Where Is My Ice Cream?

Today, is my birthday. I am now fifty-five years old and can officially move into a senior-citizen’s living community! There is a very nice one a couple of miles from my home and every time I drive pass it I see the entrance sign, “Senior Living Community – Fifty-Five Years and Older.”  Today, I am a bona-fide “Senior!” Wow!  How great is that. But, there is one birthday in my life that stands out above all the rest; my tenth birthday, forty-five years ago today.  I spent that particular birthday celebrating with doctors, nurses, hospital staff, and family. Twelve days before my tenth birthday, I entered Crawford W. Long Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia for a pioneer pediatric heart surgery to cut-out and remove a blockage in the aorta artery. Even though I tried to enjoy the birthday festivities that day from my hospital bed, I was still very sore and weak.  At the time, it was still hard and difficult to breathe on my own. The surgery required my heart surgeon, Dr. William A. Hopkins, to cut me open from the center of my back on the left side to the center of my chest. He then removed two ribs and made his way to the aorta artery as it descended out from the left heart chamber. The undetected blockage had been there, no doubt, since birth and doctors felt it was a miracle that I had survived to be ten-years-old. But, I am a fighter just as many of you. I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs how tiny I was for my age. The blockage had kept normal blood flow from entering the lower parts and extremities of my body; so it hindered my normal age growth.  Decades later, I would discover (in my 50’s) after suffering from an brain aneurysm and later a vertebral artery dissection that the upper body hypertension during those first ten formative years had weakened the upper vessels in my brain.  A condition I now live with. But, without the heart surgery back in 1966, doctors gave little hope; if any, for me to survive another few years. Obviously, the surgery was a success as I have celebrated forty-five wonderful birthdays since that day; all which I have been grateful and thankful. But, what about the ice cream? See, I had originally entered the hospital back in 1966 to have my tonsils removed. Being a kid and somewhat apprehensive about the situation, my parents PROMISED me all the ice cream I could eat after the removal of my tonsils. So, I arrived at the hospital fixed with hopes and happy thoughts of eating bowl after bowl of yummy ice cream.  However, after I was admitted, nurses at the hospital discovered that I had no pulse readings below my waist and my blood pressure readings were off the chart.  Quickly, they consulted chief of staff and director of the Coronary Care Unit, Dr. H. S. Ramos, who immediately cancelled the tonsillectomy and ordered, instead, a heart-cath. I was transported to Eggleston Children’s Hospital and then to Emory Hospital for the procedure. There, they discovered the aortic blockage and put together a team of thoracic and heart surgeons headed by St. Joseph’s Hospital chief of thoracic surgery, Dr. William A. Hopkins.  It pretty much goes without saying, the “ice cream promise” got loss in the shuffle. Instead of sitting up and eating ice cream, I slept heavily sedated under an oxygen tent for nearly ten days after the procedure.  On the day of my tenth birthday, the kitchen staff baked and decorated a birthday cake for me. All of the ICU nurses, staff members, and attendants showed up for the occasion; even my doctors.  On that day, I didn’t get to play exciting games, ride a pony, or even pen-the-tail-on-the-donkey, but I did get to eat birthday cake and finally received the belated promise of ice cream.  My tenth birthday party may have been held in a hospital room, but it was truly one of the best birthdays parties ever.  A couple of days later, I was discharged from the hospital and sent home for recovery. Over the past forty-five years, birthdays have just been more and more special to me. I cherish each one and will always, always be thankful for that group of precious doctors and nurses who cared enough about this little girl to make the day special with a party, birthday cake…and yes…ice-cream!  Wait, I think I have some ice cream in the fridge right now calling out my name! LOL!

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