“The Beat Goes On!”

Late one Saturday night in May of 1998, while managing a group of radio stations in Youngstown, Ohio, I felt a wild tickling in my chest. It wasn’t remotely painful and might even have been considered mildly pleasurable were it not for the fact that my Dad had died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 52. Such family history made me more cognizant of potential personal peril in this area than otherwise may have been the case. This saved my life.

With complete blockage of two main coronary arteries and dangerously high percentages on two others, a ten hour quadruple bypass bought me a measure of time long enough to see eleven grandchildren (each one smarter than the other ten) grow and flourish. These last 14 years also witnessed abandonment of a three pack a day cigarette habit, the adoption of much healthier dietary practices and, most unbelievable of all, the loss of over 40 pounds of waddling weight through regularly daily exercise. That’s me you see on 425A every weekday morning from Live Oak right up to the fence and back. Coming down is easier than going up. And, even though I’ve never felt better, I regularly undergo annual stress testing. This time, that’s what saved my life.

Spotting an almost undetectable aberration, my cardiologist explained that, although there was a computer generated analysis predicting only 5% blockage, there was “something that bothered him” and a full angiogram study was worth serious consideration. This soon proved that the practice of medicine is, in its finest form, a combination of both art and science. I herein thank my son-in-law, Richard Seiling, for this insightful observation.

For those unacquainted, I should briefly mention that an angiogram is no casual walk in the park, day at the beach or teddy bears’ picnic. One is securely strapped down as a needle and thin tube are run straight up into your heart for the insertion of telltale dye. Then they shoot interior pictures, but you don’t have to smile.

On May 23rd, Eileen and I celebrated our 48th Wedding Anniversary with a trip down the hill to St. Agnes Hospital and a rendezvous with a most prescient Dr. Michael Gen and his merry band of astoundingly professional assistants.

The following is personal correspondence I just sent to family and friends:

“I have returned from an unexpected overnight stay at St. Agnes Hospital in Fresno after a fortuitous angiogram yesterday morning revealed over 90% blockage in my Left Anterior Descending Artery, more popularly known as “The Widow Maker.” This precipitated the insertion of two stents and a more careful study of the rest of the heart. Bottom line seems to be that my 1998 Youngstown bypass now is pretty much shot, with three of the four grafts completely gone and a fourth barely functioning. There is the possibly of yet another stent in the not too distant future. I’ll know more after my next appointment June 14th. C’est la vie. So, the GREAT NEWS is that a completely unsuspected and immediate “LAD” threat is enormously diminished, but the CONCERNING NEWS is that I’m now told I must have experienced a “silent heart attack” sometime in the last few years as the Youngstown bypasses collapsed, rendering around 10% of my heart “deadened.”

And that’s what initially freaked me out the most. A SILENT HEART ATTACK??? Yes, and the stunningly attractive administrative associate who detailed the situation offered — in explanation — these exact words, “Dead meat — no beat!” Honest! I feel much better now, having been assured that the initial graphic image of an ancient cheeseburger lying a-mouldering in my chest like John Brown’s body has been thoroughly dispelled and that “no longer functional muscle tissue” (my words) has been more or less absorbed by a comparatively healthy surrounding environment.

And so here I am as the beat goes on, still crazy after all these years (along with Paul Simon), hoping this testimony might remind all of us (myself included) that all those things it takes time to learn and accept are extraordinarily important in such lives as we lead. And yet when the end must come, I still fantasize blissfully toppling down into eternity from the towering heights of a well-worn bar stool, my face on the floor frozen in lasting, perpetual, satiated smile. But that’s me — reserving the right to — upon ever more age limiting occasions — not practice what I preach.

24 Responses to ““The Beat Goes On!””

  1. Charles Walker Says:

    Yikes, PC! Amazing that we can, at age almost 71, say that we have survived the “fruits” of our misspend youth. I was “fortunate” to discover the five word cure for smoking [“you’re having a myocardial infarction”] at 12:15 PM on December 12, 1989. No stents or bypasses for me. MIne was apparently the result of a mid-life crisis that included an impending divorce, several tawdry affairs, a family business that was a quarter of a million in the red, only two packs a day and gallons of scotch.

    I had some great Docs and a wonderful friend who became my wife and life partner looking after me. I’m sure my sainted mother’s entreaties to the BVM helped as well. I started cardiac rehab then and have never stopped. I’ve never smoked since, but I can’t say the same about the booze. Fortunately the second marriage tamped down the raging middle-aged testosternone flow and a few lucky business decisions solved the financial issues.

    Over the years I have had annual EKG/Stress Tests [I have actually done the Full Bruce several times], took meds to keep the BP down[ although I never had high BP], and meds to keep the (10R,13R)-10,13-dimethyl-17-(6-methylheptan-2-yl)-2,3,4,7,8,9,11,12,14,15,16,17-dodecahydro-1H-cyclopenta[a]phenanthren-3-ol levels down.

    As I’m sure you are aware, smoking cessation and weight control are pretty much an oxymoron, however, T-3 cancer of the left superficial partotid gland in ’03 with the attendent 48 radiation treatments and 8 chemo treatments did wonders for THAT problem.

    Interestingly, three years ago I had a cardiac cath in Melbourne by a fairly well known cardiac diagnostician that showed no heart muscle damage. Over the last 20+ years the collaterial blood vessels have filled in so well that my “dead meat” is no longer detectable.

    I sincerely hope all goes well, old pal. I value my “left coast liberals”; yyou, Dr. Jim Clapp ’62 and my brother Joe. However, I’m convinced that you and I are living proof that only the good die young.

    Go raibh do ghloine lán go deo.
    Go raibh láidir go breá
    an dion thar do cheann.
    Go raibh tú í Neamh,
    leathúair os comhair
    a bhfuil a fhíos ag an diabhal
    atá tú bás.

  2. petercavanaugh Says:

    I knew it all along, Charlie. You ARE a Rock & Roll Warrior!

  3. Bill Hennes Says:

    Wow! I remember your Youngstown heart problem. I was there!
    I am so glad it was caught in time.

    However, this new news is disturbing to me, too say nothing how it must be too you I am sure, it will be alright.

    As you know, you are one of my really special friends. We have had a great time together and I hope to have many more.

    Just don’t fall too far off that bar stool, as a “wild and crazy Leprechaun” like you, don’t know how hard the cement floor is?

    You are the best…God bless…let’s talk over the weekend.

    Your friend

    Bill (aka Wild Willy).

  4. John Says:

    Peter if you knew you were going to live this long you would stayed away from that Bar stool while living in Toledo.

    I am going in for a Heart Cat Tuesday.

    • petercavanaugh Says:

      Good luck on Tuesday! I take great heart (pun intended) that your Dad is still doing so well back in Limerick after his own adventures in this area. God Bless!

  5. Danny Says:

    Read the blog at 2;45, called you at 2:55. . sorry I missed you. I’m very happy that you caught a situation that could have ‘gone South’, before it did. . .but I’m curious as to the ‘what’ that bothered the good doctor about your computer generated analysis predicting only 5% blockage that bothered him enough for you to consider a full angiogram study.

    Was it your past medical history. . .the past history of an average ‘graft-life’ . .or a combination of the two.

    I only ask, as I’ve never had any heart problems in the past, nor have I ever undergone any ‘stress-test’ . . and basically rely on my Internist that I see twice a year for a full physical and 6 month check-up because of cholesterol medication.

    Keep me advised of your June 14th appointment

    Love ya,

    • petercavanaugh Says:

      You’re right on the money! It was BOTH my own history AND evaluation of average graft life that played a part in the decision, but I strongly suspect it was that elusive feedback we call “intuition” which called the shot. This is the “Art” part of that Science/Art observation Rich made. My old friend Lee Abrams, when discussing radio programming, calls such a combination of focus — “Half Science — Half EMOTION”, which says pretty much the same thing.

  6. johnnybme Says:

    Pete, you remain one of the most eloquent people I know. Which is why you must get well. I’m hoping you’ll deliver the greatest eulogy ever, when they find me “face down”! Good luck, feel good, you’re in my prayers.

  7. Amanda Smith Says:

    I love the way you write Peter. I cried when I read the last part. And I felt lucky to know you. Thank you for the inspiration you always give me (even when you don’t know you doing it).

  8. Grant Arnold Says:

    Sorry to hear about the close call! But better than hearing worse news.

  9. john ostlund Says:

    Peter — that’s a scary wakeup call. Glad everything is good to go and you’re still with us….fortunately for me, it’s your turn to buy.

  10. John O'Connell Says:

    Pete, So very sorry that you are going through this. There is nothing dead about that great heart of yours. I expect to see you next year at the 50th reunion so we can both sit on the bar stool and keep each other from falling.

    • petercavanaugh Says:

      Wow! That’s right! Our Le Moyne Class of ’63! Who would have thought? Then, that next year would be our Cathedral 55th!!!!!! Time keeps on slipping — slipping — slipping into the future! Oh no. I’m channeling Steve Miller. It must be those stents!

      • Bill Hennes Says:

        Peter, I hope you are doing well my friend.
        Cause I can’t “Stent” it anymore! 🙂

  11. Charles Walker Says:

    John, PeterC, save a stool for me.

  12. Charles Walker Says:

    PeterC, it must warm the cockles of your newly repaired heart to know that, in spite of your whackadoodle politics, you are so widely loved and admired among your friends and colleagues.

  13. Bill Hennes Says:

    I never thought your politics were “wackadoodle”….they are very much on the case!!!

    • petercavanaugh Says:

      In Walker World, “Wackadoodle” means — “Absolutely, perfectly, completely, totally, thoroughly, indubitably, unquestionably, irrevocably, unequivocally correct.” Guilty!

  14. Charles Walker Says:

    PeterC has been whackadoodle since he tried to disuade me from voting for Harold Stassen in 1960.

  15. Charles Walker Says:

    Right on, PeterC!

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