"Defying the Bitter Old Hag of Death" is a first-person account of the triumph of the human spirit over almost incomprehensible trauma.
This book focuses on the mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual battles of recovering from a heart transplant which went terribly wrong in unimaginable ways. The author describes the absolute terror of awaking from a two-month coma to find himself paralyzed from head to toe, unable to communicate or take care of any bodily needs. As he lies helplessly in bed beginning his slow physical recovery, he receives a telephone call from his wife, telling him she already has left him and moved more than 1,000 miles away. When he finally is released from the hospital after nine months, his wife asks to return and he foolishly agrees to let her. Two years later he again ends up in a coma and on life support and this time his wife leaves for good after authorizing the doctors to pull the plug and let him die. By some miracle he not only lives, but thrives. This book tells how.
I did not hear from my wife again until more than a month later and, quite frankly, was glad she had quit calling me. The calls inevitably upset me, either giving me what I considered false hope or else dashing whatever hope I had held onto. The silence obviously reinforced my belief she was truthful when she said she did not love me as a husband.
“At least I’m able now to get on with my life,” I told myself.
I know my wife talked during this period to my sister a few times and to my caseworker at the hospital, Ruth Reyes, but she never spoke directly to me. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t still scheming.
Once she asked for and received $2,000 from my sister.
“I need the money to pay for a laptop I bought for Jim to use in the hospital,” Pearl quoted her as saying.
Like so many other things she said, the reason also turned out to be a lie. She already had paid for the laptop out of our joint funds and apparently used the money from my sister to take another leave of absence from work and spend the entire month of August with one of her sisters and a niece in a rented seaside house somewhere in the New York area.
I admit I was pissed off to know that while I was in the hospital desperately trying to recover the use of my body, my wife was happily encamped in a beach house, enjoying the ocean and spending money she extorted from my sister by telling a lie. That lie turned out to be minor compared to some she told later, however.
As I think back on that time, my wife's action seems incredibly, almost unbelievably insensitive and, in fact, downright cruel.
I next heard from my wife on August 28.
“Is it okay if I come down to see you?” she asked.
Of course it’s okay,” I said.
I assumed she was coming to ask for a divorce, but I still was looking forward to seeing her. I also decided I was prepared to give her a divorce without a fight, on any terms she thought were fair. I felt I had been hurt as much as I could stand.
“I’ll be down in three or four days, just as soon as I finish a trip to Tokyo,” she told me.
“That’s great. I’ll see you then,” I said.
Although I feared the worse, I was exceedingly happy about the prospect of seeing her. I told everyone my wife was coming to visit, and everyone could see how excited I was.
Not only did she not come, she DID NOT EVEN CALL. I heard absolutely nothing from her for more than another month. During that time, I called her twice and left messages for her. One time was after I heard of financial travails at Northwest Airlines which could create problems with her job. I left a message telling her I wanted to be there for her. She did not return the call. Another time I left a message telling her of some milestone in my recovery, I believe the time I took my first step. She did not return that call, either. In fact, during this period, she even stopped returning Ruth's weekly calls with updates on my condition.
“How could she tell me specifically she would be down in three or four days, and then not even bother to call to tell me she wasn’t coming?” I asked my psychologist.
“Does she hate me so much she just wants to torture me?” I asked.
Those questions had no answers without being able to get inside my wife's head.