01/29/2013 06:14 pm ET Updated Mar 31, 2013

You Just Never Know

On a rainy Sunday evening I returned from St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark, having visited my brother, who had a heart attack the night before. The good news -- he had it where he worked, at St. Mike's ER. The not-so-good news -- he had it in an area where it was not observed. So his body was discovered, but there was no idea of how long he was dead. He was brought back, had a cath that discovered a 100 percent blocked vessel in his heart and a stent was inserted. So, while he was breathing with the aid of a ventilator, there was no idea of the damage to his brain and we would not know for a few days.

On the family side, he is one year out of a divorce that he initiated. His ex-wife, a former cardiac care nurse, resents his (30-year-old) children being burdened with decisions about his care. His children feel the need to protect their mom while trying to make the "best" decisions possible for their dad. My brother had taken some steps to move on with his life, one of which included a girlfriend. On top of it all, my brother suffered from depression for years and not until this past year did he ever agree to take medication to help with the issue. Until that time, my brother was not the easiest person to get along with.

The upshot -- which of course I'll make positive, since that's how I view life -- is this:

  • My brother and I had done the work in this past year to mend our relationship that had become estranged after our parents died.
  • I took care of myself this weekend, and in doing so, was better able to be of service to all of his family while informing my siblings and involving people that I thought could help through prayer and technical expertise.
  • My brother was in excellent shape up until his heart attack. A marathon runner, a cyclist, a gardener, a hiker, living for the first time in years with a real zest for life and planning for the future of his dreams.
  • While my niece and nephew are not in touch with us, I have maintained a relationship with their mom and we truly love and regard each other. This relationship allowed them to be open to my involvement and offer of support.
  • I had the opportunity to meet my brother's girlfriend earlier this year and was able to support her and her interest in visiting my brother at the hospital.

I encourage you to find the lessons in his story, whatever they might be...

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