Summer Vacation

Oct 27, 2013 View Comments by

Summer VacationThis is the letter I sent to my friends and family to explain the summer of my “disappearance.” It took a long time (with tremors) to write this, and I was not sure if I should share it with you at all. But, you’re all friends… right? After all, it’s not just about motorcycles. It’s about life, time, place, and a road we all have to travel down. Hopefully, your road won’t be as bumpy as mine. And don’t worry…the next blog will be about motorcycling.

I am not dead…yet.

I have been “out of circulation” all summer, and would like to explain why. Back on June 23rd, around 2:30 a.m., I awoke unable to breathe. I was panting like a wild dog, as if there wasn’t enough air in the world to fill my damaged lungs. I was sure I was going to die, and would have if the rescue squad had not been called.

The reason for this episode was the further deterioration of my lungs from a progressive lung disease named IPF. What IPF does is kill and harden the cells in your lungs until they can no longer process oxygen. There is no treatment or medication—so eventually—you die. I thought I could fight this, and did for three years, but on that day, my ticket ran out, and I was dying. By the way—it hurts.

My memory of this period is “foggy.” I remember coming into the ER, but then everything went black. I am told that I was, for all practical purposes, in a three-week “coma.” The next thing I recall is coming to in the ICU, tubes coming out my side and down my throat. My hands were secured so I couldn’t pull out my collection of tubes and wires. I couldn’t move or speak. Added to this were the drug-induced hallucinations, many very vivid. If this wasn’t hell, it was close enough. It was July 1st, and I had been given the last rights.

My family filled me in on what happened from the 23rd to the 1st. I must have coded in the ER and was rushed into the operating room and connected to life support. Simultaneously, there was a nation-wide search for replacement lungs in progress. I was the number one transplant search in the country. As fate would have it, lungs from an 18-year-old boy were found in Kentucky and rushed by air to Milwaukee, just in time for me, but too late for him. God bless him.

I was told that this was going to be routine surgery for the hospital and a “text book” recovery for me. It wasn’t. I could go on and on about what went wrong, but I will just hit the “high” points here: First, my new lungs weren’t perfect, but it was either them or an undertaker. Second, I caught a virus that was in the hospital so… more drugs. Third, I had three broken ribs from the operation so… more drugs. Fourth, a large blood clot called “the widow maker” broke loose, went to my lungs and caused yet another code four. I dodged my next bullet, and by the way, I never saw a white light.

I was released from the hospital in September… well, mostly released. Since then, I have been in and out of the hospital for more tests and doctor appointments, about four or five a week. Even with all these checks, they couldn’t catch the next “in-coming round” to threaten my life. It was late September, and I fell. It wasn’t a hard fall, nothing broken. But it was enough to send me back to the hospital, where they kept me for a week. What they discovered in that time was fluid in my new lungs, which, eventually, would have become pneumonia, and killed me. Another bullet dodged. They have started calling me “The Cat” because of all my lives.

I am back home again, and the replacement lungs are at 98-percent efficiency, the best I’ve had in years. My battle now is with the 20-plus prescriptions I am taking, each of which has its own side effects and interactions. Such as: hair loss, bad blood sugars (55-498), shrinkage of two inches (the start of osteoporosis), weight loss of 55 pounds, and I look like a zombie. Worst of all, I can’t eat. I am kept alive by three Boost energy drinks a day. Yuck! I am told all of this will work itself out, but it will take time, maybe as much as a year.

It’s October now and I have lost my entire summer! Worst of all I missed four assignments and a mess of blogs for RoadRUNNER! I am both mad and worried… mad at myself mostly for getting in this position, worried that after letting the magazine down I wouldn’t even have a job! My first call when I got home was to Christa and RoadRUNNER. I was ready to be read the “riot act” and to pack up my motorcycle boots. Wonder of wonders, nobody was angry with me. In fact, they were “happy” for me! Happy I was home and mending well, and “yes,” they still wanted to work with me! You could have knocked me over with a feather, (in fact you still can). These are the type of people RoadRUNNER is made of, kind, understanding, and most of all, dedicated to this sport, and the people who embrace it. To sum it up, I would say, “they’re real.”

Ride on.

Next: “What the Doctor said about motorcycle riding”


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About the author

A Wisconsin farm boy, I learned how to ride a cow, before a horse and way before a motorcycle. I first started riding on my 16th birthday and I took my first real ride at my party: I pulled a wheelie and dug a trench in the lawn, which sent the bike in one direction and me in another. I was irrevocably hooked!