One year ago today I was wheeling down the hallway of University Hospitals Mather OR wondering whether this would be the last time I would see my friends and family. I was an emotional wreck as they helped me climb onto the operating table. Facing my fears, I melted into the table. My next memory is the chaos of the cardiac ICU and the not so pleasant extubation. My heart and aorta had just spent seven hours being rebuilt so that I could see another day. It was the first day of the rest of my life.
My first birthday was an eventful one for mom and dad. I arrived a month early with too much zeal and excitement for the yet undiscovered world. Forty-four years later I would find a new birthday, a second chance at life. My heart turns one today.
I have not forgotten the tears and pain and struggle of the last twelve months, but I do wake each morning with the sense and strength of survival. My scar is an obvious and unavoidable reminder, but my ability to take on and conquer all that I want has been the true test of time. My passions are my family, my work, and my running. The trials of the early recovery have born a new energy. My sense of control of my future has returned. My greatest challenge, looking back, was not the physical toll my body had to endure; but the loss of control of my very essence, my life. We all like to be the captain of our own ship; navigating our life paths to our greatest destinations. But my surgery forced me to relinquish control to my doctors, my family, and all those offering a helping hand. Fear of dependence motivated me early in recovery. I did not see it until much later.
My days start early now, 5 a.m., as I head to the gym. I run or workout most every day. I have run in three races since my surgery and finished top ten percent in all of them and better than that in my age group. My latest Turkey Trot 5 miler in downtown Cleveland on Thanksgiving was shared by my Kathy, the kids and 10,000 others. I recently ran 10 plus miles and never felt better. The new found energy has pushed me to many new heights. I embrace the challenges of being a good husband, father, surgeon. I cherish all of my relationships with a new sense of purpose.
I am still a survivor. I thank all of my family and friends that helped me reach this day. I hope that my story continues to be a source of inspiration to myself and others, providing a road map for those facing a difficult obstacle in their own life. There are no guarantees in this life. Try and find your own peace in giving up the control once in a while and letting others share in your failures and successes. So wish my heart a happy birthday today! Enjoy your family, your highs, your lows and everything in between. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!