THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
About two years ago, at the age of 48, my wife Gwen the Beautiful was blinded by a stroke. She sees something, but only to the left in each eye. The right half of what should be her field of vision is inky blackness.
Or, on days of beauty and wonder, a sight that’s not there. Images of gardens. People. Animals. Plugged directly into (and by) her brain.
I’ve written about all the medical rounds we’ve made, trying to learn what caused the stroke so we can take the right steps to make sure it doesn’t happen, and what we can do to help her see completely once more.
Until yesterday no doctor anywhere, no matter how highly regarded, ever had said anything about the cause but, “We’ll probably never know,” and, about the possibility of a return of Gwen’s vision, “Very unlikely. The brain cells that interpret the right side of your vision are dead.” Both statements followed by, “Take these blood thinners and try to adjust.”
A couple of months ago Gwen left Paradise and went to Robert Superko, a San Francisco area doctor who’s an expert in “cardiac risk.” She spent half a day giving blood for a series of tests, including DNA tests no one else had given her.
Yesterday we got the results. They’re complicated, and neither of us understands them well enough to go into detail, but the gist is that Gwen’s DNA has an extra molecule on its strand that has caused the level of a cholesterol lipid called “El Pea Little A” and spelled “Lp(a)” to be three times what’s considered normal.
What does this do? Why, it throws a whole mess of stuff out of whack—and causes blood clots. Like the one that smacked Gwen on the back of the head one December evening and dropped her to her knees with half her lights out.
Wait, the news gets better. Not only do we now know what we also know how to prevent another stroke. Dr. Superko’s able nurse practitioner, Pam McDonald has a designed a program for Gwen to follow right here in Paradise. And which can be supervised by Dr. Ted, her Paradise M.D.
Three elements are involved. Regular cardiovascular and strength-building exercise. A balanced diet. And laboratory quality niacin, a thousand mgs. a day.
That’s right. No drugs. No stents. No shunts. None of the usual medical marvels. Instead, a big-time cardiovascular doc has recommended—
A dash of common sense. A sprinkle of knowledge. Stirred by experience and wisdom. Based on a recipe that’s totally high tech.
Who says the new and the old can’t co-exist?
That times can’t change in a way that lets today and yesterday embrace?
At first it seemed too easy to Gwen.
“Are you sure I can do the exercise?” she said. “It’s not going to hurt me? And that kind of food…it’s all right for my body?”
Pam told Gwen to take a good look at the page after page of test results she’d already sent. “You’ve had the most complete physical exam anybody can have anywhere. See those numbers? What they add up to is that you’re as healthy as they come. One genetic defect, that’s all you’ve got. And after six months of taking care of yourself you’ll have kicked that defect’s butt.”
“You mean I’m a healthy woman?” Gwen said.
“You’re a healthy woman,” Pam said.
Over the next several hours Gwen said it again herself.
And again. And again.
And as she checked the tomatoes in our garden yesterday afternoon something wonderful happened. She stopped questioning and instead asserted, as strongly as anyone can:
“I’m a healthy woman!”
And, after more than two years, she felt healthy at last.
This isn’t the story of a miracle. Gwen’s sight hasn’t returned. But she’s already started her new regimen, and is looking at life a new way.
Today when we woke up and kissed good morning she greeted me with a smile. “Wow,” I said. “Haven’t seen one of those this early in a long time.”
“There’s no reason for me not to smile,” Gwen said. “After all, I’m a healthy woman.”
“Yes. Yes, you are.”
“And,” she said, “do you know why?”
“Why?” I said.
“Because I’ve got hope.”
We kissed again. It was everything any couple could hope for.