I was at rehab yesterday and it suddenly struck me how old all those people were. With their grey hair and their liver spots, they are all so much older than me. In my head, anyway. I close my eyes and I’m still the me I was in college, young and fearless. At least until the burning in my chest, or the grinding of my vertebrae as I walk around the track warming up. The stabbing pain in my neck when I do my stretches, all these things wake me up and remind me I’m not immortal.

I never really felt old until I started having old people health problems. That’s one of the things I hate most about getting sick. People tell me I look younger than my age (60). My thoughts and desires are certainly younger, some embarrassingly so if they were to become known. But I feel older. Not every day, not all day long, but if I try to push it even a little I feel old fast.

I get cold a lot. I now grab a sweater if the temperature falls more than 5 degrees from upstairs to downstairs. Even if it’s still in the 70s, I reach for a sweater or a hoodie. I have different glasses for reading and working on my computer than my general use bifocals. When I get tired, even my reading glasses don’t help. Going to the store is now a day’s work for me-by the time I get home and get everything put away I’m toast. If I get nothing else out of a new heart, I hope to reclaim my days.

When I was in the hospital being evaluated, the psychologist asked me how I would define success in a transplant. I told her I would consider it a success if an hour’s decent work, not killing myself and not taking it easy, but a decent effort no longer equated to an hour’s sleep in the daytime as well as at least 7 hours at night. The anecdotal evidence suggests that is not unreasonable in the long run.

I read mixed things on my support group pages on Facebook, talk to nurses and other health care professionals, and from what little I’ve read online.^1 Some people report miraculous recoveries and beyond. One person I saw posted that he went mountain climbing a few weeks after getting out of the hospital. On the other hand, some report a continued level of fatigue and lethargy years after transplantation. In any event, a year to several months seems to be the average refractory period. So I will aim for a year in recovery, and another year for any rebirth.

  1. This is rather an unfiltered thing, this blog. I’ll get around to doing more science later, but for now I’m just going to let feelings and experiences, including the experience of reading and writing about what I read, flow.