Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

The Toughest Part Of My Heart Surgery


A post from a fellow Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor triggered an emotional flashback for me recently.  A young parent themselves, one of their main concerns, is for their young children, and this will be the first time that this friend will be apart from their children for any amount of time.  Even more relatable, are two main factors, this fellow survivor is having open heart surgery, and their children are the same ages as my daughters were back in 2008.

My daughters were three and five years old, and had never been apart from me.  I went from just telling them, I had to go stay overnight somewhere for something special, but would see them the next day, to the horror 24 hours later of thinking I would never see them again.

A blockage had been discovered that was believed correctable with a simple stent being placed.  I would be up and going in just a week, an overnight stay in the hospital.  No big deal.  I was still coming out of the anesthesia that day, when the doctor was informing my family, my situation was more grave than thought, and instead I would need to have open heart surgery the next morning.  You can read the story “CABG – Not Just A Green Leafy Vegetable” for that whole situation.

But as I came out of the fog from the anesthesia, and began to understand the severity of what I was facing, there was even a more daunting concern for me.  If anything bad happened to me during this surgery, I never got to see or hold my daughters again, especially before the surgery.

I am a firm believer in not discussing things with children that are not age appropriate, and this was something that was not going to be discussed with them in great detail.  But that did not make my heartbreak any less.  Even if the surgery was successful, I would be in the hospital, expected to be about a week in length.  I had never been apart from them at all, even until the day before for the stent process.  I got to talk to them on the telephone that night before, and that was going to have to be good enough.  In less than eight hours, I would be taken down to the operating room.

Three days following the surgery, out of the ICU and in a private room, I still had some tubes and wires, but not nearly as many as when I first came out of the surgery.  At that point, it was decided to bring my daughters to visit me, a surprise visit, because they were all I could think about.  My older daughter was curious about all the equipment that I was hooked up to.  And the joke, er… concern, was that she would not do to me what she did to her mechanical horse Butterscotch, when we were not looking and she started pulling the horse’s wiring apart.  My younger daughter on the other hand, sat on the foot of my bed.  This was the first either of them had seen me in this type of condition, and clearly she was scared.

The picture above, was taken a couple days after we got home, no worse for the wear.  In fact, my younger daughter had resumed her playfulness with me, forgetting the fragile area of my chest, starting from across the room, running full tilt at me, unsuspecting, planting her head into my chest like a battering ram.  That was when that “heart” pillow came in handy besides my coughs and sneezes.

My daughters would witness another event, just as severe, and probably more scary, because they watched it happen in real time.  After just celebrating my older daughter’s birthday  that day, an ambulance crew was rolling me out of our house on a stretcher, again facing a dire situation, septic shock, due to a specific type of bacterial pneumonia I was unaware that I had.  One of the only memories I have of that early 4am event, was the look on my daughters faces as I was rolled by.

As I talked to my fellow survivor, one of the things I wanted to do, as I do with others in our situation, is to share our experiences, as to offer some sort of comfort to the stressful event soon to take place.  I encouraged her to focus on the surgery.

I had spoken with both of my daughters this evening, to gather their perspective on what happened those two time periods, the second time period they were five and seven years older.  Neither really remembers anything from my heart surgery.  And all either of them really remember of the second episode, was all the policemen and paramedics in the house.  It was never a thought to them that I would not come back home, though it was unusual for me not to be home.

For the second time, I had been apart from my daughters.  And this would happen again several times.  It never got easier.  Just as my fellow survivor feels I am sure, our children mean everything to us.  Fortunately they were at an age, where they really did not need to know or understand how serious everything was.  All that mattered to me, was that they knew I would come home.  And with every time something happened, this was how I handled it.  Each time, they believed I would come home.

Late in their teenage years now, they are learning more about my health history, and the origin, my battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and the treatments used to save my life.  They can handle the details as I have given them in small amounts, and not in vivid detail.  As adults, they will learn the seriousness of the things I face, because as they will be my medical proxies, it will be important that they know all the details.

My daughters do not recall anything from my heart surgery, and have very few memories of the second event.  And I am glad for that.  They have witnessed enough with me in the hospital.  They know my situation is serious.

More importantly, they know that they are the reason that I keep fighting when faced with these challenges.  My divorce has caused quite a bit of separation, and while I do miss every moment I wish I could have with them, it pales in comparison to the emotional pain I felt back in 2008 when I thought I would never see them again.

Yet, here I am.  Another year closer to seeing them graduate, hopefully go to college, and perhaps start a family of their own.  Something back in 2008, I never thought I would see.

Voter Fraud This Is Not… And Here Is Why


I do not normally do these kinds of posts, but as I often use writing to express frustrations, this is one of those moments.  But it is also a teachable moment as well.

First, I want to be clear.  I HATE POLITICS!  Second, I am an independent voter, have been my whole voting age.  I have voted for both Republican and Democratic presidents and lower level politics.  I am an independent for two reasons.  The first, I do not agree completely with the policies and beliefs of either party.  And second, I will not be told I need to believe a certain way to belong to that party.  Now with the serious stuff out of the way.  I would like to share something with you, quite interesting.  Because what I am going to show and tell you, is not voter fraud, though it is confused as such.  But it is a major pain in the ass.

As I stated above, I HATE POLITICS.  But in 2009, because of a teacher labor issue, and the way the bullies of the current school board had chosen to negotiate in public in a variety of negative campaign methods, I had enough and decided to run for school board.  I was fed up with this bullying behavior and felt I could make a difference.  The experience of a campaign was not only fun, but eye-opening.  The goal of my post is not to talk about my school board campaigns, but rather to pull back the curtain so that you can see why I have titled this post the way that I have.

Lesson #1 – seeing is not believing

Campaign signs.  We see them all the time.  And for the most part, we associate blue with Democrats, and red with Republicans.  So, why are there two different signs?  While campaigning as a Democrat (one of the two and temporary times I was not an independent, and there was a reason I chose Democrat as opposed to Republican, strategy only), it was thought that if we could show that we were supported by Republicans, that would gather more votes, which is why the sign says “Republicans for”.  But we thought, why not fully commit to making the sign red.  Republican voters will think that we are the Republican candidates, because their signs are normally red.  Devious, I know.  But it gets better.

Lesson #2 – the same but different

Something that most voters are not aware of, in local politics, there are options for candidates to “cross file” for an election, in other words, run as a candidate for both parties, not just the party you represent.  In elections with a primary election, this is often a good strategy to eliminate an opponent and not having to face in a general election.  Two such positions are school board member and local judges.  There is only one catch.  Just as you have to for the higher elections, you must collect signatures on a petition to support your candidacy.  But if you represent one party, and especially in today’s political climate, how do you muster up enough signatures from the opposite party?  It is not as hard as you think.  So when you show up at the election polls for the primary, voting in your primary, all you see is your party’s candidates which also include the “sheep in wolves clothing” from the opposing party.  Devious.  But there is more.

Lesson #3 – tools of the trade

Political mailers.  So many trees have to die so that politicians can get their information out to you.  Some may be informative.  Some, like this one that was sent out against my campaign running mates, can be quite offensive.  And my opponents were severely criticized for this ad.  It should be noted, that not all of these come from the candidates themselves, but rather PACS (political action committees), which ironically, many candidates often belong to.  It is a way for them to participate in the shadows, and deflect anything negative that comes from a tactic (“Neither I or my campaign had anything to do with this.”) which is a technicality, but not illegal.

But the question is, how do you get these things?  Voter registrations for one.  There are several tools available to campaigns, that are public knowledge just because you registered to vote.  It is not necessarily a bad thing.  It makes it easy for your political party to keep tabs on you.  That’s right, each political party can tell when you voted, or how often.  Campaigns use this knowledge, to figure out who they need to concentrate on.  If you are a regular voter, you will not likely see as many because it is the lesser frequent, perhaps even non-voters that they want to concentrate on.  That information is at every candidate’s fingertips.  A totally pain in the ass if you do not like getting robo-calls and these mailers, but totally legal.

Lesson #4 – politics on 2020

So, tricks like this do not just happen on local levels, but state and national.  Parties and candidates will pull out all the stops to convince, and if necessary trick voters in to casting their vote for them.  And I want to be clear, I am not speaking for or against our current president.  But what I am going to do, is straighten out one thing that I have noticed, because the confusion it has caused, and it has caused quite a bit of confusion, is not voter fraud.  Though I have seen many of my friends make this claim.  And I am going to prove to you that this particular situation, if you have seen it, is nothing more than a campaigning method, and totally legal.  You have to be smart and see the difference, pay attention, and cast your vote intelligently.

NOT VOTER FRAUD

Example #1

I received this packet about a month ago.  Like many, at just a glance, I automatically assume it is a ballot for the upcoming general election, which I have already requested for by mail.  Everything looks official.  Until you look at it closer.  The envelope, redacting my personal information and barcoding, was accurate.  And the return address looked official.  But I thought it was odd, as it did not come from my election commissioner, but some other entity, the Center For Voter Information, a lobbying group located in Tallahassee and Washington, DC.  But to be clear, what they sent me, was NOT a ballot.  It was however, an application for REGISTERED VOTERS to register to vote by mail.  And their effort was quite convenient.  Again, this was for registered voters.

There was a nice letter explaining quite clearly how convenient it would be.  There was a step-by-step instruction, also quite easy to read.  And then, get this… the actual application to request a mail ballot.  Did I say convenient?  It was already filled out with my name and information.  All that I had to do, was sign it and mail it in the envelope that was also provided, to our local board of elections, my return address already on the envelope.  And the postage was PAID!

Make no mistake.  THIS IS NOT VOTER FRAUD.  THIS IS NOT A BALLOT.  And while it came from a lobbying group that had my voting information, they were not privy to the fact that I had already registered to vote by mail.  So, no ballot fraud.  No vote submitted.  No voter fraud.

Example #2

A-HA!!!  Voter fraud and the post office is in on it now too.

No.

I got this a couple weeks later.  With all the problems going on with the postal service, the USPS put out a simple information card, assuring customers that if they planned to use vote-by-mail, you could count on the USPS for your vote to count.

You need to read everything on this card to see, it has nothing to do with registering to vote or supplying ballots.  It is simply how to make sure your vote counts.

Example #3

If this look familiar to Example #1, it does, with a couple of differences, one of those major.  Although I have it redacted, this packet came to “resident” instead of addressed to me personally, though it did have my address on it.  The major difference?  This is an actual voter registration form.  There are two easily readable pages with instructions followed by the application itself, which as in Example #1, is pre-filled out, without my name of course.  But the address has been filled in, and the return envelope is addressed already to the board of elections, and the return address is my address, just without my name.  And this too was pre-paid postage.

Again, THIS IS NOT A BALLOT!  This is not voter fraud.  As annoying as it is to get now the second mailing from the same Center For Voter Information, it is just an effort to get out and vote.  Helping people to register to vote this way is no different than when we apply for a driver’s license, or sign up at some recruitment drive, and it makes no matter where it is done, whether at a mall or a high school.  It is just a registration.

Example #4

Annnnnnddddd…. here comes another mailer from the Center For Voter Registration.  Some slight differences, but still just a registration attempt.  NOT A BALLOT!  This is not voter fraud.  They made this mailing a more compact as the way the literature folds, the whole thing is only one page.  But still completed the same as Example #3.

These mailers are not ballots.  And I believe in most states, early voting (or absentee voting) has not even begun yet.  So unless you are Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, or Wyoming, you definitely have not received a ballot, and if you are one of the mentioned states, it is only possible that Pennsylvania has made the mail in ballots available prior to this post.  In other words, if you are receiving something that looks formal, READ IT!  It is likely not a ballot but rather an attempt to either register you to vote, or to vote by mail.  And that is not fraud.

One final note, about “dead people” receiving stuff like this.  Again, entities like the Center For Voter Registration, do not get death notices, which is why “dead people” still get stuff like this, and other unwanted junk mail including credit card applications.  But you county election board will have the death on record, and that “dead person” will not be able to vote.  And anyone attempting to vote using that identity (if the death has not been processed in time for the election) is committing a federal crime.

Having the right to vote, is a serious right, guaranteed by our Constitution.  So many have died fighting to protect this right.  The least we can do, besides being informed about candidates (I am not a straight ticket voter being an independent, I actually take the time to push each button), and be knowledgable about the options available to complete the process, and recognize when someone is peeing on our shoes and telling us that it is raining.

So with that, get registered to vote.  You still have time depending on your state.  And then do your duty on November 3rd.  If you can vote in person, do it.  If transportation or poll inconvenience is an issue, mail it in.  If you are trying to protect yourself from the health crisis that has killed so many Americans, mail it in.  And for crying out loud, enough with the “if you can stand in line…” memes.  That is both ignorant and arrogant and has no place in the people’s right to vote.

Wow, I was actually able to keep this down the middle.

In The Worst Of A Crisis, Can Behavior Get Any Worse?


Like many areas of the United States, my locality is dealing with the Covid19 crisis as best as it can.  Eight months in, scientists and our government leaders still struggle to learn about this pandemic, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.  All politics aside, as the US is quickly approaching 200,000 dead Americans, and over six million Americans infected, there is no denying the reality of this crisis.

As a long term cancer survivor, having various issues related to my health history, I am considered “vulnerable”.  Needless to say, I pay very close attention to details and data, that I gather personally from the medical professionals that I deal with personally.

From the beginning, I saw the line drawn in the sand that instead of drawing us together as other national emergencies have done, instead pitted us against each other.  Throughout our history, we have dealt with major epidemics from measles to polio to the flu of 1918.  We know when faced with a health crisis like this, they are real.  People actually died.

Which is what is maddening to me.  Right from the gate, when we were warned about Covid19, and a decision was made to downplay the serious and mistaken potential of spread, our country had done what it had never done before, denied reality.  But why?  Because, instead of saying to ourselves, “hey, this is getting really serious,” some decided to take the approach, “don’t attack the president.”

If anyone has been witness to a brush fire, and living in Florida I have experienced that, it does not take long for a spark to ignite and spread to 10,000 acres.  And it depends on how much time you waste, grabbing the water bottle over by the rock to pour on the growing flames, or reaching out for the professionals that determines the devastation.

In the case of Covid19, “a bottle of water” was poured, denial that it was serious enough to require extra attention.  And that denial actually exploded to a full blown inferno, as some reinforced their protection of the decisions by the president, to calling it a hoax.  Keep in mind, a hoax gets defined as something not real.  Nearly 200,000 dead Americans alone from Covid19.  Far from a hoax.

The strategies to deal with this crisis only made things worse.  And we can argue constitutionality til the cows come home.  We have today has not worked.  We needed a plan from the top.  Instead, it got passed down to the states to fend for themselves, and then within the states, leadership said it was up to the local governments to figure things out.  I am going to get to that cluster-F in a moment.

We have the professionals in place to tell us what we need to do.  Whether they come in the form of mandates or recommendations, they will help.  But again, that boils down to leadership, on all levels, to acknowledge and set example of following the recommendations, most made by the CDC.  And that should be all there is to it.

But the problem is this.  Our federal government has teeth.  Our state governments have teeth.  Our local governments try, and if faced with unsurmountable criticism and objections, may not withstand doing the things that are recommended, instead falling on the “common sense of the people to do the right thing.”  And if the people do not do the “right thing,” enforcement or mandates are met with resistance.  And it is the “why” of the resistance that make no sense to me.

A couple of months ago, our county held an emergency meeting to determine safety precautions that our federal and state governments would not do.  I will only discuss the one option, as it is the one getting the most attention.  The county was taking a vote on mandating masks in public.  Again, this is something recommended by the scientists at helping to reduce the spread of this deadly virus.  It is something that all people with “common sense” should see as a good thing.

I did not take notes of that meeting, but it was quite contentious.  Most of the public speakers spoke against any mandate.  I really do not recall their reasons.  Unfortunately I missed any professional testimonies that were given most likely to support the mandate.  The mandate went through by a vote of 3-2 and would go until last week when another meeting would be held to discuss renewing or letting the mandate expire.

This meeting, I paid a lot more attention to, because I follow the numbers for various reasons, not just because I am a nerd.  I have reasons besides my health for knowing if we are getting better or worse.  So, the first part of the meeting, I did hear the testimonies of the local professionals, doctors on the front lines, who brought data to support the success of the efforts of the mask mandate since it was first imposed.  The information was all there in black and white, lower cases, lower hospitalizations, and lower deaths.  Our county had been on an upward climb until that mandate, and now the numbers were lower.   And really, that should have been the end of that.  If you want to know how to make a good chicken florentine, you ask a chef.  If you want to find out how to change out a transmission on a car, you ask a mechanic.  If you want to know how to deal with a lethal pandemic, you ask the doctors and scientists.

Following the testimony of the local medical professionals, came public commentary.  And as the title of my post suggests, it was not good.  If I had to guess, those opposed to extending the mandate made up maybe 80% of the public comments.  But it was their reasoning, and their methods that left me shaking my head in disbelief in what I was witnessing.  The comments about wearing a mask, made as much sense as someone taking something out of an oven without oven mitts.

The following is the list of arguments against wearing something, while not perfect or guaranteed, could still have a positive impact on getting through this crisis:

My choice faith will get us through charts by professionals prove nothing death counts fake social engineering experiment health department conspiracy silent majority are fed up lack of intelligence stats are inconclusive right to breathe freely rights and freedoms media propoganda personal responsibility lunacy busy living fear porn Natzi rule moving the goalposts totalianarianism wearing a diaper on the face about an election seizure of property oath of the government to protect the constitution not the people overreach communism hoax being lied to okay with dying medical negligence and finally, pharmaceutical profits.

I intentionally left out commas, because I wanted it to be a list, but when I typed it up, I realized how long it made the post look, and did not want that appearance.  But among all of these reasons people gave not to wear a mask (some were repeated), they were also follow up with insults and threats.

I was shocked.  We are dealing with a major crisis, likely to kill 500,000 Americans before we have any kind of control over it, and people are actually threatening and insulting government officials trying to do something to help us get through this.  But beyond the insults and threats, look again at the list given against masks.  Do you see any reference to even recognizing the virus as real?  Do you see anyone relate to any personal experiences with Covid19?  Do you see anyone offering any other possible solutions?  Clearly there are those who want to make this pandemic end and they are doing what they can, and then there are those who are doing all that they can to prevent it from ending.

And this is what is referred to as being politically driven.  And this is going to kill even more people.  There is no world order out there trying to wipe out millions of the world’s population.  And while our president DID NOT create this virus, we relied on his leadership, just as we did with Roosevelt, Truman, Carter, Reagan, Bush (both), Clinton, and Obama, we needed this president to lead us through this crisis.  And yes, that same group of people who made up that list of complaints against masks, see this as an attack on the president they vehemently support.  And I get the concept of support, just not at all costs, especially if it involves lives.

I do still have faith in our scientists and doctors.  I have no reason to trust otherwise.  And it is a shame, because I honestly believe, that had the right decisions been made sooner, we could have been done with this, at least under control, in three months or less.  Now, we are entering our eighth month, and into a time period, this virus is expected to increase in cases and deaths.

I will finish with actually agreeing with one of the negative comments, to a degree.  How we get through this is personal responsibility, with the information that we have been given and recommended to do.  But as the numbers continue to climb, it is clear that not enough are exercising that personal responsibility.

And that is disappointing.

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