Hitting home

[deep breath]

[nervous laughter]

[mind wandering wildly]

OK. So this thing, as the kids say these days, just got real.

We had an appointment today, Mary Jo and I, with a heart surgeon. (If you need background, it’s here.) And after an hour stoning him with questions about valve replacement and surgeries and second opinions and timing and drugs and timing and whatever else we could think of …

Jan. 21. My birthday. Arrive at the hospital at 5:15 a.m. (At least we’ll beat the traffic.) Surgery starts at 7:30.

That’s next Thursday.

Next Thursday.

Yeah. Real.

I’m not nervous, really. In fact, I’m less nervous about Thursday than I am the days and weeks and, yes, months that immediately follow it.

But I am thinking. I can’t stop thinking. About putting Luke and Mary Jo and our families through this. About whether this is the best move. About whether it’s the best move now. About whether I have the best surgeon, and the best hospital. About work, and getting back to work (and, maybe, finding full-time work) as quickly as possible.

About golf in April. About returning to the basketball court.

About the fact that a perfectly healthy guy — maybe not perfect, but I am healthy — has to go through this. Dammit.

About pain. Because, yeah, I know. This is going to hurt. A lot.

Anyway, with all that asking and answering and thinking going on, we do know some things:

  • We’re going with Dr. Jeffrey Miller as the surgeon. He seemed all-business when we talked to him today. Which is just the way I wanted it. I like a good bedside manner as well as the next guy, but I don’t want Louis C.K. in there. That dude’s not sterile.
  • We’re going tissue instead of mechanical. Lots of entries on each side of the ledger sheet for this one. Staying away from a blood-thinner for the rest of my life when I hope to be active for several more years — banging around the basketball court, especially — was maybe the deciding factor.
  • It’s a full-on chest-crack. (If you want a more detailed, say, grosser view, they’re out there.) A sternotomy is what Miller feels should be done. When you think about it, I understand. It’s got to be easier, more efficient, more effective than trying to work through some small hole. The recovery is longer. I get that, too. But to put on a search to get someone to do a less-invasive surgery — a search that might be futile, in the end, for a procedure that might not be the best option anyway — just to save a little recovery time and avoid a scar? No.

And here’s some of what Miller told us about the whole experience:

  • Surgery will take four hours.
  • I’ll spend a day in the ICU. I’ll spend probably four total days in the hospital.
  • I won’t be able to drive for 4-6 weeks.
  • I should be healed, completely, in about three months. Maybe a little earlier.

That’s basically it. Really, what could be easier?

I have some work to take care of the rest of this week: four articles due by Friday. Two tomorrow, two Friday. So, hopefully, I can get busy with that and start to think about something more than pain and recovery.

I’ll have a light weekend, I hope. Monday is a holiday, and Tuesday I go down to the hospital for some final, pre-op tests. Nothing major. Just to get the latest view they can.

Next Wednesday … who knows? A real good meal mid-day, I know that. And then we’ll be out of the house early next Thursday.

[grit teeth]

[another deep breath]

[hit send]


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