March, 2017: I am highly likely to have open-heart surgery soon to replace a congenitally and progressively defective aortic valve. Fortunately, this condition is not Life Factors related and has nothing to do with the gallon of Grey Goose Martinis Jo and I consume each night. Otherwise, she would be in the bed beside me versus in the bed with me, which is generally more fun. At least, for me. The No Spin Talking Points timeline for determining my condition follow:
March, 2007: Ten years ago, during a routine J&J executive physical, I had to take a treadmill test, which I usually aced. I overheard the doctor talking to his assistant that a patient had a “significantly abnormal result”. I wondered who that poor sap was and, a few minutes later, I found out said sap was me. Bummer. I was then scheduled for a stress echocardiogram. For those of you unfamiliar with this procedure, the stress echo meant I had to run on a treadmill until my heartbeat was +170. Once there, the doctor said I had to “push it” for 30 more seconds; I was thinking 3 more seconds or immediate death would ensue. The doctor tossed me on a cot and took a sound wave video of my heart then beating more rapidly than Bill Clinton's heart in the presence of a new intern. At that point, the doctor diagnosed that I had a thickening aortic value and would probably need a replacement pig’s valve in 15 to 20 years. His advice was to “keep doing what I was doing” in terms of rigorous exercise and time would tell the tale. I took my exercise regimen up a number of notches in an attempt to avoid Porky Pig from becoming part of my anatomy.
November, 2016: While hitting tennis balls with Marsh Landing Head Tennis Pro Barry Curley, a masochist who is also my instructor, for the first time in my life, I felt “winded” after a few minutes. I was trying to push through this condition because the weather was unseasonably hot and I did not want to wimp out. Barry made me stop and sit; I regained my breathing; and we finished the lesson with much easier drills. He probably saved me from having a heart attack, which goes above and beyond his pay grade. For that, I am eternally grateful. Thanks, coach!
January, 2017: I went to Baptist Medical Practice Primary Care Doctor David Johnson for an EKG which turned out to be “borderline”. Dr. Johnson, a really great guy, said my result was consistent with an “aortic valve going bad”. He recommended cardiologist William Wainwright, MD, who is also part of the Baptist Medical Practice. Before seeing Dr. Wainwright, I was scheduled for a “non-stress” echocardiogram (Thank the Lord for the non-stress part!) and subsequent treadmill test. After doing the echocardiogram, the doctors cancelled the treadmill test because of the apparent weakness in my aortic valve. Additionally, my once faint heart murmur now sounded like a Hillary Clinton campaign speech: loud, irregular and ugly.
February 14, 2017: Dr. Wainwright, another terrific medical professional, did his magic. The results were read to Jo and me on Valentine’s Day, 2017, which happened to be the 51st anniversary of my 17th birthday—seriously, I have the same hair do albeit a different color and more follically challenged, same jokes, same profanity, same politics—I was an enlightened Constitutional Conservative early! His diagnosis was that the 15-20 years of aortic valve health I was hoping for turned out to be 10 years and, within weeks, open-heart surgery is required.
March 6, 2017: I will have a Cardiac Catheterization performed to determine the degree of damage to the aortic valve and assess whether any other blockages are present. Dr. Wainwright believes my heart is amazingly strong except for that pesky valve. After this procedure, I will have to have a mechanical valve inserted. Sorry, Porky, see you at dinner. Daughter Genna is hoping the mechanical valve is made of gold to match the rest of my heart. She did not actually say that but I know she meant to! I am not thrilled about being carved open but will do whatever is required to preserve a dignified and active life. I am told this means seven days in the hospital, six weeks in recovery and three months before rigorous exercise. When Jo and I resume our Vodka consumption, we will switch to Tito's Vodka to honor President Trump's "Buy American, Employ Americans" strategy. Tito's Vodka, manufactured in the great state of Texas, will be able to hire a third shift to keep up with our demand.
Thanks for indulging my story. A few prayers are definitely welcome. If Alma Mater VILLANOVA would repeat as Men's Hoops National Champion, that would be a nice gift. It is somewhat ironic that a lifetime Operations guy needs quite a life saving operation. I hope my surgeon does not screw up as much as I did!! Peace, brothers and sisters.