It was five years ago today that I received my “zipper.” Being at the hospital before the sun came up, getting shaved from neck to (literally) toe, seeing my family, having my (then) fiance – The BCPF – standing holding my hand and trying to keep a happy face, having my parents pray over me as I get wheeled through some ominous doors, being moved onto a mostly comfortable operating table and telling stupid jokes to the operating staff before I just blacked out counting back from 100. That’s how I remember it.
I groggily stirred with a breathing tube snaked through my gullet whilst hearing a nurse, whose name I believe was Sandy, talk to me and me nodding that I understood whatever it was she was saying to me. The BCPF came in to see me, touching me, stroking my hair (I still had a little bit). I’m not sure of the timeline, I was still very doped up on morphine at the time. Maybe some time passed, maybe it didn’t, but Ma Mère came into the recovery room and in a moment we will all talk about until we’re no longer here, she patted me on the left shoulder and said, “see, you really do have a heart.” At this point I pointed to “Sandy” and made a motion to bring me a writing utensil and something to write upon. In my continued, and glorious haze, I scribbled to my mother the following:
Leave the comedy to me!
I remember everyone laughing. My job was done, I went through another phase of “blacked out.” They had collapsed my lungs in order to get to my arteries and heart and whatever else they were doing with me and, as a lifelong asthmatic, my lungs and me have a long history of arguing. They weren’t wanting to cooperate and inflate so I could breathe on my own. So, recovery took a little longer than it should have. Then they wheeled me up to my own private room. I had to get up and sit in a chair. I asked for my phone and that’s when this selfie was taken:
My son came in to see me, as did my family. I had put them all through a lot. They were tired, nervous, but happy that I was sitting there making stupid faces at them, I was alive. I had survived. Hand me my heart-shaped pillow and let me cough. There was no laying down for a while, that’s for sure. When I sat back, I could feel my chest shifting. After all, they did saw me in half. I didn’t lay down for about four weeks, actually. But, over time my strength came back and I was able to maneuver around like a real person.
On the way to that, though, I had people watching over me like a hawk. The BCPF made sure that someone was “on duty” with me the whole time, from my sister to my mother, her to her mother. Someone was always here. It got to where I had to fake needing to go to the bathroom just to go sit on the toilet lid and be by myself for a few minutes. I had some great friends bring me and my chaperones food. I can’t tell Chris and Ashley, Doug and Molly and Jerry and Jennifer how much I appreciate them doing that.
After this, though, The BCPF and I decided that we’re going to live. LIVE! And, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve been to Europe twice, the second a wedding/honeymoon expedition. We accompanied friends to Costa Rica. We went to Walt Disney World with my family. We have time with each other. We enjoy just about everything we do. We collect records, we eat really delicious food, we hang out with really terrific friends, we just love our lives.
I have to really thank The BCPF for everything, because if it
weren’t for her, making sure I take my meds regularly, eating right, doing what little exercise I’ll do, going to my doc appts, and just living the heck out of me, I wouldn’t be here today to write this. She didn’t sleep much that first week, when she did it was in my hospital bed. My boy is also a huge part of my life. He’s almost 15 so he’s testing my ticker a good bit, but I love that boy to no end. They together are truly my everything. To my family, thank you all for your support and being here for me. To my friends, you’re all my bedrocks. You’re my foundation that I build on. To The Beer Dads, Jon and Paul, thank you guys for traversing this weird ride with The BCPF and me in our quest for World Domination. To everyone. I love you. Just… I love you. To Dr. Bret Borchelt. Thank you for “fixing” me.
I was 41 when this happened. I’m 46 now. I have to at least make it to 82 for me to be satisfied with it. I have to say, in all sincerity, I would never want to go through this again. However, in the grand scheme of things, it was all worth it and really, for me, wasn’t all that terrible. I think my family and friends had it worse than I in this ordeal. I got taken care of, waited on and yes had to endure some pain, but it wasn’t too awful. I’m just glad we have hit the “magic number” (no not three in this case) of five. That’s when the docs stop looking so closely at the procedure. I’m still here and other than being ridiculously fat, I feel great. So, all is well on this side of the world. I hope all of you have as wonderful a time as I do. Happy fifth second birthday to me.
Until tomorrow, still kickin’…
“Open-heart surgery is now part of a typical life experience for many people. Folks talk casually about ‘having a stent put in,’ as if they had their tires rotated.” – Roger Ebert