By: Elaine Marze
When I was younger I took my body for granted; assuming it would breathe, move and function the way it was meant to do. But now that I’m in my late 60’s … I don’t take anything for granted. Each morning I wake up is with the admonition, “Body, don’t fail me now”.
Two years ago I accompanied my daughter’s family to our favorite ski slopes in Red River, New Mexico, altitude over 10,000 feet. First day there I had difficulty breathing so while the family were all skiing I was gasping for breath until the ambulance hauled me away to the hospital with an oxygen stat of 76 (not good). After spending the night in the emergency room on oxygen the doctor told me to get to a lower altitude immediately. I now consider breathing a privilege, not a right.
One year ago I was told I have congestive heart failure (CHF) and should not do any activity that raises my heart rate over 100 including vacuuming and exercising. I left with the feeling that heart failure was only minutes away, and I needed to walk slowly and softly for the rest of my short life. I had a finger monitor that kept track of my heart rate, and it was hard to believe that the same heart that had served me well through premature births, five grandchildren, river rafting and the cancer and death of my beloved husband would fail me now. Deciding I didn’t want to sit around waiting for my heart to peter out and needing proof that my life wasn’t totally over I promptly went for a horseback ride in the Ozarks better suited to surer-footed mules I decided as we slid down rocky trails not for the faint of heart. When I survived that ride, I went with three of my grand’s to experience a 2,000 foot zip line across a deep canyon.
That was my first time to zip line. I got to noticing that I was the only person over 25 paying to strap themselves on a hook attached to a cord, whizzing across the canyon floor 350 feet deep. About the time I was thinking I ought to rethink this heart testing activity, the kid in charge strapped this big (in my case) diaper-like contraption between my legs and buckled it to a steel bar. I was concentrating on getting the diaper wedgies out of a critical area when he told me to lean back and then he shoved me off the cliff. I remembered as I sped across the tree tops at jet speed that he’d said something about the more weight you have on you the faster you went. Immediately the thought processed through my freaked out mind that I really should have lost a few, or a lot, of pounds before getting on a zip line. I admit I really hadn’t given much thought to the mechanics of zip-lining, but I assumed while I was shooting across the canyon that there was a brake to slow me down before I face planted into the rock wall at the other end of the zip line, but when I showed no signs of stopping or slowing I began making my peace with my Maker because I knew that in a direct confrontation with solid rock at the speed I was traveling, my body was going to be splattered all over that mountain.
It turns out that there is a big iron spring at the end of the zip-line that suddenly (emphasis on suddenly) catches right before up-close contact with solid rock. The landing was a shock to my body, a sudden, spine wrenching head-over-diapered-butt flipping shock to my whole system. It was later that I figured out why my grandkids all insisted on going before me … so they could be there to watch me land. I kept waiting to drop dead since my wildly beating heart rate was way over 100, and when I didn’t, I came away with a more positive attitude toward being diagnosed with CHF.
We all know the outward changes our bodies go through but it was a revelation to find out that my insides aren’t what they used to be either. My husband and I loved four-wheeling rough, tough terrains. I had my own four wheeler, and we bumped and humped down some really ragged trails and creek beds, the rougher the better. But, after diverticulitis, kidney stones and a herniated disc my inards object to a lot of jostling and bumping. It brings to mind the times I’ve driven over rough dirt roads with “older” people in my car and how they held their abdomens complaining about the roughness of the ride. Now I understand.
How many of us have said, “Boy, if I’d known then what I know now I’d have taken better care of my body”? Too late now except to entreat with prayer and supplication daily, “Body don’t fail me now”.