My life

My odyssey

I have died twice in my life. Once in the ambulance after three consecutive heart attacks and again on the operating table during emergency surgery.

On Christmas Day 2010, I was preparing for major surgery on my heart (eight days hence). I was physically very weak after all, I had almost met my end only three weeks earlier.

Many years previously I damaged my spine playing rugby. Back then, I was young and strong and with the help of intensive physiotherapy, I managed to recover the ability to walk within eighteen months.

Since then, I led a full and active life even though the pain was sometimes excruciating, forcing me into bed or into hospital for yet more corrective surgery. In total, I have had thirteen procedures on my spine. Nevertheless, at the time of my heart attacks, I was the strongest and fittest I have ever been. But now, that was likely to change.

Heart surgery was to be a life-changer, but it wouldn’t be straightforward. To explain: during the procedure, my ribs would be separated at the sternum with a saw and my chest cracked open about 12 inches to expose my heart. Ribs are connected to the spine, which carries and protects the spinal cord. Being pulled apart in this way would impose significant stress upon my already damaged vertebrae and other bone tissue – there was a real chance my nervous system would be compromised and I could have been partially paralysed or worse.

While the Heart Surgeon operated, also present by video link were both my Neuro and Spinal Consultants.

The countdown to my very own Ground Zero was important to me, after all, the chance of a worthwhile future was in the balance. If I was to survive, it was crucial my spirit remained strong. To that end, I emptied myself of life’s baggage and began to contemplate a simpler life, free from ego and conceit.

This is the countdown to the day they cracked open my chest and fixed my broken heart: Seven | Six | Five | Four | Three | Two | One | Zero

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© Rod McRiven 2018

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