We’re actually up at the moment of which it seems to be the point of this story. However, looking at the whole, it is of course about so many other things than the actual surgery. It would be correct to say that the operation spurred a whole slew of other things: Other obstacles, gains, wins, growths, pits of despair, frustrations, moments of happiness. I will stop before I start sounding like a cheesy self-help book (of which I have read plenty.)
I have several friends or acquaintances who, either have been through or are dealing with, serious health issues. My experiences have put me in touch with what that can mean, and I feel a special kinship with these people. Mortality is a hard, new reality to run up against and to honestly realize that our time is limited. At a certain point, no bargaining can change that. I always felt like any situation was negotiable in one way or the other. There was always a way to either negotiate with somebody to still get to do/experience/have whatever was at stake. You take some losses, but still get to play. You find a new route to it.
With mortality, there is not yet any negotiating. It does not matter what I pull out of my hat, how many losses I am willing to take, how much a promise. It’s a fucking end wall. To me, that is one depressing thought. And when I have thoughts like that, I have to find a way out.
ALIEN’S EYE VIEW
I just started following NASA, and some Space X related accounts on Instagram about a week ago. They popped up as suggestions, and I do think that stuff is fascinating. I figured it’d be an easy way to follow what is happening in that space (sorry for that unintended pun.) The other day there was a picture from one of the windows on Space X, showing a gorgeous view of Earth. Big fat clouds were swirling around it. It was the kind of back-out-from-my-personal-life that I find restful to look at when stressful thoughts close in too much on me. Back up, up, up. Get a bird’s perspective and see how small I am. How little we all are. How everything I do here, stress about here, is so tiny when compared to the big whole. Of course, you can tip over to the other end of the spectrum and, for the same reason, feel like nothing that you do indeed matter. Luckily I don’t have that problem. But if you do, I wish you the best of luck and advice you to talk about it with your friends. Or see a therapist if those thoughts get too overwhelming.
We don’t yet know what happens after we die either, so that is a whole world to explore in itself. It would be a great kicker to find out that the real party is happening on the other side of that fearful passageway. Similar to life, when you struggle to avoid something that seems scary or wrong. Only to discover that even if that something was as bad as you had imagined it, it got you to a better place afterward. A place you would never have gotten to had you not gone through the terrible experience you were just forced through. I guess I can’t stop sounding like a self-help person, no matter how hard I try. Maybe I’ll start a sect of some sort.
Anyway, thank you for coming here and reading this.
This week contains the 300th frame of this comic (the one pictured below). Pretty crazy, and it feels good to have produced so much work.
We are finally coming up to the time of the actual main surgery. I had no idea it’d take this long to get here telling this story, and going back reading previous episodes I feel like I was rushing through in some places. I look forward to editing this whole story for the making of the book. The process of making certain parts more clear and add frames here and there.
On another note, I currently read a book called “Monty Python Speaks.” It’s a book where they are asking questions to all the members of the group on different subject matters throughout their career. I get the impression that the answers were collected individually and at different times. I am a big fan, so it’s exciting for me to read about their creative process, the making of their TV shows and movies, how they developed together, and how they eventually grew apart. I love reading about other artists’ processes, their ups, and downs. Two things that I am always very interested in learning about are
1. How do you finance your work on your projects: do you work a bill paying job? If not, from where did you get money?
2. How do you find the time?
Needless to say, those are two of my ongoing challenges. If you work a job, it’s harder to find the time when you have the energy to work on your projects, and it’s not getting any easier as you get older – trust me! If you also have a family, to find the actual time can get very tricky too. I also realize that if I am being very determined about doing the hours and sit down or, in the case of music, go out to my garage studio, I feel guilty towards the kids! “Oh man, I should spend quality time with them instead.” I guess something has to give and one has to find a right balance and the process of that can get frustrating, to say the least.
Anyway, enough of my bitching. Again, thanks for stopping by and reading this. I very much appreciate it!
It is still Thursday which is my publishing day. Sure, it has been a couple of months since the last one, but in the new year I am trying to create some new habits. One of them being to work on this comic on a more regular basis again.
So, actually, happy new year! 2018 was a good year and here’s to 2019 being even better.
On a techie note: The platform on which I publish this comic on, WordPress, just introduced a new editor. It looks pretty much like a Squarespace rip-off which, in my view, is a good thing. Squarespace is super easy to work with. However, for this particular project I have gotten used to do things the old way and will stay with that. I don’t have the time to rebuild the pages to look like they have in the past. However, for any new project I’d probably use Gutenberg (the witty name of the new editor).
Anyway, I’m sure you’re at the edge of your seats with my meanderings so I’ll stop.
Thanks again for coming here to read again!
Getting these installments out while running my own video production shop has shown to be a challenge. I am very happy to be very busy with paid work, but it doesn’t leave much extra time to jot this stuff down. I am hoping to reach the end of this story pretty soon and then make a book.
On a different note: as of 2018 I changed health care providers and am now going to a different hospital. Did I mention I had my annual checkup in August and everything looked great! A big relief, since a couple of months before that I had noticed that I did not have the same stamina in my workout class as before. I used to be able to run at pretty high speed for the reps we did, but now I found myself getting tired quicker. Granted I had taken a few months off, and at 50 years old my shape is going away pretty quickly if I don’t keep at it. I had also experienced a few head rushes when standing up after squatting or sitting on the floor. In short, all things that I used to feel before my surgery. My first thought was “oh man. Is this it with this heart? Will I need another transplant?” There’s a big range of how long your heart lasts after a transplant and a few years ago I heard about a guy who’s heart started to get a lot weaker after 9 years. I am only 5 years out, but you never know. Basically, I will never be “out of the woods” with this. I will always need medication. The best thing I can do is to take as good care of myself as possible and I think I am doing alright in that department.
But, the annual test results told me all was good! I feel like it was yet another wake up call. To the point of this week’s installment, it is easy to start slipping on your commitments. Even the life important ones, like in my case doing some kind of physical activity every day. So this time I realized that I really wanted to be serious about regular workouts. It doesn’t have to be some insane cross-fit sessions, but going for a swim or a walk or some type of workout class. I always hated running so walks is a good compromise, and right now there is research stating that a 30-minute walk is as good as any heavier workout. Who knows? Those things change every six months it seems like, but I choose to believe it since I really like walking.
Anyway, like I said, this week is about saying and promising things that you think you will for sure (!!!) do, and then still not following through on them. Even things that could be life-threatening. It is a mystery. Life is not as linear and organized as I thought. It is a goup of emotions, happenstances, circumstances, wims and other mind mysteries. Hopefully, it has made me a bit more understanding of other people and their struggles.
Thanks for coming by and reading,
In an earlier installment of this comic I said that when I was admitted to the hospital and was told I’d need a heart transplant, my first thought was “ok, personal bankruptcy. Fine, seven years of no access to anything. Let’s just do it. Maybe I can disconnect myself from the family so that they don’t have to sit through this shit”.
This week talks about the outpour of mental and monetary support that our family received. It was incredible and very moving. People that I had not heard from in over 10 years, friends of the family, old coworkers and employers, friends of friends, everyone came forward.
When drawing this episode I re-visited that time again and re-realized what incredible help we received. Thank you to everyone who helped holding us through those tough times!
Thanks for reading and big hugs.
Another account of life after coming home from the hospital.
I could not be in a situation where did not have access to electricity for any longer periods of time. I had to be in touch with the local fire station in order to ensure power in case there was a power outage. That kind of preparedness was mind blowing to me and made me wonder how many people in similar, dire situations were located in my neighborhood.
Luckily I had never had to run down to the fire station. Instead I got to heal up, ride my bike, pick the kids up from pre-school and take part of daily life. It was great.
It’s amazing how quickly one adapts to new conditions. When going to sleep at night I plugged myself into the outlet on the LVAD machine while the batteries were charging. It just had become the new normal.
Hope you’re all doing well and thanks for reading.
This week is about coming home for the first time since I was admitted to the hospital. It was a pretty big deal. I had been pretty close to death, gone through my first open heart surgery, and now had a device that my life was depending on. I had to clean and change the hole where the chord went into my body to make the LVAD, the pump, go. I had to remember to take meds everyday. There were a lot of things to remember, to possibly forget or do wrong and to freak out about.
Also, having two exceptionally active and curious four year olds in the midst of equipment that could not be tampered with or supplies that had to stay as bacteria free as possible was a concern too. Despite all this, things went fantastically well. The kids were amazing an we had none of the troubles I had anticipated. Per usual, Christine had to coordinate a bunch of stuff, the grandparents were basically a second set of parents during all this time, plus friends who helped out with various needs. I don’t know how many times I was called “The Bionic Man” or a “Cy-borg” during this time.
Anyway, thanks for stopping by and hope you’re all doing really well.
I spent this morning doing the last part of a 1.5 week chasing down of one of my immuno-suppressant meds. An immuno-suppressant is something that I can not skip since my white blood cells will then start kicking my heart and wonder what this foreign object is doing in there. It can end very badly.
For 2018 I changed health insurance so everything is new. Like I talked about 2 weeks ago, everything has to be linked up to my old records, new departments and doctors has to be hooked up. Let me just state that my new health service place is great in almost every way this far. I took my, literally, last dose of that particular med this morning and had no more even for my evening dose. I mean literally in the correct sense of the word, not in the “pretty much” way it’s being used these days. I ordered the refill two weeks ago and by this morning it had still not materialized. Last week I checked in, waited at the pharmacy in vain for two hours, called a couple of times etc. So, this morning I got upset. I called and wrote every person involved and luckily, four hours later it was solved. It ate up all my morning work-hours.
I totally understand that things are not perfect, things happen and everyone’s working hard to get things right. Again, I am also incredibly grateful that I even have access to the care I have. However, some health care personnel act as if you’re an ungrateful jerk if you get angry or take them to task over something. As if any attempt of theirs to make things happen should be received with utmost gratitude. I don’t know if there’s some kind of Jesus-like attitude about their work, in that they are doing “the good of the world”. I agree that they are doing a great deed as health care providers, but, it’s a paid career that they chose. If nobody paid them they would most likely not set foot at their hospital or clinic. Just like most other people in other professions. It’s as if I order a ham sandwich at the deli and they hand me tuna casserole. I would complain and they would tell me I should be grateful that I get food. Either way, feel free to rip on me in the comments if you like. I’m happy to hear other angles.
This week talks about my first real dark day after my first surgery. I had managed, with great support from family, friends and staff, to keep a positive attitude during the very serious situation I was in. But, when you’re sleeping your mind goes in whatever way it wants and in my dream I was put back to the time before all my heart issues started. It was really tough to wake up to reality in the morning. I probably had other real downer days after that, but in hindsight, this one stands out.
Thank you so much for stopping by and reading. Hope you all are doing great.
Stefan the curmudgeon
PS. To add to my surly’ness, I just had to ask a lady to not take her dog for a walk in our yard! What???
I am trying out publishing these every other week. Bi- monthly? I can’t remember what it’s called. Bi-weekly? Anyway, it feels like that might be a good pace.
I am currently on Spring Break with my family and some friends out by Zion National Park. It was a loooong drive out here. It seemed longer than I had anticipated. The landscape out here in Arizona and Utah is incredible though. I feel like I am in a copy of National Geographic when I look at the huge, red mountains and rocks. It puts me back to the old Western movies I saw as a kid and I wish that suddenly a band of the Native Americans I idolized back then would come riding over the prarie.
Anyway, this week is about my first encounter with the fantastic heart transplant support group. It was so great to connect with other people in the same, or similar, boat as mine. Swapping stories and experiences about hospital stays, medication side effects (the tremors!) and other morose things. There were also people there who were on the wait-list to have their transplants. I remember a woman who looked very uncomfortable as we joked about the different harsh experiences we’ve had. No wonder. We tried to assure her that things would work out fine and I was happy to learn later that her hanging out with us really had eased her fear.
Thanks for reading and hope you all are doing well.
Ok, let’s re-start again. It turns out it is harder than I thought to get back into the routine of posting new episodes. Things keep falling down in front of me that seem to be more urgent. I deal with those things and suddenly the day is gone, the weeks have passed and a few months are behind me. Deadlines and a set schedule are my friends! (have anyone ever heard that before?)
I am honored and extremely happy to have new subscribers! I hope you will enjoy the story.
On the health end I have been going through two changes of health care insurance (from one provider to Medical and then back to another provider) which meant that for the majority of 2017 I didn’t actually see any doctors or other health care personnel. Everything was up in the air, I was waiting for replies from hospitals and health insurance providers. At the end of the year I got in with a new hospital in San Francisco and one in Oakland. They were all great. We got aligned with my health history, updating blood draws and filling out paper work. When I changed again, I re-started the same procedure and I think I am at the end of wrapping up all the updates.
Either way, it turns out I am doing fine and just needed a few medicine adjustments. No matter what it is though, not matter how much doctors and nurses tell me it’s fine and nothing to worry about, it always makes me uncomfortable on a subtle level. “Why have things changed? Is it for the better or worse? Is my health slowly declining only to crash land in 2-3 years? Of course the doctors are going to tell me not to worry!” To make myself feel better I remind myself that everyone’s health is slowly declining throughout life. Sorry if I bum everyone out, but the best I can do is to enjoy the laundry list of great things I can still do and experience. Ok, enough life coach’ing. That’ll be $40.
This week’s installment talks about not being able to see my kids for about 3-4 weeks straight. The big surprise, stupid as it may seem, was how very quickly I felt very distant from them. For a lot of my life I was planning on going on tour playing music. I’d think it’d be totally fine to have a family and kids, go out for 3-4 months and then come back. No biggie. Obviously people do that all the time, but I was taken aback at seeing how much they seemed to have grown in those few weeks we were apart. They seemed to have developed their vocabulary a whole lot! All of the sudden 3-4 months seemed insane.
Either way, I haven’t had to wrestle with the decision of going or not going on any lengthy tours this far, so I guess that problem has solved itself. However, I’d probably wouldn’t turn down the opportunity should it present itself.
Hope you’re all doing great and thanks for showing interest.