It’s been 25 years since the health crisis that almost scared me to death. Keep my condition in mind and indulge me as I revisit the always hilarious subject of open heart surgery.
January 1, 1996. Life is good. Great Wife. Three wonderful Boys. New house. Great job. Waiting until 4:00 to watch my beloved Michigan Wolverines in the Rose Bowl.
My heart starts racing uncontrollably. Game hasn't even started. I’m rushed to ER. Doctor orders an EKG, studies results.
“Your heart, it’s beating too fast.”
I flunked biology in high school, but Lloyd Carr and I made that diagnosis back at the house.
I ask Doctor if he knows Rose Bowl score. Doctor questions my priorities. He obviously doesn’t know I have $200 on the game. I’m sent home after being told to see Cardiologist in the morning.
After a sleepless night, I keep my appointment. Cardiologist listens, listens, shows some concern.
“Your heart is beating too fast.”
He must have gone to same medical school as ER Doctor.
The next step is a 24-hour heart monitor. Looking at the results, Cardiologist gives me his diagnosis:
Atrial Septal Defect. A hole in my heart.
“You need open heart surgery,” he says, with all the emotion of an ironing board.
“What if I don’t have surgery, doc?”
I leave, but not before thanking him for cushioning the blow.
Panic sets in. Can’t sleep. Wife is very supportive, but acting strange.
I catch her looking at old high school yearbook. Circling the cute boy’s pictures.
Neighbor comes over, offers to take care of the caulking jobs that need to be done around the house. Always thought Neighbor liked Wife.
Insurance Man calls, tries to sell me a million dollar policy to cover my family. I complain about premiums.
“Don’t worry. Based on your condition, you probably won’t have to make too many payments.”
I tell Wife if anything happens she should remarry. My heart is touched as Wife emphatically states that she would never get married again.
“I’ll just live with the guy.”
The big day arrives. March 19, 1996. I have to tell Boys. It’s going to be hard because I’m their whole life. I tell them, no matter what happens, I love them.
Oldest says, “I love you.” Middle says, “Good luck.” Youngest asks for pizza money. He’s too young — or too hungry — to understand.
Finally at the hospital, being prepped for surgery. I look around the room and notice Technician, who will operate the heart lung machine. I become terrified because Technician looks exactly like the mechanic who screwed up my Caravan last week. I’ll find out for sure, if he gives me a box of parts back after surgery.
Surgery’s over. I’m alive, feeling no pain. They take me to ICU, I forget pre-op marital promise and start flirting with Nurse. Nurse seems interested, less so after I throw up the anesthesia in her hair.
Medicine wears off. Severe pain. Something’s wrong. Heart starts going 240 beats a minute. I feel faint.
Five doctors work feverishly to bring the rate down. “Am I in danger, Doc? Am I in danger?”
“No, we always treat a patient five doctors at a time.” The others laugh. I’m half dead and these clowns are auditioning for Scrubs.
I pray for my heart rate to stabilize. When it finally does, the doctors congratulate themselves. God and I let them believe what they want to believe.
The next day, it’s time to go home. Surgeon comes in with instructions, gives me a teddy bear to squeeze for pain.
Unless Bear is stuffed with Daravon, this ain’t gonna work.
Surgeon says “No meat, no cheese, no regular milk, no butter, no ice cream. And eat a lot of soy. Any questions?”
“Just one — can you page Dr. Kevorkian?”
“Oh, and no sex for 6 weeks.”
Hey, that’s better than the 6 month schedule my wife has me on now.
“And finally, don’t lift anything over 5 pounds.”
Wife takes me home. I hug Boys, pet Dog, thank God.
Doorbell rings. You guessed it. Neighbor, caulk gun in hand.
“Steve, glad you’re home.” Shoot, he survived.
Still trying to be helpful, asks if we need more caulking. Wife says, “If there is any caulking to do, my man is back home to do it.”
I feel so proud. So strong. So virile. Too bad that caulk gun looks like it's more than five pounds.
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