Brent E. Zepke
My wife’s expression as she handed me an envelope with the return address of “Jane Duffy” was captured by the saying that “Words are seldom needed to express one’s impression” (Tamura).
It is doubtful that her asking “Who is Jane Duffy?” would surprise many wives. Nor would my response “I have no idea” surprise many husbands. Indeed, each year this response becomes more common. Her name did sound vaguely familiar, which in retirement meant between 10 and 40 years ago. The handwritten envelope did reduce its chances of being another solicitation for funds.
The greeting “Dear Brent” did not add a useful clue since my name was also on the envelope. Nor did the words of “It’s me.”
Don’t you love that greeting when somebody whose voice you do not recognize begins their call with “Hi, it’s me”? The next words of “Jane Duffy,” followed by “Denis’s sister from across the street,” sparked my memories of Cold Springs Avenue around 70 years ago.”
The wisdom of continuing after my first impression is captured by “Think twice, the impression is not always the intention” (Ezekiel).
“Impressions,” defined as “an effect, feeling or image retained as a consequence of experiences,” can be powerful.
This letter transported me back to my youth playing in a sandbox across the street from my house at 607 Cold Springs Ave., Oaklyn, N.J.
Denis Duffy and I staged battles with toy soldiers in sand forts. The image was so clear after all these years. Perhaps those years contributed to my having a 4 x4 Civil War “battlefield” of 54mm hand-painted lead soldiers that I now refer to as “miniatures” next to my desk.
When I was in fifth grade we moved and never saw or heard from them until now. Jane wrote “I sometimes Google our old house to see any changes” and think about our old neighborhood. I Googled you and was surprised to find ‘author’ after one of your descriptions.
“I went right to Amazon and bought a copy of your book ‘One Heart — Two Lives.’ I must confess that I was most interested in reading chapter 2 about your early life, but soon became totally absorbed in your story since I too have had some similar issues. I had congestive heart failure and had three coronary stents.”
My thoughts immediately jumped to Jan. 10, 2007, as related in chapter 1 of my book.
On Jan. 10, 2007, at 9:36 a.m., having just finished a stress test, I was sitting on the edge of a table with my legs swinging in front of me telling my cardiologist “I am headed to the YMCA for my daily workout …” when my world disappeared. There were no flashes of light — no warning cries, no discomfort, no fears, no anticipations, no white lights, no “why me?,” no flashing of people from my past, no pulse, no vital functions, no anything, no life.
After over six decades, my heart stopped beating!
Time was the enemy of any hope of my defying the odds that 97 of every 100 people, whose heart stops, die. The risk of brain damage from no oxygen for three to five minutes is extremely high. After five minutes, there would be a greater risk of not being recalled to life.
In seven minutes, it was almost a certainty that no one would survive. I shudder to think of the potential consequences if I had flat lined anywhere besides a medical clinic, where they, with the help of a greater force, helped my heart support a second life.
Talk about impressions. On that Jan. 10, I began my second life on a gurney headed to the only trauma center within a hundred miles in any direction.
Two days later, I had surgery to repair my right carotid and two days after that open heart surgery. If this were not enough, I had lung surgery the last week of April.
The long days challenged my physical strengths: the nights my emotional one.
Jane’s letter continued, “After the first heart rehabilitation class, I developed symptoms, which led to a carotid endarterectomy.”
After my rehabilitation, I did not want the pain of reliving those impressions to write a book. However, when my approach to rehabilitation enabled me to return to a normal life after what my cardiologist said was “about as bad as it gets,” I felt that maybe my approach and experiences could provide an example and inspiration for others rehabilitating from not only heart or other medical issues, and their support team, but also those trying to regain control of their lives after disruptions, such as COVID.”
Jane stated, “I have given a copy of ‘One Heart — Two Lives’ to my lawyer, my own heart doctor and a couple of friends.
“Denis died last year from cancer,” she continued. “He had some very good friends who helped care for him. They all lived near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I have just sent them a copy of your book with a note telling them that it was written by Denis’s very first friend. I think they will like that.” WOW!
Jane went on to say, “I will take better care of myself using some of your tools.”
Another WOW as about half of my book is devoted to creating my rehabilitation program culminating in the chapter “Goals for Today and Tomorrow.”
It had worked for me, as it did in multiple studies, and has continued to work since 2007.
Jane’s letter was a reminder of the quote, “Funny how someone can come into your life for such a brief time but leave such a lasting impression” (Monica Murphy).
Each day, each of us should remember “Every day in every way we are leaving our mark” (Rachael Birmingham).
What would you like yours to be?
Brent Zepke is an attorney, arbitrator and author who lives in Santa Barbara. He has been a faculty member at six universities and numerous professional conferences. He is the author of six books: “One Heart-Two Lives,” “Legal Guide to Human Resources,” “Business Statistics,” “Labor Law,” “Products and the Consumer” and “Law for Non-Lawyers.”