Aortic Aneurysm

A few years back my father suffered a serious heart incident we all affectionately call “The Disaster.” He was in the process of helping my youngest sister move when he was struck down by what turned out to be an aortic aneurysm. We all had to learn a bit of medical terminology to learn that his particular kind of aneurysm was a separation of the inner wall of the aorta from the outer wall. Blood rushes into the space between the layers and forces the outer layer into a dangerous and life-threatening bulge. Were the bulge to erupt, as it eventually did, the bearer of the aneurysm is generally dead within a matter of minutes. As mercy would have it, when Dad’s aneurysm erupted he was in the hospital under the care of the city’s best thoracic surgeon. After an emergency rupture repair and a week in intensive care, he recovered to tell the story. To heighten the sense of our brush with death, a few short months later actor John Ritter, of Three’s Company fame, died of exactly the same thing. While Dad was in the right place at the right time, Mr. Ritter wasn’t, or perhaps both of them were under the same guiding hand of providence and neither was in the wrong place?

Tonight here at camp, we’ve suffered a similar injury, though of a less serious kind. One of the original pieces of our camp equipment is now lying lifeless in the dirt, a victim of its own kind of aneurysm. At our last camp our water supply hose sprung a leak. It wasn’t a big leak, but it was enough to render our twenty foot friend helpless. Because we were relatively close to the source, we simply switched to our shorter back-up hose, a slightly less useful 10 foot hose.

Tonight we are up in the mountains again, many miles from Wal-Mart or any other like variety store. It’s always out here that you have the problems. We’d intended to stop on the way for a hose repair kit, but in an effort to “make time” we decided we’d either use the short hose again, or touch up the long one with a bit of duct tape, an essential item in any camper’s tool bag. We ended up parking just a little farther than 10 feet from the source, so we pulled out Old Faithful. I patched it up first and turned on the water before we unhitched as I wanted to be sure the duct tape would hold; it did. A few minutes later we were unhitched and well into our set-up routine when Isaac noticed something unusual about the hose. It wasn’t leaking, but it had developed what you might call an aneurysm of the kind my Dad suffered. It seems there are two layers to this particular brand of hose; an outer clear layer, and an inner core of fiber reinforced rubber. It’s a good hose, but the outer layer had separated from the inner and now it was bulging in every direction like a snake who’d swallowed a goat. In front of my repair and behind it the hose was one huge blister just waiting to blow. We thought it could blow at any moment, but it didn’t. All the kids had a look at it before we decided it wasn’t safe to use. “Who knows, the thing could blow up in the middle of the night!” I said to them with a sense of foreboding. They all agreed it should be disconnected.

So, realizing the short hose was too short, we had to hitch up again and drag the camper forward the requite four feet in an effort to close the gap. As we did so I expected that the long hose would deflate; it didn’t. It still looked like a big blister, like a snake digesting its meal. In fact, it’s so big that the outer layer, in its turgid state, has collapsed the inner layer like a punctured lung. It’s completely dysfunctional and its future is dubious at best. Right now, hours later, the blister has yet pop. The boys have offered, pocket knives in hand, to relieve it, to put it out of its obvious misery, but I have deferred them in hopes it can be revived for another day.

As I gaze at our pathetic hose lying dejected in the dirt I am forced to put my problems in perspective. Aortic aneurysms are serious business, but hose aneurysms aren’t, even if it means you have to hitch up and move the trailer four feet forward. Aortic aneurysms are serious business and no one should have to go through the ordeal of seeing a family member suffer or die with one, but they are mercifully rare events. I’m not sure if they are more rare than the hose variety we’ve suffered, but I am thankful to have known only one aneurysm sufferer in my life. Remembering such things we can smile, if we try, at the little problems that encroach upon our little islands of civility and tranquility.

Thank you Lord, for the little problems that make us smile when the big ones threaten to bring us down.


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