Some of my friends (thank you) have noticed that I’m not at #Pubcon. I’m really bummed that I’m not there. I was really excited, both to speak on two panels, and to visit with industry friends.
I wanted to write this so that everybody would know what was going on with me, from the horse’s mouth. I know a little bit of information can go a long way. Usually picked up like the game of telephone a story becomes much worse or much better by the end of its telling.
So here’s what happened from the beginning.
I am blessed with the heredity of the Scotts-Irish drinking class. My brother is a year and a half older than I, and at 46 years old, is the oldest living male in our line. All of the men in our lineage, on my fathers side, have died young from heart disease. My brother and I so far, have been lucky. As of last week he is more lucky than I.
Over the last couple years I have had occasional chest pain upon exertion, commonly known as angina. In the last year it had grown progressively worse, prompting me to see a cardiologist for the first time in over a decade. Not seeing the cardiologist for over a decade was a big mistake, as it turns out, in my case.
After some testing the cardiologist came to the conclusion that I likely had blockage in some of my coronary arteries. She then prescribed a test, an angiogram, to which I was resistant because of the test’s invasive nature. So, I scheduled a second opinion visit with another cardiologist. That visit is scheduled for the 2nd week of November, and as it turns out that would have been too late.
Lest Tuesday, 15 October, 2013, while taking a shower I had a small heart attack. From what we can tell, this was my first. In every other instance where I might have chest pain I was smart enough to stop before it got bad enough to knock me down. So, after I came to I’m looking up at my wife from the floor of the shower while she is clearly on the phone with 911, based on the words coming out of her mouth. Given my state of denial I said to her “hang up baby, I’m fine.”
Just so we’re all clear I was far from mother-loving fine.
After dressing, and visiting with some of the fine folks from the New Orleans Fire Department and EMS service, I walked downstairs and got into a waiting ambulance and was taken to Touro Hospital. On arrival I was whisked into a private room where I was greeted by the ER doc who had already been on the phone with my cardiologist.
As it turns out, I have a great relationship with a personal physician. Shaminder Gupta (yes, we need to work on his site), is a friend who is starting up a boutique medicine practice in New Orleans. I am one of his beta patients, and as I’ve told him, he really needs to charge me more money. I had texted and then spoken with Shami while in the ambulance, he had called our cardiologist and she had primed the ER prior to my arrival. The ER doc when he walked in said “You’ve been blowing up my phone already”. Clearly my investment in personalized medicine was paying off.
After several visits with cardiologists of varying subspecialty I was convinced to go ahead and have the angiogram. I had steeled myself for the idea that I might have sufficient blockage to require a stent or two. Unfortunately, the damage to my coronary arteries was so bad that the cardiologist running the exam said “I think the only way were going to fix this, is with coronary bypass surgery”.
This is the same cardiologist to whom I’d said there wasn’t a “snowball’s chance in hell” they were going to crack my chest open. So much for that.
I have one artery, which on the test showed as completely blocked, and several others which showed 90 to 95% blockage. For those of you not familiar with cardiac patients, this is pretty stinking serious. The fact that I was up and walking around and had played, albeit very poorly, laser tag with the team the Friday prior was pretty crazy.
This was my moment of realization. I had no choice.
So, after an agonizingly long day and night in the hospital Tuesday I was scheduled for coronary artery bypass surgery on Wednesday morning.
We are not going to talk about the shaving.
As I’m laying in the prep room waiting for the anesthesiologist to come and see me I’m getting more and more nervous and kind of depressed – I’m really looking forward to the meds kicking in. As the anesthesiologist walks up, I recognize him. My anesthesiologist is my former neighbor, a wonderful guy named John Jin. I was so freaking relieved. You can’t imagine the anxiety at that point in my life and the relief of having this friendly face, this guy I know to be a loving and competent person was going to be there with me in the operating room.
You guys, John was ridiculous. He was calling Angie on the hour texting her updates sending her pictures of my vitals it was wonderful, wonderful. I cannot express my gratitude fully enough, ever.
So the next time I wake up, I’m in the ICU, I am alive. It’s fantastic. Okay, the breathing tube was not fantastic. Taking out the breathing tube is one of the worst experiences of my life. If you’re looking for a good analogy, think “water-boarding with snot.”
I survived. And I learned that I had had a quintuple bypass. This means that from a vein harvested from my leg the very talented surgeon, Gene Kukuy (why don’t these guys have decent websites), was able to create five new channels of blood flow from my aorta into my heart muscle. Yes, a quintuple bypass is a lot of bypass.
So, now I’m home. I’m doing some couch time – Percocet is my friend. I’m doing great. I’m told everyone expected this because I was young and in great shape for a guy who needed a quintuple bypass. I’m still surprised that a week after I had my ribs spread and my heart stopped that I’m up and moving and feeling as good as I am.
I’m not at Pubcon and that kind of sucks. But I’m alive and primed for a much better rest of my life.
So let’s talk for a minute about what got me here. I know a lot of you will be like “my God will, you are young and while maybe a little chubby, from time to time, in pretty good shape”.
Well, you’re right. I am young, and I’m in pretty good shape, but you can’t screw with heredity. There are a lot of you who can get away with smoking all your lives and eating foods that aren’t very good for you. The bad news for me, is that I was not one of them. With my family history, I should have known better.
I love cheese. I love steak, and hamburgers, and fried chicken sandwiches, and bacon. From my teens through my early 30s I also got away with smoking regularly. Okay, today I would really enjoy smoking, too. It’s a lot easier to give up meat than it is to not smoke.
Who’s to say which of these was the cause? I don’t know, and I don’t care. I wish I had seen the cardiologist 10 years ago, but the great news is I’m doing excellent right now and I’m going to spend the rest of my life in a much better place. And hopefully, the rest of my life will be much longer, too.
So, if you are someone who I see mostly at Pubcon, hopefully we’ll see you at Pubcon New Orleans. And I’ll see the rest of you after the turn of the year. I’m probably going to drastically limit my travel through the holidays, and I’m hopeful this gives the team an opportunity to step up and introduce themselves.
Thank you for all the well wishes! And, please know how important you all, my family, friends, colleagues and our communities are in assuring I have a productive and full recovery.
15 thoughts on “Hey Will why aren’t you at #Pubcon?”
Woah! Glad to hear you’re on the mend Will. I’ll take this as a cautionary tale and go see a cardiologist.
Do it Darren, you’re never too young, especially when you’ve got kids who depend on you!
Some people will do anything for a link…
From you, I’ll take that as a compliment 🙂
Amazing story. Missing you here at Pubcon, but glad I will get to see you for many years to come. BTW – I have a stent. I was close to a disaster too. Fortunately did not have to have my chest opened.
Take care buddy.
Thanks Arnie! We’ll have plenty of time. And, from here forward I’ll be joining you on the “non-meat” side of the menu.
Will, I just read your story. I will keep you and your family in my prayers. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Brent! Good news is I’m doing great. It goes to show, it’s never too early start making sure we’re taking care of ourselves.
Will, this is the first time I’ve heard of a quintuple bypass. #overacheiver
PS. Very glad you’re alive. Please continue doing so.
Thanks Chris! I’ve always been a little ahead of the curve 🙂
5 bypasses, huh? You have never been shy about making an extreme statement.
(I go for a cardiologist checkup in about an hour. I plan to get “the works”)
Yeah, for sure don’t do like me and say “let’s wait on that one”.
Thinking of you big time, Will. And looking forward to seeing you soon. Kelly will crush it at Digital Agency Summit.
Will, I just learned of this from a conference call this afternoon. Shocking to say the least, but I am very glad to hear you dodged a major bullet and you are recovering nicely. You owe Angie big time!
Well that beats my excuse for not showing up to Pubcon!
Get well soon friend. Keep that treadmill desk rolling.
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