Below is a copy of the email I sent out to family members and friends earlier tonight announcing the scheduled surgery date (December 7, 2011), as well as sharing my belief in the importance of keeping a positive attitude!
Dear family and friends,
As most of you know, I got the news just about four weeks ago that I would probably need to have another open heart surgery in the coming months to address an aneurysm in my pulmonary artery. This was discovered by the cardiac MRI that I had done shortly after my bicycling accident in early August. (They say things happen for a reason. I guess I now know why that freak bicycling accident happened after all.) Since I got this surprising news, I’ve had some great conversations and have experienced a truly overwhelming amount of support and encouragement from family members, friends, colleagues (including my boss!), doctors, and staff and volunteers at the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA): http://www.achaheart.org/.
ACHA is a great organization that I found online while doing some research on congenital heart defect surgeries and patient care. (I even borrowed their logo as my Facebook profile photo for right now.) ACHA is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life and extending the lives of adults with congenital heart defects (CHD). I’ve already been paired up with a volunteer through the organization’s Heart to Heart Ambassador program; and Russell, my ambassador, has been a great peer and mentor resource for me. Not only do we share the same CHD (Tetralogy of Fallot), we are both avid bicyclists who were “reintroduced” to our condition after having another incident while bicycling as an adult.
All that said, I now have a date! I wish I could say that my date was tall, dark, and handsome and would be taking me out for dinner next week. But the date I’m referring to is for the surgery. Eight weeks from today (on December 7, 2011), I will be having the surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The team that I have been interacting with thus far has been nothing short of fantastic, from the nursing staff to the cardiologist and surgeon. I know that I’m in very good hands, and the doctors are fully expecting me to be back to bicycling and my other normal activities in no time after the recovery.
I will admit, however, that the phone call I received yesterday confirming the surgery date did catch me a little off guard. Even though I was expecting the call and knew it was coming, putting “Surgery” on my calendar -- and then blocking off the next six weeks as “Medical Leave” -- can definitely take its toll. As my boss said, I had been processing everything intellectually so far; but processing things emotionally is much different. I went ahead and took a few minutes to go for a walk, to call my family and share the update with them, and to start processing the reality that a date for surgery was now confirmed. Truth be told, it was all a bit overwhelming.
Even though I now have the surgery date scheduled, I still have an appointment at Rush University Medical Center next week for a second opinion. While I fully expect that the cardiologist there will agree with the recommendation for surgery, I still want to hear another medical professional say so before I go under the knife. On the off chance that he doesn’t agree, I think I will be more confused than anything (but I’ll address that if and when it happens).
As the subject of this email says, attitude is everything! I really believe that. Am I scared? Sure! I expect any sane person would be. But I am also extremely grateful for the opportunity to be able to process the news, get the advice and opinions I need, and proceed in an educated and logical manner. Not everyone has this opportunity, so I’m already ahead of the game. And as I told a friend of mine earlier today, I plan to continue laughing and joking all the way to the operating room!
To those of you who have offered support and words of encouragement (and you know who you are), please know that I am immensely grateful! Even though I know that I am the one going under the knife, I am well aware of the fact that I am NOT going through this alone; and that fact, in and of itself, is SO important to me. To those of you who I haven’t had the chance to talk with about this yet, please know that it’s not personal. You’re receiving this email now because I consider you an important part of my life, and I wanted to share this news with you. In today’s technological world, sometimes email can be the easiest and most convenient way to “go public” about something.
Speaking of going public, if you’re interested in reading more about my journey and you haven’t had a chance to check out the blog I created, I encourage you to do so: Ken of Hearts (http://kenofhearts.blogspot.com/). I also invite you to stay tuned to it as I fully intend to keep posting for the foreseeable future (well, aside from the days immediately following the surgery). But, as always, I’m happy to hear from you by phone or email, too.
Thank you for being you and helping me to be me!
Warmly and with gratitude,