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.


So many sentiments that I share with so many people, here. I'm sure the surgery will go smoothly, and you'll be playing games and living life as normal very soon.

This site has also been my number one bookmark for years, and I really value what you and Shawn have created here.

Thank you.

"I assume I’ll be back to talking about iPad’s and gaming with a broken sternum in a few months."

Hey... You'll be talking about the pain in about 10 days... I can PROMISE you that. You'll be ALIVE and SORE. (Remember... I'm the one who had this same problem 6 years ago.)

The pain goes away in about a month or so... You won't be anything resembling normal for probably 2 or 3 weeks after surgery and then you'll bounce back. I remember almost 2 weeks after surgery when I was on my way home (5 hours by car to my mom's - Strangeblades had to fly home to Newfoundland, and of course, I was grounded) and we stopped at a gas bar/convenience store. My mom and sister went into the store and I stayed in the car. Then I decided I should go in to the washroom, but I had to stand outside the door waiting to get someone's attention so they could open the heavy door for me!! Good times!!

My advice... take the pain killers when offered! Don't be brave!! You will need them, and by the time you need them, you NEED them, and then you have to wait for them to work!!

As for the surgery itself... You won't know... You won't even remember going to sleep. You'll just wake up with a tube down your throat feeling like dogsh*t.

I won't say good luck... I'll just say take the drugs, and have a quick recovery!

Good luck Elysium. I have never met you or any of the GWJ crew and maybe never will, but your voices have become a welcome weekly treat for me over the last few years. Reading your post really touched me and filled me with empathy for someone who is by all accounts a "stranger". However, it goes to show the impact that something as simple as a podcast can have on those who listen and enjoy. I may not be the most active GWJer on the site, but I consider the podcast crew friends. Hope that doesn't sound odd. I wish you all the luck and a safe return to your family.

I just wanted to add to the comments here and say that I look forward to hearing you on the podcast and reading what you write on this site again. You really channel the voices of a generation of gamers who have grown up playing on the computer and in the arcade.

Elysium, my thoughts and prayers are with you. But I have no doubt that in a few weeks you're giant Steam sale pile will be there waiting for you.

PS - Not to sound like a gushing fanboi but you're one of my favorite writers.

Best of luck Elysium, I'll keep you in my prayers. I'm looking forward to you and rabbit geeking out about iPad games when you make your return to the Conference Call.

Elysium...I want to say something like "I'm sure you'll make it through with flying colors..." but I'm sure that those words would sound hollow to your ears.

So: you do everything in your power to make it back off that table, and get a speedy recovery, you hear?

Best wishes, Sean.

Sean won't make it through with flying colors. Something horrible will happen necessitating the use of a semi-permanent Arc Generator implant. Of course, Sean being Sean, he'll probably use the unbelievably powerful energy source solely as a power source for his gaming equipment, giving the world a taste of its first super-powered game curmudgeon - Silicon Man.

Good luck, thoughts and prayers. At least the next round of the chess tourney probably won't start until after your surgery.

Copingsaw wrote:

Good luck, thoughts and prayers. At least the next round of the chess tourney probably won't start until after your surgery.

Good point. Maybe he should have let me beat him so I could have advanced from our group.

Best of luck man.

LarryC wrote:

..he'll probably use the unbelievably powerful energy source solely as a power source for his gaming equipment, giving the world a taste of its first super-powered game curmudgeon - Silicon Man.

His beard will become even more legendary.

The Bionic Beard.

Elysia wrote:

The Bionic Beard. :)

Props to Marvel.com's Character Creator.


Something felt missing for the longest time. Until I found Stan's tie.

Good luck.

Best of luck Sean. Thank you for all your contributions to the site and the community that you have helped create.

I look forward to hearing more from you in the future.

Good luck Sean, I look forward to hearing you back on the show in a couple of months.

Due to an onslaught of personal crap last week, I missed this when it was first published. Still wanted to add in my own well wishes for you and your family.

I don't know how much stock I put into prayer, but I do know this: Sean, you've touched thousands of lives over the years, more than you can ever know. Your friends, your family, and an entire city-state of the Internet are all rooting for you right now. Surely that's got to count for something.

In your recovery, they'll probably give you a heart pillow, something to hold onto as you get in and out of chairs and beds and the like. Use it. Pretend it's the pillow of hetereosexuality, and hug that sucker to your chest for all it's worth. The whole Internet is hugging you back.

That's it. Now go kick heart surgery in the balls.

No, no, thank you, indeed.

It will, of course, work out well. It always does.

No worries Elysium. If they can do a quadruple bypass on my 60 year old smoking diabetic father, they can do this for you.

Recover quickly, and we'll see you when you get back.

Kojiro wrote:

No worries Elysium. If they can do a quadruple bypass on my 60 year old smoking diabetic father, they can do this for you.

Recover quickly, and we'll see you when you get back.

Indeed. After my accident I put on a bunch of weight. It needs to come off. There's no dispute about that. It absolutely needs to come off and it needs to come off soon. I'm too old to let it go much longer. But the thing that keeps me from going crazy with anxiety over my heart is that my father (smoker, diabetic, in his 60s) can survive heart surgery and live another 10+ years then I have time.

Modern medicine is amazing. My little brother has Wolf Parkinsons White syndrome. He almost died a few years ago when his heart went crazy and he was rushed to the hospital. They did fairly non-invasive surgery to sever the electrical signal that was haywire and "repair" his heart. You'll be fine.

Sorry I'm late to the thread, but -- thanks for your words in this post, previous posts and on the podcast. I'm a big fan.

Good luck with your surgery and all the best for a full recovery.

Kick that Op in the shins and get ready for the next 38!

Do it.

A very belated wish for your speedy recovery, Elysium!

Good luck, Sean. And take it easy after the surgery, don't push yourself too hard. I don't want to hear your chest opening up on the podcast like something out of Alien.


Actually that would be kinda rad!

Oh, and watch out for your cornhole. You know those anesthesiologists.

(walks out of an underground bunker, squinting and covering face from sun)

Ah, you're here. Good.


For God's sake, don't read any web articles detailing these procedures, or try to analyze the surgery photos. That is for them, not for you. To them, this is familiar territory, but to you it's the same the insides of a computer would look to one's bewildered grandparents. Except the computer is you, which isn't going to help.

I would SUGGEST focusing on a planned activity you want to do shortly after the surgery. It helps combat the primal fears in the subconscious that fart themselves to the surface in these situations.

Focus on something mildly pleasant that you will be able to experience shortly after. PAST the self-imposed brick wall. Something you can experience despite your temporary lowering of "STRENGTH" and "DEXTERITY" stats.

Also, consider planning a lifestyle change that will separate the "texture" of your before-surgery and after-surgery life. It will make you feel better, give you something else to look forward to.

If it's any consolation, my Sensei had heart (bypass) surgery at the age of 55, mostly because of his addiction to sweets. That was about 7 years ago and his throws are actually stronger now. I do believe he's taking it easy with the candy, though.

Surgeons are like Senseis in their own right. They succeed not because a technique goes according to plan. They succeed because of their innate ability to adapt their technique to what's happening here and now.

Here's to proper alignment of energies on the day of your surgery to make you slightly less panicky. Hey, I'm being realistic here

Looking forward to more of your rambling about your Stockhold-syndrome relationships with MMORPGs
(unless you dump them for good)

Welcome back, Shiho, even if it's only for this post. You've been missed

I've been trying to think of something meaningful to wrote for days, and have failed miserably. Good luck, and a speedy recovery sir.

Good luck, Sean. Yet another random GWJ reader will be thinking about you and sending happy thoughts your way now through the recovery process.

Dear Sir.
I post rarely and I will repeat what others said. Just to state much I care about you, someone who I will probably never see with my own eyes and will never have a chance to shake his hand (unless you visit London).
Over the years of reading and listening to your thought we developed a sense of connection with you. It is quite remarkable. It feels strange. A middle aged man feeling nervous because some other middle aged man on the other side of the world is undergoing rather sophisticated surgery.