Monthly Archives: September 2014

We’re getting there. T-4 days and counting until the surgery. Am I nervous? Not really. I’m anxious to get it done since getting it done means starting to get better. Once the decision is made to do the deed, just do it.

Shujie and I went to the pre-op meeting last Monday and were at the hospital for 6 hours. They tell you stuff which is okay but they do blood work, swaps for infections, an ECG, an X-ray and so on. I don’t get it. The surgery was in 9 days. I could be fine on that day and on death’s doorstep on surgery day. I think it’s another cost-cutting measure and while I’m all in favour of saving costs, let’s get real. If it isn’t the best thing you can do, don’t do it. Just tell the patient we have no money so we’re not going to check you the day before (when they should) and let the chips fall where they may. The way they do it now they spend money, but there is too wide a gap between test and surgery.

Elana (eldest daughter) is flying in from London the day before the surgery and is staying for 6 days. I’m quite surprised and touched by this. Shujie always tells me to not give up on my kids and I don’t “give up” anymore. Whatever happens, happens. And if it happens good, like this, then I’m beyond thrilled.

We departed my mother’s and her live-in’s (boyfriend) apartment. I can’t say boyfriend when a guy is 83, but my mom is happy and they get along and communicate with each other. My mom is happy so I’m happy. It seems that Lionel (the beau) has a reputation of sorts and my mother told me all her friends were shocked that he let us stay there that long without complaining. Naturally I’m sure we all got on each other’s nerves a bit but that’s natural. After all, this was supposed to be a 3-hour cruise but we got shipwrecked.

We rented a furnished basement apartment (we need to live on the cheap as we hope to return to countries unknown next August) that is 5 minutes away from my mom’s. She’s happy about that. The basement apartment is on the ground floor so there is a glass door leading outside which is nice. Sunlight. We should be able to survive it.

We went grocery shopping for ourselves for the 1st time in 4 years. I almost had a heart attack when it came time to pay the bill. $182!!!!! That was for food. The last time we shopped it was about $100 for us. I know prices have gone up but they’ve gone crazy. Who wants to live in such a place with high prices, high rents, loads of traffic and so on. I’d rather be in Kurdistan working but I’m not normal anyways.

We are going to our 2nd movie since returning to Toronto this afternoon. We’ll see “A Walk Among the Tombstones” because I’m a HUGE Matt Scudder fan (fictional detective) and have read all the books about him twice. It can’t be any worse than the “Planet of the Apes” film we saw earlier this summer based on the recommendation of my ex-nephew Jared (yes, it was so bad I had to sever our family relationship).

I’m falling asleep a lot during the day and while I feel better than I did when I had congestive heart failure, I still have trouble breathing. I have really high hopes that this will give me a few years of peace before my next surgery and for me, there is always a next surgery.

I’ve asked Shujie to bring the camera and I hope they let her take pictures of me in the ICU. I’ll be unconscious so I’d love to see what I’ve missed. I’ll be in the ICU for 6 to 24 hours and then I’m in a 3 or 4 bed room. They are working on a new heart wing at this hospital but I’m a year early. This is an old hospital (with top doctors) so I guess good doctors are more important.

Life is pretty boring at the moment and it will be for the next couple of months. Of course, if I’m tired all the time, I don’t notice the boredom so much. We got a car last Saturday (Ford Focus) on an 11-month lease takeover, which is great since that means it’s up in August, 2015. Only Shujie got insurance since I won’t be able to drive until the end of November or so. Why pay for me when I won’t use it? She has to drive me places but I’ve been reasonably calm. I’m not the best passenger.

Maybe I’ll post a brief update from the hospital and maybe I won’t. I’ll see how I feel. I will post (I hope) at the end of next week. If I don’t post again, well, that means what it means. However, I am looking forward to this and being able to breath “normally” again.

See y’all on the other side.



“Been there, done that, have the t-shirt”. But what if you never got the t-shirt? What are the possible consequences of overlooking such an obvious thing? How will it affect the rest of your life? Can it lead to a life-threatening situation?

These are things that you probably never thought of. I know I never did and now look at me. Instead of being in Kurdistan kicking ISIS butt, I’m stuck in Toronto awaiting a 2nd open-heart surgery.

I had open-heart surgery on June 1, 2001 in Tyler, Texas. I had a quadruple bypass operation and an aortic valve replacement. Everything went well and I’ve lived my life with my other occasional illnesses (okay, more than occasional) and my scar has healed so well (you can see it in the header).

However, and this is important, even though I’ve been in the hospital for open-heart surgery, and I’ve had open-heart surgery, I never got a t-shirt stating that. Now look where that’s led. I go under the knife for open-heart surgery (version 2) on October 1st.

No overseas teaching this year. I can’t work (even though I’m barely employable) until January, I have no place to live (start looking this week), my blog has to change (as noted in the new title), and I miss a year of globetrotting, which I love. However, health comes first (or so I’m told).

We were heading to Kurdistan the last week of August but the week before I was told to have my mitral valve replaced. I’d just got over a bout of congestive heart failure so my “clean bill of health” was chucked out the window. It was do the mitral valve now or do it later. However, it’s better to do it now while I’m still young and healthy (ha, ha). It makes sense to do it now, but I really would rather be in Philadelphia (or anywhere).

I had an angiogram today and everything looked good so they are sure it’s the mitral valve because that’s the only thing they didn’t look at. It seems that if you have an artificial aortic valve, you don’t go near it in an angiogram to look at the mitral valve as you could easily kill the patient.

The average odds of having a patient die on the table during a 2nd open-heart surgery are 5-10%. I’m happy with 5% because I haven’t been able to breath properly in 2 years. The 1st surgeon I saw said he only loses about 4.6% of his patients during an operation (which is good) and he’s a valve expert. He will work with a 2nd surgeon who only has a 2.3% kill rate. So I’ve got a valve guy and I’ve got a “don’t kill many people” guy which I think is good.

Seriously, my life sucks. I can barely walk up a small hill or climb 2 flights of stairs. I can be sitting on the couch and be out of breath. I wouldn’t mind be able to go out for a walk on a nice evening. However, these things are too strenuous for me. Hopefully the surgery will fix all that and I can go back to not doing things because I’m lazy instead of not doing things because it’s too hard.

I know, and I believe I’ve said this many times, that there are many more people worse off than me. I’ve always looked at myself as a lucky guy (the glass is half full). I mean I’ve had cancer, I’ve had a carotid endarectamy, I’ve had a quad-bypass, I have a mechanical aortic valve, I’ve had renal failure, I’ve had a heart attack, I’ve had a stroke, and probably other things that I’ve forgotten. The bottom line is I always get better. I look good and as we all know it’s more important to look good than to feel good. I recover. I’m lucky. The “woe is me” people annoy me. Yes, there are people worse off and who care who’s worse off because I feel crappy. But you’re alive to fight another day. I’m sure one day my luck will run out but until it does, I’ll enjoy this incredible string of good luck and try and enjoy my life. Philosophical SOB, aren’t I?

So for my blog, I’ll document (hopefully) this new misadventure. It’s not what I want to be doing but so what? I’ll recover, go back to having fun around the world, and get sick again another day. And if I do, then I’ll get better again.

So if you’re around St. Michaels Hospital the week of October 1st, please stop by and say hello. Hopefully I’ll be in a morphine haze (my favorite part of a hospital stay) but maybe I’ll remember you and be thankful that you thought of me.