Monday, September 22, 2014

After-Action Report: Heart Surgery

It’s been a week since I went under the knife and had my heart surgery.  I haven’t felt up to typing this all up much before today.  It’s been a rough run of it.  But I wanted to give you all a “lessons learned” from my experience, just to give you some insight as to what this whole thing was like and what it ended up doing to me, so far. 

Whatever Lifestyle Decisions You’re Making that aren’t “Heart Wise” Aren’t Fucking Worth it

I know, you like eating metric shit-tons of bacon.  Smoking cigars and chewing tobacco is fucking awesome.  And cheese, man, don’t even get me started on cheese.  I fucking LOVE cheese. 

But you know which of those things above is worth going through what I just went through, even if it means you’re denied them for the rest of your life? 

None of them.  Not a fucking one. 

Now, I want to clarify, the problem that I just had fixed was not caused by bad lifestyle choices and bad habits on my part.  This was a hereditary thing that is common in my family, and I drew the short straw, gene-wise.  It wasn’t clogged arteries that caused my issue, it was crossed up wiring in my heart. 

But you know what didn’t help any of that?  You know what probably served to make it all worse?  The fact that I’m overweight.  The doctors made it a point to tell me that my weight did not cause this issue, but they also said that it sure as fuck didn’t help anything.  They also made it a point that in order to have a better chance of not having to do this again, that I needed to lose weight. 

So you know what I’m going to do? 

I’m going to fucking lose weight, because there are more things I’ve learned as I went through all of this, and they all add up to make a guy certain that he doesn’t want to do this again.  Things like…

It’s Gonna do More than Just Hurt; It’s Gonna Suck in Ways that You Haven’t Even Imagined Yet

Do me a favor.  It’s a pretty simple thing that I’m asking, in the grand scheme of things, and it’s something so simple, even a baby could do it.  All I’m asking is for you to lie perfectly still for 6 hours. 
"I got this!"

Seems pretty easy, right?  I mean, lay still for 6 hours?  You probably do that every night and don’t even know any better. 

Let me disabuse you of that notion right now.  If you ever want to fucking torture yourself beyond the capacity for description, do a minor amount of damage to your groin area by shoving a couple of big ass needles in there, and then lay still for 6 hours. 

By hour three, you’ll be begging them to let you move.  You won’t even care that moving could set you to hemorrhaging blood like some bad “Evil Dead” remake. 
So worth it!

That’s what I had to do after my surgery.  No painkillers besides Ibuprofen, and lay completely still for 6 hours.  No movement of the legs was tolerated.  I know that this sounds easy, because last week, before it happened to me, it sounded pretty easy to me, too.  But it wasn’t easy.  It sucked a metric ass-ton of donkey balls, and  want all of you to understand that you are bringing yourself closer to that ass-ton of donkey balls with every bad decision you make. 
"Come closer!  CLOSER!"

As I sit here typing this, a full week after my procedure, my catheter sites are still black as the ace of spades, from halfway down my thigh, up to my waist, and radiating around my hip.  They hurt like crazy, and are in exactly the right spot for my three year old daughter to be constantly hitting them in some way or another, accidentally.  My blackened, painful groin is right at arm height for her, and my tender, aching lap is her favorite place to jump into when I’m sitting on the couch.  God bless her, she feels bad and apologizes every time, but she forgets five minutes later. 

They Can Never “Fix” You, They Can Just Try to Make the Problem Bearable

In the case of clogged arteries and heart-attacks, most people know that the installation of a stint, or in more extreme cases, the completion of a full-on bypass surgery, is not a “fix” to the problem, but rather more of a “bubble-gum and bailing twine” type repair that will hold for as long as it will hold, and not a second longer.  Once it stops holding, you have another heart attack, with the complete panoply of consequences and risks associated with that. 
Up to and including...

In my case, cardio-ablation procedures only have a 75% success rate.  One in four will either have to try again, or accept that the surgery failed and seek other means of control.  I pray to God I’m not one of them.  But even more disheartening is that, over time, the success rate falls to 50%.  Half of all people who have an ablation have to have another one.

I fear this so mightily that I cannot even put words to it.  I do not want to go through this again.  It was awful.

You Are the #1 Predictor of Whether You Will Succeed or Not

In the face of all of this, many people refuse to change their lifestyle.  They won’t change their diet, they won’t start exercising, and they refuse to take the precautions necessary to fix their issue.  I can understand having bad habits BEFORE your first heart attack, for sure.  We are great at “whistling past the graveyard” and assuming nothing bad will ever happen to us.  That’s why STDs even exist – we take risks and figure that getting Chlamydia is something that happens to other people, not to us. 
"That hooker told me she was clean!"

So we eat bacon to the point of fetishizing it, and joke about how the only aerobic exercise we get is when we watch  particularly scary part of a movie, and I get it.  We assume that people that have heart attacks aren’t us – we’re good people, we eat responsibly, we don’t drown our fried eggs in butter every morning, so why should we worry? 

"Sir, your deep-fried butter is ready!"
But what I DON’T get is the guy who knows damn good and well that his lifestyle has fucked up his heart, but good, and refuses to do something about it.  He can no longer delude himself into believing that it will never happen to him.  It already has!

The Fear You Will Feel, Laying on That Table Before the Surgery, Should be Enough

Mrs. Goober is pregnant again.  She’s eleven weeks along now, and the baby is healthy so far.  We thank God for the blessing, but as I was laying on the table in the OR, waiting for my anti-anxiety meds and the anesthetic, that baby, and my little girl, and Mrs. Goober were all I could think about. 
I can't really come up with anything funny or sarcastic to say about that.
Here's a picture of a kitten.

1 in 500.  That’s how many people go into the OR on average, expecting to get an ablation and end up getting dead.  They end up not being able to watch their second child be born, to watch both their children grow up into adulthood, and to be there for the woman they loved, to support her in raising their kids. 

I did not want to miss that.  I did not want my children to face the inevitable trials of being raised by a single mother, without the influence of their father.  I couldn’t bear the thought. 

My eyes were tearing up, laying there on that table, and when the anesthetist gave me the first shot, and I felt the drugs spreading like acid through my veins, all I could think was to look him in the eye, and plead with him to “do good work.”  Those were my last utterances before I fell asleep.  I don’t know if he understood me, but it doesn’t matter.  It could have just as easily been the last thoughts that went through my head at all, ever, and that wouldn’t have mattered to anyone in that room, outside of having a bad day at work. 
"Stupid fucking patients are always dying and ruining my day"

It was damn scary, and it should have been. 

In my case, my problem is not my doing, but if I’m making it worse by being overweight, then I’m fixing to lose some weight, right now.  Doc says I need to get down to 250 to be where I need to be.  That means I’ve got 60 pounds to lose. 

And every time I feel like my diet sucks and I want to eat something, I’ll just think about laying for 6 hours on that table, unable to move, and I’m sure it will pass.  


  1. Ditto - and that was a great way to re-calibrate my attitude. Thanks.

  2. I'm glad you're in the 499! To stay there, I commend Karl Denninger ( for weight loss (and lots of other sage advice)
    I've been on the table twice, once for valve replacement, once for ablation. I was older, so I didn't have so much worry about kids growing up without a dad. Both were scary experiences which I don't care to repeat.
    Two things are plain to me. I am going to die, and I am not going to have a lot of choice as to what kills me. But lifestyle is one of the few that I have some control over.
    Stay healthy and enjoy this life to the extent that you are able.