Lou’s Forgiveness Story
I went to the Police Academy four months after my open-heart surgery, which I was lucky to survive.
I was hired as a Police Recruit, mere months after my lifesaving open-heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota (I was born with the same condition as Jimmy Kimmel’s son, Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia on 06, 10, 1994). I have had five open heart surgeries throughout my life. I passed the Minneapolis mandated medical evaluation after conferring with their appointed pre-employment Doctor’s at great length. I wanted to be an “open book” with my command staff and willingly involved my world-renowned Mayo Clinic Cardiologist, in early discussions and phone calls. Despite my disability, I was qualified. I had a Bachelor’s degree, prior experience as a Reserve Officer.
Unfortunately, as Police Academy progressed some of my Police Instructors didn’t understand why I was showing signs of extreme fatigue. I thought it was elementary that recent open-heart surgery produces fatigue. Apparently, what I deemed to be an elementary assumption was wrong. One of my instructors called me “odd” after I tried to discuss my disability with him and after I explained that I had almost died from my recent health complications. He also told me that he didn’t like the way I was sitting during this conversation. After I talked to him again about my disability, he said I was “insubordinate”. I said “I was just trying to open up to you” and left it at that.
I was confused why some of my instructors were initially so harsh to me. I was often treated harsher than my completely healthy classmates. I found later in my personnel file that an Instructor thought that both my Doctor and myself were willfully withholding my medical information. Somehow, he envisioned that my Mayo Clinic Cardiologist was purposefully being deceitful, despite numerous healthcare laws and my rapidly changing medical health. More troubling was that he also stated in writing that for the first nine weeks of Police Academy he and some of his staff thought I was “indolent”. For nine weeks I was treated as someone who has an “attitude problem” would be in a militaristic setting. Grown men with badges, twice my age, assumed the worst in me and showed their worst to me. For nine weeks I was “guilty” of having a disability. For nine weeks I was punished for being sick.
After they realized their nine-week long misjudgment, I was sidelined from most activities. I nonetheless cheered my classmates on as they progressed. Not surprisingly, I was discharged a few weeks later for my health and bid my classmates a tearful farewell. I even caught some of my Instructors crying when they heard that I was leaving (the majority were extremely kind).
It doesn’t bother me that it didn’t work out due to my health, I am incredibly grateful that I am no longer there. I believe I was their first (or at least one of their first) openly disabled recruits at this Police Academy and it certainty showed. I hope that in the future there might be another young and openly disabled Police Recruit in their Academy (it’s a voice that is too often silenced or marginalized).
I believe that we need not fear our differences, but only the voice that says our differences are to be feared. We must strive to make our hearts large enough to listen without fear and accept without prejudice. A robust and healthy heart, filled with love, compassion, light and intelligence will not be scared of anything different. Therefore, every heartbeat must be towards expansion, every pulse towards compassion, otherwise we fall woefully short of what the human heart is capable of. Once we escape the illusionary walls of fear that separate our hearts from others, a torrent of love will follow.
Forgiveness has freed my heart and allowed me to move on from this ordeal (it has healed my heart). I realize that it was really a blessing in disguise that I am no longer there. Someone with my education and background would have not been happy in such an unsupportive environment. Through forgiveness I have seen that what I once thought was a curse to be an incredible blessing. I am no longer scared of “missteps” and I have found forgiveness for myself and others to be liberating.