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.

Comments

It's going to go great, and I look forward to hearing your voice on the Conference Call ad infinitum.

Double post.

Best wishes to you and your family. Hope the upgrade goes well (you did sign up for the uber-upgrade, didn't you?) Looking forward to a similar piece reflecting on the experience in a few weeks.

mikeohara wrote:
oilypenguin wrote:

Best of luck, Sean. We're all pulling for you.

I'll +1 this!

I don't like manual labor. I will be sitting in the shade drinking a corona for you.

Higgledy wrote:

Also, if they offer you a complimentary robot arm, get the one with the infinite grapples.

Good point. That's how those things happen. Some freak accident and next thing you know you're a super hero. He could get a grappling hook like in Just Cause 2. Lucky.

Have you Met the Medic yet?

Best wishes on a speedy recovery ... and a well written piece on what is obviously a very personal matter. Only one criticism ... "something with weight and girth and heft to it as a substantive idea." How did this not get picked up on here at GWJ?!? I mean you just leave it out there and neither Rat Boy or Quintin or Mex at the least run with it? I understand this is a very stressful time for you but as management you cannot allow the quality of homoerotic banter to slip or go unremarked upon. These people must really care about you I guess ...

All kidding aside I admire your ability to put this in perspective and appreciate the life you have which I believe is a failing that alot of folks (myself included) have in this day and age. Good luck and take it as a challenge to be overcome and won.

Wow. That's pretty intense. Here's wishing you a successful surgery and a speedy recovery. I'm really looking forward to an article describing the actual experience and the aftermath.

kincher skolfax wrote:

So when they hook you up to the post-op IV drip of Corona, how will they add the lime?

IMAGE(http://www.johnwalker.com/product_images/595.jpg)

Reading Seans post makes me realize I owe a big debt to him. Probably around 2006 I was browsing the net and stumbled upon GWJ. I fooled around on the site for a few months before even listning to the podcast. But when I did I was blown away. I grew up on a hard diet of videogames but grew out of it in my late teens. But the podcast sucked me right back into gaming as a culture. A culture that recognized that we are not 15 anymore but gaming can be just as fun as a recreation at 37 years old (that's me!). I specifically remember on this podcast the gang being queried something about a game they really enjoyed and Sands just digging into how great Ultima 4 was and going with it! Ultima 4! NOBODY gives a rats ass in 2006 about Ultima 4 - except Sean Sands, that's who!!! I was estatic! Somebody gets it! These boys at GWJ have played the real dirt and are still going, playing games and having fun with it- and I was sucked back into a hobby that I didn't realize I had missed so much for 20 years. You guys set the trend that yes, we are gamers- gamers with jobs, wives, mortgages, kids- but we still know when we are playing the real deal and how to have fun.
Thank you Mr. Sands, recuperate, and we all wait to hear your snarky comments soon on the Podcast.

merphle wrote:

Have you Met the Medic yet?

Honestly, who doesn't want a mega baboon heart?

Scratched wrote:
merphle wrote:

Have you Met the Medic yet?

Honestly, who doesn't want a mega baboon heart?

Just make sure your health insurance covers it, you don't want end up with a cheap Loch Ness Hamster heart instead.

Good luck Sean!!

I wish you all the best, man. Hopefully Certis won't let the site go to sh*t during your brief (and sure to be successful!) recovery period.

I'm a member of the Badass Scar Club. Open heart surgery at the tender age of 14. At the time, it was an adventure, it was exciting, but it wasn't scary.

I haven't really thought about what it would be like to go through it again in my thirties, but I think I'd be right where you are Sean. I had no fricking sense of my own mortality at 13, but impending middle-age puts a wholly different spin on things.

To whit, I say that if you weren't experiencing The Fear, then there's probably something less fix-ably wrong with you.

My thoughts are with you, sir. And remember, you're having heart surgery. Your thumbs will work just fine while you're convalescing. Use 'em. Trust me on that one - I played a *lot* of Genesis in summer of '91, and it made what should have been a miserable time into an awesome couple of months.

Jonman wrote:

My thoughts are with you, sir. And remember, you're having heart surgery. Your thumbs will work just fine while you're convalescing. Use 'em. Trust me on that one - I played a *lot* of Genesis in summer of '93, and it made what should have been a miserable time into an awesome couple of months.

Good advice. My aforementioned friend who had open-heart surgery spent his recovery (around the time it got released) playing Oblivion. He lived in that world while recovering.

Only my wife, LasherTheCat knows what you are going through. Me? I have no idea.

My wife had pretty much the same procedure for almost the same reason. Split chest, aorta surgery, life support - the works. She made it through. So will you.

Good luck to you, Sean.

muttonchop wrote:
Scratched wrote:
merphle wrote:

Have you Met the Medic yet?

Honestly, who doesn't want a mega baboon heart?

Just make sure your health insurance covers it, you don't want end up with a cheap Loch Ness Hamster heart instead.

Oh god. I can't see heart surgery as anything other than that now.

Best of luck and health to you. Not much else to be said, really.

I'm not a religious man, but you have all my positive thoughts and wishes. I haven't read all the posts in this thread, but I continually feel grateful for the miracle of modern medicine. One hundred years ago this would for a certainty not have ended well. Now, the chances are incredibly good that you will come out of this better than ever. Thank you for sharing this incredibly personal post with us, and know that we're all cheering you on from the sidelines.

Best of luck from the wife and I, Elysium. If there is a God, I don't think he'd want the podcast helmed by a single misspelled Sean, so I'm betting you'll be just fine.

It's kind of wonderful this internet business, I don't know if it makes a difference but I wish you the best, Elyisum, you're one of the good people. So just think that people in whole other countries and continents are rooting for you to get well, you're that awesome = ) Good luck man

Larry wrote:

Reading Seans post makes me realize I owe a big debt to him. Probably around 2006 I was browsing the net and stumbled upon GWJ. I fooled around on the site for a few months before even listning to the podcast. But when I did I was blown away. I grew up on a hard diet of videogames but grew out of it in my late teens. But the podcast sucked me right back into gaming as a culture. A culture that recognized that we are not 15 anymore but gaming can be just as fun as a recreation at 37 years old (that's me!). I specifically remember on this podcast the gang being queried something about a game they really enjoyed and Sands just digging into how great Ultima 4 was and going with it! Ultima 4! NOBODY gives a rats ass in 2006 about Ultima 4 - except Sean Sands, that's who!!! I was estatic! Somebody gets it! These boys at GWJ have played the real dirt and are still going, playing games and having fun with it- and I was sucked back into a hobby that I didn't realize I had missed so much for 20 years. You guys set the trend that yes, we are gamers- gamers with jobs, wives, mortgages, kids- but we still know when we are playing the real deal and how to have fun.
Thank you Mr. Sands, recuperate, and we all wait to hear your snarky comments soon on the Podcast.

Damn, me too. I started my internet experience when this site was starting, my account is like #9 or something, it's one of the first sites on the internet I visited regularly.

The thing is I was originally browsing Evil Avatar, which while it's a good site, it was very negative back then, and being on the GWJer website made a lot of difference in how I perceived the internet, not just the bad parts but also a lot of good potential in people, american or otherwise.

So yeah, good job on the site, it's already made a difference for me.

The thought of walking into the abyss is a scary one, but hopefully it helps to know that a great many others will be with you in spirit. I'll be praying for you and your family during this time.

Everybody's said what I want to say already, but i'll say it again anyway. This has been my #1 bookmark for some six years now, so thank you for making this space. Best of luck, and you're in my thoughts. I fully expect the pillow of heterosexuality to keep you company during your convalescence.

You'll be fine! If Pawz can do it, anyone can! Good luck, buddy.

Thank you for sharing such a personal piece, Sean. Same with veryone who has commented so far. Some beautiful things have been shared here.

Best of luck. You'll be in my prayers. Unfortunately for you we'll be here on 10 days from now when you wake up, and as sometimes happens, we'll be nagging you....
And thank YOU for everything that you write and say.

Not sure how I missed this on the front page until now, but best of luck to you.