Now this is a strange one.
I had no intention of writing anything on the subject of Role Models, it hadn’t even crossed my mind. Until Wednesday.
Tuesday the news broke that Robin Williams, American Actor, Comedian and Improviser had died. The internet was awash with headlines and quotes, Nanu Nanu – Mork calling Orsin, and so on.
Yes it was shocking that a man who had seemed to battle so many demons and won should take his own life, but for me, although I remember Robin Williams as Mork from Ork in Happy Days before the Mork and Mindy Days, it was his open and frank interview with Jonathan Ross a few years ago that made me sit up and really pay attention to the man whom I’d often thought of as just a talented Actor, Comedian and Improviser.
You see I watched this interview as I was going through a bit of a health scare of my own and I was struggling to find the words to explain how I was feeling, and here Robin Williams was describing exactly how I was feeling, what he had been through and how it made him feel and yes, he made it all so very hysterically funny, but he was using words I could connect with, he was, watching him on the TV screen, someone who had been through it and come out the other side.
And through these last few days I was wondering why the news of his death had touched me more than I thought it should have, and I guess it’s because I looked up to him as a role model.
Yes that’s right I said Role Model. You see, even though I have been in denial a lot about ever having a heart condition especially since my last OHS where I believed I was sorted and that day where I would need more surgery would just never come, I have actually never had a positive role model who has had a CHD. Though Robin Williams’ aortic valve replacement was not due as far as I can tell to a CHD, it’s the same valve that I will need replaced.
I also have a soft spot for Arnold Schwarzenegger, his is a CHD, born with a defected aortic valve he was lucky in that he was financially able to get his replacement valve made from his own transplanted tissue! If I had the chance to do that I would do it in a…ahem… heartbeat… His reasoning – he would not be able to participate in his rigorous exercise regime if he had the mechanical valve surgically grafted to him, (and just knowing that has handed me a rather large bag of questions that I’ll explore another day).
The definition of a role model:
A person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people.
So yes, I can say that these two people have been role models to me, they have lived through something I’ve yet to do, it has informed their work (Williams – did a whole stand up tour based on his OHS experiences) and they have embraced it has part of themselves – something if I am honest I still feel a bit odd about doing, and they have talked openly about their experiences.
Looking closer to home I guess my own mum should she have been my earliest and most consistent role model. Herself having a CHD, was lucky enough to be one of the first children in Norfolk to have OHS in the 1950’s and lucky enough to have such a good surgeon that her particular defect was 99% corrected. So I guess she never felt the issue of having a CHD weigh her down much (this is a massive presumption on my part), never had check ups after she was discharged, and went on to lead a very active and sporty life. To me she was superwoman, and I often struggled with the understanding that my own personal defect was very different and much more complicated than hers, thus resulting in 3 ops and never fully being discharged from check-ups and tests, and never allowed to be sporty, and I guess I resented that fact and hence went into some sort of freakish denial in my late teens/early twenties where everything was fine….
I guess I am understanding more and more now I am at that point in my life where I am mixing with families and friends who have children, how important it is to have positive role models, to see that it’s ok to have defects and imperfections and still be successful, contributing and important part of our own little worlds.
So going back to Mr. Williams, he spoke on that chat show making his experiences funny, but I could see underneath the terror that he must have been feeling at the time, they way he kept saying ‘I came back’ something I’m finding out that a lot of people who have had a major surgery and specially those that have had several surgeries often say ‘I came back’ it was like an unspoken bond between us, he understood where we had gone and how we had come back. He also said something else – before his valve was diagnosed as very badly damaged, he kept saying that he was feeling like a ‘clockwork toy winding down’ It was exactly how I was feeling at the time of watching him in this interview, somebody had taken my key out and I was winding down, slower and slower and no energy to get things done. Luckily for me my diagnosis was something completely different from being heart related and it was sorted, but the symptoms never the less, were very similar.
And as I write and remembering the newspaper headlines I have read today, I am struck by something else. It makes me sad, but I understand.
Rest in Peace Robin Williams, guy that just happened to have a heart defect….