Death Is a Dirty Trick

I see that Google finally did a Page Rank update in December, after taking the entire year off, and this blog received a three. Respectable, especially since I rarely post here. 

I had heart surgery last October. I had a heart valve replaced with a mechanical substitute, and a section of my ascending aorta replaced with either a bovine, porcine, or human donor tissue. I purposely asked as few questions about my surgery as were necessary to survive. I didn’t want to know. I put my entire faith in the surgical team, and let them do their job. 

My ascending aorta was almost seven centimeters. A huge aneurysm which had most likely been growing for several years. All those years I walked around and could have died suddenly at any moment. All those last months where I got winded just walking a few stairs. 


Many live in terror of it.

I never did. Until the week when I had an allergic reaction to the pre-surgical antibiotics and my procedure was delayed. That entire week I could do nothing but worry my aorta would explode before I could have it fixed. 

Now death is familiar to me. It will never be far away from my thoughts again. There is no youth left in my life. Since my surgery I have had a few incidents that caused me to panic. Blood where it shouldn’t be. Dizziness. A sudden nausea or light-headedness are enough to send me into a panic. My entire biochemistry has been altered. I now have several bionic parts in my body. I am dependent on chemicals that regulate my blood within a very narrow range that is essential to keep me alive.

It’s frightening. I look at the three year old and I wonder will I be there when he graduates. Will I even be there on his first day of school. 

It’s possible I could live a very long life. But even if I do I’ll live every day of it with death closer and more more probably than others. Before the surgery I had to resign myself to the possibility I would die. Having survived, I now live in a body that is somewhat alien to me. I don’t know what to expect from it from day to day. I don’t know if I will ever feel normal or safe again. Monday at the gym I felt dizzy after pushing it a little too hard, and I didn’t know if I would collapse and die, or if I could just be a little dizzy because I overdid it, then feel better later.

What I know is there little margin for error. My diet and lifestyle have to be strict. I had a few careless days and my INR dropped to 1.5, which means my blood was way too thick, which put me in danger of forming blood clots on my mechanical replacements, which forever must remain exposed and under attack by my own blood cells. I felt shame that I had jeopardized all the work that surgical team had done to perform what amounts to a miracle. I felt ashamed I had put my family at risk of dropping dead on them. 

I may die, and die early, but I really don’t want to add to that possibility. As I say that two boxes of Girl Scout cookies are on my counter. I need to ignore them. How I resent not being the person I was before. Living with nausea and dizziness and this sickening thudding piece of metal in my chest. 

Death sucks.



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