They met almost 3 years ago, and it was only 2 years ago that they really started to know each other. She needed something from him. He was the only one who could really tell her what it was like. He could talk to her about the pain, the experience, and the recovery. No one else in her life could explain it to her like him. It was odd - she was only in her early 30s, and he was in his late 60s, but they had this one thing in common that would turn into a bond very strong. It turned into a strong bond of friendship. She was terrified. She was facing her own mortality at 33, and seeking advice from someone who had not planned to have the surgery. she on the other hand had spent months planning. Too many months, and these months were excruciating. They drained her, and no one could give her answers that put her mind, body, or soul to ease. There was that first meeting between the two of them when she timidly asked for 15 minutes of his time - his precious time, for he is a man of greatness, and his time is great as well. People from Heads of State and CEOs have asked for less time, and probably not even been granted it.
She walked into his office: the mahogany desk, an American Flag, awards that lined shelf upon shelf. Greatness was everywhere. So where did she fit in? She just needed to know. She needed to know what it was like. What happened when they stopped your heart? How did it feel after? What does it feel like when you wake up? How bad is the pain? No one else provided her with these answers, but he did. Perhaps she found out more than she really wanted to know, and the information send her head spinning and her legs running back to her office so that she could furiously type an email to her doctor with even more questions about the heart surgery. But at least she knew. She knew that she might gain up to 15 pounds of fluid after the open heart surgery. No doctor or nurse had told her this, and she only had 2 weeks to go before the operation. She now knew that she might receive shots of insulin after the surgery - again, no medical practitioner mentioned this to her either. She listened as he told her about the pain each time he took a breath or tried to cough, and the fear doctors and nurses had about pneumonia in heart patients following surgery. Why didn't doctors tell her this before? Did they not think that she could handle it?
In the beginning, it was a few words of encouragement back and forth to each other. Then, it turned into something more. Their exchanges of words and thoughts became deeper, and they spoke about everything from world events, to cooking with the greats like James Beard. They talked about the financial state of the economy and long days in the South of France, all the while knowing that what bound them together was their hearts... the fact that both of them underwent such tragedy and were able to sit face to face and even joke about it with each other. Their jokes did not make everyone laugh. In fact, at times those around them became uncomfortable as the two friends spoke of blood, beating hearts, scalpels, and heart-lung bypass machines. But the friends knew it was their way of coping.
They always took time to ask how each other was doing. She asked him recently how his heart was. "Oh, not so well." She became concerned. Did he need to go through more tests? "What is wrong?" she asked him. "It is still beating," he responded, and then he smiled, and she smiled back knowingly. One of those jokes that only someone who had been through what they had been through would understand.