Tuesday, April 5, 2011


                                      I Walk the Line.   
        This octogenarian’s  blog has missed several days—and the reason is contained in the first words of Johnny Cash’s song “I Walk the Line.”  If I were tailoring it to my health experience the last several days, it would run:  “I keep a close watch on this heart of mine/ Along with kidney function all the time…” The diagnosis found sounds deadly—heart failure, worsening kidney health--but it need not be.   The knack of this game is to learn to recognize the symptoms before they get too bad.    This time I did—and by the time I was released from the hospital after a five-day stay, two echo chambers of the heart…ultra-sound photos, really… showed improvement and the statistics on the kidneys have marginally bettered.   The yardstick of degeneration of my kidneys is something I have long known:  On a scale of one to five….one being perfect and five requiring dialysis….mine is rated four. The goal is to keep the needle from edging to five. 
      I told my cardiologist I always thought heart failure was just that—not capable of  showing improvement.  But I was wrong.  A heart can show improvement in muscle strength.  The same with kidneys.  They can gain strength with doses of iron conveyed via shots. Heart failure and kidney failure are connected.
      Because of heart failure, your heart pumps less blood than normal to the lungs and rest of the body—which causes the kidneys and other organs to be deprived of the oxygen-rich blood they require.   When the kidneys don’t work right fluid backs up in the lungs and throughout the body.  I found my feet were swelling up and getting sore because, I was informed, of gout.  Rapid weight gain shows fluid is backing up in your body: gaining two or more pounds in a day or five more pounds in a week are signs of worsening heart failure.   Shortness of breath is caused by fluid backing up into the lungs.   Fatigue occurs when your body doesn’t get enough blood.  All these things converged Thursday and a team of ace physicians and specialists worked on me until yesterday when they pronounced I was ready to go home.
          Good  news exploded like firecrackers.  The water went down noticeably in my legs due to medication.  I could breathe better and my lungs were adjudged fluid-free.   Weight decline…from 248 lbs. to 233… happened because of the water pills I was ingesting.   Fatigue was eroding and lying abed I was planning in my mind how to write this and accomplish all the other writing projects I have stored up.   Can I accomplish all I want before the Great Timekeeper raps His knuckles on the bar and says, “Gentlemen, it’s closing time”?       I get tired more easily now. That may improve: I hope it does.
           The projects intrigue me as if I were still young. In addition to the weekly radio show (which regrettably I had to miss Sunday; the last two weeks were due to preemption) and weekly Wanderer columns for the oldest national Catholic weekly in America—a paper of enduring value to the Church since it masterfully weaves theology and natural law philosophy,  I have long been planning an autobiography….a family history entitled Listen, My Children…about  our early days, including snippets of the Germanic-Irish of my own heritage and the English side of Lil’s—for our four kids, thirteen grandchildren and—huzza! —the forthcoming arrival of our first great-grandchild later in the year.     The writing is partially finished and has been run in years past as a feature here under the title “Flashback.”
     To make this self-imposed “deadline”—ominous significance in that word-- I may  have to cut back on the 5-day-a-week nature of the blog to sort out the stories for the book and dress them up for publication. I will never quit the radio show; it keeps me in the news loop.
     Another project:  I’ve given thought to writing a play about a long-forgotten but still massively important historic figure in France and have the ideal actor to play him.   As  I tossed in my hospital bed I was trying to flesh out the script—very complicated but just the thing to keep an old man busy and not too concerned about his heart and kidneys.
        So this explains where I have been when you found me missing from these pages.   Indeed you may find me missing some days in the future—but let’s stay connected as I work this out.  


  1. Hang in there Tom! We need you! Take care.

  2. Praying for you God isn't finished with you yet.

  3. He walks through the jungle tearing limbs offa Trees!

    He's hell when he's well and he ain't never been sick!