One Year After Open Heart Surgery for An Ascending Aortic Aneurysm

Remembering November 2nd, 2009.
One year ago today; I woke up at 4:00am to travel in to nyc for a scheduled open heart surgery.  Our close friend Danielle Macagnone got up in the middle of the night to drive us in and drop us off and ensure that we weren't stressed out any more than necessary.  My family followed, and I had valve sparing open heart surgery to cut out an ascending aortic aneurysm and replace the diseased aorta and underscore of the aortic arch.  Not only was the surgery itself an overwhelming experience; but the days leading up to the surgery, and the days since all took on a new meaning.  The quote below by the author Christopher Pike is an interesting take on it:

"Krishna was once asked what was the most miraculous thing
 in all creation, and he replied, "That a man should wake
each morning and believe deep in his heart that he will
live forever, even though he knows that he is doomed."

I had gone to bed and woken up for 36 years and assumed life would go on, but then at 37 years old I was suddenly facing my own mortality.  Isn't it amazing how we wake up everyday and just take for granted that life will go on.  We know the reality that it will end at some point, yet we still wake up every morning believing deeply, like the quote above, that today we will live forever.  I have been tempted in the past year to fall back into the same mindset, but working on my book, helping others, and training for the NYC Marathon has kept mortality fresh in my mind.  I don't miss an opportunity to say thank you, to show gratitude, or tell someone that I care about them because you never know when it may be your last chance to do it.  Spending time with my family and friends continues to be my number one priority.

Thanks to my primary doctor Mark Singer, and my Cardiologist Ken Walsh who together found and diagnosed my aneurysm.  Thanks to Dr. Stewart my surgeon, for having the only procedure I believed in and for encouraging me to "live" after surgery and not get old and depressed.  Thanks to my wife Nicole for dealing with the emotional rollercoaster caused by my diagnosis and surgery; and thanks for never leaving my bedside when I needed you.  Thanks to my three children, my Mom and Ed, my Sister and Brother, Mom S., my Sister-in-Law, and my Mother and Father-in-law for being there in every way for me.  Thanks to James Rutha for helping to convince me to have the surgery in November when I wanted to wait until January; to find out after pathology tests came back on the aortic tissue; that I wouldn't have made it past thanksgiving.  Thanks also to David Butler and Sung Kim for their unconditional support and concern.  Thanks to Ken Sawchuck my friend who had the same surgery for your advice and emotional support.  Thanks to Danielle Macagnone and all of our close friends (I'm afraid if i list them all i may forget someone because there are so many wonderful people) who brought dinner to our house every night for two weeks straight after I came home from the hospital.  Thanks to Eric Pedersen, Greg Sivin, Sal & Ali Merlino, Jen Fornasieri, and every other person who put their own life on hold to visit me in the hospital.  I was surprised, and it meant a lot.  Thanks to everyone who ever asked how I was doing then, and now.  Most people are so caught up in their own lives they could care less about what's going on around them.  Like the quote above; they wake up everyday and take for granted that life will go on.  They'll never know how much these little gestures mean until they've had a "lifechanger" them self.  I wish anyone in this position to be surrounded by wonderful people like I was.

Lastly thanks to John Ritter who's legacy brought about an increased aortic awareness, and caused people like me to realize the seriousness of getting diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm, and what can happen if you don't get it taken care of.

In 4 days I'll be running the NYC Marathon with my wife Nicole and my heart surgeon Dr. Allan Stewart.


MrsNicoleCarey said...

thank you ben, for always showimg me the way but allowimg me to find it on my own. Your perspective on life and living is admirable and your spirit is tremendous.

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