On last year’s July 4th weekend, I found myself having difficulty breathing. Although I have a CPAP machine that provides pressurized air for me to breath it was not enough. I had been wheezing for several weeks prior to this moment but I just attributed that to a growing cold, but that never materialized. Instead on July 4th, Saturday morning, I could barely get out of bed, and in doing so found myself out of breath. I attempted to walk from my bedroom to the living room where I planned to “recover” in my easy chair, but I found it almost impossible to walk that short distance. I finally did reach the chair after stopping to gasp for breath twice. Once I was in the chair, I called a friend to see if he would take me to the hospital to be tested for COVID.
We arrived at the hospital and they began their evaluation of me. My chest was congested with fluid and my blood pressure was extremely high. They did test for COVID, but I did not have the disease. They admitted me to the hospital and very quickly began to administer Lasix to me through an IV. For those who do not know what that is, it is a strong diuretic used to remove fluid from the body. In two days I lost thirty-six pounds of fluid from my body and I began to finally breathe with less difficulty. The doctors told me that I was suffering from heart failure and kidney failure. The heart failure was being dealt with by the diuretics and the kidney failure needed to be carefully managed so that they did not quit altogether. There is a measurement for kidney function that is normally above 60, mine was at 4. All of this was an accumulation of alcohol use and lack of exercise.
I left the hospital several days after arriving (I cannot remember exactly when) and came back to the rectory. Nothing in my pattern of living had really changed aside from the fact that I was now being medicated with diuretics and seeing several medical people every week. Although I was trying to keep up with parish life and my medical appointments, I was not getting any place and in fact I was continuing to fail physically.
It was at this point that Fr. Tix (Vicar for Clergy) and bishop Cozzens came to the rectory to visit me. It was a short meeting in which they suggested that it was time for me to take a sabbatical for my health based on the recommendation of our parish trustees. I was only resistant because I had several medical appointments that I was trying to keep. After sleeping on the invitation overnight I realized that it was the best opportunity that I could have. I called Fr. Tix and told him that I was ready and willing to begin the sabbatical. I drove out to Downington, PA because that was the best way to get my luggage to the facility. I arrived on October 4 and that is when I began my journey to health.