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Finding humor in open heart surgery isn't the easiest thing to do

by Dan Cash

by Steve Cash

I won't kid you; my health crisis almost scared me to death. My wife got me through with the following advice. "Do what you have always done and try to find some humor in the situation". I was petrified and it wasn't easy, but I gave it a shot. It's funny how much you learn about yourself and the things that are important when your life is on the line. Indulge me, while I tackle the hilarious subject of open heart surgery, in the only way I know how, with humor. January 1st 1996, Life is good. Great wife, 3 wonderful boys, new house, great job, waiting until 4:00 to watch my beloved Michigan Wolverines in the Rose Bowl. Suddenly my heart starts racing uncontrollably. I'm rushed to emergency. Doctor orders an EKG, studies results, and says my heart is beating too fast. I flunked biology in high school, but already made that diagnosis at home. I ask the doctor if he knows the Rose Bowl score. He questions my priorities; he obviously didn't know I had $200.00 on the game! I'm sent home after being told to see a Cardiologist in the morning. After a sleepless night I keep my appointment.

Photo courtesy of Manco Capac

The Cardiologist listens closely. He shows some concern and says my heart is beating too fast. , "He must have gone to same medical school as the emergency room doctor." The next step is a 24 hour heart monitor. Looking at the results, the Cardiologist gives me his diagnosis: Atrial Septic Defect. (A hole in my heart). "Youneed open heart surgery," he said, with all the emotion of an ironing board. "What if I don't have surgery doc?" "Certain death", he replied. I left, but not before thanking him for "cushioning the blow". Panic sets in. I can't sleep, my wife is very supportive, but is acting strange. I catch her looking at her high school yearbook and circling the cute boy's pictures. My neighbor comes over, and offers to take care of the caulking jobs that need to be done around the house while I am gone. I never trusted this guy., I always thought he liked my wife. 

The insurance man calls trying to sell me a million dollar policy to cover my family. When I complain about the premiums he says "don't worry I looked your condition up online, you probably won't have to make too many payments." Funny guy! I tell my wife if anything happens she should remarry. My heart is touched as she emphatically states that she would never get married again, "I'll just live with the guy," she continued. The big day is here March 19, 1996. I have to tell my kids. It's going to be hard because I'm their whole life. I tell them no matter what happens I love them. My oldest son says, "I love you", my middle son says, "good luck", and the youngest son asks for pizza money! He's too young to understand, I think. Finally I am at the hospital, I'm being prepped for surgery. I look around the room and notice the technician who will operate the heart lung machine. I am feeling terrified because he looks exactly like the mechanic who screwed up my Caravan last week. I figure I'll find out for sure, if he gives me any parts back after surgery! Three hours later surgery's over. I'm alive and feeling no pain. 

They take me to ICU, I forget my pre-op marital promise and start flirting with the nurse. She seems interested, until I throw up all the anesthesia in her hair! The medicine wears off and I'm in severe pain. Something goes wrong! My heart is beating 240 beats a minute. I feel faint. Five doctors working feverishly to bring rate down. "Am I in danger Doc," I screamed, "Am I in danger?" "No, we always treat a patient 5 doctors at a time'. 

The others laughed. I'm half dead and these clowns are auditioning for Scrubs. I pray for my heart rate to stabilize. When it finally does, the doctors congratulate themselves, God and I let them believe what they want! The next day, it's time to go home. My surgeon comes in with instructions, and gives me a teddy bear to squeeze for pain. I'm thinking unless this bear is stuffed with Daravon, this ain't going to work. Doc gives me eating instructions to stay healthy. No meat, no cheese, no regular milk, no butter, no ice cream, and eat a lot of soy. Any questions? "Yes, by any chance is the assisted suicide doctor on call." Oh, and no sex for 6 weeks he continues. 

I figure, "hey that's better than the 6 month schedule my wife has me on now." And finally, don't lift anything over 5 pounds". My wife takes me home. I hug the kids, pet the dog, and thank God I made it. The doorbell rings, you guessed it; it's the neighbor, caulk gun in hand. He says "Steve, glad you're home", He seemed disappointed that I survived.

Trying to hide his true motives he asked if we need any more caulking done while I recover, "If there is any caulking to do, my man is back home to do it"my wife said proudly. I felt so loved so macho; it killed me to have to remind her that the caulking gun was over the five pound limit.  Hey, doctors orders, what's a guy to do.