The Peorian


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Rated PG: Getting back at it

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Starting over can be a challenge, depending on the circumstances. But in my case, returning to work after nearly eight months on disability, it is a challenge I look forward to facing.

Those of you who have followed The Peorian have probably wondered why nothing on the pages have changed in so long. I looked at it today and saw what the most recent articles were and realized just how long it has been.

Eight months ago, Feb. 24, I had an outpatient procedure done to correct a flutter in my heart. The procedure, a cardiac ablation, was supposed to be an easy fix, though somewhat invasive. Unknown to anybody, however, was that I had pneumonia at the time. Infection set in and in the wee hours of the morning of Sunday, Feb. 26 I woke up because I couldn’t breathe.

My wife called 911 and within 30 minutes I was in the emergency room at OSF; I was comatose and had been intubated. After 12 hours and the diagnosis of septic shock, I was moved to ICU, where I stayed for nine days, mostly unconscious.

It was the first – and only, I hope – experience of waking up to find I lost a period of time. In this case, I lost a week from the time I arrived to the time they woke me up after removing the breathing tube. I was scheduled to be in a play at Corn Stock Theatre and the day I went in was the “tech Sunday” for the show. Opening night was Friday, March 3. When I awoke in ICU and mentioned tech Sunday to my wife, she broke the news that the show, with somebody else in my role, opened two days earlier.

Because of the sepsis, four organs failed – my heart, kidneys, lungs and liver – and at one point I was given last rites, or whatever they call it these days. I don’t remember it; I was out. I also don’t remember that all my siblings drove to Peoria and the visits from them and my children, grandchildren and close friends. I’ve seen photos of how I looked, bloated like a whale because my kidneys weren’t working, and figured it scared a few of them.

You know, that sepsis is bad stuff. It can kill and often does.

I was in the hospital about a month, which included dialysis until my kidneys regained enough function to let me stop. I got to come home instead of to a nursing home for rehabilitation only because my wife Sue, without whom I would not have survived, had been laid off from her job a couple weeks earlier and would thus be home with me 24 hours a day.

What followed was a summer of follow-up doctors’ appointments, a boatload of blood work, chest and abdominal X-rays, EKGs and echocardiograms, etc. I learned my kidneys are permanently damaged and will never get back to full function, meaning dialysis may be in my future. My heart was damaged, as well, and is finally functioning well enough to return to my job. At the end of May it was functioning at less than 35 percent, which is kinda scary to hear. The cardiologist said that was the same as it was when I was in ICU.

We learned a lot, Sue and I. That includes how much a couple can need each other without being needy with each other. When I was lying there unable to communicate, it became apparent to Sue that neither of us had a will, including a living will, and that I took care of paying some of the bills that she knew about but not where to find the information about them. Because we both had been married before and at first had certain obligations to those previous marriages, we still had separate checking accounts. That was one of the first things remedied. We also took steps to cut costs since I was on long-term disability – things we probably should have done long before, such as refinancing the mortgage.

Throughout this ordeal I also learned how powerful prayer is as well as the devotion of a wonderful and strong spouse. Sue is my rock. I learned how great my children and stepchildren are, how loving my grandchildren can be, that I have some terrific friends, and I was able to revive some good friendships that had become strained.

Well, I am back and looking forward to renewing The Peorian. We will have a focus on area business and include national wire stories that could have a local impact. Keep sending me your news tips.

I hope you keep reading and get others to do the same. 

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).