Two Wonderful Girls. One Day At A Time…

Archive for June, 2009

A Father's Reflections on Open-Heart Surgery (One Year Later)

For those of you who keep an eye on my Facebook or Twitter accounts, you’re probably aware that I passed a pretty significant milestone a few weeks ago. It has been one year since I underwent open heart surgery. I marked the occasion by going for a 10-mile run, my first not only since heart surgery but also since Seattle. My surgeon promised I’d be better than before ("you’ll be 100% and maybe even 110%") and I’ll be damned if I was gonna make him out to be a liar. On the first anniversary, Cherise and I officially nicknamed the day "Heart Day" and declared it a family holiday. No work. No computers (though there was authorized iPhone usage just in case of emergency). After my 10-mile run, we went to the Charles Schulz (aka Peanuts/Charlie Brown) museum in Santa Rosa. I then took Iris to her baseball lessons (definitely worth a future blog entry). Pretty much the perfect day.

For those who are curious, I am pretty much 100% physically. My echocardiogram from three-months post-op looked perfect and I’ll be getting another one again in September. If that one also shows what the last one did, my cardiologist doesn’t even think I’ll need to get checked less than five years at a time. I pretty much feel great save for an occasional moment here and there that is to be expected for someone who had their heart "tweaked". Other than those moments, the only physical reminder is the six-inch scar down the center of my chest that serves more as a trophy of my success (at least as long as the success continues). Meanwhile, that 10-mile run was the culmination of 700 miles that I’ve run since May 20th of last year–especially meaningful to me given I wasn’t sure if it was going to be prudent to give up running altogether. Instead, it has helped both strengthen and validate my rehabilitation. So physically, I am not really worse for the wear. Mentally, however, I took a lot more from the experience.

A year ago, I
wrote about my reflections on the surgery. Of all the entries I’ve written over the years, that one stands out to me as the most honest and most vulnerable writing I’ve ever done. I look back on it every now and then just to re-level myself. Now, with the recovery complete and so much having happened since the big day, it’s even more instructive to reflect on the time since such a a life-altering event and realize what those alterations really turn out to be. When I originally started writing this post, I was planning to put in all those lessons learned from the eyes of someone who had such a dramatic event in his life. You know, try lead a better life, surround yourself with people that inspire you, don’t spend your days doing something you don’t believe in, don’t be afraid to look stupid. All those life-affirming things. But those things come and go in terms of how faithfully I follow them. The one true thing that has changed is that I have yet to take one day for granted–particularly the days I spend with Cherise, Iris, and Robyn. I know, I know. Yet another cliche, right? Perhaps. But parenting (as well as being a husband) is such a cumulative experience that every day really is better than the one before. Understanding the unpredictability of life lets you appreciate the growth even more. Not to make a corny analogy, but it’s like watching TV in high-definition after watching on a regular TV for years. It’s one thing to love your family and it’s quite another to realize the significance of each event, no matter how minor it might seem on the surface. It’s not that I love them any more than I did before–that wouldn’t be possible. It’s more about not being afraid to take the extra moment to spend time with the kids or not get so frustrated when things go awry (and with a 3-year old and a 11-month old, things ALWAYS go awry). It’s about taking the bad as well as the good and knowing that the mix is what makes life so special.

So, with a year gone by, it’s hard to say that life has completely returned to normal. Actually, I suppose it is now the new normal. Physically, I don’t really restrict myself and you couldn’t tell anything unique about me by seeing me, so the surgeon was right about the 100%. But mentally, in some ways, I am a changed person and I think it has helped make me a better parent or at the very least more appreciative. And frankly, I am just a happier person. Now some of that may also have to do with career changes and a general outlook on life, both of which have also been impacted by my surgical experience. But even those changes have opened the door for a better relationship with Iris and Robyn and they’re my doctors now. And they’ve helped me reach the elusive 110% that my surgeon was after. Sorry Dr. Miller. You’re good, but you’ve been trumped by the Khaund sisters…

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