The Best Year of my Life

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ElectLive

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Joined
Jun 26, 2011
Messages
631
Location
Atlanta, GA
So, a few weeks ago was my 1 year “anniversary”. I’m generally not big on celebrations, so you know, part of the reason why I am late announcing. I think “surgical anniversary” may also be the wrong way of looking at things, a little too clinical sounding, and just not quite in the spirit of the occasion to me. So instead, I would just like to say in honor of my valve and graft:

Happy 1st Birthday!

Now, I do feel a little silly announcing such an early milestone. 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 44 years…now those seem to be a little more emphatic. 1 year…not so much. But, I did reconsider the importance of it all, as the big day approached. Usually in life, the more birthdays you have, particularly after a certain age, the less you enjoy them and the more you dread. But for valve birthdays, it’s different, isn’t it? Each additional year must feel more and more special. Plus, when you consider that tissue valves such as mine, unlike those ageless pyrolitic carbon wonders, actually have lifespans somewhat similar to our favorite family pets, is it really just a celebration of 1 year, or more like 7, in relative cow valve years.

So, I finally decided, it is indeed an important occasion. Next task then…how to celebrate? I thought the big day should naturally include some measure of respect and appreciation for my donor species. But it should be fun, too, this is a celebration after all, and I do have two young kids to consider. So, respectful fun…hmm…what to do...

Several initial thoughts crossed my mind. Perhaps a visit to a farm, to share thoughts and pay respects? No, not so easy in Atlanta. Adopt a cow? No, not so easy with neighborhood approval boards. Fly to California to tour Edwards Lifesciences and actually meet the very people who made my valve? Hmm…not so easy either, but now this one did have me intrigued. I read about it a few months ago, and it sounded like a pretty cool experience, they use your serial number to track down who made your valve. Sadly though, geography did eventually have to be considered. So, for that one, I postponed until a later date, a future celebration.

Not much progress then, as the big day got closer and closer. But finally, one sunny day, as I was driving aimlessly around in search of inspiration, a vision suddenly hit me like a billboard on an Atlanta expressway:



So simple, yet perfectly themed. It clearly met both of my criteria (cow centric and fun), as well as got the stamp of approval from my kids, so it was decided. One year to the day, I walked into my local Chick-Fil-A, shared a quiet corner booth with my two girls and my valve, and then we “adopted” a souvenir cow on the way out. Eat Mor Chikin. Moooo.

Now, perhaps this all sounds a little lame (this of course goes with the territory as a father), I won’t disagree. But I didn’t stop there either. My older daughter (3 ½) and I have joined the Cow Campaign. See, here in Atlanta, just down the road from the original Chick-Fil-A location, cows just show up on billboards everywhere, always up to something, much to the delight of kids and grownups alike. They support our local sports teams, they direct traffic, they engage in peaceful demonstrations on election days, etc. So, with some urging, I did a little more research into the matter. Which brings me to today, September 24th: Cow Tipping Awareness Day. It’s official, I’m not kidding. Really. Courtesy of Chick-Fil-A and eatmorchikin.com, here are the details:



You see, after I discovered this, I thought it important to share the news and bring to everyone’s attention today, because there have no doubt been some isolated incidents of anti-cow sentiment here in the past. I’m certainly not accusing anyone of cow tipping, but let’s just say that I’ll be on the lookout today, and I encourage the rest of the “herd” here to please do the same… :)


Ok, ok, so enough of these lengthy bovine ramblings, I’ve had my fun for today. If the past year taught me anything, though, it’s just that, to enjoy each and every day. I am actually going to get serious again, though. So, back to the big day. The best part for me about 1 year was it felt just like any other day. Has my life changed? No, not really at all. If anything, I enjoy life more now. And you know what, I actually feel no different now than I did 6 months ago. I was back to normal a long long time ago. So, that’s something I’m very thankful for, and I hope encouragement for others just starting the process.

Now, upon reflection, no one should ever say it’s easy either. Despite my generally uneventful recovery, I realize others are not so fortunate. I did have some difficult moments too, but very few. Tough times strengthen us and define us, though. We may not get to choose the timing or the circumstances, but we get to choose how we respond. My wife was actually pregnant, third trimester, when we scheduled the surgery. In a way, the surgery was even “elective”. The valve would have been fine a few more years. The aneurysm needed attention, yes, but the risk of waiting a few months was theoretically about the same as the surgical risk. So, I had more than enough good reasons to put it off. But I didn’t. I elected to confront it and put it behind me.

It goes without saying that no one ever enjoys finding out they need heart surgery. More so, at a young age, most would probably consider this news just horribly bad luck. I’ve see it on the face of each new nurse at my PCPs office the past year when they see the scars. “You’re so young” they lament. You know what I tell them, though: I consider myself lucky. Sure, it would have been nice to have waited at least another twenty years. But it could have happened twenty years prior too. In fact, I could come up with quite a long list of things far worse than heart valve surgery. Some medical conditions have no answer. Some medical conditions have brutal treatments with no guarantees. Some medical conditions strike too fast for response. Heart valve failures have an answer, and an excellent one at that.

One year ago, my chest was opened up, my heart was stopped, a piece of cloth was wrapped around my ballooning aorta, part of my heart was removed, part of a cow was put back in its place, my heart was restarted, and I was then sewed and glued back together. A few hours later, I was laughing and joking with my 2 ½ year old girl…imagine that!

Wait, it gets better, less than two months later, I went back in the hospital in the early hours of the morning, but this time, for the birth of my second baby girl!

So, it was quite a year, all in all. On an otherwise ordinary day 13 months ago, I had walked into a cardiologist’s office for the same uneventful checkup and echo that I’d had for the previous 34 years. I didn’t have a worry on my mind and was soon to have another child: the little sister that was all my older girl could talk about. I had no doubt it was going to be the best year of my life.

Life truly can change overnight, though. One minute working on a nursery for a new baby, the next minute being told of an aortic aneurysm that needs surgical evaluation, the next minute researching and learning that half the patients with an aneurysm that dissect don’t even make it to the hospital alive. So, life changes and we, all of us here, adjust. We research, we prepare, we persevere, we adapt, and we overcome. In my case, I’m a much better person for it, and my family is much stronger too.

And guess what…it has still been the best year of my life! I couldn’t be happier, and every day, and every year, is a bonus from here on out…


Finally, in closing, I just want to take a minute to stop and say thanks to everyone who shares experiences and wisdom here daily. While I was not an official member here a year ago, I was a frequent visitor during a frenetic month of pre-surgery. So many of you helped me, without even knowing it, and that is the incredible thing about this great place.

For anyone who had the time and interest to actually still be reading my story here, sorry for the length and thanks for your patience! Wishing you all many years of moos, oinks, and clicks…
 

Julian

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 21, 2011
Messages
581
Location
Southern California
Congrats on the new baby! WOW, great post almost made me cry. Love the part at the end, moos, oinks, and clicks! Oh ya congrats on your greatest year ever. Amazing!
 

JimL

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Joined
Feb 17, 2002
Messages
1,534
Location
Imlay City, Michigan
Congratulations on your first anniversary, and thanks for this post, even for the length. You do an excellent job of putting into words how I feel about the whole surgery process. One of my greatest pleasures after surgery while still in the hospital was that my daughter came to visit (she was in high school then; my avatar was taken at her wedding).
 

Lily

Premium Level User
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Oct 18, 2009
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private
Cows rule; pigs drool ???

Cows rule; pigs drool ???

But what a very nice story!

You may enjoy this quotation, widely attributed to Emerson:

To Have Succeeded
To laugh often and love much:
To win respect of intelligent people
And the affection of children;
To earn the approbation of honest critics
And endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To give one's self;
To leave the world a little better,
Whether by a healthy child,
A garden patch,
Or redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm
And sung with exultation;
To know even one life has breathed easier
Because you have lived...
This is to have succeeded.


Congratulations and continued best wishes :)
 

Duffey

Me and Granbon
Joined
Sep 29, 2004
Messages
5,044
Location
Far side of the moon
From one bovine valve recipient to another, I say, MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Congratulations on valversary #1. It is a huge milestone in your life post-replacement.
 

neil

Well-known member
Joined
May 27, 2008
Messages
1,766
Location
england
hey the piggies are comin to get you.............. be scared very scared
 

DebbyA

VR.org Donator
Joined
Feb 5, 2007
Messages
1,164
Location
Tucson, AZ
Wonderful post! I think I'd nominate it for a Post-Surgery sticky position. Can't wait for next year's story...
 

ElectLive

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Joined
Jun 26, 2011
Messages
631
Location
Atlanta, GA
Lily - Thanks for sharing. I remember reading that when I was much younger. As is often the case with literary excellence, it takes on deeper meaning with each new read, and as times goes on.
 

ElectLive

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Joined
Jun 26, 2011
Messages
631
Location
Atlanta, GA
It is a huge milestone in your life post-replacement.
Thanks. I tell you what...two months into year #2, and it's already giving last year a run for it's money. Baby girl is starting to walk and talk, it doesn't get much better.
 

SB42

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 17, 2011
Messages
161
Location
No.VA
Thanks for the inspiration and positive outlook, ElectLive! I am in similar situation...a little older and three young children (6, 3, 1) and having aortic valve replacement in approx three weeks...looking forward to hearing and enjoying the laughter of my children shortly thereafter and a speedy recovery :)

SB42
 

ElectLive

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 26, 2011
Messages
631
Location
Atlanta, GA
SB42 - Thanks for commenting. Best wishes to you and look forward to you sharing some great recovery stories of your own!
 

Ovie

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 25, 2011
Messages
490
Location
Sioux City, Iowa.
I found this to be inspiring. I'm waiting on my first OHS and to read this is almost to peek over the fence at my own situation and hope it turns out as well as yours seemed to, thank you. Hope nothing more than great health and happiness.

Cheers!
 

yotphix

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 14, 2009
Messages
409
Location
Canada
Sometimes a read a post and wish there was a little like button I could press. Happy birtday, and Happy New Year too.
 
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