On a personal note: on July 24th 2013, I went to the Emergency Room of our local hospital in Coquille, Oregon, with some moderate and strange chest pain. It turns out I was dying and didn’t know it. I was in the middle of experiencing an “aortic disection”, where the inner lining of the main descending aorta separates from the outer wall. That “disection” also affected the big valve at the top of the heart that keeps the blood flowing in one direction into that aorta. That heart valve was kind of hanging down out of place and not functioning well. So, after some miraculous medical diagnostic work on the part of the radiologist who caught what was happening, a dramatic (and expensive) “life flight” to Sacred Heart hospital in Eugene, and some awesome work on the part of Dr. Koh, a very nice heart surgeon, early on July 25th I went under the knife for open heart surgery. They replaced the problematic valve with a mechanical valve, and did some work to shore up the inside of the aorta where it attaches to the heart. (Duct tape?)
Open Heart Surgery is not an experience I would recommend for anyone, but it is better than the alternative, which would be attending one’s own funeral. Without it, I would have been dead on 26 July.
The kindness and professionalism of the EMTs, nurses and doctors and physician’s assistants and all the administrative personnel at Coquille Valley Hospital and the Life Flight crew, and at Sacred Heart/Peace Health in Eugene has been overwhelming and unexpected.
I spent the next week after surgery recuperating in hospital, then they kicked me out and sent me home, back to the ranch on August 1st.
It’s now been 7 weeks since the surgery, and I am recuperating well, attending weekly cardio rehab sessions in Coos Bay, monitoring my blood closely for things I never cared about before, and taking all kinds of drugs for blood pressure, clotting factors, etc.
The moral of my story is: Don’t ignore warnings about high blood pressure. If I’d been taking the blood pressure drugs I should have been taking for the last 20 years, and hadn’t been smoking cigars for that whole period, and hadn’t had a genetic predisposition toward an aortic disection and a faulty heart valve, then I’d have possibly avoided this open heart surgery. But maybe not; it’s quite possible that despite taking blood pressure meds and not smoking for 20 years, I’d have had this happen anyway. The surgeon couldn’t really say that I could have done anything different to avoid having this happen.
So, having survived a near brush with death, and been given another chance at life, I am happy to be alive and very thankful to my family for “circling the wagons” and helping me get through this.