Robert Talbert

@rtalbert

Math professor, Dad, Catholic, cat herder.

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Update on my health and upcoming surgery

Hi again. First of all, I want to thank all of you who sent well-wishes and prayers following my previous post. It means the world to me, to know that I have so many keeping me in their prayers and thoughts throughout this journey toward getting my heart fixed. (Or as I've started calling it, "getting upgraded".)

As I mentioned in the last post, today was the day I went into Meijer Heart Hopsital in Grand Rapids for two more procedures prior to the surgery itself. I just got back from this visit and it went very well. Here's a rundown:

  • I had a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) done, which as the name suggests is an echocardiogram done by sticking a probe down my esophagus so that the probe can get right up next to the heart to take pictures. That's about as fun as it sounds and fortunately I was completely knocked out the whole time. Through the TEE, the doctors confirmed something I speculated on in the last post, namely that I have a bicuspid aortic valve -- the valve has two flaps instead of three. This is just something I was born with, not the result of any poor health choices or whatnot, and it's the cause of my aortic stenosis that I wrote about last time.
  • I also had a heart catheterization done to get a look at my arteries. Good news here, my arteries are totally clean without any kind of clogging or buildup. (Despite the massive amounts of bacon, etc. I eat.)

So what's next?

Because of the bicuspid valve situation, there's no other treatment for my condition besides open-heart valve replacement surgery. On January 7 I will have a pre-op meeting with the heart surgeon who will be handling the case. Unfortunately I still don't have a firm date for the surgery itself, although I suspect it will be something like one week following the meeting. I am just going ahead and telling my work and every one else that I will be out from January 14 through March 8. The surgery will definitely be close to the beginning of this 8-week period, and this puts me on a schedule to get the surgery done, recover, and then get back into work -- slowly! -- after our Spring Break is over.

On that note, the GVSU Math Department has been amazing in supporting me and lining people up to fill in for me while I'm out. My colleagues Filiz Dogru and Akalu Tefera will be taking over my Linear Algebra class and some of my Assistant Chair duties, respectively. The rest of my duties --- most of which are from my Assistant Chair position --- can be done remotely or can wait until I return.

Meanwhile, life goes on. We're getting ready for Christmas here, and the kids will be out of school next week. I'm feeling actually really good for the most part, and the prayers, thoughts, and well wishes from all of you have played a large part in that. Especially helpful has been my priest, Fr. Bill VanderWerff, who's given me good advice and reading to do during this time, along with my entire faith community at St. Luke University Parish in Allendale.

I'll continue to give more updates here as they happen.


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