My Body Becomes a Lyric Essay


The language of stroke. The language of my stroke. The doctors can’t pinpoint the exact cause, but they have a culprit under surveillance: a patent foramen ovale. When all of us are in the womb, there’s a natural opening between the left and right atria of the heart. This opening closes naturally when we’re born. But for about 25% of us, it doesn’t. I’ve had mine (if indeed I do have it; my cardiologist says the surface ultrasound sometimes picks up what it thinks is a hole in the heart, but it isn’t really, and he’ll have to do a different sort of test to know for sure about my suspected PFO), unknown to anyone, for 56 years. If indeed, this PFO is the guilty party, then it’s likely that’s how the blood clot traveled to my brain.

So what’s to be done about that pesky perhaps-hole? No one really knows whether it’s better to patch it or to instead manage the condition with medication. One clinical study has shown no difference in effectiveness. The results of a second clinical study are due in late October and will help dictate the direction of my treatment. It’s been a stark reality lesson in how the insurance companies control our health care. My cardiologist, one of the very best when it comes to PFOs, says he’d close every patient’s hole if it were up to him, but before the clinical studies show that the procedure is more effective than management with medication, he’d be called a quack.

I’m in a holding pattern, then (well, actually I’ll be wearing a small and portable heart monitor for 21 days to see if I have any atrial fibrillation before determining the next step).

It’s a time for going slow, for learning the language of blockages and holes and everything I can hear on the other side or passing through. Like a good lyric essay, something resonant rises up in the silence.

All I know for certain is how lucky I am to walk out of the hospital two days later with no impairments, how lucky I am to have so many people wishing me well. I love you all, love you with all of my heart, even with the possible hole, which your affection has already begun to fill.







  1. Cathie Kingsley on September 28, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Lee ~
    Thank you for your exquisite piece, which eloquently reveals your beautiful, unflawed and true heart.
    Wishing you all the best!
    Cathie Kingsley

    • Lee Martin on September 29, 2012 at 7:10 pm

      Thank you, Cathie.

  2. Susan Lerner on September 28, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Thinking of you, and hoping for a speedy recovery.

    • Lee Martin on September 29, 2012 at 7:10 pm

      Susan, thank you so much for your good wishes.

  3. Susan Cushman on September 28, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Wow, Lee. I also have a PFO. It was discovered about 5 years ago, when I had a heart workup prior to foot surgery… just something my surgeon requested because of my age. (I’m 61 now… was about 55 at the time.) The cardiologist didn’t recommend surgery to close it up. Just encouraged me not to sit still for too long on long flights or road trips, to keep moving my legs. And to take a baby aspirin every day. That’s it, really. Oh, and of course not to scuba dive. Scary this hidden time bomb, isn’t it? So thankful you aren’t experiencing long-term symptoms, Lee. And thanks for writing this so well, as usual. I just shared it with my husband. He’s a physician–specialized in hypertension and preventive medicine. Take care and keep healing!

    • Lee Martin on September 29, 2012 at 7:11 pm

      Susan, thanks so much for sharing your story with me. I may have to make you part of my medical team 🙂

  4. Mary L. Tabor on September 28, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    Lee, you write with the lyric insight of the poet you are as you reveal and as you give us this candid, deeply personal glimpse into mortality in all its frailty and in its strength. You give meaning to the phrase “living through story,” through your story that informs each of our stories.

    Your well-being means so much to so many whose lives you’ve touched. You have touched my life and I’m grateful for you. Thank you for telling those of us who do indeed love you about what you have been through. I hold you in my heart.

    • Lee Martin on September 29, 2012 at 7:13 pm

      Mary, thank you for your good words. I may need more of them as time goes on.

  5. Richard Gilbert on September 28, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Best luck and best wishes, Lee. A heart ailment, a rare one laid me low—pericarditis, an inflammation of the heart sack: Bob Dylan had it! painful as hell—laid me low some years ago. Everyone thought it was the Big One, since both parents had heart disease, my dad died of it, and a brother has had bypass. I don’t know what precipitated this discovery in your case, but it sounds like you are in good hands.

    • Lee Martin on September 29, 2012 at 7:14 pm

      Thank you for sharing your story with me, Richard. As bad of a rap as social media gets sometimes, it has certainly brought me a feeling of being less alone.

  6. Julie on September 28, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    So well written, Lee Martin. I was able to get PFO closure in 2010 after several mini-strokes. My health improved in so many ways and I felt better than ever post closure. You can find a lot of information and other pfo’ers on facebook/pforesearchfoundation. It’s an open group. Please join us!!

    Julie Lyon

  7. Christina LaRose on September 28, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Thank you for sharing this eloquent piece, Lee. My heart swells for you and I’m keeping you in my prayers.

    • Lee Martin on September 29, 2012 at 7:14 pm

      Thank you so much, Christina. I hope our doctoral studies are off to a wonderful start.

  8. Ellen Birkett Morris on September 28, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Beautifully said. You reflect the grace that is present in the hardest of times. My best to you!

    • Lee Martin on September 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      Thank you, Ellen. I appreciate your reading my blog and then taking time to post a comment. All best to you.

  9. Janice on September 28, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Thanks for this lovely and heartfelt piece. So glad you’re on to it now. I’ve been going through a health scare/mystery myself and can really relate. It’s really hard to live in the not-knowing, but you seem to be doing it with Buddha-like composure. And at least your body had the grace to give you a metaphor to work with. Wishing you strength and humor during this waiting period.

    • Lee Martin on September 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      Thank you, Janice. I wish you all the best, too.

  10. Ruth Ann on September 28, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Lee, wishing all the very best for you!!
    You are definitely in my prayers.
    God bless you.

  11. Peggy Shumaker on September 29, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Ah, Lee! So many of us have portholes in our hearts! I’m so sorry you’ve had a stroke, but want to reassure you that our bodies forgive and forgive. The brain will often rewire the damaged parts of itself. (I’m walking proof.) So heal well, my friend.

    • Lee Martin on September 29, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      Thank you so much, Peggy.

  12. kimba on September 29, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    You must be terrified, Lee…though your writing reflects projected calm. Still, I know the power of words and the power of writing words to evoke calm. No doubt you’re learning other and deeper languages as well as the medical ones you mentioned.

    Even though I am newer to you than you are to me, I will be with you as your closer friends are.

    Keep us posted…

    • Lee Martin on September 29, 2012 at 7:15 pm

      Kimba, you’re very kind. Thank you so much.

  13. Bradd Schmeichel on September 29, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    Lee, best wishes. I had the good fortune of taking an under-grade English class with you in Lincoln back in the early 90’s (I was a big Royals fan, we waxed nostalgic about Frank White). I still fondly recall your wise and knowing counsel. In your work I find there is a great clarity for what is, and what isn’t important in this life. As the husband of a cancer survivor, I can report there is much sweetness on the other side of these jarring events. Get well soon, and enjoy the enhanced perspective!

    • Lee Martin on September 29, 2012 at 7:08 pm

      Brad, thank you so much for remembering me and for your message of encouragement. I’m glad to hear that life is sweet for you again. Now if we could only say the same about the Royals. Take care–Lee

  14. Brent Fisk on September 30, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Lee, best wishes from all of us in Bowling Green. Holly and I have had enough heart and vascular trouble this summer from people we know and love. So knock it off. We’d very much like you to stick around long enough to get cranky and maybe a little unhinged. I’m thinking 106 sounds like a good age. So take care and we’ll keep you in our thoughts.


    • Lee Martin on October 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm

      Thank so much, Brent–to you and to Holly.

  15. Denise on October 2, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Omg, Lee, that piece brought tears to my eyes.

  16. Elizabeth on October 5, 2012 at 5:30 am

    It’s actually a great and helpful piece of information. I’m happy that you shared this useful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.
    Essay Writing Reviews

    • Lee Martin on October 5, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Thank you for taking the time to post a comment, Elizabeth. I worry that people will think I’m whining, so it’s good to hear a comment like yours.

  17. Emily on October 5, 2012 at 9:16 am

    This was such a thoughtful post. I’m thinking of you and wishing you a speedy recovery.

    • Lee Martin on October 5, 2012 at 10:40 am

      Thank you for your good thoughts, Emily.

  18. Dillon on October 5, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Hey Lee,

    I’m glad you’re on your feet and have found a wee bit of humor in this. A hole in the heart . . . sounds like a good song title or, even, a title for a book.

    Sending my best wishes, my friend.

    Talk soon,


    • Lee Martin on October 5, 2012 at 6:08 pm

      Thanks, Dillon.

  19. Ravinder on October 9, 2012 at 7:08 am

    this was thoughtful post ..thanks so much for this and ur true heart

  20. Essay Writing Services on October 22, 2012 at 6:16 am

    thanks for sharing your experience with us . i really appreciate your thoughts .what ever u have written with your feelings ,really heart touching and good to read .i will bookmark your post and will be looking forward to read more i hope you will give us a chance to read your posts more .thanks

  21. custom essay writing on January 11, 2013 at 12:23 am

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along.I’m impressed. You’re truly well informed and very intelligent.
    You wrote something that people could understand and made the subject intriguing for everyone. I’m saving this for future use.

  22. robertrogers on March 20, 2013 at 7:12 am

    I like this article and its very informative.You guys got good knowledge in writing and there should be good mental preparation for writing this types of work.For good mental relaxation yoga will be good idea.Many yoga centers are there in India.You can get nice yoga centers like yoga mangalore

  23. John Stump, DC, PhD, EdD on December 7, 2013 at 11:01 am

    This is very interesting to me. I had a stroke a few years ago from a pheochromocytoma and it left me impaired but not unable to write. I would like to be put on the email list and at some point maybe tell my story.

    • Lee Martin on December 7, 2013 at 5:43 pm

      John, it’s good to hear from you. I find that telling the story of my stroke gives me a way to come to terms with the fact that I had it. I remember being in the hospital barely able to imagine the words, “I had a stroke.” I knew I had to write about it, so I could feel that I was controlling it rather than letting it control me. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I wish you all the best.

  24. noman ali on June 3, 2021 at 9:20 am

    good onr likr it

Leave a Comment