The worst thing about having an unexpected quintuple bypass when you’re in your 30s is that you witness your own mortality. It’s not some abstract idea to laugh about. It’s a real thing that you really come to grips with and, when everything works out, you realize how lucky you truly are.
I did. I thought I was done as they were rushing me into surgery. Between the ambulance rides and the prep work, spent a solid three hours accepting that I would never see anyone in my life again. Laying on that gurney, the best way I can describe it to someone who hasn’t experienced it is to liken it to the series finale of a TV show that you love. The last episode is airing and it ends at 10pm. You glance at the clock and see that it’s 9:50 and you realize something. All the characters you grew to love are all gone. There isn’t enough time to bring them back for one final scene. The show is coming to a close. You were so engrossed in the program that you missed all their final appearances.
For me, that was the perfect analogy. I was so engrossed in the show that was my life that I failed to realize that these characters would never be a part of my world again before it was too late. I would never see my kids, my friends, my home, or my car. Everything was gone. This was it. I was in the final ten minutes of my finale.
Then, after a very long surgery, I woke up with a tube in my throat and beeping all around me. I was in the ICU and alive. The television series that was my life had just gotten picked up by Netflix.
So, good news, right? I’m living, surviving, and thriving. All is well. No worries.
Actually, that’s kind of a strange paradox because it only eliminates some worries. Sure, this experience allows you to see the world through fresh eyes; embracing the little things you may have overlooked before. You cherish the characters around you and want to partake in every adventure you can. It makes life more enjoyable from that point on.
However, it also makes you come to grips with your own mortality. As basic as it sounds, once you know you can really get sick, you know you can really get sick.
While losing friends and family had become a fairly common occurrence in my life before then, it never really rocked me like that surgery did. Sure, there was mortality all around me, but it wasn’t my mortality. It wasn’t until it happened to me that it was a real possibility in my mind.
Two weeks ago, I started experiencing some of the same pains that I had felt when I had my heart attack and, to be completely honest, it freaked me out. My arms were sore from my triceps up to my shoulders and my chest felt uneasy. I was convinced that I was on the road to a surgical sequel.
When I saw my cardiologist, he told me I was healthy. He checked my vitals, ran tests, and all that stuff that gives you peace of mind. I was fine. Then again, according to doctors, I was fine before that day in 2012, when I found myself thinking up symbolic comparisons about life and tv finales while being wheeled into surgery. So, yeah.
I begrudgingly accepted their positive diagnosis and went home. I thought, for sure, something was wrong. This was it. I was done.
Then, I stretched and it went away.
I kid you not. If used emojis in these posts, this is where would be a little yellow humiliated face right here.
Bending my arm at my elbow, I pulled my hand down towards my lower back until I had that familiar feeling of painful pleasure. I called out like Tarzan and stretched further. Then I switched arms. I have been great ever since.
It’s the same embarrassing overreaction I have any time my kid’s school leaves an automated message to say that good ol’ C-19 has been detected at her school. From that point on, every headache, sniffle, and sneeze becomes a worry that I rehash in my brain repeatedly. Even with my first shot scheduled in the next few weeks, I know there’s a possibility of anything happening before then.
And that’s where I am at right now as I write this. I’m currently battling my yearly allergy and sinus pain that puts me in a headlock right around WrestleMania time. I am well aware of what the issue is. It’s my allergies. I always get it every single March through April. This year just happened to be a year with a pandemic. It’s not, well, you know what. I have nohing to worry about.
But still…maybe? Right?
I keep picturing that scene in Kindergarten Cop only with Arnold screaming at me, “It’s not the virus!” One can hope it’s not. I do. But still, what if? To quote our vaccination savior, Dolly Parton, it’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it.
This new found hypochondria isn’t mine alone. I know others struggle with it, given the climate we live in today. You used to be able to sneeze at Barnes and Noble and get a “bless you” from the cashier. Sneeze today in a Barnes and Noble and they’re throwing a net around you until the guys in hazmat suits arrive.
After all that, there is one positive thing I saved for the end. I realized it that night I was laying on that gurney, scripting my own final episode. Up until that moment, I had spent my whole life worrying and stressing over so much…except for a quintuple bypass. Yet, here I was. This was the big one and I never saw it coming. In 35 years, it had never crossed my mind once.
It made all that concern for the little things seem pointless and reminded me that you have no idea where your path will take you. The things we pull our hair out over might never come to fruition. The things we never expect could be the ones that do us in.
That stays in my head in times like these. Everything will be alright. I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled and I’ll know soon enough. There’s no point in worrying about things that might never happen. And, let’s be honest, I’m definitely not even sick.