It Will All Come Out In The Wash

The Chapel at Williams AFB (2006) where I received my USAF pilot wings in 1973.

When we last congregated here I was relaying the thoughts and feelings that had erupted on the way back to Yuma from my day trip to La Jolla, CA, for my consult with my cardiologist. That consult began the ball rolling for the impending aortic valve replacement, aka open heart surgery.

My next trip over to La Jolla happened on the afternoon of November 4th. I had go over there a day early, in order to have my consult with the thoracic surgeon, Dr. Jeff Tyner on the morning of November at 8:30am. So off I went, somewhat anxious, but nevertheless it had to be done.

I checked into the hotel, put my belongings way, and walked a couple of blocks from the hotel to grab a bite to eat for the afternoon/evening. I found this cool bistro called Puestos that served the best damn tacos that I have EVER had( and I have had a few thousand tocos in my day)! It is hard to describe but the tacos are kind of upscale and really delish. I will link to their web page and the story of that restaurant. They have more restaurants in several locations outside of San Diego, check them out!

After dinner I returned to my comfy room and turned on the TV to pass the rest of the evening away. Along about 8pm I started to have a dull aching pain in my right lower back. It was very uncomfortable and the intensity of that pain slowly, but surely, began ramping up. It only took me a few minutes to analyze and recall what could possibly be the source of that dull aching pain. I thought to myself, please don’t let this be what I think that it is! Within 15-30 minutes it was very clear to me that I was having another kidney stone attack!

Oh Jeez, just what I needed the night before I talk with my thoracic surgeon about open heart surgery! But, there was no doubt in my mind that as the evening drew out, that was exactly what was going on in my body. Expletive deleted!

By my bedtime, approximately 9pm, I was in some really intense pain! I was hoping that if I could go to sleep I could get through the pain level unscathed. Boy was that a wishful thought! The pain just kept ratcheting up and ratcheting up and there was absolutely no position, horizontal or vertical, that I could get into that would ease or stop the pain. I saw every single hour on the clock, and probably every single minute, as well that night. Many times I thought to myself, how could I get through this night with this agonizing pain? Well, the long and the short of it is, that I did make it through the night, although I sure could have used some of Kris Kristofferson’s help!

Somehow the kidney stone pain had drifted away by the time my alarm sounded at 6am. I couldn’t believe that, like magic, all that agony that I suffered through during the night had mysteriously taken “a standby”! Thank God and pass the mashed potatoes!

Got all cleaned up, check out of my hotel, and scampered off to Dr. Tyner’s office to talk to him about the surgery, and to get it on the schedule for November 21. It was a very comforting visit, and God knows that I definitely needed some comforting! Dr. Tyner gave me a “Reader’s Digest version” of what the procedure would entail. I felt somewhat more at ease, but there was still much misgivings roaming around my head. My hair wasn’t still on fire, but there was a lot of smoldering emanating from, and escaping out of, my ears!

Tyner could tell that I was unnerved about this surgery, especially after I told him so! I related that I felt like many of the “fearful flyers” that I dealt with during my aviation career. I told him of how I dealt with those individuals. If a passenger would come up to the cockpit and tell me that they were anxious or afraid of flying I would try to comfort them by, first of all, setting them in my seat so that they could see what it was like from my standpoint. I thought that would help ease their fears. Then I would ask a few questions and let them explain why they were afraid. I think that sometimes would ease their anxieties somewhat.

I think that Dr. Tyner took his queue very well. He then took it upon himself to tell me that his surgical team has been together since 1991! That impressed the heck out of me! I ti snot that often that. a whole surgical teeam is together for 28 years!

He then told me that he doesn’t allow “noise” during the procedure. He said that “noise”, and by that he meant any unrelated conversations about vacations and the like, distracted from what he was there for. He also sated to me that there will not be any music playing during surgery. He said that when he comes into the surgery room it is all business! He said that he is there to “make me better”, to fix me up! That definitely made me feel more secure in my totally insecured head. Remember the head fire I spoke of previously and the smoldering emanating from my ears? Well, the source of the smoke has tapered of somewhat with this doctor-patient conversation. But the fear of the unknown still exists within me!

Tyner said that they will make the reservations for all my pre-surgery bloodwork and any other requirements need to be accomplished. The plan was to go to the hospital the day before surgery, November 20th, and accomplish those items. Then to arrive at the hospital at 0500, 5am to the civilian world, to get processed into surgery.

It was a done deal!

I now have approximately 2 weeks to gather up everything that I need at home for my post-op recovery.

Fast forward to November 20th.

I have my suitcase all packed and ready to head over to La Jolla with Jim and Edie. Because I had to be there at the hospital for pre-op tests at 11am, we headed out on the road at 7am.

As I rolled into La Jolla at 10:15 we headed directly over to the hospital to see if I could get in a few minutes early for all that stuff. When I checked in the receptionist sent me right on down the hall to the lab to begin the process.

Things are just running as smooth as a baby’s butt! I accomplish the bloodwork, the chest x-ray (again), fill out all the appropriate paperwork, man things are sailing right along! During this same time, my other brother and his wife, Jerry and Sue, just pulled into town and zipped on over to the hospital to meet us.

Once all of my surgery prerequisites were completed we headed over to check into our hotel rooms. Coincidently Jason and Jeremy, my boys, timed it just right and met us as we were pulling into the hotel parking lot. So now the seven of us trekked off to Puestos for some of those good damn tacos!

Lunch was outstanding and the company was even more so! After lunch was consumed we headed back to the hotel, my third brother and his wife arrived at the hotel shortly thereafter. The whole immediate family was there as my support group for this monumental surgery!

Somewhere around 4pm I received a phone call from Dr. Tyner’s office stating that there was problem with the urinalysis results. There is an indication that I have a urinary tract infection, that the surgery will be cancelled, and that Dr. Tyner would give me a call in a couple of hours after his surgeries are completed to talk about all this.


This really sucks! My whole family has driven several hundred miles to support me for my surgery, now everything is on hold and must be rescheduled. You want to talk about the bubble being burst, not that I was excited about open heart surgery, but now I have to tell my family that this was just a practice dry run!

I gather my family up and relay the news to them. I felt extremely bad that they all had a wasted trip to San Diego. Jason and Jeremy drove 366 miles, Jerry and Sue about the same distance, and Ted and Lynda about 275 miles, all in support of my surgery!

Notwithstanding the bad news, we all enjoyed the evening in La Jolla, packed it up the morning of the 21st, and each of us headed back to our respective abodes to wait for another day!

For me, I made arrangements to have another blood draw and urinalysis when I got back to Yuma, as well as an appointment with my primary physician to begin to combat this UTI. This was all done with some urgency so that I can get back on the surgery schedule ASAP!

Within seven days of arriving back home in Yuma my UTI was a thing of the past. I called Dr. Tyner’s office and arranged to get back on the surgery schedule for December 17th. Within a couple of hours his office called me back to let me know that the 17th was a go!

I guess it will all come out in the wash.


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