The Reality Sets In

Leon Hammack

As you remember, I left off the last installment where my cardiologist scheduled me to go downstairs and get my pre-surgery chest x-ray in preparation for my impending open heart surgery. Additionally, Dr. Adams told me that she would get in touch with Dr. Tyner’s office to arrange a pre-surgery consult with him, as well as inform Tyner that I would like to get on the surgery schedule for November 21st.

As I stepped into the elevator to go down to the first floor and check in with the imaging department, my whole being was in unbelievable turmoil! My hands were trembling, my heart was racing, my brain was desperately trying to keep my emotions in check, and my legs were as weak, rubbery, wobbly, and very unstable like a jar of SMUCKER’S strawberry jelly! I was thinking to myself the bad dream that I have had now for the past thirteen (13) years is finally coming to fruition! Even though I had the whole summer of 2019 to think about this surgery and prepare myself for it, I was woefully ill-prepared emotionally for what I was beginning to experience.

H-O-L-Y C-R-A-P!!!

The elevator door opened, I stepped into the lobby of the imaging center, marched over to the receptionist, announced my name, and she told me to take a seat, they would call me back. So I followed those simple instructions, dutifully stepped over to a vacant seat, parked my nervous and quivering body into one of the extremely uncomfortable chairs that are always in the waiting rooms of medical offices.

Within just a few minutes I was beckoned to follow this imaging person back to the waiting x-ray room. The chest x-ray took all of about 5 minutes to accomplish and I was set free to go as I came.

The three hour drive from La Jolla to Yuma seemed to have taken forever, when in fact it is just a three hour drive!

As I started up the ol Sequoia in the underground parking lot, backed out of my parking slot, drove out of the medical facility, jumped on the interstate for the drive back to Yuma, my body and heart were having an all out war for control of my brain! In racing terms I was having the dreaded helmet fire! Another description of this event would be that my hair was on fire! What was worse is that I couldn’t call 911 to put out the flames, because the flash point for this fire is deep inside my scull!

I really don’t remember much of the drive. I don’t remember driving through the city on I-5 and then heading out East on I-8, through and over the mountains that separate the towns of El Cajon and Lakeside from the Imperial Valley. Nor do I remember much about the drive through the Imperial Valley and on over to Yuma. I obviously was trying to cope with, and put into perspective, the events that were now beginning to sequentially fall into place.

What I do remember of that lonely drive back home was me thinking about all the things that were about to unfold. The reality that I was less than four weeks from having the open heart surgery that I have been thinking about off and on for the past thirteen (13) years. But those thoughts were always that it was way far off into the future, not in the here and now.

I would, from time to time, think about going through this pre-surgery routine, how I would greet and deal with the news that it was time “to get ‘er done”. I thought that I would have everything all in check, that I would be this rock steady, even keeled old man that people would say ” man, he has got this all under control”!

SURPRISE!!!!!

It just ain’t happening that way, brother!

The fear of the unknown will bite you directly in the ass, my friends! It will take total control of your life and put a whoppin’ on you! (More to come about that idea in another installment.)

So now I have approximately three weeks to prepare for the absolute biggest, scariest, event in my life, of which I have very little to absolutely no control over!!! Let that wash all over your body for a while and see if your hair catches on fire as mine did for the whole three hour drive home! I am sure that I appeared Zombie-like to other drivers as I navigated my way home! Because I was totally overwhelmed by what was beginning to happen in my life.

Some of the drive home I felt nervous and scared because I live alone, I knew that I was going have to take care of myself during this recovery process. There were some of those gut wrenching emotions rattling around inside of me that somehow wiggled and worked their way through my head and escaped through my eyes, which made it very difficult to see as I drove home.

Some of the drive home I was consumed self pity. I mean how could this damn thing happen to me…….why me Lord? I have always felt like I was a healthy dude most of my life, now things are just taking a healthy DUMP! I have zip, nada, zero control of this, and I have always been in solid control of my life! Well, dude that is not the case for me now! I am in the passenger seat along for this whirlwind ride that is about to commence!

As quickly as those self pity thoughts came into my head they vanquished. Replacing those thoughts, for a time, was the idea that I am so lucky that my abnormal aortic valve (I had a bicuspid aortic valve) was discovered and that I am having it replaced before it could fail completely and kill me! What a lucky dude I am!!!

Then, I would think yeah right I am going have my chest split wide open, my sternum sawed in two pieces, put on life support (a heart and lung machine), have my heart cut open, have my aortic valve removed and replaced with a bovine tissue sewed in its place, and then put back together. Oh damn I sure am lucky!!!!! (Does the sarcasm flow through here?)

The other prevailing thought on that drive was that I really need to get all my affairs in order, assign a power of attorney with Jason being in charge……..just in case……….you know just in case… you know what may happen. There goes the emotions erupting everywhere again!!!

I was a babbling fool by the time I arrived at my home that evening! But I got it together, at least til bedtime.

I am much too young to feel this damn old!

There will be more to follow shortly!

TIL NEXT TIME, KEEP THE SHINY SIDE UP!

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