A Sudden Change of Life (1)

Source: wikipedia
I didn’t realize how swiftly one’s life can change radically until recently.. On the morning of January 5th as I got out of bed, I noticed my body was off balance and I was seeing double – vertically. I immediately called our medical coordinator who told me to sit tight, she would be right over.  Once she arrived, we called my doctor who recommended I call him back in two hours if the symptoms remained.
Two hours later the situation with my body and eyes was the same. “Stroke!” was the immediate diagnosis. So that I might get into the hospital right away, we ordered an ambulance and away I went. I spent three days there in the “stroke ward.”

It is now just over a month and a half since that scary morning. I now know that the stroke, though mild, injured a nerve behind my eyes. I wore a pirate patch for three weeks and now – thanks to a marvelous eye doctor – I have a prism on the right lens of my glasses that enables me to be mostly free of the vision problem while the nerve heals.

There is good news here, too. I was home when the stroke happened.

In addition, Spokane has excellent health care. My doctor thinks the injury was stress related. Since my stay in the hospital, I have managed to figure out the causes of the stress and have become free of them.

I know it’s only been six weeks since the stroke and others have suffered much worse and much longer than me, but I would like to share with you some of what I have learned from my experience so far.

First, to reach out to others who are also struggling. While in the hospital, I phoned one of my good friends, who has had problems with her heart for two years. She, in turn, sent me a wonderful book that has encouraged and inspired me – “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse,” by Charlie Mackesy. There is a lot of wisdom in that book.

My friend consoles me and gives me great advice, like, “Let your heart loose and reach out to others in their scary, taxing time.”

Second, to reach out to others and ask for help as needed. Mackesy defines bravery as the freedom to ask for help. I have asked for prayers, for rides (I am unable to drive yet), and for hugs (even if they are virtual). I save affirmative voice mails and listen to them when I need some extra emotional help (the same with rereading Get Well cards). Asking for help, Mackesy writes, is not giving up but refusing to give up.

Third, gratitude. I am grateful that I had the stroke because I believe it saved me from something worse because of the stress mentioned above. I read an interview of the actor, Michael J. Fox, who struggles with Parkinson’s disease, in which he said he focuses on what he has rather than on what he doesn’t have.

Great advice! It’s the “glass half full, half empty” image. I find I am more aware of even the small blessings in my life, and I thank God for them. Gratitude leads to optimism to hope and to peace of mind.

This is a new experience for me. I have had no real serious illness before. There will be more insights from the stroke. Already, I have a new prayer: for Patience, and a lot of it!

Feel free to share your own insights.

Max Oliva, SJ worked in Las Vegas for six years. The only Jesuit in the state of Nevada, his main ministry was called “Ethics In The Marketplace.” Now in Spokane, he has a continued involvement in Las Vegas, albeit on a part-time basis. His web site is found here - www.ethicsinthemarketplace.com

  • Caroline Maloney
    Posted at 02:04h, 12 May Reply

    So sorry to hear of your sudden physical change of life, Fr. Max! I can only imagine how scary it was, and still is! Thank you for sharing the details of the event; and most of all, the lessons learned!

    Praying for your speedy healing and well being!

  • Adelaide MaDonald
    Posted at 11:00h, 12 May Reply

    I am glad you are improving. Thank you for your insights.

    What is the name of your eye doctor?

  • Roy Frank Obrigewitsch
    Posted at 16:09h, 12 May Reply

    Courage, Max. Prayers for a quick recovery!

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 21:59h, 12 May Reply

    Thank you very much Max!!

  • Max Oliva
    Posted at 22:52h, 12 May Reply

    I live in Spokane, Washington.
    Fr. Max

  • Karen Arthurs
    Posted at 13:38h, 13 May Reply

    Praying for patience and recovery to wellness Fr Max.

  • Margaret Manitowabi
    Posted at 09:52h, 15 May Reply

    Allowing God to take control and deep listening to him and deep listening to the body. Each day each breathe a gift. Just a closer walk with thee. Thank you for sharing the health issue of strokes and educating me on the stresses in my life I can control some but others are not in my control. Strength and wellness Fr. Max sj.

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