Surf Is Up… After Open Heart Surgery!!!
On December 21, 2005, nearly 435 days ago, I had open-heart surgery to fix a congenital defect in the aortic valve of my heart.
After thirty four years of life, my bicuspid aortic valve which suffered from stenosis and regurgitation, needed to be replaced.
As many of you know, this open-heart medical operation (known as the Ross Procedure) triggered a series of challenging lows (e.g. cardiac depression) and a series of memorable highs (e.g. my engagement to Robyn).
Well… Two days ago I experienced another memorable high that I wanted to share with you – my friends, family and blog subscribers.
“What happened?!” you wonder as you see my smiling, much in need of a shave, face.
This past Saturday, I dug my dusty, nine-foot, eight-inch McTavish surfboard out of the garage. Then, I reached into the dark corner of my closet and grabbed my RipCurl wetsuit.
It was time to complete my physical recovery from open heart surgery.
It was time to surf again.
The day was a surfers dream. Sunny, with just a few swooshes of cloud in the blue skies above. I think the high in Los Angeles on Saturday was around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Pacific Ocean held to its name. It was symbolically calm and glassy.
And the waves…
The waves were as playful as a six-week old puppy. Perfect for a longboarder like me…
Or, more accurately, perfect the longboarder I remembered to be (prior to my surgery).
With booties strapped on, I entered the cold, salt water with no expectations.
This would be my first time on a surfboard in eighteen months. This would be the first time that my new heart would experience a surfing adrenaline shot. This would be the first time that my stitched sternum would feel forces controlled by the one-and-only mother nature.
Come to think of it, I was a surfing virgin again.
Fear and anxiety bubbled up as my chest smacked down on the white, waxed fiberglass board. I started to paddle.
“As long as I don’t break,” I thought to myself, “Everything will be fine.”
Fifteen feet into my initial paddle, however, that thought transformed.
There was no pain in my chest. There was no discomfort in my nine-inch scar. There were no heart palpitations that I could feel. There was nothing but a boundary-less emotion of joy. 🙂
Chilly water splashed overhead as I slipped through an oncoming wave. More chilly water from the next wave and the next. About a minute after entering the water, I was outside the breaking waves amongst the other surfers in the line-up.
“Is this really happening?” I thought to myself. “This must be some kind of wonderful dream.”
I tested my chest once again.
Using my hands, I thrust my body upward to strike the traditional, surfer pose you see as you drive along Pacific Coast Hawaii in Malibu – butt on the board, legs on the side, chest slumped but upright, eyes gazing to the water’s horizon.
Again, no pain…
“Don’t get cocky Adam,” I thought to myself, “Take it easy… You did not come out here to go nuts. Just get used to your surfboard. Paddle around a little. Then, call it a day. You’ve been through a lot.”
Needless to say, those thoughts disappeared.
In its place, came an empowering voice that screamed aloud, “LET’S HAVE SOME &$^%*#@ FUN!!!”
In the distance, I saw a friendly mound of bulging water that was going to peak about twenty feet to my right.
Instinct took over.
The time was now.
The hunt was on.
Nanoseconds later I was paddling to the peak.
“GO! GO! GO! GO! CHARGE! CHARGE! CHARGE!” the empowering voice was now yelling in my head. Like a windmill, my arms circulated, cutting through the water, powering me forward.
And then it happened….
The water’s energy transferred to my board.
The need to paddle disappeared.
I angled to the right.
There was only one thing left to do…
My internal cheerleader rose again and rang-out, “UP!”
I lept to my feet.
I was surfing again.
I would spend the next 45 minutes frolicking in the water with Jeff. (Jeff recently had a heart attack and had three stents inserted. Already, two months into Jeff’s recovery, he’s surfing. How incredible is that?!)
The magic of the day extended when thirty dolphins or so showed up to celebrate with us.
We had our own surf party to celebrate my recovery and my belated 35th birthday.
Thanks to each of you for your support and encouragement. I’m not sure where I would be if not for your love and help during my recovery!!!
Keep on tickin!
Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.