It’s been a while since I last posted to my blog, so I wanted to bring you up to date on why the silence. Back in February, in fact exactly 8 months ago to this day, I lay in a local hospital intensive care unit starting my recovery after open heart surgery. The day before I was admitted suffering from chest discomfort, received an alarming diagnosis of an emergent condition involving my heart, and underwent surgery from 10:00 at night until 3:00 the next morning.
I’ll spare you the details, but it was a medical event that was sudden, completely unexpected, and one which at the time I thought had a very high mortality rate associated with it. I had not been a person with high blood pressure, and have no past family history of heart disease. I don’t smoke, am not overweight, work out up to 6 days a week, and eat sensibly and in moderation.
Yet there I lay, on the bed just before being wheeled into the OR, about to say “see you later” to my wife and 12-year-old daughter. But the most frightening thought was that I really didn’t know if it was going to be “goodbye”, and if I was seeing my wife and daughter for the very last time.
The hardest part of that moment, even harder than the uncertainty of wondering if I was going to die, was holding my daughter’s hand and seeing her face as I said to her,
“It’ll be okay, sweetie. But just in case, take care of Mom, okay?”
She nodded, face full of tears, eyes full of fear, lips trembling. I will never forget such an indelible image.
Thankfully, the morning after surgery, I woke in the cardiac ICU to start my recovery, 8 months ago today. And in the early afternoon, I was even more thankful, almost overjoyed, to see my wife and daughter walking down the hallway toward my bed.
Fortunately my recovery over the weeks and months since, have gone well. I adjusted to, then conquered the uncertainty of a new normal, regaining my strength along the way. And so here I am, finally getting around to posting a blog entry for the first time since before I was stricken.
Why will things never be the same for me? Because I learned from this that you never know. You never know when your time is up on this earth.
I suffered the medical version of a car accident. That morning, I got up, went about my usual routine, made a couple of phone calls, and expected to take the afternoon off to spend with my family.
Then suddenly I was in the hospital, having life-saving surgery for half the night. It was all very sudden and out of the blue. Like a car accident.
But going forward, that doesn’t mean I’m going to live every day like it’s my last. Because then I wouldn’t be doing any long-term planning, and that could be a problem assuming I’m still going to be around for the long term.
And it also doesn’t mean I’m going to live in fear of what might happen next. Because then I’d wouldn’t be doing much of anything except being fearful.
What’s different for me now is to readily and repeatedly appreciate the most valuable things in life I have … my family, close friends, that my health is good again, and that I can look forward to being around for a long time. This whole thing has reminded me that if there’s something I think is important to do, like call up a friend I’ve been meaning to for a while, or see how someone else is doing, then I should do so, and not wait.
It’s also given me a sense of what’s truly important in life, and what’s truly insignificant in the big picture of things.
Because you never know. Which is why I try to be sure that I give my wife and daughter a hug or a kiss when I have the chance. And to be continually thankful that I have that chance.
Perhaps the biggest difference between now and before, is how I’ll look at my birthdays. I used to think, probably like most people, that with each passing birthday I’m a year older and a year creakier. I used to complain good-naturedly about “getting old”.
I now know that with every future birthday I celebrate, I’ll have been blessed enough to make it through another year, being with family and loved ones, doing the kind of work that I really enjoy doing. And that is something worth celebrating every time.