The discovery that I have coronary artery disease and the resulting two stents has been, in some ways, a great blessing. Now I know why I have had symptoms for fifteen years—the calcium buildup was narrowing three of my coronary arteries. The stents have helped me feel better, and I have been eating lots of veggies, fruits, and nuts, with the only meat being white meat from chicken or turkey. Exercise on my treadmill is now up to four to five days a week, and distance and calories burned have been steadily increasing.

One of the strangest benefits for me is that when I was in the cath lab, I knew there was a slight risk of death, but I was ready for whatever happened. For a few moments I was not afraid, and I trusted in God. While I still have my moments of fearing death is annihilation, those moments do not come as often as they did before my hospital stay. There are too many coincidences not to believe that God was involved in my recovery. I have tried to pray more, though the discipline is difficult, and I particularly like the early morning “Lauds” service on the Common Prayer I consciously think about God much more often and see God’s handiwork in the beauty of nature—even in this fallen world.

There are, of course, negatives. I know that coronary artery disease is chronic and that the battle against its spread must be thorough and constant—and there are no guarantees that more blockages would never occur or that my 50% blockage will never grow. There is also small vessel disease. My heart, the organ that keeps me alive in an immediate way more than other organs, is utterly contingent. Will a new blockage form? Will a clot form in a coronary artery and cause a myocardial infarction? Will the blockages already present make my heart electrically unstable and throw it into a fatal ventricular arrhythmia? While I work out and am not afraid, in the back of my mind I know these events are possible, and I keep my nitro handy in case I need it—hopefully I never will.

A few years ago, I read a memoir of a man who had suffered a heart attack—I do not remember his name, but the book was well-written. He said that his MI was a blow to his ego, especially to his sense of sexuality—he felt “less sexy” for having a heart attack. Perhaps it is the myth that a man has to be strong, and his heart attack seemed to reveal him as weak. In me, the effect was stronger due to some peculiarities of personality, most likely related in part to my mild autism (Asperger’s Syndrome). Now these are personal matters (read no further if you want to avoid sensitive topics) that I explored in my novels, End of Summer and Unpardonable Sin.  I have always been fascinated with the heart, and when Daddy brought a stethoscope home (he was a dialysis technician), I was mesmerized when I listened to my heartbeat or to other’s heartbeats. With the onset of puberty, the sound of a woman’s heartbeat became a fetish of sorts (actually “of sorts” puts it almost infinitely too mildly) for me. I also liked a woman to listen to my heart. Having a strong heart for me was part of my sexuality, and when this current situation with my heart took place, I felt (and still feel) very unsexy, even though there was no heart muscle damage. It is like a flaw in my manhood. This is irrational, I know, but given that it is tied to such powerful feelings, it is almost impossible to shake. But I am willing to take this small negative for the positives, especially the continuation of my life, for which I thank God every day. I trust that He knows what is best for me, in life or death.