We've had that kind of week here. A few weeks ago Ken began to experience chest pains, and then had episodes of shortness of breath. We got him to the doctor last week, and a few days ago he had a stress test. The doctor called Tuesday afternoon with the results, and they weren't good. A normal, healthy heart pumps blood from the left ventricle (what is called an ejection fraction: EF) at a capacity of 50-55%. Ten or so years ago Ken was diagnosed with a cardiomyopathy, which is essentially a weakness of the heart muscle that results in inefficient pumping from that left ventricle. His EF then was 26%. At 25% the heart is generally in need of a transplant, if it is pumping sufficiently at all. The ejection fraction from this week's stress test was 30%.
Initially we weren't able to get an appointment to see the cardiologist for follow-up for two weeks, but this wife wasn't happy with that schedule, and we were able to get in yesterday. In the intervening 48 hours we lived in a state of numbness and anticipatory grief. Ken faced the possibility of having to give up his business and livelihood, and it would be the second time his health would force that hand. Every other sentence started with the word "if," or assumed that the news from the doctor would mandate what we feared.
The good news is that the doctor believes that medication, along with a regular exercise routine, will be sufficient to get Ken back on track. He will need to take it easy for a little while to allow the medication to take effect, but the doctor has not restricted his activity. We are relieved, and very grateful.
Still, we learned from the doctor that Ken's story is outside the realm of statistics. Most cardiomyopathy diagnoses don't live more than 5 years. He's gone ten. Most diagnoses result in an average of 3 hospitalizations a year. He has had none since the first diagnosis. In many respects he is a walking miracle. We are also in territory that is totally unknown.
We are taking each day as it comes, and imagining that we have years to come. We can do no less. For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health--we're there, we're doing it. As a colleague of mine states the request, we covet your prayers.