By Raymond Linex II
Corsicana Daily Sun
Learning experiences. They come in all shapes, all sizes, all forms of crazy and hairy and scary.
Two weeks ago, life as my family knows it changed. For the better, I believe.
My wife Tanya, 40, perhaps the healthiest person in our family of five, suffered a heart attack. It’s a story many have already heard, and likely will again publicly soon. A rare condition called “Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection” (SCAD) led to it. It happens so rarely, as a matter of fact, it’s really a newsworthy subject.
Twelve hours after her late-night heart attack, she underwent open-heart, double bypass surgery at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. Her surgeon and cardiologist had heard of SCAD before, but neither had ever seen a case. The surgery saved her life.
Again, her condition and health and the drama and trauma surrounding our family the hours and days following her surgery are material for another day.
Back to learning experiences, life lessons.
I want to think the people that make up our family of five are essentially good people. We’re big-hearted, obey the law and try not to cause trouble. By no means are we perfect, and like anyone else we have room to grow.
My sister (also named Tania) told me early on in my wife’s stay I’d know more about hospitals and medical care than I perhaps wanted to before Tanya’s release. She was right.
No one told me how much I would learn about life, love and, primarily, friendship.
I don’t need to fill you with sappy stories about how much I love my wife of 21 years. Anyone that really knows me knows that to be very true. I felt very blessed that I was at home the night of the heart attack, and every day I counted those blessings until I took her home seven days later.
But blessings came from all directions during the most surreal week of both of our lives.
It started with the Farmers, who live two doors down. Shane, a Dallas medic, and Gwenna, his wife, were there for us when I didn’t know if Tanya — a first grade teacher at Mildred — was going to make it. I had just seen Shane at the Mildred bonfire, in his paramedic uniform, and called him after dispatch had my address confirmed. He’ll tell you he didn’t do much, but we know that to be different. He had a big hand in getting Tanya’s hard-head headed toward the ambulance, and getting us to Baylor after PHi arrived. I always knew if something happened, he’d be one of the first I’d call in a situation like that. Gwenna pitched in, brought some of his gear and gave me, I think, every dollar she had as I boarded the air ambulance in nothing more than the clothes I had on and $3 cash in my wallet. Both were willing to do anything for our three boys.
A day later, after hearing of the diagnosis, Shane would tell me we were lucky. We had no idea just how much.
Out of surgery, Tanya’s heart was already stronger. And a community came forth like we’d never seen.
Friends offered help for our children, who at 16, 18 and 20 are capable of fending for themselves, for a few days. The texts and calls and Facebook requests and questions became almost too much to keep up with. The amount of people relating their concern, sharing their well-wishes and offering to pray for our family was overwhelming.
We truly felt loved, at a time when we truly needed every ounce of it.
There were visits to the hospital, gift cards and gas cards, survival bags for my stay in the hospital from my sister and sister-in-law Amy, Mildred’s student council delivered two boxes of snacks and a gas card to our kids, Tanya’s closest friends gave her a “heart chest” full of things she’d need to get through the week, including shampoo in an aerosol can. People offered to do housework, let me visit their house for a shower, bring me lunch. The newspaper family floored me with its help.
The only time I wavered on Tanya’s care was when the cardiologist told me at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning we were looking at open-heart surgery. Stunned, I asked if we should seek a second opinion. He replied, “I’m not sure who would be better than us to give you one.” I snapped to my senses and said, “You’re right, let’s go.” I never again worried about her care. I knew she was in good hands.
In order to keep up with all of her friends, my friends and our family, I took to Facebook for updates, usually about three per day in the early days. Her care never caused me to get emotional, but to see what people had to say about her did.
I’m not the only one that loves her.
But it’s more than that. She may never win a popularity contest, unless it’s for goofiest teacher. This was about family, community, a school district, a social media-driven family pulling together, and pulling for someone to make it through a trying time.
Early on, we decided not to say no to anything, thanks in large part to Deanna Kirk’s column on blessings a few weeks earlier. After we returned home, friends and family made dinners for us, told us if we needed dinner to call, and said for anything else we needed, they were there. Quite simply, we were blown away by everyone’s generosity, their concern, their love.
Regardless of where I called or went, someone — or more than a few, asked about Tanya. “We’re praying for you,” they’d say.
An outpouring of love. From you, our friends, our family, peers, acquaintances and even strangers. That was the big lesson we learned from all of this. We learned how to be better people, friends who are there in times of need, God-fearing neighbors and community members.
Learning experiences. We’re glad we had them together.
Raymond Linex II is publisher of the Corsicana Daily Sun. His column appears on Thursdays. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “Soundoff” on his column? Email: email@example.com