All things considered, Eric is doing remarkably well. He’s now walking 30 minutes a day, soon to increase to 45 minutes. He looks great. But he looked great before the surgery and had no symptoms other than occasional chest tightness when we were hiking or biking strenuously. We were lucky. This could have turned out very differently, and I try not to think too much about that.
There have been times in our adventures when we’ve been hiking alone in the middle of nowhere and I’ve thought, “I wouldn’t want to sprain an ankle out here, miles away from help.” I’ve even had brief imaginings of “What if something really bad happened and help was hours away?” At those moments, I’ve reassured myself by acknowledging that I’d rather accept the risks that come with doing what I love instead of indulging my fears and staying home where life is undeniably safer. Nonetheless, I am extraordinarily grateful that we didn’t suffer a tragedy on the trail.
Counting Our Blessings
Our doctor told us that Eric is very fortunate—that only about one-quarter of people have symptoms that indicate cardiovascular disease. Apparently, the first symptom for the remaining unlucky 75 percent is a heart attack. Eric didn’t suffer a heart attack. In fact, his heart is remarkably strong (the EKG tech referred to him as a “work-horse”). He also has perfect blood pressure, a heart rate in the 50s, low cholesterol, and takes no medications. We thought he was bullet-proof. But his dad had a heart attack at age 47 and died from cardiovascular disease at 58. So there’s that.
Even now, almost four weeks after we entered the cardiac lab for a diagnostic angiogram (“He might need a stent,” said the cardiologist) and ended up in the hospital for nine long days and major surgery, the whole experience is surreal. I still have times when I expect to wake up and discover that this was all merely a bad dream. The image of Eric in intensive care, hooked up to a tangle of tubes and wires and flashing lights, haunts me. More than ever, I am in awe of both the fragility and resilience of the human body and spirit.
I have always been skittish around hospitals and medical procedures, and do my best to keep medical intervention at bay with a healthy diet, daily exercise, and a positive attitude. When we need help, we turn to herbs, acupuncture, massage, and other non-invasive treatments. This problem, obviously, required drastic measures. The technology and approach of Western medicine are at once terrifying and miraculous. This has been the most humbling experience of my life, and I will be eternally grateful to the skilled and compassionate people who saved Eric’s life and made a scary situation as comfortable as it possibly could have been.
The Long Road Back To “Normal”
Both Eric’s surgeon and cardiologist assure us that in time, we will be able to return to our normal lives. And they understand that “normal” for us looks different from what most people think of as normal. The doctors and nurses were intrigued by our stories of travel and our outdoor adventures. In Eric’s chart, one of the doctors wrote, “He and his wife travel the country full-time in their RV, and are active hikers, bikers, and kayakers.” I loved reading that. It made me feel that they understood something about us and that they cared.
So, here we are. We would never have signed up for this adventure, but we are extraordinarily grateful that we discovered the problem before it turned into a tragedy. We are grateful that we’re here in our hometown, within a few miles of one of the finest cardiac centers in the country. We’re grateful for our wonderful surgeon and the skilled nursing care Eric received. And we are grateful to be in the embrace of our loving community of friends and family, who have held us in the most challenging moments, opened their homes and their hearts, brought us nourishment, and encouraged and supported us through it all.
Here’s to life, and to doing what makes your heart happy. You’ve heard it many times, but I have to say it anyway—don’t put off doing what you want to do. Tell your family and friends that you love them. You can’t say it too much. I know that I’m going to do my best to be more present, more generous, and more compassionate in this amazing, wild journey of life. We wish you peace, joy, and good health in the New Year.
Dear Laurel, My heart goes out to you and Eric. Thank you for sharing this. I’ve loved traveling with you both via your blog; and think of you often because of our mutual work with Donnie & also how much I’ve enjoyed our chance encounters & talks. Sending you much love, healing wishes, and support during this time. If there’s anything I can do, please let me know. Much love & many blessings for a healthy, joyous New Year. Suzanne Sky
Thank you, Suzanne. I would love to see you while we’re in town—we’ll be here for several months. So happy to know that you’re traveling along with us vicariously. :-)
would love to see you too. send me an e-mail when you have a chance & we’ll set something up. :)
What more can I say than WOW!. We had been wondering what you were up to. So glad you are working your way through this experience that makes your head spin. Truly a humbling experience that knocks you both on your tails. Good thoughts your way.
Dear Ones: I guess I need to repeat the above when it comes to my reaction to your letter—WOW!! I am so happy for your good result, Eric,and am just cheering for your complete recovery. Modern cardiac medicine can do so very much for us. At my advanced age of 85 I have had symptoms, and many diagnostic procedures, but my entire family background is cardiac disease and so far I am without that. God speed, dear man and please keep us posted on your good recovery. Love, Barbara
It’s wonderful to hear from you, Barbara. Thank you for your loving good wishes. We have such fond memories of our visit with you a couple of years ago in Florida. Take good care, and we wish you all the best in the coming year!
Debbie and Mike, yes, it was indeed a “wow!!!” moment. So crazy and so unexpectedly over-the-top serious. Thanks for the good thoughts. We hope to meet up with you two on the road one of these days.
Even though we have spoken and I have now read this post I still find it all surreal. You are both blessed to have been at home when this occurred. There is nothing more healing than the embrace of family and friends when tragedy strikes. I got chills when I read your account of how it felt to see Eric in IC, hooked up to machines and tubes. I remember well how I felt when Terry was in the hospital having his surgery. If that is not a strong reminder to embrace each day, love often and long, and practice gratitude for all we have been given in our lives, I don’t know what is. We wish you both much love and laughter in the new year, grand adventures, and the promise of renewed health. Hope to see you in 2017. Much love to you both!
So beautifully said, LuAnn. I am still stunned by the experience, but at the same time grateful, grateful, grateful. I know you understand. Thank you for your loving wishes—I really hope we will see you this year. We miss you guys.
Eric and Laurel,
Thanks for sharing this. We are so glad Eric is doing well and walking. My dad had three of those open heart surgeries (he became good friends with his heart surgeon). I think your reminder about life and our journey is spot on. God put us here to enjoy his creation. May you be back on the road/trail/kayak soon!
I can’t imagine anyone going through three open heart surgeries! I’m still reeling from the intensity of what Eric went through. I feel like our surgeon is our new best friend. :-)) Thanks for thinking of us—let’s meet up on Lopez this year!
Though unexpected and scary!, it is great to know that this was caught in time and Eric has come through as well as can be expected. Wishing you a full and speedy recovery.
Cheers to a joyful and healthy 2017! We will be in OR in May, if you are still around perhaps our paths will cross once again.
It was definitely unexpected and very scary, Lisa. Thanks for your good thoughts….we’ll be in Ashland until June…it would be great to meet up with you guys!
Wow! So sorry to hear this, hope he’s back to normal quickly.
Fred & Jo
Thanks, Fred. Carpe Diem, indeed!! Hugs to you and Jo.
I’m so glad Eric pulled through the surgery. I really shows you how strong a body can be -and how fragile. Good health in 2017!
Thank you, Pat. I am in awe of how quickly Eric is recovering from this very serious surgery. We are so fortunate.
This is just a beautifully written heart felt post. The title is absolutely perfect. I’m glad you felt strong enough to write it and am thinking of you two every single day and sending you both the strength you need to get your life back to the normal you love.
Sherry, you and David more than anyone know the challenges of serious health issues on the road. Thank you for your loving thoughts. We’re gathering our strength, and one step at a time, are returning to our definition of “normal.” We’re sad we’re missing connecting with you in Florida this year.
Eric, I am so glad to hear that you are improving so well as to go out and walk each day. Hopefully 2017 will reflect your love for the outdoors without any problems. Our lifestyles seem duplicated in so many ways that outdoors and nature is so much better than TV for a full lifestyle. PS: Laurel could not be a better wife for you! You guys are designed & made for each other!
Thank you for your good wishes and kind words, Bob. We’re looking forward to 2017 and lots more adventures in the beautiful outdoors that we love so much! You are right—nature is best. :-)
Dear friends, Without knowing the details my heart and healing have been coming your way. How like you, Laurel, to take it all in stride with such grace, gravity,and gratitude! I just returned from a 6-week odyssey with my mother who is recovering from surgery. Love & blessings all over you two with robust recovery and great adventures ahead for 2017… XOX Dia
WOW laurel…wow. this was a very humbling sobering story~ and i see eric as whole and healed. truly.
i send you a very big hug. xolaurie
Laurie, this is not a chapter that I ever thought would be a part of our story. But here it is. Thank you for your loving and positive thoughts. Let’s get together soon!
Thank you, dear Dia, for your loving thoughts and blessings. We’ve missed you, and are looking forward to spending time with you and sharing stories of our respective healing journeys. Wishing all good things for you in this coming year. oxoxox
Oh my friends – we’re so glad things turned out as well as they did. These little human suits are so tricky…
Our new home on the coast will have ample driveway for you to park and stay. Do come spend some time with us! Nothing like some good beach time to set you right. xoxoxoxoxo
Thank you, Kim. We would love to see you guys! Didn’t realize that you have a new home on the coast—that’s wonderful news! I like the idea of wandering the beach with you. Big hugs to you both.
Goodness, what a horrible way to end the year!! So happy the docs caught it, but so sorry for all the stress, worry and medical stuff you’ve been through. Life really does seem fleeting when things like this occur. Best of healing and light to Eric, and best of light and love to you.
Thank you, Nina. I appreciate all of the healing light and love that you’re sending our way. It has been a terrible and wonderful experience. Not something I would have signed up for, but so grateful for how it’s all turned out.
Wow, what a blessing y’all were home and in a place where you trusted your medical care. I work in an ER in Seattle. We get a fair number of people on vacation. I always feel so bad for those away from the familiar with a serious illness or accident. We are incredibly tough and incredibly fragile at the same time.
It truly is a blessing that we were here in our hometown, Nancy. I have the utmost appreciation for the work that you do. I am forever grateful for the incredible, compassionate care that we have received.
Oh my, this was not a post I was expecting. I’m so sorry to hear of this medical ordeal and glad Eric is on the mends. Sending prayers and warm wishes your way.
We weren’t expecting this either, Ingrid. It’s been quite a shock, as you can imagine. Thank you so much for your good wishes.
Henry said, “Oh, my!” in a tone I do not often hear as he stared at his computer screen. “What?!?” I asked. And he says “Eric had triple by-pass!” Stunned, we both began reading this post. Knowing that you both eat extremely healthy, get plenty of fresh air and exercise, we are in disbelief. It seems there was a reason for your extended stay in Ashland… We are overjoyed that he has apparently recovered so well and know he will continue to do so. We will be in touch with you soon and know that we love you guys and will be sending lots of positive thoughts and energy your way. And give Eric a big, gentle hug from us! And one for you, too!
We were stunned, and so were all of the doctors and nurses. Everyone tells us that our healthy diet and lifestyle served Eric well—were it not for that, he would likely have had cardiovascular problems 20 years ago, just like his dad. We’re very happy to be on the road to recovery (albeit a long road). We love you guys, too, and are looking forward to more adventures together. How about Cedar Mesa? :-)
I’ve never met you even though I also live in Ashland, but found your blog through a mutual friend, Suzanne Sky. I feel like I know you however as my husband and I so enjoy reading of your adventures. We were shocked to read about Eric, as in every pic he looks the picture of health and fitness. I just know that will enable him to get through the recovery period in great shape. All the best to you both, Joan
Joan, thank you so much for your good wishes. I’m happy to know that you’re journeying along with us. Fortunately Eric is very healthy and fit (other than those poorly behaved arteries!). But now that he’s all fixed the doctor says he’s good to go for another 100,000 miles. :-)
Oh Laurel! You’ve been on my mind lately, wondering what you’ve been doing there in Ashland.
I’m sure none of us expected this post!
What a frightening thing for you both to go through. Dave and I are so happy that things are beginning to even out for you and look forward to your next post, the one telling us that Eric is back to normal and you’re together on the road again.
Life is so fragile, our happiness is so fragile we must never take them for granted and waste a single minute on trivial things. I learned this lesson young, my father dropped dead at 55, with no warning shots fired……you never know what is around the corner so be kind and appreciate everything you’re given.
We’re thinking of you ,
Sue and Dave
I forgot to tell you that I loved the milagros at the top of your post :)
Sue, this has been by far the most terrifying experience of our lives. You are so right, we must never take life for granted, or waste time on trivial nonsense. You understand, having lost your father at such a young age. Thank you for your loving thoughts.
I’m glad you appreciated the milagros….I made them several years ago and just excavated them from our storage unit. I have a creative project in mind. :-)
Wishing Eric a very speedy recovery and everything of the best to you both in 2017. How lucky this was discovered and coukd be succesfully treated. Doctors, hospitals…can be very scary places and I feel for you at this very challenging time. Sending positive healing energy. To good health and many more adventures hiking, biking and kayaking!
Thank you, Peta. We feel very fortunate that the problem was discovered and was fixable. I know we share an appreciation for natural healing, but I am ever so grateful for Western medicine in this instance. I appreciate your positive thoughts!
That is a very frightening story, but glad it had a happy ending. We just never know what’s around the next bend, so it’s best to make the most of every day. Hope you can get back to the life you love soon.
I’m still not recovered from the shock of this experience. You are right, we truly never know what’s around the next bend, so we had better be grateful and present for the here and now. We’re loving our life here in Ashland, and at the same time are looking forward to getting back on the road in a few months.
Love the photo and title choice:) While we were aware of Eric’s surgery, it is still very surreal to read it again. Eric looks great in his photos with Finley:) That is wonderful that he is exercising that much already. Keep up the work, Eric! You’ll be climbing those mountains before you know it:) You are both in our thoughts:) Wishing you a bright and healthy 2017!
Thanks, Pam. We’re both highly motivated to get back to “normal.” Eric is progressing rapidly and the doctors are impressed. I’m just afraid that he’s going to leave me in the dust once he’s back up to speed. Not fair for him to have so much longer legs AND brand new arteries. :-) Hope we get to see you guys this year.
We are heading your way in May with our goal the Olympic Peninsula eventually. We haven’t firmed up dates yet, which we need to do since it will be summer. We want to visit Bend for a few weeks, also. So we’ll be in your neck of the woods. If you are still around, we will definitely head your way first. Keep Eric working hard:) Can’t wait to hug you both!
Oh yay!! That makes us happy knowing that we’ll get to reconnect with you guys. It’s going to be a fun reunion. We’ll go hiking together and celebrate!
I am so grateful that he went to the doctor when he noticed something was different. There are so many, especially men who would put it off as not a concern. Thank heavens he did not. You are right Laurel we need to live the life we want at our age and not put off doing things we love. Life is way too short and hopefully we can all realize our dreams. You two are amazing and are doing so well because of it….God bless and love to you both. Penny and Tom
Penny, it took Eric a while to acknowledge that something wasn’t quite right—but thankfully it was before anything tragic happened. You and Tom are doing a great job of realizing your dreams, too. We love you guys!
What a shocking story to find lying so peacefully in my email. Somehow the intuition said that title didn’t portend good news. Thank goodness that the end of the story is as it is, and Eric is walking and doing well, and that you are in a place where you can actually write about it all. It is so fleeting, we think we have forever, then realize that no, we don’t. You two live so well, have such a wonderful, healthy, positive outlook on life, are not afraid to jump off the real and figurative cliffs to experience it. People like you two don’t have bypass surgery…they just don’t. And yet, here is the story. I am so glad for the chance to know you, even only through this medium thus far. Looking forward to reading about your next adventures and to continued healing for Eric.
Sue, this experience definitely sideswiped us. But there’s Eric’s family history, and that’s apparently the big bad factor. We’re grateful that we’re going to have the opportunity to get back out there and live life to the fullest. Thank you for your positive thoughts—we would love to meet up with you when you return from your winter trip.
Thank you for sharing this story. So very happy Eric is feeling better! Keep the journey alive.
Peace and Blessings,
Russ & Renee
How wonderful to hear from you two! We have every intention of getting back on the road by early summer. Would be fun to see you and hike with you (don’t think we could keep up with you biking ;-)).
Dearest long lost friends: Dan and I have thought of you both so often, but of course, not down this path of medical challenges. Our very best wishes for Eric and his recovery. Also to you, Laurel, as it is very difficult to watch your loved one going through what you described. Dan and I hope to be back on the road, as your travels inspire us to live our life in your style. We would love to cross paths again, you are both very dear souls and loving people. Our thoughts and prayers to you both during this recovery time, and for all time.
Dan and Penny–Lopez connection!
We are so happy to hear from you and to know that you’re planning to resume your travels! We have so many wonderful memories of our time on Lopez with you. No one catches and cooks crab like you do! We’ve missed you guys! Thank you for your loving wishes. Let’s plan to meet up—Lopez or???
Oh Laurel; so sorry for your unexpected life crisis. As a RN for 35 years I’m thankful my brothers & sisters in scrubs took good care of you & Eric. As we plan to go full time in 24 weeks I have often wondered about such things as my husband has 7 stents. I’m very happy that everything turned out great for you cause you don’t ever know how many breaths you’ve got as they say. Good luck & GOD bless and may you be back out on the open road soon.
Thank you so much, Sherry. Your brothers and sisters in scrubs took very, very good care of us. It was an amazing experience to have such incredibly compassionate care in the hospital.
I’m so happy for you that you’re taking off on your full-time adventure in six months. You’ll never regret it! We should be back on the road at about the same time as you. Let us know where you’ll be!
Oh, my…I am sad, glad, scared and reassured all in one post. Like so many of the comments above, this was not what I expected when I clicked on the blog, but what a wonderfully heartfelt reflection of gratitude.
Had Eric not already been a “work horse” from all that good outdoor living, the outcome would have no doubt been less fortunate.
I trust the mending is happening rapidly, and your lives will soon be back on track…
Here’s to a healthy 2017, as health is truly wealth!
Suzanne, thank you for your good wishes. We’ve definitely run the gamut of emotions, and continue to do so. But gratitude is always at the forefront. Our doctors tell us that Eric’s healthy lifestyle (and overall excellent health) made for a good surgical outcome and will help him recover quickly. Health truly is the greatest wealth!
Gosh, I wanted to say a couple of words and I had to scroll WAY down a very long list of comments from your many friends! I can hardly express how glad I am that this turned out like it did and Eric will be OK. Sue and I look forward to further adventures with you and I want to wish you both the best in the new year.
Thank you so much, Doug. It’s being here in our beloved community with friends such as you and Sue that are helping us through this challenging, scary, and humbling experience. I’m not sure I can ever adequately express how much it means to us to have the love, support, and encouragement of our friends, both here in Ashland, and those from afar. Know that we love you.
When I saw Erics post on FB, Morey & I were shocked. Things like this shouldn’t happen to people as healthy as you two. Amazing how family history plays such a big role in our lives. I couldn’t even get through your whole post without crying (and I don’t cry ;) ) Morey had to finish reading it. I am so happy that Eric went through the angio and got fixed up. Morey had an angio quite awhile ago when a cardiac event happened while we were at the cabin. He was clean as a whistle but has an electrical problem. Not bad enough yet for a pacemaker. It’s always on my mind that “today could be the day” but hope it’s not. Everyday is precious. Hug Eric for me and we will see you both in the near future.
Brenda, this was a huge shock for us, as well—we thought we had escaped the family history legacy. We’re just so grateful that modern medicine can work such miracles (terrifying though the procedures may be!). We’re going to be around until early summer, and would love to get together with you two. Bet you’re looking forward to moving into your beautiful new home!:-)
Laurel & Eric,
We’re so glad that everything has turned out ok. Please let us know if there is anyway that we can help.
Mac & Meg
Thanks so much, Mac. We would love to get together with you and Meg when you’re back in town!
I’m so glad that Eric is okay and you can both continue your wonderful travels. We never know what is around the corner, so it’s important to make the most of the time we have.
Thank you, Jane. We do our best to make the most of this precious gift of life—and are deeply grateful that we have the chance to do more of what we love.
There is a gift with a life altering experience. You live life differently, savor the days and appreciate it a lot more. Do not take life for granted, no tomorrow is guaranteed.
Julie, you two understand just how life altering this experience is! I’ve always tried to live with gratitude and appreciation for each day, but I feel it even more intensely now.
No need to repeat what I’ve already told you, but will add that we don’t know how strong we are until truly tested. I agree your title is perfect as both of you have had to deal with breaking hearts. And now you’re both healing and living each day from the inside-out. Holding you in the light, seeing you on the trail.
Jodee, this truly has been a heartbreaking experience for both of us—and at the same time, it has been surprisingly healing on so many levels. Thanks for your affirmation of seeing us back on the trail. :-)
L’chaim, y’all! Keep doing what you do. Happy New Year!
Thank you, Gretchen. We wish the same for you! Many blessings in this New Year, and we look forward to seeing you this summer on Lopez. oxox
I’m sorry you and Eric have had to go through this but happy to hear things are going well now. What a blessing that you were home and had such great medical care and that you have friends that care and support you. Please give Eric our best. Much love, Linda and Max Mayfield
Linda, thank you for your loving thoughts. If this had to happen, we’re grateful that it was here in Ashland. We’re really sorry to not be seeing you and Max in Florida this winter. Much love and wishing all good things this year for you and your family!
OMG, I’m so behind. When Eric posted that he had surgery I did not think of it as something major. He sounded so cool on his post. We are both glad to know that he is recovering fast and that your stress is now on the low side. I can just imagine what it was like but I’m sure being in your home city has helped a lot.
Sendíng you our warm hugs and keep that great spirit and optimism up there.
Take care of yourself too!
Thanks for your hugs and good wishes, ML. It’s crazy how quickly our lives changed from when we saw you guys in late October. But it’s only temporary, and we consider ourselves very, very fortunate. We’re looking forward to meeting up with you and Steve somewhere this year!
I’m just catching up on all the recent blog posts that I missed during the holidays and was shocked to see this. Trust me when I say, I know how this feels. Kevin has had lifelong heart issues and he suffered a stroke at age 34 and a heart attack at age 36. I have stood in those hospitals and felt those same things you so beautifully describe. And your parting words – about not waiting, about appreciating every moment, and about living in the present, is exactly why we are doing what we are doing.
I am so glad to hear that Eric is on the mend and you have a close support system nearby. That can make all the difference.
Here’s to 2017 – may it be a whole lot better than 2016.
I’m so glad to hear from you, Laura. I knew that you and Kevin have had some similar medical experiences, and I’ve cheered for you in your decision to follow your dreams. May 2017 be a wonderful year for all of us! I look forward to following your journey and hope we can meet up somewhere along the way.
I’m happy to hear Eric is recovering and that you were near your hometown and great doctors when this happened. Modern medicine truly can work miracles. The last part of your post is so powerful and true. Every day is a gift. Wishing you and Eric a happy 2017.
Thank you, Beth. I am in awe of the miracles wrought by modern medicine—but I really hope we won’t be needing those kinds of services again! Every day truly is a great gift—wishing you all the best in 2017, as well.
Wow… just getting around to reading about this. all in all this is a great outcome… tho that’s easy for me to say. But I’ve “hung by a thread” a few times… dodged a few “bullets,” and know a little about how “plans” can get waylaid. I wish you both to be back “out there” soon, but not too soon.
Keep us apprised… I’ll try not to lag behind so far in the future :)
Box Canyon Mark from Lovely Ouray, Colorado.
Mark, this has been a life altering experience for us—but we definitely see ourselves back “out there” doing the things that we love. Step-by-step! Thanks for checking in and for the good thoughts.
Hi Laurel, I’m Peggy’s friend from Oregon although we now live in Pacifica. My husband had a four way by pass last May. No symptoms, no heart attack, either. So lucky. They rolled him into do stints and then brought him back out to say it was much worse. We are both very lucky you and me! He is doing great and his doctors say he’s a miracle! Glad everyone is doing well. If you ever need to talk feel free. I’ve just been through it too! Hugs…. Karen
Wow, Karen—that sounds so similar to Eric’s experience! You understand exactly what we’ve been through. Such a rollercoaster of emotions—shock, fear, uncertainty, gratitude…on and on. I’m so happy to hear that your husband is doing so well. I would love to talk with you. Wishing you both all the best in 2017. Hugs to you, too!
Oh my goodness, Laurel! I had to skim ahead to read the outcome then go back for the details! How scary for you both! You may recall I ended up in the ED and had an angiogram days prior to our launch to Alaska. I had all the symptoms of a heart attack yet tests showed none signs of having had one. I, too, was grateful to be in my home state when it happened, that is a big deal for us nomads! Like you, it is not an experience I wanted or expected to have, yet the education I got throughout the ordeal was priceless. Things have changed for me, in a good way! Hugs to you both!
Linda, I remember that you had a health scare just prior to your Alaska adventure, but I didn’t remember that you had to undergo an angiogram. That’s a scary test! So glad everything turned out well for you. Stay healthy, and keep on adventuring! Hugs to you guys, too.