“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” — Woody Allen
Coming off 2021, a year in which I had worked very hard, both personally and professionally (and like everyone, during COVID-19, often under difficult circumstances), I was excited to welcome the new year as I always embrace the opportunity to establish a fresh set of goals and do my best to stay focused on trying to achieve them, sometimes failing spectacularly. I especially looked forward to this year for a few specific reasons.
I would be turning 60 in April and was working to put myself in as good of physical condition as I ever had been in to prepare for Ironman Texas in Houston, just three days after my birthday. Instead of being concerned about turning 60, I was pleased to “age up” into a higher age group, and a less competitive one, at that.
In January, all the plans and reservations were in place. The hours of training always help get me through a tough stretch of winter, and I enjoy it while “most” bad habits fall to the wayside. I mean, I still want to keep a few around so things don’t get too boring.
The only potential obstacle looming in the new year was a trip I knew all too well, heading north up Interstate 69 to the Ascension St. Vincent Heart Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Feb. 28. This meant tests and, more importantly to me, the scans. Bad scan equals bad surgery.
As someone with no surgical history, I would become quite anxious prior to each visit wondering if this would be “the one.” I already had resigned myself to eventually having the surgery done when the surgeon said, “it’s time.” Knowing I was seeing a new surgeon who might have a differing opinion did not bring me inner calmness and tranquility.
Within 20 minutes of my appointment upon hearing a rather blunt assessment of my aneurysm’s “progress,” I heard myself saying, “I will take the first availability in your surgical schedule.”
Early in the morning of April 8, I underwent — by all accounts — a very successful surgery to repair my ascending aortic aneurysm. I did learn a few things post-operatively.
• The surgeon and team are likely not going to share everything with you pre-operation. That would tend to make you less likely to move forward with surgery. It was not helpful that, in my previous surgical sales career, I had witnessed approximately 50 open-heart procedures.
• Being a walking fool and doing laps on the unit floor definitely aided in helping (in my opinion) speed up my release from the hospital. After that, the ride home … not so great.
• Don’t ever take being comfortable for granted again. There was no “comfortable” anything for weeks.
• The care from my wife “Nurse Ratched” and our boys as well as the outpouring of support was and has been gratifying. I was prepared only for a trickle.
• Winner of the funniest and “most wrong” observation goes to my “acquaintance” Steve Nussmeier. He knows what he said. I tried to not lose my sense of humor throughout. (And Steve needs a win.)
It’s been eight weeks now, and I am making continual positive progress thanks to cardiac rehab and some “tough love.” I hope to be at close to 100 percent (whatever that is) by around the Fourth of July. I now am having more good days than bad. I won’t sugarcoat … bad was bad, but I don’t know what kind of price you place on not having my aorta dissected, as there would be no trip to the ER.
I wanted to ensure I am around to someday help teach grandchildren the “important stuff” and to continue to grow old with my wife. Thirty-three years ago, when we said, “for better or for worse,” she could not have envisioned what worse really meant. Really.
Thanks to everyone who has said prayers (hopefully for a recovery), reached out, cooked, called, sent cards, and made bad jokes. I have appreciated it all.
I have enjoyed hearing from everyone, and take care of yourselves, as I have shared, “you don’t want this.”
Todd A. Tucker, Publisher