explained to me the procedure I would be undergoing the next day.
On December 14, 1995, I stepped out of a taxi at the entrance to the hospital and clearly remember looking up at the sky and wandering whether this was the last time I would ever enjoy this view.
I had been under the care of a wonderful, caring respiratory specialist for several years during which time he had sent me to meet five surgeons in the hope that one of them would see a surgical solution to my health challenge.
All five had turned me down and my respiratory specialist had prepared me for reduced longevity.
At the time I did not regard the thought of a vastly shortened life as being all bad news. The previous five years had been somewhat challenging as I had been largely unable to work and had even experienced an eight month bout of homelessness.
So when the sixth surgeon, a young, recent arrival from Vancouver, decided that I was a suitable candidate for surgery, I was both enormously relieved and immensely afraid.
I vaguely remember the constant buzz of activity around me that morning; being administered pre-meds, answering a billion questions and being wheeled into an O.R.
My next memory is one I will forever cherish. I woke up in ICU to see a friendly nurse smiling at me.
I had made it.
We chatted for a moment and she handed me the device I had been given the previous day. I put the hose in my mouth, blew as hard as I could and watched in fascination and the three little balls rose off the bottom and danced all the way to the top of each cylinder where I was able to keep them floating for several seconds.
Never in my life had I ever experienced the feeling of joy that surged through my entire body in that moment. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I realized the impact of what was happening.
I could breathe.
I could live again.
I had a second chance – a new lease.
Today, eighteen years later, as I do every year on this date, I reflect, with enormous gratitude, on how fortunate I am to live in a magnificent country like Canada where everyone, regardless of station, has equal access to the highest levels of medical treatment and care the word has to offer.
I shudder to think where I might be today if I lived across the border to our south and if, 18 years ago I had been one of their millions of citizens without medical insurance.
We are all the product of the meaning we have placed on every experience we have had. I have come to realize that the difficulties I faced during those challenging years were necessary in order for me to learn true gratitude and appreciation not only for those talented professionals who gave me a new life but for all the wonderful and amazing people who have come into my life both before and since that remarkable date in 1995.
December 14th! It’s the most wonderful day of the year.
Till we read again.
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