It’s been a while since I last entered a sporting competition with any sort of training or ambition to “win”. I had to step down from these notions more than a dozen years ago. No one knew why, I didn’t know why. It was a struggle to wrap your persona so tightly around sports that envelope your health only to see it stripped away in a few months. Often you hear people say, “oh so how are you doing” or more aptly “how is your health?” I always found these questions (as any 20-something would) to be slightly rhetorical. “Yes, I’m great, my health is great. (what would you expect??)” Because I was active in sport I thought that health was a formulated decision. [Did you exercise today? Did you set goals? Did you eat healthy? Did you respect yourself? Rest enough? Sleep enough? Perfect!] Easy, right?
Turns out, sometimes it’s not so easy. The youth are so naive… which is why I’m sure these types of questions are asked. Sometimes you get whacked upside-the-head with something doctors like to call “idiopathic” issues. Despite all the science we know, the term “idiopathic” still exists for things that we cannot make a connection to the cause. It just “happens” to some people. Luckily, it happened to me. I say “luckily” because I’m very happy where I am and how things turned out. But I also know that sport helps me to focus. It grounds me. It lets me think. It let’s me find solutions at work. It let’s me dream. It let’s me struggle. It lets me wonder if I can make it home. And it lets me realize how great it is to have a place and family to return to. I suppose everyone needs a focus – whether its religion or a hobby or an escape so they can tackle everyday life with a clear conscience, fresh perspective, and new found energy. I don’t need to stand on any podiums anymore, but I need my own time and my own little “victories”. Even if that simply means getting home from a tough ride that I wasn’t sure I could pull off.
My recent heart issues have been up and down. Sometimes I can crank out a solo century ride and from afar it seems like I don’t have any health issues. This year, even on the best day, I still have to deal with my heart but I can mask it behind determination and will – fighting through it. I also have a keen sense of what to expect from my heart, what it can do, what it can’t do, and what it needs to avoid V-Tach so I can keep going. On a bad day, I can’t participate in leisurely sporting activities or even shovel snow off the walkway. That’s pretty humbling for a fit 34 year old and tough to deal with now… and if you extrapolate to future years.
So after 3 heart surgeries (Nov, Feb, Apr) which all failed to fix my Ventricular Arrhythmia (RVOT-VT specifically), it’s been determined that I might need a different type of heart surgery – one that is only conducted in a few hospitals world-wide (though it’s getting more common as demand and technology spreads). One of the first hospitals in the world to pioneer this procedure was Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and due to my location, previous cardiologist’s connections, and luck of now living in New England, is where I’m headed.
While I’ve had 3 heart surgeries prior, they were fairly non-invasive. They simply select a big vein in the leg and can follow the “highway” all the way inside the heart where the cardiologist then burns areas of the inside of the heart that are misbehaving. After almost 20 hours of trying to find the “sweet spot” to burn, it turns out that the area may actually be on the outside of the heart – a very rare occurrence.
The previous endocardial (inside the heart) surgeries allowed me to walk out the day after and even bike on an indoor trainer a week later, the epicardial procedure will most likely be more involved – though it’s hard to say since there are not a lot of first-hand accounts available online to gauge the recovery time. It requires entering through the chest and piercing the pericardial sac. I’ve referenced another cyclists tribulations with Epicardial V-Tach surgery before and I’ll be reading this post in detail tomorrow night to get a mental grasp on what is to come. He does a great job of outlining the process with a serious tone that I certainly won’t do. Instead, I’ll likely rely on a lot of marginally funny humor mixed with a bit of real medical info to get through. Check this space or twitter (@waywardcyclist) for some pre-op jitters and drug infused post-op reactions which hopefully will provide some comedy to get you through your post-TdF Monday/Tuesday grind.