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On heart surgery and a second chance on life.

For several years I've known there was something seriously wrong with me.  Struggling up hills that I could practically sprint up a few years before.  Getting passed by overweight guys that I would left in my dust previous years.  Stumbling around like a drunk person, when I get over 10,000 ft.  Sure, I'm no spring chicken, but I knew if was way more than that.

Problem was, no one could find out what was wrong.  I had a congenital heart defect, but tests seemed to show it wasn't causing a problem.  People, including doctors, were making some pretty insulting insinuations.  I was just out of shape, or I just wasn't athletic, etc.

Turns out that no one was giving me the right test.  There is one specific test for the problem I was having.  That problem was my aortic valve was a mess.  It would pass enough blood for normal activities, but not enough for vigorous exercise.

So, right now, I have a cow valve in my heart.  I'm in the process of recovering.  My hope is, my expectation is, that I'll be stronger than before the operation.  I'll be able to hike faster, longer and higher.

I've been buying a lot of new outdoor gear.  Way more than I probably need.  On order are a new cycling jacket, new waterproof hiking pants, and new Asolo Thyrus boots.  This valve only lasts ten years and I'll be nearly 75 then.  I want to make the most of those ten years.


There is nothing like a physical limitation to make you appreciate being healthy.  I was crippled for a year and took 4 years to get back to backpacking.  Your life will never be the same.  Make the most of your new found strength.  Get out there as much as possible.  The only thing better is donating some time to help young people get into the outdoors. 

Hope you come back stronger and faster Randall... Like Steve Austin. I am on a hopefully relatively short medical restriction from backpacking so have at least a small understanding of how you feel although nowhere near the same thing. Good luck in your recovery. 

Got my replacement aortic valve in 2010 and life has been good ever since, with much increased vitality and vigor and a basic return to normalcy, although I am not as fast as I used to be, now that I am enjoying my 80's.

I received a cow/pig valve with a "lifetime guarantee" (twenty years).  I would be 92 by then, which is probably long enough.

If yours wears out, replacement is becoming steadily easier.  I had the standard split the sternum job, but they can come in from the side, and I understand one can even get a new valve through an incision in the femoral artery - not quite a high school science project, but close.

work carefully on your rehab.  It will pay off well, and welcome to many more productive years, granted by modern medicine.

When we hear these stories, it makes me realize how tough some people are.  Very inspirational.  Mom used to say "getting old is not for sissies."

We have a Welsh Corgi that is 10 years old and is now crippled in the hind end.  He teaches me about tough every day.  We have a set of wheels for him to roam around with. 

Thanks for sharing this, Randall. It sounds like it was a frustrating situation until the problem was identified and solved.

Good luck with recovery and enjoy all of the new adventures awaiting!

December 5, 2020
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