This I Believe

Tikvah - Ambridge, Pennsylvania
Entered on April 2, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: purpose

I believe I am alive today because my life has a purpose.

On February 5, 2007 I collapsed in a supermarket, as my weakened heart went into a cardiac arrest. The clerks are calling it a miracle that a paramedic happened to be in the store at the time. She started CPR almost immediately.

I believe I was saved from death once before in 2001.

A former reporter, I run a non-profit writing venture, an international journal. That was the year I received a letter at the post office box saying “Death to the Infidel,” and “We Have Anthrax,” which I opened in my car. I can’t say it contained any powder because I didn’t pull it out completely, but I stopped breathing anyway, opened the car door to let the air sweep through. I drove to my mother’s, threw it in the trash outside, washed my hands, then again. I usually opened my mail at lunch in the elementary school where I worked. But this was a Saturday.

The authorities later told me that I should have taken the letter to the police.

Soon my cat died. I was treated with antibiotics almost an entire month, with little improvement. Struggling for breath, coughing, drenching sweats, one night in what seemed like stark reality, but also something like a dream, I found myself on a train with a male companion. I was completely content, until a tall, dignified woman told me the next stop was mine. I had to get off.

I insisted that there was nothing there at that stop for me. “I will go wherever he (my companion) is going.” She was firm. I had to get off. There was something I had to do for the people there. I awoke from that “dream,” and checked myself into a hospital.

Something had attacked my heart. In critical care, diagnosed with congestive heart failure, my heart was pumping at critically low projectile capacity. Doctors said my illness was a “mystery.”

I don’t know why I didn’t think about the letter until hearing broadcasts of the World Trade Center and other journalists’ tales of threatening letters with similarities to mine.

I asked my doctor for a test to determine exposure to Anthrax. He ordered an Anthrax antibodies test. I took the order to the lab, where I was directed to the government’s CDC, and an official there said I had to inform the FBI. The test would have to be approved through that branch. Following a visit by the Terrorist Task Force in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I was assured they believe I got a letter, but are not convinced there was anthrax in the letter. Still, since I wasn’t authorized to take the test, the question remains unanswered.

I may never know for certain if it was Anthrax I survived. But I know for certain that I survived whatever it was and a cardiac arrest. I believe I survived because my life absolutely, positively does have a purpose.