Don’t forget the t-shirt

“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.


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