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Update on my Health

Howdy Folks,

I first want to thank you all for the prayers and support Val and I have been receiving over the last month. It has been a difficult time, but if what Clarence the Angel said in “It’s a Wonderful Life” is true, “No man is a failure who has friends,” then I am not doing too badly! Thanks again for your prayers, and please keep them coming!

But having said that, I do think the old saying, “Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated” may be appropriate here! There has been some confusion out in the blogosphere about my condition so I thought I would provide an update for everyone.

So here is the skinny:

1. I had two TIA’s, the first on ca. Sept 2 (which I imprudently ignored), and the second during one of my son Luke’s soccer games on Saturday, Sept. 16. Once again, I was going to blow it off, but I told my wife the next day, Sunday, Sept. 17. And my wife wisely put a foot up my butt and said, “We are going to urgent care!” There it was determined I did have two T.I.A.’s, which are danger signs that something is very wrong in a human body. TIA’s are “transient ischemic attacks” or “mini-strokes.” During both of these events, I lost partial vision in my right eye and those events started all of the craziness that we have been through for the last month.

T.I.A.’s “might be” warning signs of worse things to come, e.g., a major stroke or other really unpleasant things. These are normally caused by clots or some sort of blood flow disruption. Thus, the doctors at urgent care promptly sent me to the E.R. where they went nuts on me and did every test you could imagine. In fact, I think they created some new tests they could do just for me! They put dye in my veins for two different MRI’s, iodine in my veins for another. Two CT’s, E.E.G., E.K.G., “echocardiogram,” which is a really cool ultrasound of the heart and arteries, and then they did an ultrasound of the veins and arteries in my legs. They did intense scans of my brain and my entire circulatory system. And I am probably leaving a few tests out here. It was just two days of feeling like a faucet (they took blood three or four different times), and a contestant for the Guiness Book for most tests done in a two day period! Oh, they put dye and stuff in my arteries four different times leading up to just this week they put fluorescein in my veins for another scan. That makes five. And boy was that was fun! It makes your urine look a fluorescent yellowish orange! Must be doing wonders for my kidneys!

But I am giving you way T.M.I.! Sorry! It’s just in my nature!

2. They told me I could not drive for a month! That really sucked! When you have seven kids that have to be places, well, you do the math. My wife was really happy that as of today I can drive again!

3. Good news is I was told over and over again how great my veins look (very clear!), how strong my heart is (45 to 49 beats per minute), I have normal blood pressure, and I am “in great shape!” Not much consolation given the circumstances, but I’ll take it! My LDL was 1 point over normal, but not much to be concerned about. It was 100. My neurologist wants me to get it down to 70 and we can do that through adjusting my diet. Val is all over that!

4. There are multiple candidates for the cause. or causes, of the TIA’s. It could be the large and multiple clots in my right leg due to varicose veins though highly unlikely. The clots are not “deep” a la “deep vein thrombosis;” they are superficial. I am going in to the hospital today to get an ultrasound of my veins to see if and when I am going to be able to go under the knife to do vein stripping to get rid of the clots and bad veins. We are shooting for early December to get that done. I have been on drugs to get the clots and inflammation minimized so that I can have the procedure to eliminate the varicose veins in my right leg. Unfortunately, the “drugs” they gave me were not the mind-altering kind. Darn it! Just plain old drugs for thinning the blood and getting the inflammation down.

I had to cancel three conferences due to the fact that I was not able to fly, drive, or do much of anything for the first three weeks after the incident. That proved to be a pain in the pocketbook for us! However, I was given the green light to fly this past weekend so I traveled to South Lyons, Michigan, for a conference. I can’t tell you how elated I was to be able to fly and speak again! I felt sorry for the crowd! I didn’t want to stop! I did four talks and spoke at four Masses. In the words of the great Maxwell Smart: It was a challenge “… and [I was] loving it!”

5. Another candidate for the cause of my two TIA’s are the six aneurysms they discovered in my brain. This did not exactly make my day. My grandfather died of a massive aneurysm on his aorta back in 1986 (he was only 74, and in great shape otherwise). Last week, Oct. 12th, my neurosurgeon said that because these aneurysms are small, there is no need for surgery in the immediate. We will take a look at them in one year and if any of them decide to “manifest themselves” (doctor’s jargon for “get bigger”) then they will have to go in a fix them.

6. Another candidate for the cause is of the TIA’s would be an eye problem. That is the reason for the fluorescein and scan yesterday. They have to cover all bases I suppose so this test was to see if the TIA’s may have been caused by a more local problem in the eye or attached arteries, veins, capillaries. We’ll see. It appears, however, this is not a local problem for reasons we will discuss now.

7. In the process of doing all of these scans on me, they discovered I have a “P.F.O,” or hole in my heart. Evidently, this is pretty common as about 20% of people have these. It results from the heart not completely “closing” after birth. Some of these “holes” can be more serious than others, depending upon size and whether or not there are other problems in close proximity to the hole.

8. And closely related, they also discovered what appears to be the most serious problem of all. I have an aneurysm on my aorta. It is presently 4.3 centimeters, which is pretty large. At 5 they generally have to open you up. I have to go in for a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). This will really be a bummer. They are sending a camera into my artery and heart to check things out from the inside out. I am not exactly sure what all this is for, but I definitely need prayers.

I have to get ready right now to head back to the hospital for more tests, but this is where I’m at. It appears I will not have to have surgery either on my heart or brain immediately, though the jury is out on the heart/aorta problem. But the good news is I have been given the green light to travel and to do light workouts. I just can’t do anything heavy to where I hold my breath and push really hard. I suppose giving birth to a baby would be a definite no-go! But I am doing light weights, punching the heavy bag and going for walks.

I actually feel fine. And I have not had any T.I.A.’s for over a month now.

I will have more information on the heart/aorta problem after the next tests are done and evaluated. Until then, thanks so much for your prayers!

Overall, this entire series of events have been a blessing. They have forced me to trust God and reconsider all that is really important in my life! Somehow the little things that you thought were really important really aren’t when something like this happens!

With St. Paul I can truly say “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (II Cor. 12:9)

God is good! He has blessed me with the perfect wife in Valerie. She has been beyond belief through all of this! There is no way I could possibly put into words how much I love that woman! My seven little monkeys are my strength (I’ve got to hang out for a while to take care of these monsters!). And, as I said at the beginning of this note, so many friends! And I am blessed to be back at work, for now. I am heading out to Bristol, Connecticut for a men’s conference this weekend! I’m leaving, God willing, in the morning!

God Bless You All!