I've been taught all of my life that the body and spirit are two separate parts of what makes up our soul. This is a common philosophy, that in certain moments, is difficult to grasp. Yet, in others it becomes very clear.
When my heart was broken, it was most certainly a physical sensation, although my physical heart was doing its job. When I shattered my kneecap it was most definitely my body screaming at me to find relief, although my spirit cried out for it to just be a bruise or something because I hate costing my family money. These are clear, defined instances, but never more so than when I had stints put into my heart.
In March of 2013, I went in for a routine angiogram to clear me for transplant surgery. I'd had the procedure done before, its not too bad. they slip a wire through your wrist or thigh to send a camera to your heart to check for blockage and valve issues. My wrists are never used because I only have my right arm for blood draws and I.V. lines. This is due to what's called a fistula. In my left arm an artery is surgically joined with a vein, making a thick, rope-like vein that can't be used for anything except access during dialysis.
So, there I was, lying on a table, a long thin wire running from the inside of my thigh, up into my heart, when the doctor says,
"she's got 90 percent blockage here," the computer makes a whirring noise. "And almost 90 percent here, as well."
Not information you look forward to. For one thing, I was supposed to be headed home after the angiogram to pick up my youngest from school. Do homework with my teenagers and make dinner before scouts.
"You're going to have to have stints put in."
They aren't going to ask me?
As I was being prepped for the procedure, the nurses called my husband and told him what was going on and that I'd have to be in the hospital overnight. I'm still reeling from the news and worried about my kids. The anesthesiologist tells me he's going to put some "happy juice" in my I.V. so I'll relax and then some blood thinner to keep clots from forming on the stints.
I listen and nod, but something is wrong. My heart begins pounding against my ribcage so hard I feel like my chest will burst open. I can't catch my breath, and suck in enough oxygen. The doctor, who has been talking to his team turns to me. "Traci, are you feeling all right?'
"I don't think so," I pant.
I'm not scared though. I feel like my body is struggling but my mind and spirit are very calm.
"Her heart rate is 166 beats per minute," someone says. Another order is given and a cold flood of something races into my arm.
"How do you feel, Traci"
my heart rate slows down and I can breathe again, but now my chest hurts and someone has pushed my body down into the mattress I'm lying on. As if they are weighing me down so I won't float away. When I mention this to the doctor, reassuring them they can let me go, he tells me no one is holding me down. No one touched me the entire time except to administer the drug.
After a lot of rushing around and finishing with the stints, they send me up to the cardiac floor to be monitored for the night. I didn't think a whole lot about it, until I was talking to the doctor later and he asked me to describe to him what happened.
I told him, physically I didn't feel much. the pounding of my heart, the inability to get enough air and the sensation of being pressed down into the bed.
"You are one tough lady," he told me. "Your heart rate got so high and your blood pressure so low, we thought you were going to leave us."
His words struck me then. My body was staying on that bed, but my spirit was trying to break free. When they reversed the effects of the medication and I felt pressed down against the bed, I hadn't been touched or moved because...
My soul re-joined its separate parts and I felt the weight of it.
I still remember the light, pain-free sensation that occurred before I became whole again. There are times I wish for the same sense of liberty, but I also know that being free from my body like that is like my blindness.
There are some things I am thrilled not to experience: littered streets, starving children, angry terrorists killing innocents.
I also miss the parts that are beautiful: my kids faces, sunsets in the desert, the green of trees against the red rock.
God gave us souls to give us both the beauty of a spiritual experience and the opposition of a human body. Without a heart that can love we'd never have a heart to be broken. Without the pain of not being able to walk while we heal, we'd never feel the wind in our hair when we run. Without the burden of sickness, we'd never know the joy of a body working to fill life with happiness and excitement. I will always feel the burden of my broken body, but I will also bask in the moments when my spirit fills with peace, love and the beauty of my spirit being a creation of God. I will take the burden and the beauty because it completes my soul.