Observations on being (pretty) young, (pretty) fit, and having a damaged heart.
A few weeks back I went from being a fit, pretty active guy, who didn’t have a medical care in the world to someone with serious heart disease!
I was being treated for what I thought was an extended bout of acid reflux– and the farthest thing from my mind or worries was what it turned out I actually had: a 99% blockage of my LAD, the largest artery in the heart, ominously called “The Widow Maker,” and that the pains I felt were actually my heart crying out, deprived of half its blood.
One day after spectacularly failing an echo-stress test– a test I went off to grumbling to my wife, “You realize that there’s zero… ZERO chance that this is heart related, don’t you…!” and then trudged back to an hour later, completely stunned, “Honey, I think you should sit down…”– I was sent up to Yale University Hospital where they inserted not one, but two drug-coated stents to reopen my bloodflow. It’s a remarkably quick and non-invasive procedure, the catheter amazingly conducted through my wrist; one that requires virtually no recovery time, and seems hardly worthy of all the expressions of concern and sympathy that flooded in.
In fact, I was weirdly conscious for most of the time. I remember waking up from the light anesthesia I was administered and hearing the doctors discussing the size of the obstruction: an inch and a half in length and at the very beginning of the artery, even more dangerous. I watched them thread the stents from my wrist to my heart, tears forming in my eyes. When the nurse came around to wipe them, she asked if I was in pain. “No,” I answered, staring at the screen. “I’m just thinking I’m watching you guys saving my life.”
Just five weeks later, I’m back to a completely normal routine: working out, playing tennis, eating smarter, appreciating life. Just with a prodigious line-up of meds to take each day. And the only, non-white-haired member of my local stent club! It all happened so fast, there was no time to even get scared, worry about the consequences; to hug your kids. To remember that chapter idea I didn’t write down. It went by with the speed of TV coming attractions. It was literally forty eight hours from diagnosis to cure.
So I’ve been waiting for that singular moment of profundity; that “a-ha” epiphany of what it’s all about, that always comes to me when I need a plot idea, but fails me now when it’s about my life.
Yet what I do think about is this: the many times I had to put up a hand, doubled over during a workout or on the tennis court with my pro– grabbing at the fence, trying to catch my breath, in pain. I see myself crumbling to the ground, realizing something far more serious is happening; thinking how my grandfather died this way, just off the golf course, and seeing myself, a virtual kid compared to him, looking up at the my helpless pro, tears glazing in my eyes, my mind going on about my kids, something trivial like whether I put the steaks in the freezer; stories I meant to write.
The only NYT bestselling author to ever die from acid reflux….
I would never have even known.
Except in this story I get up. Finish out the set. The coming attractions come on, and thank God, there’s another episode next week! I get to wonder who’s cheated who, death or me? I think about the two doctors I may never ever see again who gave me a new downpayment on life. Who let me pretend I’ve got it by the balls again.
But this time I know– I’m only renting.