My Hero

by Carilyn on February 11, 2013

downloadMy Dad  

After a fairly tumultuous holiday season, I was finally back in a groove, training and working hard, and finding time to amuse myself without getting in too much trouble or lost on a mountain somewhere. Things were rolling along and I was planning my spring season, conjuring up visions of adventures that would lead to fun challenges and memories, with (hopefully) only a few impossible-to-prevent-if-you-are-me falls/navigational errors. My mojo had returned and I was ready for 2013.

Then the phone call came. My father had suffered a heart attack on the golf course and was in the hospital. Time stopped. All adventures were forgotten. Plans began to form as to what the prognosis was; what needed to be done; when should airline tickets be booked. For 10 days we waited while the doctors performed an angiogram, angioplasty, and then made the ultimate decision that a quintuple bypass was his only option.

The good news: He was in remarkably good health (except for the clogged arteries). The bad news: He was 8 weeks away from his 80th birthday – not exactly the ideal age for sawing someone in half.

But there really wasn’t ever a question about what choice to make. You see, my father is the ultimate lover of life. All last year, you could just as easily find him on his roof fixing a leak as on the golf course, or driving 12 hours to come visit us on Los Angeles. Everything to him is a possibility, and with enough fortitude, achievable. So, open heart surgery was going to be no different.

We heard all the stories: he’s old, so it’s going to be extra tough; it will take him forever to recover, if he ever does; this will be the worst experience of his life. We expected, and prepared for, the worst. We hired full-time care, even though we would be with him the whole time, just in case. We researched everything, talked to every specialist we knew, and communicated endlessly about the possible nightmare this was going to be.

Then he came out of surgery and asked for a Hershey bar. And the nurse gave it to him. We couldn’t decide if this was a good omen, or bad. We worried.

He was released from the hospital more than a week early, but we still worried. Surely, he would “crash” and we wouldn’t know what to do.

He stopped taking his pain meds immediately upon getting home, and instead would only take 2 Tylenol. Per Day! We really worried. Maybe he was giving up. But he didn’t seem to be. He seemed to be treating his heart surgery like every other challenge in his life – he would give it his all, he wouldn’t complain, he wasn’t a victim, and the outcome would be what it was.

Then there were some setbacks – fluid in his lungs, hoarseness, weird reactions to one of the meds. We thought: they let him out too early. He’s not as strong as we thought. But then they adjusted his meds and he was back on track within 24 hours. He took the ups with the downs, readjusted, and kept moving forward. It was simply amazing to watch.

And very enlightening. My father is now almost 3 weeks post-surgery, driving, going to church, having lunch with his friends, playing cards and contemplating when he can get back on the golf course. He’s not even taking ONE Tylenol a day anymore and he never complains, even though I know it has to hurt.

Right before I left to come back to Los Angeles, we spoke about the potential for depression, or worse, heart failure, in bypass surgery patients, and he responded as he does about pretty much everything.

“I know it’s possible. But I can’t sit here and worry about it. I just have to keep doing the things I enjoy. If I sit here on the couch because I’m afraid, I will definitely end up depressed or dead. You have to keep moving.”

You have to keep moving. That’s what my dad, my hero, taught me growing up. And that’s what he taught me again at 45.


Happy Running!



{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

olga February 11, 2013 at 11:23 am

Carilyn, I knew something must have happened, was afraid to ask. Thank God your Father is doing so awesome! We should all be so lucky, healthy and loved!!! Here is to more good years – and less worries.

Carilyn February 11, 2013 at 11:38 am

Thank you, Olga! 🙂

Kate February 11, 2013 at 12:05 pm

I’ve been thinking about you wondering where you were. I’m sorry it wasn’t a “for fun” hiatus, but I’m so glad to hear that your father is doing so well. This hits very close to home because my father had his own quintuple bypass surgery many years ago when medical technology wasn’t nearly as good as now. His surgery gave him back to us for an additional 13 years. Your day’s story is both proof of what a strong vital man his is and also that we can’t be arbitrarily making assumptions based on age instead of the whole person. It sounds like your dad has a whole lot of living — really LIVING life — left to do. Best wishes to him!

Sarah February 11, 2013 at 12:57 pm

I was wondering about you! Glad your father is doing well! My dad had a quad bypass in his early 70’s and he’s still with us at 92 and relatively healthy. That’s what I tell him…you gotta keep moving. Your father is a great example!

Marcia February 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Oh geez Carilyn, I caught my breath when I saw the pic. Thank heavens you dad is pulling through! I lived this exact thing with my dad 16 years ago–a quintuple bypass that was so high risk we went through 4 docs before finding one even willing to do the surgery. I honestly said my goodbyes the night before. But he came through and is better for it, in spirit and strength and tenacity. Sounds like yours is doing the very same thing. Many, many good, healing thoughts coming your way! I missed you!

Carilyn February 11, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Thank you, Marcia! So glad to hear your father is still doing well! 🙂

Carilyn February 11, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Wow! That is so great, Sarah! I think their attitude sure makes a difference! T

Carilyn February 11, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Thank you, Kate. I’m glad you had so many more years with your father. Thank you for checking on me! 🙂

Char February 11, 2013 at 4:38 pm

No wonder you grasp life with both hands if he was your role model growing up. I’m so sorry you’ve had such a worrying time but I’m so glad your Dad’s come through and hasn’t lost his spirit.

pensive pumpkin February 11, 2013 at 4:54 pm

love you. what an amazing guy! give him a hug on behalf of a total stranger.

Jeff Dinkin February 11, 2013 at 10:54 pm

I had wondered why you weren’t posting of late. Sorry to hear the news, but glad to hear it’s been such a positive experience, all things considered.

You dad sounds like an amazing guy. I’m quite sure he’ll do very well, with his recovery. His great attitude not surprising, and explains a lot about your personality and determination in life. He’ll be around for a long, long time to come……..

Kirstin C (@ultrarunnergirl) February 12, 2013 at 9:16 am

I noticed your absence – sorry you had to go through this. Your father is a remarkable man – I can see where you got your tenacity! Glad he is making such great progress. Sending good thoughts for continued speedy healing!


Carilyn February 12, 2013 at 9:31 am

Thank you, Char!

Carilyn February 12, 2013 at 9:31 am

I will, PP – thank you!

Carilyn February 12, 2013 at 9:32 am

Thanks, Jeff! Great to hear from you 🙂

Carilyn February 12, 2013 at 9:32 am

Thank you, Kirstin!

Rob February 13, 2013 at 8:24 am

Yeah, glad to hear your Dad is on the mend. Inspiring post. An unrelated request from your fan base: next time that you will be unable to write for a bit, you cannot leave us with your last post being one featuring a picture of a Hoka – that thing is one ugly shoe/sneaker/blob. Welcome back!

Carilyn February 13, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Thanks, Rob! And your point is well taken 🙂 Let’s go for a run soon!

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