A Single Heartbeat

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The human heart takes about 0.8 of a second to beat. Rounding that to a second is a still almost imperceptible amount of time, yet so much can happen in that duration.

A Single Heartbeat

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In a single heartbeat’s time, a single second, 4.3 babies are born and 1.8 people die around the world. More than 3 million emails are sent. Almost 500,000 people like something on Facebook. The Earth moves 19 miles in its orbit around the Sun. A heart pumps more than a gallon and a half of blood and there are more than 8 billion heartbeats, globally.

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One heartbeat can encompass the entire span of human emotions. One heartbeat can change a life forever.

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The second half of my life (so far) has, by far, been filled with a myriad of such heartbeats. One-second spans that have defined me.

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In mid-December of 1993, my first date with Lynne, I stepped off the LIRR train at the end of my journey from New Jersey to meet her. We had only spoken on the phone and chatted online on The Sierra Network (also known as The Imagination Network). We had never seen each other and only had the descriptions we had made of ourselves. Our eyes met and as we drove away in her car I said, “I was right. You are beautiful.”

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Jumping forward to late-October 1995. On our wedding day, as I stood at the altar waiting for Lynne to walk down the aisle, my heartbeat quickly switched from nervous to gleeful as I saw my beautiful bride approach.

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Almost a decade later, our amazing son Mikey was ready to enter the world. That early April day of 2005 was filled with such a wide range of heartbeats. Anticipation, happiness, fear, helplessness, and finally joy, as a difficult, life-threatening delivery finally ended with both my loves safe and filling my heartbeat with love.

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Less than two years later, as we awaited the results of Mikey’s test to see if he had autism, we faced another life-changing heartbeat. The woman who had administered the test was about to read us the results. In a single second, that single heartbeat, came that single word…positive.

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Over the years since that day, there have been many impactful, life-defining heartbeats. Some good, some bad. The Earth moved its 19 miles through each one and we always relied on the idea that the next second would bring another heartbeat.

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On November 24, 2020, at around 3:00 a.m., my wife’s heartbeat pumped 1.660 gallons of blood as it always did, but this time that heartbeat resulted in a brain bleed due to an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which caused an artery to burst in her brain. She collapsed to the floor of the bathroom in our bedroom.

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Lynne managed to call out to me before she lost consciousness. I was sleeping in our bed, but when you have been together as long as we have, there are certain tones of voice from your partner that you react to immediately. Within a few heartbeats I was up and discovered her on the floor. A few more heartbeats and I quickly realized that I needed to call 9-1-1.

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Waiting for the EMTs to arrive was torture. My wife of 25 years lay on the floor, unresponsive. I was helpless and my heartbeats were filled with grief and the unknown as I didn’t know if I was watching our last moments together fade away.

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Arriving at the hospital, Lynne was hurried to the ER and, because of COVID restrictions, I was led to an empty room and told to wait. Wait. Alone. No other instructions. Each passing second another heartbeat filled with fear, sadness, and loneliness.

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After hours of waiting, infrequently interrupted by brief updates about Lynne’s condition, they took her into surgery and told me to go home for a few hours. The next pivotal heartbeat came as the phone rang and the surgeon said everything went well and Lynne was in recovery waiting to go to the ICU. Deep breath. Body-shaking heartbeat.

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The almost four months that have followed have included many heartbeat-pausing phone calls at early hours of the day. Calls about Lynne from doctors and nurses, the hospital and rehab facility. Many sleepless nights have been accompanied by anxiety and flashbacks to that November night and that single heartbeat.

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It has been almost 10 million seconds, 10 million heartbeats since my Lynne has been home with me. It takes about 3 to 5 seconds to say, “I love you.” So that’s more than 3 million times I could have said it to her face and followed it up with a kiss.

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In its unwavering orbit, the Earth has moved about 186 million miles from where it was on November 24th, but my love and devotion to Lynne has not budged. I know that each single heartbeat brings me closer to the moment when she will once again be home with me.

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