Friday, August 28, 2009
Anyone who knows my dad knows that he is intense. Intensity may not even accurately define the situation when it comes to exercise. My dad retired recently and he has taken the opportunity to exercise up to 6 hours a day as often as possible. Hard core bike riding (since his knees are gone from years of marathon running).
So it came as a complete and staggering shock when my mom called me this week to tell me that my dad was going to have to go in for an angioplasty/heart stent or possibly open heart surgery. The main artery to his heart was 98% blocked. He said that he knew something was terribly wrong when he was out for a bike ride and he was having tremendous pain in his arms. After that he couldn't walk up the driveway without that same pain. Two weeks prior, he had biked 150 miles over three mountain passes.
Stunned. My dad eats no red meat, has never smoked or taken a sip of alcohol, has good cholesterol, and is quite obviously physically active. All of us were taken aback and quite petrified. For the past two days, I've been edgy and on the verge of tears.
Of course these things can happen to anyone and at any time (my dad is only 53 years old). But there was something so unjust about this. Vascular disease for someone who is the picture of health - fanatic health (he has an excel spreadsheet that dates back 20 years with a record of all his workouts/times/distances). It disrupts something fundamental when you get news like that - news that seems so polar to your ideas about how things are.
Yesterday, I called my dad on the way to the hospital. "What a gorgeous, sunny day here. Why isn't this happening in November when I wouldn't want to go for a bike ride anyway?" he lamented.
And then I called my mom at the hospital as soon as the procedure was meant to be over. My mom answered and my dad chatted beside her. Everything had gone very well and they were able to position the stent in the artery well and it was clear that my dad wouldn't need open heart surgery.
My dad got on the phone and I asked him:"Are you going to stay the night in the hospital?"
"Yeah, I don't think they have a gym here though." This was certainly with a smile on his face. The tragic thing is that deep down he was only half-kidding.
He went on to describe what the doctor told him after the procedure: "He said after 1 week I'd be at 25%, and after two weeks 50%." In the background, my mom cried out, "Not true! Brad! The doctor said 2 weeks at 25%!"
My dad has had three knee surgeries. After each, within two weeks, he was on 20-mile hikes. Not normal. So, this is a plea of sorts. Dad, we love you like crazy. We want you around for a really long time.
NO PUSH-UPS. No bike rides. Those are the rules. Seriously.