After deciding to publish as a podcast Joe's initial description of his preparation for Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) surgery, Vince and Joe decided to also record this post surgery podcast. Listen to this candid Q and A between co-hosts and life long friends as Joe describes the day of surgery, his stay in the hospital, and the first few weeks of recovery from this major surgery.
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Vince Kern 0:02
All right, so today is July 21, of 2022. And it is fabulous to see you again, Joe.
Joe Luther 0:12
Well, you know what they say it's good to be seen not viewed.
Vince Kern 0:18
Yeah, that's for sure. Last time I saw you, you were in ICU, you had a bit of an experience. Let's see, it was what, three weeks ago now?
Joe Luther 0:27
Well, Wednesday, yesterday, was three weeks Exactly. Since the surgery.
Vince Kern 0:35
So this is a follow up to our previous conversation before the surgery. And how the heck are you?
Joe Luther 0:42
I'm doing well. Yeah, that was interesting is the conversation that we had before the surgery was kind of a last second idea between you and I, I think we had laid down another podcast and you know, the surgery of my upcoming surgery was heavy on my mind. And since we had the microphones in front of us, I thought, well, maybe a little morbid, but for posterity sake, let's try to throw something down just if nothing else, for as we discussed, as for a time capsule, of you know, where my mind is? Yeah, right. Before such a, you know, I don't know that I'll ever have a more physically invasive surgery than I did three weeks ago, and, you know, certainly it was potentially life threatening, even though you know, 99.9 times out of 100. It's pretty mundane, for the surgeon, it was still quite invasive, and in something, you know, to, to grapple with. So it got my attention, I don't want to delete down something for posterity sake for, for my children for, you know, whoever might want to listen to it, but mostly for me, so that I could listen to it. years from now. Yeah.
Vince Kern 2:06
And and for our one, one listener, one of the pieces of feedback that and it certainly was true for me, is that hearing about it from a historical experiential way, and then how you researched and made the decision to go through with it, and then prepare yourself was very helpful for, for me to sort of put it all in context. And and I think, you know, it was it was a really a time where everybody was obviously a little bit nervous to say the least. And, you know, it's, uh, it was it was a great testimony, I think to how well you prepared yourself. Yeah, I
Joe Luther 2:49
think it was therapeutic, both for me. And for those who, you know, we decided to let listen to it, you make a joke on one listener? Well, of course, we haven't even launched yet. We're still in the process of putting together our podcasts, our initial podcasts for uploading, but, you know, those those within our circle who've been giving us feedback with our podcasts and, and certainly there were family members that I shared it with, because, you know, it did turn out to be a little more therapeutic than I thought it would be. When I listened to it. I was first struck by how, you know, for not preparing anything I hadn't. I didn't even know what to expect, when I turn the mic on and asked you to help me with it. What I wanted to say, it just spilled out. And then and then when I listened to it the following day, I thought, well, you know what, it would make a lot of sense to have a follow up, you know, discussion about it, and maybe turn it into a part one and part Two, podcast and who knows, it may be a value for people who have this kind of a surgery in the future. Yeah,
Vince Kern 4:01
absolutely. And, you know, it goes without saying that grateful I am and anybody who knows you that's listening to this. And even people who don't know you are grateful for the medical expertise and the results, but that's all part of the, you know, putting I guess of what's happened to you. Yeah, I think you know, just what, what are you thinking now, three weeks later? Where are you? How are things going? And what are you thinking about?
Joe Luther 4:31
Well, that's a very, very, very loaded question. And we may have to break that question down, but we'll see where it goes. As you know, just as you know, the first part of this, nothing was prepared. Really, I don't have anything prepared for this, other than to say, when we last spoke about it, it was maybe four days before the surgery and you know, I had Some, some pretty Jonathan Livingston Seagull like, you know, peaceful thoughts. And in that part one discussion, I can tell you that a day or two before then I was going through a whole different set of emotions. In fact, a couple of nights before the surgery, I woke up around two or three in the morning and had what I would consider a very, very, very deep conversation with, you know, my inner self and spirit guides and, and spirit itself about, you know, what it is I'm going through and, you know, a lot of it was just processing my fear. And the revelation that I had, in the wee hours of the morning, just laying there in bed, next to my beautiful loving wife, you know, just kind of going through this on my own, which was exactly the way I needed to go through it. You know, much like, much like Scrooge in you know, in the movie, when he deals with his three ghosts, I, I had to look directly at my fear. And that's what I was processing. And in the message that I got, was that this is not a bad situation. It's only a bad situation, if that's the way I look at it. It's really a good situation I you know, yeah, I have reason to have some fear and apprehension, but, but the true opportunity for growth is to deal with that fear and apprehension, and in step over into the opposite of, of fear, which is surrender, and gratitude and love. And, and as I discussed in, in part one I am immensely grateful for, for living in this time, when surgeries like this can be done, because here I am 62 years old, and I could I could be, you know, a victim and say, you know, what a terrible situation it is that I had to go through this. But really, the reality is, what a fortunate person I am to be able to go through this and to have, you know, medical science and enable body Doctor doctors and, and all the testing procedures to be able to put me in a position to succeed like this. And, of course, now, we have the benefit of being three weeks after, and I can bask in that success. But yeah, so to answer your question, what am I going through? Well, having come through, you know, kind of dealing with the fear, and in picking myself up by my bootstraps, and going forward with it, I can tell you that the day of the surgery was a little bit more of fear processing. But really, I was in a pretty good place, you know, with the, the new guidelines and hospitals where there could only be two people there. I had my wife, who was going through her own difficulty. And I had my son, one of my two sons. And, you know, it was Patrick, who was there with her. And
you know, I was I was just very much at peace. And almost standing outside of myself, watching it take place. You know, I watched the pre op nurse who was in her own world of having a lot of tasks to do either. I don't even know how many preamps were going on. When I was in the preamp. Gotta be maybe once a mouth, maybe 20 preamps we're going on somewhere between 10 and 20. We're going on and just a beehive of activity. And, and all you really have in between each each preamp is is a curtain that kind of pulls, you know shutting him you could hear what's going on with all the different people and and and it was interesting to observe. It was interesting to observe, you know the technicians coming and going somewhere. Here you could tell we're we're nervous about all the things they had to do and some were calming You know, and then watching, you know, the, the energy coming from my wife, which was, was beautiful and in calming and soothing. And, you know, the energy that came from my son who was, who was who was tough, but, you know, also very concerned about, you know, this very important man in his life, it was
Vince Kern 10:21
very real, something like, yeah, and then, and then
Joe Luther 10:25
all sudden, I'm being worked on, you know, you know, things are being stuck in my arms and various other parts of my body back and, you know, I'm being told what's going to happen, and then all sudden, the surgeon pops in to give me my, you know, my pre op Hello. And I introduced him to my son, and within minutes, I was being whisked away. And like, I guess six hours later, I was coming to, you know, and, and, wow, I can just tell you, you know, that's part one of it all. Part one of it. And I think we talked a little bit about it in, in, in the part one of this, of this podcast is that, you know, I, I thought maybe the angels might be singing when I came to and you know, that I would feel a sense of relief. And once I knew the surgery was success, that all would be fine. But instead, I had this tube down my throat, and I was very groggy. And all I could think of is I had to get this to my to my throat. And apparently, I looked down at my wrists. And I saw that I had been restrained. Because indeed, I was trying to pull the two out of my throat. So it's been
Vince Kern 11:46
a long time since you've been restrained like that. Yeah, yeah. Did your wrists today have your feet too? Or just No, I
Joe Luther 11:52
don't think so. I think it was just my, my wrist and but, you know, kind of a, you know, the opposite of the angels?
Vince Kern 12:01
Did you have any cognition that you had come through surgery? Or was it just like, gotta get this dark to know, of
Joe Luther 12:06
course, of course, I had that cognition, because, you know, I, I knew where I was, but I was also just a shadow of my consciousness, because I was so heavily sedated and just coming out of it. But the only, you know, again, you know, pulling from another podcast, you know, Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The only thing I could think of at that time was my survival depended on me getting that, that tube out of my throat, which I couldn't do, because I was restrained. And
Vince Kern 12:42
let me step back for a minute, because you mentioned the preparation and sort of the middle of the night. And getting yourself to a place and addressing your fears. I mean, as we know, unfortunately, there's no switch you can do to just make everything go away. I mean, there's a lot of exercises and things we can do. But But you, you sort of you gave yourself a few days before the surgery to sort of be calm. And I mean, how did you get from sort of point A, to feeling perhaps I know, it took you a few days. But can you talk a little bit about that? Yeah.
Joe Luther 13:24
Well, it's interesting, you know, they say that it's a blessing to get this kind of surgery in a non emergent fashion, right? Because you can prepare for it properly, you know, medically, by scoping all the arteries and veins in advance and getting all the blood tests and, and getting things regulated so that you're in the best position, you know, from an anatomical physiological standpoint, as opposed to having a heart attack, you know, while you're at a football game or something and being dragged out of a stadium to a hospital with whoever's on call that day and, you know, dealing with a surgery under those circumstances. And while that may be true, from a, from a surgeons standpoint, that, you know, I stand a better chance that way I can tell you, from a patient standpoint, it's interesting to deal with three weeks or a month of knowing that you have this surgery scheduled and processing the the anxiety and fear that goes along with that and and so to get me ready for it was a process. And I think it's it's much easier to kind of be prepared for it when it's three weeks away than it is when it's two days away or three days away, or the night before or, or the morning of, in there all various different processes? But yeah, I don't know, to answer your question, what you're what you're forced to do, and I think is, is the gift in it all it is, is that you're forced to look your fears directly in the eye. And, and manage them. And, you know, some people do it in many different ways. You know, I'm sure everybody does it in a different way. And, and, you know, there's denial, there's, you know, maybe laughter or so many different ways of, of trying to deal with it, what I found worked best was, was to just keep coming back to gratitude. And, and that's where I was the day of the surgery. And when I saw that surgeon, I was grateful that I knew I had a great surgeon and a great team, and a great, you know, pre op process, and that I was in the best possible position that I could be it. Could I have flown to Mayo Clinic or Cleveland Clinic and been in a slightly better scenario? I don't know, I feel like I was in the best possible position, I could be in with the loved ones where I wanted to be. And, and so that's where I was. I don't know if that answers your question. Yeah, that's what I was, you know, in those various stages of, of pre op. And then when I came out of it, it was, it was really an unknown for me at that point. Because I think I had spent so much time dealing with the up to the surgery that I hadn't fully thought about, you know, I read the papers that they give you about what to expect after surgery. But it's kind of like, you know, talking about what to expect, you know, before you skydive, like it's just like something you've never experienced before. And the only way to really, the only way to really deal with it is to go through it. And, and I, you know, originally felt that when I had the tube down my throat, I want to get this to bite in my throat. And, you know, it was only a matter of 40 minutes, I think, or maybe less, I don't even know, it seemed like a long time. But I think they said, after I became conscious,
I needed to breathe on my own, with that tube in my throat for at least 20 minutes before they would take it out. The idea being if something happened, they didn't want to have to re intubate. They just were in a position to maybe resuscitate me and put me back on the on the breathing machine. So I just kind of had to wait it out for 20 minutes. And once that came out, oh, you know, what a great sense of relief. You know, I could then I started begging for water. If you'd only give me a little bit at a time, it was that that was clearly you know, the Maslow Hierarchy thing is like, Okay, now I've got the two button I want water. Okay, now I've got some water. One gonna have some ice. Okay, now that's nice. When can I have you know, some soda or jello or whatever it is. And then slowly I started, you know, recovering,
Vince Kern 18:38
right? And you spent what, four or five days in ICU?
Joe Luther 18:43
Well, it was a total of five nights in the hospital. So the surgery was on a Wednesday that that Wednesday, early evening, I came out of surgery and I can tell you, you know, I remember it. But it was just a blur. And you know, that was night one I woke up the next day. At any rate I was in ICU, partly because they they were a full hospital. I think who knows why they're a full hospital. I think it's still recovering from a lot of the surgeries that were put on hold during COVID I don't know what it is, but a lot of hospitals are full and at capacity right now. And in the one I was in was no different. So I stayed in intensive care, probably a night maybe two longer than I would have had they had stepped down beds available for me. But all total it was four nights in ICU and then one night in the stepdown so five total nights in the hospital in each A was just another milestone of getting better, they get me out of the bed, you know, the the following day. And you know, there were these tubes that they had coming out of my abdomen, which a friend of mines wife was a was a post cardiac post heart surgery ICU nurse years ago, and she had told me about these tubes. Probably they told me about it, at some point, during my pre op process, but not as in a real fashion as my friend's wife told me about it, and I understood that to be a milestone getting those those drainage tubes. So what it is, is, you know, obviously, there's the big incision, where they open the sternum and operate on the heart. But after they close that up, you know, it's kind of wired shut, and then stitched it the skin, they, they have these tubes coming out from under the ribcage in the abdomen area, that allow for drainage inside the chest cavity, that have to do with, I guess, the normal kind of drainage that would happen post traumatic surgery, you know, the, the bones being cut, and the, and the arteries being harvested in, you know, the inner tissues being cut and sewn and all that. So they've got a naturally drained, so you have these, these, these kind of three, in my case, there were three tubes that were in me that were going into three separate boxes, and they monitored the amount of volume that was draining. And as soon as there's not much volume, then they pull the tubes out, supposed to happen within a couple of days. Well, that was a big milestone for me to the first tubes came out, I think within two days, and the third one came out on the third day. And that was like, you know, like Fred Astaire dancing on the ceiling, when I got that third to about, because then I could lean forward in the chair and do a lot of things on my own, that I didn't realize, I was, you know, that those tubes were stopping me from doing, but again, so it was just this process of everyday getting better. Yeah, you know? And yeah, all
Vince Kern 22:35
you could think about was what you had to do, right? I mean, what you had to do to get better what you had to do to get out of there. Yeah. And then all of a sudden, you're home. And it's, it's, you know, a whole nother environment. And it's recovery. And I'm sure you've had a lot of time to think about all kinds of things, you know, given the nature, that you're usually very active person and doing things and you've had to slow down a little bit, but how's that? How's that been? Like?
Joe Luther 23:01
Well, yeah, and so there's, it's interesting, the, the part that I didn't really talk about yet, you know, maybe I got into a lot of the details there about, about the physical recovery and getting out of the hospital. You know, I also had some preconceived ideas of what it would be like, when I got home. And in a bay set, probably I had a horrible leg break a few years ago, 1213 years ago. And I know what recovery from that was like, and I thought, well, you know, maybe it'd be the same thing where I literally was, you know, pound to a to a couch in a, in a colonial style house, where the bedrooms and the showers are upstairs. So I just, I thought that's what I was going to have when I got home. And as it turned out, I was I was physically a lot better than I thought I would be. I was certainly physically more capable than I was after this terrible leg surgery that I had to have after my you know, it was a it was a massive TIB fib break, you know,
Vince Kern 24:14
but it was a hockey accident. So
Joe Luther 24:15
you got back. Well, yeah, it has a very manly story to tell you get into the details of it. But yes, it was a hockey accident. But no, so when I got home I was I was physically able literally to walk upstairs and and sit in my shower stall and take a shower and then walk back downstairs and have dinner and then go back upstairs that night and sleep in my own bed. I was I was shocked at how how physically capable I was to do that, you know, within five days after surgery. The other part that I don't think I've really addressed yet. That is an interesting topic and that and that is Managing my loved ones. There. You know, there was there was so many
Vince Kern 25:05
women. Aren't they supposed to be managing you during this time? Well, I
Joe Luther 25:08
Vince Kern 25:11
I know, I know what you mean. Yeah. Yeah. You got a lot of you got a lot of people in your support group.
Joe Luther 25:16
Yeah. And that's a blessing. For sure. But I'm still, I'm still not sure yet. What the dynamic is that I was trying to navigate by maybe, maybe, like you said, and you know, who's managing what, right. I mean, all I was getting was love and support from my close network of, of friends and family. But at the same time, I felt stifled, and, I don't know, it wasn't that I was suffocated by it. Because you can never be suffocated by too much love. But there were times I thought, you know, kind of like the elephant that wants to go off by itself before it, it dies, I or, you know, dogs would have, you know, I just wanted my own peace and solitude to deal with it a little bit before, a little bit after. But when I got home, I was, I was like, ready to start, you know, talking to people and in allowing that back into my life. And that was wonderful. Yeah, there was only so much of it, I could handle it first. Because it's interesting. One of the things that I didn't discuss in, in the hospital is that you take for granted, so many of these, you know, bottom of the pyramid. Maslow like needs and, and one is, you know, the right when I came out of surgery, just a breath sufficient to piece together a full sentence required my chest cavity to expand large enough that it created pain for me, you know, so I was limited, you know, my first day or so, to just very small amounts of words. And, you know, they give you this thing to breathe, it's a it's a, it's a pulmonary breathing assistant, that you blow into, which helps, you know, expand your lung capacity helps you not get pneumonia too, because if you continue to allow nothing but short breaths, then you're going to have crap accumulate in your lungs. So a big part of the process is expanding your breathing. And when I got home, I was I was getting pretty able to talk to people. And it was wonderful at that point, because there were a lot of people who I had kind of put it day and put others in charge of communicating with who wanted to hear from me, and I had, you know, a whole list of people who wanted to hear from me. And so when I got home, it was like, Okay, it's time to start going through. I
Vince Kern 28:32
wonder, I wonder if, you know, back in the days when we were trying hunters and gatherers, you know, something like this would be cause for group celebration, you know, and then everybody could express everything sort of all at once. But here you are in modern society. And before you're going in, you've got numerous people who want to give you their well wishes and right and let you know, they love you. And then after, when you're in the hospital, and you can't really talk, you've still got that now, it's a different incoming barrage of you no need for people to feel that they've connected and comfortable and show you that, you know, they love you and happy for you.
Joe Luther 29:12
Well, they, they want to show their love, there's no doubt they also want to quell their own fears, by hearing my voice or seeing my face, you know, knowing firsthand that everything is okay. And, and that's perfectly correct of them. There's just a limit to what I'm capable of. And what's interesting is, you know, I mean obviously, I want to talk to my children first. And when I say first my wife was there with me throughout and then you came and visited me in the hospital and our friend Paul came and visited me in the hospital and my, my son, Matthew, and and that was really, the extent of it and I was probably about all I wanted. At that point. My, my daughter, Stephanie was out of state and not able, but I don't know, I don't actually. Remember I think I did. I did talk to her for a short time while I was in the hospital. I know, I talked to her after I got out of the hospital. And then it was just a matter of okay, siblings, and close friends, and how much can I handle? But what was interesting is you say, yeah, in the old days, the whole group could have been there. And I could have said it all at one time. And everybody would have been, you know, their needs would have been
Vince Kern 30:39
satisfied. But I'll go back to our huts. And yeah,
Joe Luther 30:42
I, I would have liked to have made a recording. But I'm not sure that would have suffice for people. So I was kind of for the first week, you know, repeating myself, I was in a, in a job, you know, one on one more giving Yeah, tape loop, where I was pretty much telling people the same story over and over again, but, but each time was a special one on one with whoever that person was. And, you know, some, some, you know, took me a week to get to, but they were all equally important and special. And then, you know, then finally, I got through that list. And, you know, I think everybody, by that point, also knew everything's gonna be okay. And really now here I am. I'm just slowly Yeah, do I still have the occasional pain? Of course, I do. But I'm, I'm way better than I thought I'd be at this point. And I'm certainly good enough to put this microphone in front of my face. And yeah, and field questions from you
Vince Kern 31:47
something I've been looking forward to for a while, and I'm sure you have to. Because it's great to be back. You know, it's just great to be back in the game doing what it is that we want to do. And I think I have to first of all, I have to commend you for your thoughtful process of how you manage all of everything, including, you know, communicating and getting yourself, I think getting yourself prepared. It's it's really an amazing, very inspirational thing to see. Because, you know, I struggle with a lot of things and fears, obviously, you know, I have fears and then soul parts missing that I'm working on. And we all do that. Right. We all do. But to Jesus struggle, yeah. But you know, to watch you go through what you went through, is, it's inspiring in the way that you did it. I guess, you know, you can't come out of this without and I don't want to put you on the spot, you know, by Ranking anything. But you got to have some huge takeaways from the whole experience from your personal growth. perspective, too. I know, you've talked a lot about how grateful you are for modern medicine. But you know, from a growth perspective, what can you talk a little bit about? What's the biggest impact of all this on you? Well,
Joe Luther 33:06
yeah, again, heavy, heavy, deep question. And, you know, to try to synthesize it down to a succinct answer is not easy. Because it's really a process. And the process that I had in preparation that I, you know, I thank you for, for the way you complimented me. On my process, it was just one that I was doing the best that I could and, and again, it was from a place of gratitude. And in post operation, it's really the same thing. It's, it continues to be gratitude, because, you know, I mean, apart from the fact that I could very well be dead. It reminds us reminds me, it reminds anybody listening, who wants to think about this, that life is a miracle. And yeah, my life was saved, you know, in that surgery, or my death was postponed, however you want to discuss it, because eventually, you know, there's only so much I can do. But at age 62, people would say it's too early. And in surely, hey, I met with one of my cardiologists yesterday and, and he told me and in his infinite wisdom, he said, I gotta tell you, I think you're gonna die of something other than coronary artery disease.
Vince Kern 34:44
And he wouldn't he wasn't looking at your chart when he was saying that, was
Joe Luther 34:47
it? No, no, he wasn't. He wasn't really an expert. No, he said, he said that to give me the idea that, you know, maybe, maybe I'm past this is an issue and So am I living on borrowed time? Um, no, we're all living on borrowed time. You know, it's, it's, it's, it's inspirational to me to think about what happened to me. You know, Uncle Ralph, who we discussed in part one of this podcast who's, you know, immensely curious. And he told me in one of his texts or phone conversations that I had with him, after the surgery that he had watched a few of the YouTube videos on my surgery, and he encouraged me to do the same thing. And I thought, hmm, I don't know about that one. Well, I did a few days ago, I, I decided to see just so I could maybe understand better, you know, what I'm going through physiologically, in the healing process, I didn't know what I was going to, you know, feel by looking at it, but I will tell you this, it's nothing short of miraculous that they can do what they did to me. And I don't care how many they do a day, or how many times out of 1000 they're successful. You know, how many years extra I get from this. It's a miracle, just like the beating heart that we all have is a miracle. You know, the fact that my now has new passageways to be fed with blood is a miracle. And, and so my takeaway to answer your question, is that I'm still in awe, I'm, of course in wonder, because we are friends and wonder, and, and we'll always be friends in wonder, but I am, I am in awe at the miracle of this process. And I am in total gratitude. And yeah, you know, we can talk about telescopes looking 14 billion years back into time and, and be awestruck by so many different things. But I am awestruck by this beating heart that I have and awestruck by the fact that I live at a time when, you know, I'm fortunate enough to have the process that I've had, and the opportunity to continue to give in whatever way that I can going forward.
Vince Kern 37:32
Man, when we asked about, you know, a lot of times we talked about our culture going in these directions in the wrong directions. But you know, if you look at this from a, the perspective going all the way back in time, and what humans have accomplished and enabled to give you this miracle, it's it that obviously points to miracles. But you know, and I suppose the trick is to keep that frame of mind and transcend that into every second minute that we have, because that's really the challenge. And I think, you know, it's great to see your energy back, you've got a lot of great color in your face.
Joe Luther 38:12
Oh, yeah. I mean, I'm, I'm fully healthy human being right now just recovering with some aches and pains. But every day is better. And you're right, Vince. You know, I think, like I said, the gratitude that I have is that it's really forced me to appreciate each heartbeat that I have. But I think we're all called to do the same thing. And, you know, those who've listened to this, you know, maybe we've helped in some way to, you know, to have gratitude. You know, there may be people that are about to go through what I just went through and I hope that they also get something like this out of, you know, out of this discussion that, you know, it's there's just so much to be grateful for whether you go through this or not. It's all gratitude.
Vince Kern 39:04
It's it reminds you definitely reminds those who've watched you go through it that every heartbeat is important. Certainly yours is to all of us. Yeah. And may all of our hearts beat as one. And may we keep that spirit among us. Indeed.
Joe Luther 39:23
Well, any other questions?