When Life Hangs in the Balance

Lynne Taetzsch Health Guide
  • This has been a busy holiday season for me, and I’ve been feeling behind for weeks. Adding extra chores like sending holiday cards, finishing up end-of-the-year stuff for my art business, buying presents, extra cooking and baking, and the actual celebrating make me feel anxious, stressed, and scattered. I always give myself permission to do less, but I don’t quite take my own advice.

    This year things have been a little more hectic than usual because we adopted a two-year-old Labrador mix two weeks ago. Preparing for her arrival and making her feel at home in our house have taken a lot of extra time and energy, even though she is supposed to be my husband’s dog. I like her, but the choice to get a dog was Adrian’s. He agreed to be her primary caregiver.
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    Two days ago, Adrian had a disturbing dream, and when he woke up to write it down, he found that his balance was way off, he was dizzy, and his lips were numb. He still managed to walk the dog somehow, but as I was making coffee, he said he needed to talk to me.

    Having no idea what was going on, I said petulantly, “Can’t I get my coffee first?”

    “Oh sure,” he said.

    After I sat down, he asked me to read what he’d written about his dream, and it sounded like an end-of-life recap and treatise, mentioning his four sons, his old long-gone dog, Lobo, and his ma and pa.

    “You like this house, don’t you?” he asked as I finished reading.

    “What?” Oh-my-god, he was talking about dying, and how I would manage after he was gone.

    After he finally told me about his symptoms, we immediately went to our family doctor, who gave Adrian a typical neurological check-up (touch this finger to your nose, etc.), and then announced: Go directly to the hospital. Do not pass home.

    It took four hours to get settled in at the hospital and have various tests done. When they first brought us into a room with a woman in one of the beds, we laughed about the fact that people think the name “Adrian” must be a woman’s even though it is not spelled “Adrienne.”

    But I was getting anxious because the dog was home locked in her crate all that time. We couldn’t trust her to be home alone without ripping something to shreds. “I’ve got to go and take care of the dog,” I said as I kissed Adrian goodbye. “I’ll be back later.”

    Adrian is fine now. His symptoms disappeared by the end of the day, and the neurologist said his tests showed good news. He probably had a TIA, or mini-stroke, which is not uncommon at his age. He will take a baby aspirin a day to prevent a future occurrence.

    But the point of all this for me, is that my anxiety and frustration with the holiday season disappeared when I saw Adrian’s life in danger. My to-do list no longer seemed so important. The next afternoon when I brought Adrian home, we took the dog to a friend’s place where there were fields, a pond, and another dog she could play with. As we watched the setting sun over the pond, we took great pleasure in watching her run and jump with the sheer joy of being alive.
Published On: December 28, 2006