“I’m Too Young to be this Damn Old!”

A Break in Action, Part 2

This break in the action has thrown me for a loop. It has given me a helluva lot more than I bargained for. They say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Well, I always have a plan. So what do you do if that plan gets kicked in the ass? You had better have a back up plan or be able to improvise. Having been a trial lawyer, I have had to learn to improvise—to deal with unexpected twists and turns in the various aspects of trials. This, however, is a kick in the ass of major proportions. I have recorded these events as they have occurred, hence the sometimes lack of congruity.

Before we discuss that, let’s talk about the meet on February 2, 2013. It was a respectable result; the best I have had in the IBP. And it qualified me in Class IV, whatever that means. However, a lot of weight was left on the platform. I made a 305-pound opener in the squat and got it no problem. Next, I tried for 325 pounds, and it went up without too much problem. That would have tied a PR and would have been my best result in the IBP. But…I received red lights—not low enough. It felt good, but I’m not the judge. So I tried 325 pounds again. And again, no problem. I also really tried to get lower and thought I did, but I got red lights again—not low enough. When I start training again, I am really going to work on my depth. I will experiment with a lower box, more chains and bands, heeled shoes…anything to get lower. I don’t want to miss 325 pounds again. The bench press was crappy as usual, so nothing much to talk about there. I did open with 295 pounds in the deadlift and got it no problem. I usually would go to 305 pounds, but I needed 310 pounds to make Class IV, so that is what I tried. However, I missed it so very badly. I was embarrassed and mad as hell at myself. There had to have been a terrible break in technique, but I don’t know what it was. When the weight got to my knees, the whole damn thing drifted to the right and came out of my left hand. I don’t know what happened, but I didn’t want it to happen again. I thought about changing my grip or style, so I went over to the warm up area where the next flight was getting ready. I grabbed 225 pounds and did some reps to try to improve my technique. I had now put too much pressure on myself for my last lift. To make a long story not quite as long, I got it. It made my day much better and the meet finished on an up beat.

Now back to the kick in the ass…

I checked in at the hospital in a timely manner and was then taken back to a pre-op room and asked a million questions over and over again. They took an EKG and I talked to a very young anesthesiologist. Finally, I was hooked up to an IV and ready to roll. My surgeon walked in, but before we could talk the anesthesiologist took him outside to look at the EKG. They both came in shaking their heads. I knew something was wrong. They began asking me questions about whether or not I could do any physical activity without chest pain. I explained to them that I was active in powerlifting and that I trained at least three times a week and competed about five times a year. I also noted that I was moderately successful and completely symptom-free. They found that hard to believe because there was a problem with my EKG…and that if put to sleep, I might not wake up.

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DAMN! Now what?

They said not to train and to see a cardiologist right away. On the way home from the hospital, I dropped off a copy of the EKG to my doctor and made an appointment for later in the day. When I saw him, he calmed me down.

“An EKG is not a diagnostic tool,” he said. “It does not show us anything. It does, however, tell us to have a diagnosis done. We need to schedule a nuclear stress test as a diagnostic tool. It will tell us what, if anything, is wrong. It may be something, or it may be nothing. The test will tell.”

The test was scheduled for Feb 13, 2013. In the courtroom, in coaching, in training others, and even in training myself, there are those who say I have no heart. How could these turn of events have happened? How could I do what I do with a heart problem? Well, the hell with it all. I trained Monday and Tuesday, just to be doing something and to stay active. I stuck with high reps, low weights, and even experimented with a heeled shoe for squats. (I think I like it). Then, Wednesday was D-day.

I had the test. They ran my ass off on the treadmill, and I had more photos taken of my heart than I thought was possible. And when I left, I didn’t know a damn thing. The only good thing is that they didn’t keep me. I left the test at 12:30 p.m., but by 4:30 p.m. they had called me to come in and see the cardioligist the next morning. Apparently the issue was that not enough blood was getting to my heart. So I met with the doctor the next morning…I am still in a daze, as things are happening very fast. Let me try to articulate what I learned.

He opened by saying that I had had a heart attack. He kept talking, but I didn’t hear anything else he had to say for a while. A HEART ATTACK! DAMN! When? Where? Why? My mind was racing all over hell and half of Georgia. Me, a heart attack? It had made no impression. I got my bearings and tuned him back in. He told me that my heart was not getting enough blood, was enlarged, and may have one or more blockages. He was surprised that I had no symptoms and trained as frequently as I did. He recommended that I have a heart catheter done so he could see what, if any, or how many problems existed, and it was immediately scheduled for the next day. If there is a blockage that he can fix with a balloon or a stint, he will do it and there will be very little down time. If it is more serious and requires bypass surgery, that will be scheduled later.

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When one goes to the hospital for any procedure involving the heart, one immediately becomes an invalid. I drove to the hospital, parked the car, and walked in. The first thing they did was put me in a wheel chair. Did I suddenly loose the ability to walk? I was wheeled everywhere, either in a chair or a gurney. The catheter was scheduled to be done in my wrist, so they shaved my arm and, just in case the wrist proved to be a problem, they prepared my groin as well. (Now I am ready for bikini season). The procedure went well and in short order I was back in my cubby room. The doctor then came in and began drawing little diagrams of arteries, explaining the degree of blockage in each.

Bottom line: I need five bypasses.

How about them apples?! In one fell swoop, I have gone from a world record powerlifter, albeit in the little old man category, to a heart patient invalid. How come I don’t feel any differently? I have yet to have the first symptom. Heart bypass surgery was then scheduled for February 21, 2013. I guess I’ll have to start all over again in a few months.

Historically, I am a very private person. The most public thing I have ever done is write these articles. I usually never tell anyone anything personal. I read about a heart surgeon who would not operate on a patient unless that patient entered into a formal contract to undertake some physical activity after the surgery that he had never done previously. Something like running a marathon, or swimming a river, or climbing a mountain. My surgeon has not required anything like that. But I do not want to be like so many men I know, who, after heart surgery, are afraid to do anything. My reasoning is that after surgery, my heart will be much stronger, and the sternum, when healed with the wire in it, will be stronger, so I should be able to do more. If my logic is faulty, correct me. I am contracting with myself and with all of you that after this heart surgery, I will exceed every record I have set and obtain new PRs in every lift.

Wish me luck!

Related Articles:

“I’m Too Young to be this Damn Old!”: A Break in Action, Part 1

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I’m Injured—Now What?

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About the Author

Jeff Guller graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1963 and from law school there in 1966. He was involved in weight training, but there wasn't any sport of powerlifting at that time. He practiced law for about forty years before semi-retiring. He now teaches criminal law at Wingate University and helps the football team with its strength and conditioning program. He is married and has four grown children. Since the fall of 2012, he has participated in powerlifting in the IBP and IPA. He established four world records in the IPA on Sept 29, 2012, and has established and/or broken five national records in the IBP. Jeff began powerlifting to promote a weight loss program and rehabilitate after hip replacement surgery.