Sunday, September 20, 2020

Reminders to Live Every Moment

The local boys singing Live Every Moment in concert

It's interesting that many people believe in the old superstition that bad things happen in threes. I know that it is easy to shape the world around us to find things that fit into this model, but I was struck today at how this really played out this weekend. The first two instances of bad news deal with deaths. On a national level, the country is mourning the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For those of us with poker as a profession or hobby, we mourn the passing of Darvin Moon, who made an amazing run to finish runner up to Joe Cada in the 2009 WSOP Main Event. The third event, however, was much more personal and local.

Less than two weeks ago, my wife and I "celebrated" the ninth anniversary of my September 2011 heart attack. After spending a night in the hospital after feeling some pain in my breastbone and the back of my head, I woke up very early the next morning expecting to do a stress test. A cardiologist came in to speak with me first. After talking with me about what happened the day before, he said "Based on what you told me, I am convinced that you had a mild heart attack. We're not going to do a stress test. I'm going in."

What? Holy crap! They were going to be doing stuff with my heart and I barely had any time to even prepare myself psychologically for it. For the first time in my life, outside of doing a few rather foolish things when I was younger, I was facing the fact that I might die that day. The cardiologist assured me that I was in great hands and that everything would be okay. He asked if I had anyone with me at the hospital. I told him that my wife was getting ready to come to be with me for my stress test. He told me that I shouldn't have her hurry since they will be done with my angiogram anyway by the time she got there. I called my wife to let her know right before they wheeled me away to do an angiogram. I was friggin' petrified!

I went home later that day knowing that my life had just changed forever. I was very, very thankful for that cardiologist. I then became dedicated to healthy eating and doing cardiac rehab since I knew that I had another artery with some blockage, but not enough for surgical intervention. However, about 16 months later, I noticed some trouble breathing when working out at my local fitness center. I had slacked off a little over the Christmas and New Year holidays and attributed it to that. I gave it some time and then decided I should see my cardiologist. I went late in the afternoon. After he examined me, he said "I need to go back in. How about tomorrow? I decided to have it done first thing in the morning. What a choice: have less time to prepare my mind or wait longer, thinking that I would be the dumbest guy in the world if I had problems that morning when I had passed up the early morning time. I went home filled with anxiety.

The next day, my cardiologist went in again and fixed things in my heart. I'm still around today thanks to this great doctor.

I continued to see my cardiologist for annual exams over the years. Earlier this year, I needed to see him for medical clearance for some other surgery and was told that he was taking some time off. When I went for my annual visit this summer, I saw his associate and was told that my cardiologist was on medical leave. Everyone at his clinic was tight lipped about what was going on with him. I just found out today.

I was shocked to see the news article briefing sent to my cell phone this morning: my cardiologist had gone public about having ALS. Although he appeared to me to be much older than me, in reality he is only six years older. In the news article, he referred to himself as a "retired cardiologist." He discussed dealing with the idea of having ALS and having professional knowledge of how his future life will be in his remaining time. He has chosen to face life with courage and dignity by using his final years to be an advocate for ALS.

So for me, this was bad thing number three. The man who helped me to live a great life these past nine years is now facing an incurable, debilitating illness for the remaining years of his life. It doesn't seem quite fair that this doctor who has dedicated his life to helping people like me who have had heart issues should be given such a terrible path for the end of his life. But we all know that life is not fair.

I hope my readers and poker friends have not had their "third" this weekend as I have had. It is certainly a reminder that nothing in this world is guaranteed and that our life can completely change unexpectedly at any instant.

Live every moment. I will try to keep this in mind as I begin this new phase in my life.

My interventional cardiologist's tips for me:
1) You can't control the past. Your problems are now fixed. But you can control the future.
2) Try to eat one meatless meal each day.
3) Walk. Every day. Anytime you are going somewhere: walk.

Thanks for reading!


Blogger Norm in Vegas said...

This was touching to read, especially as Jewish people (like me) begin a new year. The ALS part really struck me, as I met many families living with an ALS patient when I produced local portions of the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon in Vegas. ALS is just about the worst of diseases, because there is no cure and the deterioration of quality of life is shocking. Each day is precious, because none of us know what will happen tomorrow. Take care!

10:40 PM  
Blogger lightning36 said...

@ Norm in Vegas: I have been pretty fortunate to have not been exposed to this disease much. As you mentioned, it is about the worst of diseases to have.

L'Shana Tova!

10:53 PM  
Blogger ManInBlack said...

Damn John im so sorry.

3:35 AM  
Blogger The Poker Meister said...

Sorry to hear about your doctor. ALS is a terrible disease. Horrific. The takeaway from you is so positive, though - get and stay healthy and live life to the fullest.

9:21 AM  

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