A Few (Hopefully Not) Final Thoughts

In 11 days, 13 hours and 42 minutes from the moment that I write these words, I am scheduled to undergo an 8-hour operation to repair my heart. During that time my heart will stop beating, my lungs will stop breathing and my life will hinge on the functioning of sophisticated machinery and the talent of fallible humans. In a very real sense, my survival will be likely but within some meaningful measure of doubt for the full-span of an average work day.

This is my last post, my last considered public statement, before the procedure, and honestly I don’t know what I want to say. I only know that I want to say _something_ to go out with a meaningful thought, something with weight and girth and heft to it as a substantive idea.

I realize that’s my ego taking over, and that what I want to use this internet space for today is probably far removed from what you have any interest in reading. The problem is that impending surgery doesn’t actually make an individual any more deep, insightful or remotely worth listening to than they were when they weren’t scheduled to be opened up like a strip-mall Starbucks. So, I respect the choice you make to not follow down this twisting road of thought with me to what will most likely be a disappointing conclusion, and ultimately meaningless resolution when I likely emerge happy and healthy in the fall.

For the rest of you, let’s just see where this goes. What I want to say is this...

I’m really f*cking scared.

I had a dream not so long ago in which I was wheeled into surgery. This was one of those really disturbing dreams where my brain didn’t clue me in to the fact that I was dreaming. There were no fish floating past the doctor’s head. The nurse wasn’t my eighth grade Phys. Ed. teacher. The surgical lights didn’t shine on a disco ball. It was just very believable.

As the dream wandered toward its end, the anesthetist finally leaned over me and put a mask over my face. I breathed once more and then everything went black. And stayed there, and I remember clearly wondering whether I was going to wake up at all. Ever. When I did wake up, for real, I just laid there and absorbed that feeling. I wasn’t really frightened--that would come later and slowly like the changing of a season--I was just synthesizing this dark feeling of true mortality and the lingering sense of what my own death might feel like. After a while—not that long actually—I drifted back off to sleep and did not dream again.

It stayed with me, though, and out of nowhere that feeling of just ending will pop into my head, because that moment where the mask goes on or the meds get juiced into the IV or whatever it is that anesthesiologists actually do to make you not feel the knife in the chest and the saws on bone, that moment is coming hard and fast. There will be a final breath and hope will hinge on the idea that my whole system will reboot with the hardware upgrade, and my most vital organs will start their second life on the other side.

Any surgery is scary, but I feel like it would be easier to embrace the idea of some kind of spleen removal or appendectomy because the whole time those trusty lungs and heart would be rocking their groove. I’ve had these things kicking around in my chest, keeping me alive every single second basically since Haldeman and Erlichman fell on their sword for poor doomed Nixon. A week from Monday, my heart will not beat.

Mind: blown.

Every time I think of it, everything else seems achingly small by comparison, and the fear—I mean gen-u-ine terror—drops a proto-star into my lower intestines. Have you ever been almost dizzy from fear? Because I have been, a half dozen times this week already. I don’t think I’ve shown it to anyone—odd that my confidant on the matter is a host of a few thousand—and I’ve gone about the busy duty of fixing dinner, managing the creation of articles and playing 13 hours of Assassin’s Creed II as though this were the most ordinary kind of thing.

Because, they tell me it is. Ordinary, that is. They tell me that this is almost routine. They tell me that I should plan for a recovery and then get back to my ordinary life. They tell me not to worry. I could sooner give birth to a litter of pug puppies.

Meanwhile I have to dance around genuine preparations for the possibility that I’ll be dead by a week from Tuesday.

… and I can’t write the rest of that paragraph. That sentence up there feels too much like gunning the car, Thelma-and-Louise-style, toward an apocalyptic mental cliff. I do the things I have to do in disguise. "Might as well brush up the old will," I say, as though I’d just casually thought of it alongside the need to clean the garage and change the oil. Better just make a note of all the bills that have to be paid, you know just in case next month I forget that AT&T is going to want their monthly C-note.

It’s self-deception and avoidance of the first degree, and I just hope I can keep it up right into my 5:00 am ride to the hospital. Let me just get close before I let my emotional seaside cliff go crashing into the deep. Let me get in the same building with people who are legally obliged and permitted to give me some primo-choice narcotics.

Let me go into that sleep of my nightmares well and truly altered. What comes Monday night or Tuesday or in August, the slow pain and crushing exhaustion of recovery will be for some other tomorrow to deal with. I can’t spare thoughts that far ahead yet.

Here’s the thing. All of those paragraphs up there. I think now that I needed all that to preface this next thought, because none of that is what I really want to say. I say all that so that you know this next thing is all the way, full-on considered.

After it all, thirty-eight years as a boy, a man, a father, a husband, a nerd, a jock, a peon, a boss, an irresponsible failure, a proud success, a writer, a hack, a fraud, a liar, an honest man. In the wake of it all, looking back, I find that I regret nothing. There was nothing I could have done to stop my heart from degrading or to stop my aorta from bulging, and all the other things I did led me to this place and this life that I genuinely don’t want to give up. Not by a long shot.

I’ve been ridiculously lucky time and again. I’ve lived in a world where “it’s all going to work out, somehow” was always (always!) true. I never failed to find my way to the things that I need, and usually along the way managed to find a path to the things I wanted too. It’s not a complex or big-ticket life, but it’s mine and there’s nothing on the grand scale that I would have changed, because that path leads to this place and this place is mine.

So that’s it, I guess. I assume I’ll be back to talking about iPads and gaming with a broken sternum in a few months. If you’re putting down money, odds are pretty good that this post will just be a whole bunch of maudlin theater in a few weeks. But this, this empty page waiting for words, is where I can say things I can’t say out loud.

Thank you.


My thoughts and prayers are with you man.

Best of luck to you and your surgery team.

Take care mate

Best thoughts are with you.

Very best wishes, Elysium.

I look forward to reading your next article very soon.

Considering the topic and the way you wrote about it, your heart seems fine.
Seriously though, I hope everything goes well and you have a speedy recovery.

It’s not a complex or big-ticket life, but it’s mine and there’s nothing on the grand scale that I would have changed, because that path leads to this place and this place is mine.

Best look on life ever.

Thank you.

I wish you all the best, you are in my thoughts.

God Bless, Sean Sands.

On top of the points made in your article, I'd like to add that your voice and words have brightened the days of thousands here on GWJ. Sean Sands, you're kinda a big deal on the internet. If I haven't said it before, thanks for being you.

Best of luck.

I think that this feeling of true mortality is really just the result of your being brought to stark realization that you're going to die. Not sometime in the distant future, but very possibly, in 11 days. Of course, it's at least equally possible that you won't even make the surgery. A semi could barrel down on your car and kill you before you get there. As deaths go, that's far more concerning, since it's likely to be nasty and quite painful.

Ironically, you have a much better chance of making it through if you stay calm and fight your fear, so I'll offer you this much to consider:

The surgical experience will probably be disappointingly mundane and prosaic, assuming you don't imagine your own monsters into the closets. You'll go to the OR. It'll be cold. There will be medical equipment and personnel. You will fall completely unconscious. Then you'll be awake and the procedure will be over. That's it. That's your compleat experience. Your average trail hike is designed to be more interesting, and probably just as dangerous.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you, too, though Mr. Sands, for everything you've written and done, just out of a general sense of both our mortalities. After all, it could be that I'm the one who gets hit by a semi in 11 days.

PS: Try not to overthink it, Sean. It's just a piece of muscle. It's not you. Your real heart is in your soul, and it's not going to be stopping anytime soon.

Good luck mate & remember busted sternums are where the aliens come from!

Good Luck, I can't wait to hear you on the Conference Call in the future.

Good luck Sean, I'll be praying for your and your family.

Take care. I'm looking forward to your triumphant return.

What a great piece. Your openness and honesty is much appreciated, and helpful for all of us to keep perspective on things.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery, and looking forward to your next article.

Thank you for sharing that with us all.

Cheers pal, you've got an entire community of amazing folks who will be thinking about you. My best to you and your family.

Best of luck to you! Looking forward to your speedy recovery.

Prozac wrote:

All our thoughts are with you, Elysia and the kids.

This times a million.

I know there are a lot more of us than there are of you, so it is probably hard for you guys to feel a personal connection with each and every poster/listener - but know that we feel a personal connection with you.

Your extended goodjer family is right there with you and yours hoping(planning!) for a speedy recovery. All the very best, my man.

f*ck the Fear and carry on living right in its face. Annoys the crap out of it. You'll be alright.

No regrets, eh? Not even Vanguard?

I was thinking after listening to one of the podcasts recently when you mentioned your surgery that you must be at least a little nervous about it. Scary stuff, for sure, but what your doctors tell you is right--I fully expect to see you back here in short order. Best of luck to you, Sean.

I've had invasive surgery on my knees twice, I appreciate this is bumpkin compared to heart surgery but for what it's worth I was terrified on both occasions.

See you when you return!

Good luck, sir!

I really can't say anything that hasn't been stated much more eloquently in the other wonderful comments in thread already. Our thoughts are with you and your family, and we'll all be here anxiously awaiting your return.

Good luck my friend, you'll be fine and will soon be a member of the "zipper" club:) My father had a bypass 6 years ago, is quite a bit older than you and he went through it just fine.

Best of luck to you!

You'll be in my thoughts, Elysium. More than usual, I mean, and in a far different context. No nudity or anything, I promise!

Since you've taken the opportunity to write on the assumption that you may soon die, I'll respond in kind. You've always been a role model for me, a source of interest, introspection, and inspiration. I've never met you in the flesh but you're more important to me than many whom I have. Your wit and wisdom have affected me more than you know. But now you do! Carry that knowledge with you, and be confident that so very many of us feel the same way.

Make sure Elysia posts the hospital information so you can wake up to a few thousand of us looking smilingly down on you on the recovery bed!

Best of luck to you and your family. While most of us will not be close enough to help on a personal level, you all will be in many, many people's thoughts and prayers. Be sure not to be too modest to ask for help where there is help that we can give.

Lobo wrote:

No nudity or anything, I promise!

Speak for yourself!

All our best, Sean. Thank you very much for sharing. We'll look forward to hearing from you.

Holy f*cking sh*t. Best of luck to you.

You'll be coming back like Lazarus 2.0, all swagger and Cyberdine.

You will be coming back, and we'll be right here.

Good mojo to you and yours.