My upcoming Heart Surgery

Yes, heart surgery, and I don’t mean that metaphorically.

The bad news: I’ve had at least 3 ‘mini-strokes’ (TIA’s) since August last year. After many tests, last month we finally worked out why: I have a hole in the heart, which is increasingly letting small blood clots through to the oxygenated side of my heart, to be pumped straight to the brain, instead of being filtered through the lungs.

Here’s a picture of one of the clots in my brain – the white spot in the lower left quarter.

The good news: we’re going to operate to close that hole, May 13. They go up through an artery in my leg, with a little camera, tool, and bit of metal, which will lodge over the hole, then the heart tissue will grow over that, and the hole will be permanently closed. As a bonus, I might not get migraines again!

Now, of course, yes I could die.

But this is no shock to me or my family. We’ve known for some time that death may come at any moment. I travel a lot, anything could happen. We’re prepared for that, I have a clear worldview which includes death. And suffering. And that there’s more to life than just this time & space.

No we don’t live morbidly, or in fear of death, but nor do we live in denial of it – that seems to be a Western world phenomenon. Most of the real world lives with the reality of death every day: we don’t like it, but we’re fragile little beings who inevitably die.

Sometimes it feels like people expect me to be more afraid of death, more grief-stricken about how close a reality it is right now. Maybe that says more about their shock than mine. Because I’m genuinely not rocked by this. Not because I’m in denial, but because I’ve not been in denial about this. For decades. Probably since my dad almost died a few times when I was a little tacker. When death comes for him, I simply won’t be saying, “gee we never saw that coming!” Rather, we do see that coming. Very clearly. And not just for Dad.

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I’m often strangely bemused at news reports that tend to beat up the shock, the horror, the terror of a tragedy in which death happens, particularly the death of younger people. There’s a part of me that simply isn’t surprised, or shocked, or terrified. Yes, terribly sad for the grief-stricken ones who knew him/her. But the media act as if death is somehow inconceivable. For me, it’s just part of the picture.

Now don’t get me wrong:  I AM afraid of leaving my family in their tender years. Those real relationships are what we would grieve over most.  We have too much to give each other, yet!  So I’m prepared, but I really, really hope it doesn’t happen.

But if it does happen (despite our best efforts), we’re not the first family to strike such a tragedy, and we wont be the last. Sally & I have talked about death from time to time. We take the approach that we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, not before. If and when something bad actually does happen, that will be the time when people can help us, when we’ll need our family & friends.

But not now. Nothing shocking has happened yet. That’s my point.

We’re not rocked by news we already know – death is inevitable, and inconvenient. This is already our worldview. No surprise. So we don’t need anything, we’re fine, we’re not horrified, scandalized. Perhaps a little afraid because we love each other so much. But all we can do is take the steps ahead.

And more-than-likely, I’ll soon be better than I am now.



PS. I had the surgery May 13, and all is well. They plugged a 2mm hole in the septum, and now we’re waiting for the tissue to grow over it to permanently close it. 6 weekly ultra-sounds, and blood thinners for 6 months before the all clear can be given.

Thanks for your prayers & support.