Sunday, August 31, 2008

Discharge Time

Ok, I'm going to keep this one really short with the plan to expand on things tomorrow as it will be my first full day out of the hospital and hopefully a little more restful.

It's been a big day and I'm exhausted BUT I'm out of the hospital!

Meet my new best friend!
Prune juice finally kicked in about 8AM which paved the way for the discharge procedure.
The night staff came by to wish me luck and get their picture taken!
Prescriptions were written, the IV came out, fruit baskets and flowers were packed up and real clothes were donned. Final instructions given and patient escort summoned.

Four days after open heart surgery I was heading out. No question there was some apprehension but all things considered I felt pretty good and given the risks and constant activity inside the hospital I'm ultimately happy to be sitting on my hotel bed making this post.
Hopefully a good night sleep is only a few hours away!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Come On Down - I know You're There

It's 4 AM and I can't sleep!

The TV is off, my door is closed but it's still loud in here.
I'm not in pain at least there's no chest or wound pain. I'm taking drugs for that and have found the right balance between feeling groggy and feeling like I can't move or cough. I'm comfortable, sort of.

I look at the clock again. It's still 4 AM. Uggghhhhh, you're loud, why don't you just come on down and make everyone happy!

No bowel movement yet! Lots of action especially with 3 containers of prune juice joining the mix last night butt still no results. No pain, plenty of discomfort and gurgle noises loud enough to wake up the neighbor I'm sure but still no results!

All systems go?

Obviously there are certain parameters that must be passed (sorry for the pun) before one is discharged from the hospital. To be thinking that I may actually go home tomorrow (today) is still mind boggling to me but other than the lack of a poop there is really no reason why I couldn't cut and run from this Popsicle stand!

Breathing on my own, including being extubated shortly after surgery was a good sign and a major hurdle. Getting that catheter out and not having to put another one back in again means the kidneys and the water works are doing what they're supposed to do! My blood sugars are under control (more on that later), there's no fever and my WBC count returned to normal after only a short little stint on the other side.

For days (3 to be exact) bowel sounds have been present, a very good sign and one that currently is easily measured with or without a stethoscope. Besides listening to my lungs and heart every caregiver takes a moment to put that cold little device on my tummy to listen for some gurgles. When present they are a really good indicator that the intestines and stomach are coming back to life after being told by the body during surgery that they're really not needed right now. That stethoscope is REALLY not needed right now that's for sure.

So passing gas has been rather exciting for the past few days and the topic of many conversations. Now it's just not enough. We need some definitive action. Things are there and ready to go. In the absence of heart surgery the answer would be simple - PUSH.

However, in the setting of OHS the last thing we want to do now is to push. Pushing puts a lot of strain on the heart and that would not be good. Sooooooo we take stool softeners and we wait. With every passing fart things feel a little closer. With three containers of prune juice last night things feel so close that moving too far away from the bathroom is a little scary AND yes with each one I'm just not sure if I should risk not sitting on the toilet! Again more detail than anyone needs but it's 4 AM and I can't sleep because of this so you'll either have to just deal or not read the blog!

Joe (he's my nurse again tonight) just came back in to measure my blood pressure and to reiterate there will be no pushing. Just be patient he says but I couldn't actually hear him over the gurgles this time! Try to rest he says. Translation - put your computer away and try to sleep!

Be sure to stay tunned for the results!!)

Where Were You When Obama Spoke?

Well, two full days into recovery and 103 photos later I was transferred from the ICU to the general ward last night. Quite incredible really! Not even three days after the whole procedure started!
(Mary from the UK & Marilyn the nurse in charge!)
There is so much to say and so many people to thank I won't be able to do it all in one post but as I said before all this started I should have quite a bit of time during recovery to share this experience and post on a regular basis. With over a hundred photos, mostly of the people who've cared for me in some way, there are many stories to tell and I can't possibly relate to you how happy I am to be alive to tell them!

Two nurses got away last night without their photo being taken. The order to transfer came at midnight and Denise had already left with the camera. That meant Alison (my ICU nurse) escaped after giving me the great news and escorting me to the ward. Then I was quite bummed when Joe's shift (nurse on the ward) ended before the camera was back for more action. Joe is from Kenya and we had a great time talking as he helped me get settled into my new room. He was so excited to hear about my life on Saipan, apparently word had spread of the crazy Canadians with the camera and it was also wonderful to hear his story. I thought it was quite fitting to end the night talking to him as we watched the end of the repeat of Senator Obama's speech. For those of you living under a rock this past 18 months Obama's father was also from Kenya.

Most of my night had been spent watching the Democrats and the endless build up but I only got to see half of Obama’s performance live. I know I'll never forget where I was for his speech both the live version and when it was repeated later in the night. What would cause me to interrupt his speech half way through after listening to over 5 hours of commentary and "expert" speculation you ask?

I had to PEE!

No easy task for me after the catheter was pulled out earlier in the day. You see I suffer from stage fright at the best of times. I've had surgeries before where post-op urination did not come easy and the only thing worse than having a catheter pulled out is having one inserted while you are awake! This concept played on my mind all day which does not make things any easier. Fortunately with some careful planning including warm water, properly timed pain medications and as much privacy as I could get in an intensive care unit everything worked. With Obama drowning out the noises from the busy nursing unit, 500ml of liquid gold finally appeared and the only one happier with the days’ events than Obama was probably me!

Perhaps a little more detail than anyone needs but I'll never forget where I was when he accepted the nomination and gave what you must admit was a pretty incredible speech regardless of whether you're Democrat or Republican.
(Anita & Vicky , nurse practitioners extraordinaire)(Anita & Erica getting ready to pull tubes)
I can now also answer the question as to which tube was the most uncomfortable to be pulled from my body. Just before Anita and Vicki (Top photo above) pulled out my chest tubes and heart wire the day before they had asked me to tell them which procedure was more uncomfortable. They deal mostly with kids so they wanted an adult opinion. The general thought was the chest tubes would hurt more but after it was all said and done having the thread with wires attached to my heart pulled through my skin was definitely more uncomfortable and just plain freaky. Everything was done quick and any discomfort from the pull was thankfully replaced with a more comfortable feeling of having them gone. Twenty-four hours later it was the catheter and well, I’ll take a chest tube or heart wire over that any day.
(Erica pulling the central line)
So now I’m tubeless, only one IV left in my right arm and on my way to being discharged. As Denise said, yesterday didn’t start off so well with some inflammation around my heart. I did not feel well in the morning. Every time I would lie down I felt a clicking sensation with every beat of my heart. My white blood cell count was also up. Both are not all that uncommon after surgery but they were an agonizing reminder that despite how well things were going there were (and are) real risks to making a full recovery.

What a difference 24 hours makes. A repeat echo late yesterday showed all is good in there and everyone who’s come by to see me today has said the rub is much less than it was and that I look much better. I feel much better and with things progressing the way they are the game plan as of now is to have me discharged sometime tomorrow.

Post-Op Day 2 - Tubeless in LA

I'm a little bit behind but Day 2 was a big day.  The morning started off well but by mid-morning Mike wasn't feeling all that well.  Nothing major, just not as good as the previous couple of days. Of course, it was only 2 days after surgery so a not-so-great day is to be expected.  It turns out he has what is called a rub.  This is where the heart is rubbing against the pericardium (sac around the heart) as it beats.  This rubbing can cause inflammation which is called pericarditis.  Generally you treat this with anti-inflammatory medications and keep an eye on things.  This is not necessarily an unusual occurrence given that Mike just had open heart surgery so we are not worried.  

The big news of the day is Mike had his catheter removed which means all the tubes and lines are officially gone!  All he has now is an IV access in one hand for blood draws and medications as needed.  This certainly helps make mobility a whole lot easier and he was able to do laps around the ward four times.  I continue to be amazed at how much he can do in such a short time and am thankful for all the care he is receiving. 

Sorry no pics today but will try to post some tomorrow.  Thanks for tuning in!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Post-Op Day 1

I'm pinch blogging once again but this one will be brief as I am tired and it's late. Mike didn't really sleep at all last night but nurse Jane took good care of him and she knew where Saipan was op! (Ok, really we're taking pictures of EVERYBODY but you're guaranteed a spot on the blog if you know where Saipan is so here's Jane!)
Mike graduated to Jell-O and broth at breakfast - sound bad?? Well, it's way better than ice chips, that's for sure! It was a busy morning - Mike discussing the merits of Macs with ICU staff (seriously, Apple should be paying this guy) and best of all, finding out two of the other RNs (Madolyn and Cheryl - sorry if the spelling is wrong) are Canadian! It's always nice to talk to a fellow Canuck or two.
The highlights of the day:
Eating solid food for the first time since Monday night - mmmmm, mashed potatoes!
Walking on the ward with nurse Erica
Getting the chest tubes, heart wire ("that was weird") and central line removed (you don't really want to see a pic of this but getting these things out is indeed freeing and just increases Mike's comfort level)

Having a good shave - 'cause boy did he need it!

That's it, that's all for today! Will try for more details tomorrow or perhaps the blogger himself will make an appearance!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Big Day - Part Two

Well, true to form, my husband the perfectionist has decided he's going to be the best open heart surgery patient ever and without waiting for nurse Jenny, just decided to wake up on his own around 245pm. Great news EXCEPT nurse Jenny had sent me back to the hotel to rest (well, I actually worked on the previous post but whatever) and I missed that moment when he opened his eyes for the first time. I was bummed but after sprinting to the hospital, I found he very quickly forgets things so probably wouldn't remember that I wasn't actually there when he woke up. Of course, now that I've posted it here, he'll know forever but I think he'll forgive me!
He was pretty groggy at first but shortly after I arrived they extubated him since he could breathe fine on his own and didn't need the big tube down his throat. That allowed him to talk and after a bit of a slow start, he's talking up a storm and giving all the nurses and other caregivers a hard time (all in fun of course). He still has a lot of tubes and lines coming out of him but those will gradually come out and he gets to wear these fancy compression stockings to prevent blood clots while he's not moving around much. For someone who HATES wearing socks, he doesn't seem to mind them so much!
Jenny says he's doing phenomenally well but tomorrow might be a tough day b/c there's usually more pain and the chest tubes will probably come out. She also says patients are more crabby on the second day but overachiever is already there! He hasn't lost one bit of his humor or his ability to boss people around. I'm not complaining - this means he's doing well and returning to his normal self. It's amazing there once was a time when you had open heart surgery and were laid up in bed for weeks. Not so anymore - he was sitting up, doing stretching exercises and they even had him stand up for a few minutes. Tonight they plan to get him into a chair and tomorrow they say he'll be doing laps around ICU! Unbelievable...
Mike's surgeon, Dr. Reemtsen, stopped by to see how he was doing and agreed he's doing really well. He had stood on his own only moments before so was feeling a bit dizzy but it's amazing he was able to do that at all only hours after the surgery. He is also using his incentive spirometer quite regularly which helps the recovery process even more. This device helps patients expand their lung volume and get rid of fluid in the lungs by encouraging them to take deep breaths. The spirometer measures the volume of air inhaled - typically patients immediately postop are lucky to get to 500ml but Mike is getting volumes of 2500ml and more. Looks like being a diver pays off in more ways than we thought!
All in all, a really great day for Mike and for all of us. We hope for continued good progress and a speedy recovery.

Tune in tomorrow for the next installment of Mike's open heart surgery journal. Maybe it will be in Mike's own words (at this rate anything is possible) or you might have to read me for one more day!

Sleepless in LA - The Big Day

Most of the time I merely function as the editor of these posts but it falls on me to write today's entry as Mike is currently in a deep sleep from which he will be woken sometime late this afternoon.

Our morning began at 4am which isn't so bad if you actually go to bed at say, 8pm, but no, not us - we were snacking at Denny's at 10pm and finally off to sleep around 1am. We managed to hustle through the admissions process only to be slowed up on the Preop Treatment Unit. This is where they ask you to strip down, put on the fancy hospital gown and then wait, and wait, and wait.

A full hour passed before nurse Audrey was able to attend to us as she had so many other patients to check in. The usual drill - when did you last eat? do you have any allergies to medications? checking the wrist band with the chart so they don't mistake you for John Smith getting the appendectomy, that sort of stuff. Then it's Gina, the nurse practitioner going over the surgery and making sure there aren't any questions. Then we had Rene, the OR nurse, a nice young fellow who just happened to know where Saipan is - so you know what that op!!
Last, but certainly not least, the anesthesiologists, Drs. Brown and Walker, who weren't sure exactly where Saipan was BUT hey, they're giving you really good drugs so you don't feel any pain and better yet, remember absolutely nothing! For that alone, they deserve the photo op!

So at around 720am I kissed my husband goodbye and they wheeled him off to the OR.
Has anyone had to wait for hours while a loved one is in surgery? It's HARD, I mean really hard and BORING. If not for Starbucks in the cafeteria and WiFi in the waiting room, I would have gone insane. As it was, I managed to keep busy surfing and checking out funny blogs. At 9am, good old Rene called me from the OR to tell me Mike was on bypass (a machine pumps the blood to the rest of your body b/c it's kind of hard to cut into your heart and work on it when it's still pumping!) and the repair was about to start. At this point we did not know if repair would be possible or if the valve would have to be replaced but we were optimistic.

Just after 11am I got the call from OR to say they were closing him up and that the surgeon had been able to repair the valve. YAY - the best news ever! A few minutes later (the guy who holds your heart in his hands doesn't actually have to sew you back together too), the surgeon came down to give Mike's mom and I the full report. For a while he wasn't sure if he was going to be able to repair the valve but with a little bit of Gortex and some fancy sewing, he was successful and what Mike has now is his own fully-functioning tricuspid valve. Relief does not even come close to describing how I feel at this moment!

Now we try to get a little bit of rest and return to ICU later when nurse Jenny will try to wake Mike up and hopefully remove the intubation tube so he can breathe on his own.

The fun is only just beginning....stay tuned for more post-op tales from LA - hopefully in the words of Mike, not his ghost writer/wife.

Thanks to everyone for your good thoughts, prayers and positive vibes!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

One More Sleep - Ok 1/2 of a Sleep

Well I had great plans to write a little summary of how we got to this point. Given my last long post you can imagine there is a lot more to tell. Today I was planning to sit back and write a "Coles Notes version" type of post where I could expand on things later when I have plenty of time trying to ignore the pain etc.
Unfortunately, we don't have any internet access at the hotel we're staying at tonight. In fact the internet is down over a 2 or 3 block radius so I'm now frantically trying to reply to emails and write this post on my wifi access at Starbucks. Unfortunately you only get one, two hour continuous free bee and time is running out.

So here's what you've got to look forward to if you continue to tune into this blog over the next few weeks.
First, it won't necessarily be real time updates but Denise will make a post tomorrow letting everyone know how the surgery goes. The word today is that I have to be at the hospital at 4:45 AM - what the hell is up with that, can't a guy get to sleep in a bit on a day like this! Oh well that means everything should be done by noon although I just spoke with the anesthesiologist who said I'll be fully out for about 12 hours so it might not be till late tomorrow before I see my lovely wife tell me all is good!

Next I'll finish putting together the story about how we got to this point including being told by Dr. Ada that I could not dive! Those who know me know that was not a pretty day!

Then on to sorting out insurance and plane tickets for the whole family to head out on an all day marathon trip to CA through Tokyo (and Nagoya). Remember we had a 2 &1/2 year old and a 7 month old - and a guy with a bad heart wondering if he was having angina pain!

Once in LA there was a series of tests with the cardiologist, lots of waiting in a small hotel in downtown LA.
A full house with Nana added to the mix. No complaints, I'm not sure what we would have done without her!
Living in downtown LA and using public transit while trying to keep a 2 & 1/2 year old occupied provides for it's own book of interesting stories and I have a few.
Finally, after getting a diagnosis and a plan it was time to send Denise and the kids up to Kelowna for a week or so while I tried to fight off the cold they all got. Have you ever seen a 2 & 1/2 year old sneeze a string of snot so long it almost hit the floor! This at the airport as I saw them off, only one bunched up Kleenex ready to go - it wasn't enough.

Kudos to Denise for being able to make the trip up north, sick as a dog with two little ones just as sick as her so daddy could have a week on his own to get his thoughts together and avoid getting sick himself.

So what does a guy facing open heart surgery do for a week in Southern California without the wife and kids? Road Trip to San Diego of course.
More to come on that but it was exactly what the Dr. ordered. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and it didn't take long to be missing everyone including that 2 1/2 year old mucus machine!
A 4 day trip up to Canada, a golf game with the closest of friends and a couple of days with my sister and her kids while being on hand to watch Morgan settle in nicely with grandma, grandpa and Auntie (and the kitties too). Then of course getting to watch the Olympics on Canadian TV was just a bonus!
With only 4 or 5 days left it was time for Denise and I to get some very much deserved alone time. It's been tough without the kids but I'm thankful for getting the time we've just had together. She's the best! It was the first time in 2 & 1/2 years that we didn't need to worry about anyone except ourselves! Throw in a nice room (complete with upgrade) overlooking the Pacific on Redondo beach and I'm almost ready to get this over with and start the process of recovery!
So here we go.... Wake up call at 4:15, probably not much point in having a shower since they apparently shave you from head to toe for this type of surgery. You're welcome, I hope you enjoyed the visual as much as I'm going to enjoy the itching and scratching for months afterwards!
Cheers for now! Lots to come and thanks for all the wishes, prayers and good vibes!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Two More Sleeps

The last post was a little long and relates what took place almost two months ago. This one gets us back to today and the reality of trying to avoid thinking about Tuesday morning!

Our last day on Redondo Beach was spent writing and reading emails followed by enjoying the late afternoon with a bike ride and a swim in the great Pacific Ocean.
Interestingly enough the water was much warmer than it was two weeks ago in San Diego during my get away trip. More to come on that little respite from the family in the days to come. It was an interesting trip, just me and my camera so I promise lots of photos!
And of course another great sunset is always worth a photo or two!

A Racing Heart and a Realization

It is almost two months to the day that I woke up at 6:30 AM to my wife coming into the bedroom with our little man in her arms. It was a Friday, which meant an early start and no nanny; it was to be a daddy day. For months Denise had been sleeping in Carson’s room since she would be up at least once in the night to nurse him and we had decided early on that there was no point in both of us getting up. For the moms out there, I’ve always offered to take night duty but our little guy has been a good sleeper and Denise has always felt it just easier to sleep in his room and nurse him. Something about her boobs hurting if she went the whole night without his attention! I won’t argue with that and certainly don't mind getting a full nights sleep. But I digress.

As I awoke I could feel my heart was racing. At times just below my Adams apple it felt like something was going to jump out of my chest. I didn’t immediately freak out. I’ve had episodes of rapid heartbeats before. Many people do, it’s not that unusual for your heart to race for a second or two or to have one or two beats stronger than the rest. But this was not one or two beats or one or two seconds. This was not going away.

Now I’m a pharmacist and I’ve had a pretty extensive medical education. I knew immediately that I was in what is called Atrial Fibrillation (AFib). Besides the medical background I’ve also experienced this condition once before nearly 15 years ago while studying and completing my hospital residency training. At the time that episode was ultimately chalked up to a combination of being a young male, late nights with high caffeine intake and the stress involved with getting through the residency. Following a process of chemical cardioversion (they gave me drugs to put my heart back into normal sinus rhythm) I passed a stress tests and was given a clean bill of health.

So, as I say, I didn’t immediately freak out, instead I calmly got out of bed and told Denise what was happening. I then suggested that if my morning dump didn’t take care of it that we had a problem. For those that don’t know, the process of a bowel movement or bearing down has an effect on the hearts electrical conduction and can often stop some types of arrhythmias including Afib. In this case I had no such luck, with stopping the Afib that is!

What to do? I did not have any chest pain or any other symptoms of a heart attack and I was pretty sure this was a simple case of Afib similar to my previous experience. Afib on its own is rarely life threatening, scary yes, but in almost all cases your heart continues to pump sufficient amounts of blood. Thanks to the SA node (part of the electrical conduction pathway that passes electrical impulses from the atrium to the ventricles), only a fraction of the electrical signals from the atrium actually cause the ventricles to contract otherwise you would have one big twitching mess incapable of sustaining blood flow to vital organs.

A couple of other things came into play that morning. Denise was to open one of the PHI pharmacy stores at 7:30, she tried calling the manager but there was no answer on his cell phone. If she doesn’t go in, the store remains closed. Not something I was too worried about but she is a dedicated employee and this idea did not sit well with her. We also did not have anyone immediately available to take care of the kids and Morgan would be up very soon. In the end we somewhat calmly decided she would take them to work and I would drive myself to the emergency room. For those of you who live on Saipan you can relate to the fact that if I had called an ambulance it would have likely have taken 2 to 3 times as long for someone to get there than it would for me to drive myself. Again, I wasn’t feeling any symptoms other than a very rapid heart beat so off I went!

When I arrived it did not take long to be hooked up to an EKG. Despite not looking like I was in any real distress, the staff in the emergency room understood the potential seriousness of what was happening. I don’t think the familiarity with the triage nurse from 3 plus years of working across the hall hurt the situation either! It was comforting to know that things were moving along pretty quickly.

The EKG confirmed that I was in fact in Afib and that I had a heart rate of more than 130 beats per minute. As the Dr. reviewed the EKG and we waited for the blood work results my heart rate began to come down on its own. The plan to give me some intravenous medication was discussed; the PHI pharmacy manager came in from across the hall to see how I was doing. He told me someone was being sent to relieve Denise and that she would be down shortly. A quick text message from her told me our good friend Sheila had arranged to have her nanny take care of the kids. One less thing to worry about and by the time she arrived my pulse had come down to the point where IV drugs were no longer indicated. I was given some oral medication to further slow my heart rate. The blood work came back with everything in normal range and no indication of a current myocardial infarction (MI/heart attack). The ER doctor was satisfied with sending me home on the medication and an appointment was made for me to see my GP that afternoon.

It was beginning to look more and more like this was an anomaly similar to that of 1991. Then almost as an after thought the Dr. ordered a bedside thoracic (chest) ultra sound. I was taken into a very cold room where Dan, the head of the radiology department, told me to lay down on my side as he prepared to take a look at my heart. That’s where everything changed. After a few minutes of watching the screen with Dan pushing buttons and moving the handle of the ultrasound machine over my chest I asked him how it looked.

He first told me that the right side of my heart was larger than my left and before he could say so, I said, “that’s not good”. He then showed me how my left ventricle (the work horse of the heart and the chamber responsible for pushing blood out to the rest of the body) was not contracting properly. Rather than contracting concentrically like a fist one side was moving away from the other. More buttons and a few measurements later he told me that my ejection fraction was 35%. That’s well below normal especially for a 42-year old man in relatively good health.

In that short time on the table it became apparent that this was not a simple Afib event caused by stress or too much caffeine. Instead my own medical training told me there was something seriously wrong. The atrial fibrillation was a symptom of a much larger problem. The question was what? The right side of the heart does not get bigger than the left overnight. It takes time for that to happen. The clinical term for what I had was cardiomyopathy. The fact that it involved the right side of my heart immediately made me think of my lungs as a potential problem because the right side of the heart pumps blood to the lungs. Did I have pulmonary hypertension? Was the enlargement due to the fact that there was increased resistance to blood flow to my lungs? What the hell was going on?

As I was taken back to the ER my heart rate was responding nicely to the medication. I was still in Afib but the rate was now down to a reasonable 90 beats per minute. As I mentioned Afib on its own is rarely life threatening and with the rate under control there was really no immediate risk to me being discharged from the ER and followed up by my GP later that day. We now knew why the atrium was misfiring; it was a symptom of the increased size of the heart since electrical disturbances are common in the setting of cardiac myopathies. The problem was we did not know why I had the enlarged heart and reduced ejection fraction both of which do not bode well for a long and healthy life span.

Denise took me home and I waited for my appointment that afternoon with Dr. Ada. My mind raced with the possibilities and the possible ramifications of what this meant. In the span of 4 hours I went from being calm to concerned to down right scared of what all this meant and what was to come.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Most Frightening of Words

When it comes to sitting in front of your doctor and hearing them directed at you, a family member or perhaps a close friend, what are the most feared word(s) and phrases you could hear? Words that when faced with personally not only strike fear into your mind and heart but also immediately turn your entire world upside down and all around.


No doubt, a topper on most, if not everyone’s, list. It’s hard to find an individual out there not touched by some form or another, directly or indirectly. Those lucky enough to have avoided their own diagnosis usually know someone who’s not been so fortunate. From a young age and throughout my life, I have known first hand, many times over, the pain, suffering and loss this one word leaves in its path. It is no doubt a horrible combination of letters even to those who ultimately win their battle it remains a threat ready to strike seemingly at will and at any time.

“Open Heart Surgery”

Although significant improvements have been made over the years and countless procedures yearly now make this operation seem a little more “routine”, the bottom line is open-heart surgery (OHS) presents the most invasive form of surgery there is. After all it does entail stopping and cutting into your heart, the very organ responsible for keeping every other organ, including your noggin, working! With a mortality rate between 2 and 5%, the risk of death is relatively low especially considering what is being done but there are other risks such as stroke and kidney failure, which on their own are frightening combinations of letters.

For me OHS has just jumped over the big “C” into first place on the list, at least for the time being. In a few more days I will have open-heart surgery to repair (or replace) my tricuspid valve.

For the next few months it is my intention (and hope) for this blog to take a radically different turn. Rather than focus on diving and environmental issues it will now become more of a diary detailing my experiences through what I expect to be another life-altering journey. With just 4 more sleeps until the big day, the last two months have already provided a rollercoaster ride of thoughts and emotions capable of making for some interesting reading. Putting my thoughts and experiences to paper (or computer in this case) on a daily basis will not only give me a daily goal but it should also prove to be quite cathartic through the long recovery process. Hopefully for you it will also prove to be educational and even entertaining at times.

Fortunately for me, to this point at least, the words open-heart surgery have been followed by phrases such as, “you’re relatively young and healthy”, “it’s a good thing we caught this now” and most importantly “your prognosis is good”.

No doubt I would prefer not to go through this but as many who’ve won their own battle with cancer or fully recovered from OHS will suggest, the end result is a better state of being. For along with these scary words comes a paradigm shift that forces one to have a greater appreciation for what is important in life and to realize that living everyday is a privilege rather than a right.

For me the desire to continue life’s journey and perhaps even more importantly the desire to be a force in the life of my kids will no doubt be what gives me the strength to get through the next few days, weeks and months. So stay tuned, it should prove to be an interesting ride!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What a difference a few days makes - Go Canada

On the very day I wrote the previous post about the Canadian athletes being shutout of any medals at the Beijing Olympics we broke through with 3, one of each color!
Since then we’ve been moving up the charts thanks to a number of different disciplines. As of today the Canadian medal count stands at 13 putting us in 13th place if you consider the overall medal count and 19th if you take the number of gold’s. That’s not a bad 4 days and the best part about it is I was able to watch it all on Canadian TV! There’s been some fun ones to watch, like Simon Whitfield’s silver in the triathlon. The men’s eight team taking gold in rowing once again shows we have a pretty good program in that discipline. And finally long time Olympian Ian Miller gets to stand on the podium with a silver medal in the equestrian events!
According to this article there looks to be a few more good opportunities for medals in the last 4 days of competition so the chances of surpassing previous years totals looks pretty good. Go Canada!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Canada Olympic Team Boycotts Beijing

Is there a Canadian Boycott of the Beijing games? Please tell me yes, it would make me feel a lot better about the current medal standings. I thought I saw the team come out during the opening ceremonies but maybe they started the boycott after that?
From a Canadian perspective being in the states watching the games with US coverage is always a nightmare. You really can’t get anymore of a one sided perspective. In years past when this has happened to me there were at least a few bright spots I could point to among my American friends. Some highlights were rather short lived like Ben Johnson’s gold medal and declaring we had the fastest man in the world. We’ve had swimming success in the past with Alex Bauman coming to mind and of course our synchronized swim team has always done well. Hey don’t laugh my mom was a synchronized swimmer. Our rowers and shooters have always been in the top ranks; perhaps those events have not started yet.

During a recent conversation with a Canadian friend now living in the states we both had to admit how embarrassed we are with this years showing to this point by our home country heroes. As of today there are 55 countries with at least one medal and Canada is not one of them – what the *&%*@# is up with that?
So I took a quick look on the net today to see just how badly we are doing in comparison to years past and well, we’ve never really done very well except during the boycott of the LA games by the USSR and company.

Canada’s results in years past.
Athens (2004) 21st place with 12 medals
Sydney (2000) 24th place with 14 medals
Atlanta (1996) 21st place with 22 medals
Barcelona (1992) 11th place with 18 medals
Seoul (1998) 19th place with 10 medals
Los Angels (1984) 6th place with 42 medals
Moscow - boycott
Montreal (1976) 27th place with 11 medals

So I guess I should not be so disappointed at this halfway point. After all when we hosted the games in 76 we only had 11 medals. I guess it really comes down to watching extremely biased coverage on NBC and the US sports networks. This is difficult for Americans to understand, because as you know the world revolves around the United States.

I’ll be back in Canada for 4 days very soon and I look forward to some Canadian coverage of the games! For those Canadians feeling the same way I am I found this article in the NY Times today worth reading. Here's another page of Top 10 Canadian Olympic Moments.

Go Canada!