Just seven weeks ago, I published an article on LinkedIn and on my website (DaveMaurerConsulting.com) called “A Heart to Heart Talk” revealing my upcoming triple bypass heart surgery. In that article, I described the events that led to the heart surgery, and I also asked all of you to pay attention to what your body is telling you and seek medical advice or attention if warranted. Gladly, I know now of several of you who have done exactly that, and I am so pleased that you did – especially knowing that those of you who did so now feel better knowing you remain in good health!
My “CABG” (pronounced cabbage) surgery was the morning of March 29th, 2023. It turns out that my planned triple bypass expanded to a quadruple bypass during surgery, so it was a CABGx4, as they say in the heart business!
I have so many stories to tell, I can’t possibly share them all here, but I’m happy to do that when we can meet in person – so let’s do that! Some will make you cringe, and many will make you laugh, but all tell the story of my little adventure from near fatal heart disease to receiving the gifts of health and gratitude.
Here are a few observations from my heart surgery:
First, I was the fortunate recipient of stellar care at one of the top cardiac care hospitals in the country, Mary Washington Hospital Center in Fredericksburg, VA. Further, I had their top doc perform the operation. To say that this is a big surgery is quite an understatement. Bypass surgery not only affects the heart and its surroundings, but it often takes an emotional toll. It seems the heart is not just another organ, but the keeper of all manner of important feelings, emotions, and chemicals that affect one’s brain as well. To make this rather traumatic event tolerable, the doctors, nurses, aides, and the entire staff extended themselves at every opportunity. I will never forget their professionalism, their genuine concerns for my welfare (and my dignity) and their unmatched display of compassion. I was so comfortable in the ICU and felt so safe and content in their care that I didn’t want to leave! Who doesn’t want to get out of the ICU? Me!! When the time came to leave there for the “step-down unit,” I was sad to leave my new friends but was met with literal open arms by the fantastic nursing staff waiting for me there. Again, their care was remarkable and though after nine days in the hospital I was indeed eager to go home, I knew I would miss the dozen or so nurses and aides who cared for me for several days as I began to recover.
Following the heart surgery, I had to overcome a few setbacks, but probably no more than most patients who had similar operations. A fever of unknown origin, a touch of AFIB, fluid retention like you can’t imagine (like 15 pounds of it), and of course, the usual connections (and disconnections) of the various tubes, wires, ports, and other fun devices that are required to keep you alive and healing all played a memorable role in my first few days in the hospital. The swelling in my right leg (the site of the vein graft) needed for three of the bypasses was so severe that it required yet another surgery to relieve the pressure. Not fun, but considering what CABG surgery entails, not a big deal. Even having my pacemaker implanted back in December now seems minor in comparison to open-heart surgery – and I guess it is.
A few days before the bypass, I asked my surgeon to explain the procedure. He looked at me strangely and asked if I was “sure” I wanted to know. I was, and he proceeded to describe it. I should have stopped him when he mentioned the saw, then the rib spreader, and the surgical wires they use to put me back together, but I let him continue. Learning about the need for a heart/lung machine, a breathing tube, chest drainage tubes, and yes, a catheter, was special too! As I’m sure is the case for most of you who have undergone extensive medical events, you almost feel like a first-year med student learning new terms and reading up on all aspects of the operation. Now I’m glad I majored in economics.
I could go on and on about this whole process that began with that pacemaker implant five months ago right up to today, but I will spare you – for now. Now 6 weeks after heart surgery, I am walking a mile or two almost every day, eating a heart-healthy diet (who needs salt and sugar anyway?) and I’m feeling closer to normal every day – though some days are clearly better than others. Normal is around the corner – I can feel it.
I can never adequately express my gratitude for your prayers, thoughts, good vibrations, advice, meals, and concern for me (and for my wife, Tina, and our family) throughout this ordeal. Keep it all coming, as I’m not quite there yet!
I am now a proud member of the “Zipper Club” and wear my eight-inch scar with some sense of pride. Pride in the medical staff who extended my life, pride in my wife for ensuring I made it through by being there constantly and managing both my home recovery and the house without complaint, pride in my three sons for traveling here and stepping up and surrounding me and their mom with love and much needed company, and a little pride in myself for going through it all and coming out the other side taking better care of my body. I can say now that all-in-all, it wasn’t as bad as I anticipated, but I also would not wish this on anyone. It was life changing, life affirming, and literally, life giving.
Take care of yourselves!