Nearly 20 years ago, a new century dawned around the globe.
I remember the fears of “Y2K.” Many so-called experts feared the electronic age would somehow foul up what is normally an easy celebration as the world moves from one century to another. With so much of our day-to-day lives entwined with the computer age, the fears center mainly on one century becoming another. That change, it was feared, would be un-readable by the ever-important computers; many believed those computers would not react to that century change and somehow computers would send us back to 1900.
Of course, that never happened. My wife Judy and I put little thought into those gloomy predictions and took the trip of a lifetime, flying to Europe to celebrate the occasion. We visited my relatives in Sweden and hers in Norway and spent an unforgettable New Year’s Eve with wonderful German friends I’d met while serving in the Army. Of the original 22 members of our regular Friday night get-togethers at a place called the Katerinenklause, 17 of us spent an evening once again enjoying that two-country camaraderie we’d built so long ago.
The memories of those few weeks spent overseas are still fresh in our minds, but the past two decades have not been kind to all of us. Several of my long-time German friends have since passed, including the man I’ve long considered to be my “best” friend, Manfred Lachner, who succumbed to cancer just a couple years back.
As I remember those friends and other family members and friends who have passed away over those first 20 years of this new century, I can’t help thinking of my own good fortune … and what I’d have missed without the wonderful surgeons whose paths I crossed during that time.
In 2000, for example, I met Dr. Crawford, a heart surgeon at St. Luke’s Baptist Hospital in downtown San Antonio, Texas. He performed quadruple heart by-pass surgery, re-wiring my heart to continue pumping. I was told that, at that time, most open-heart surgeries lasted, at most 10 years. Apparently, Dr. Crawford didn’t believe in those odds and I’ll never forget that life-saving surgery I had many years ago — surgery that saved my life and has allowed me to experience the growth, and birth, of my nine grandchildren.
That surgery also led me to give up my life in the automobile racing field (I’d been the general manager of San Antonio Speedway then) and return to my initial life work in the newspaper field. I’ll be forever grateful to the folks at the Dallas County News, who hired me first as a sportswriter, then as a news writer and, finally, into the editor’s desk. Because of that, I was able to complete my life’s work, back behind a newspaper desk, where I’d begun in 1963 as a sportswriter at the Fort Dodge Messenger.
Those years also took me into Wisconsin for jobs at both the Merrill Herald and Wausau Daily Record-Herald. It’s a long story how living in Wisconsin led to my 25-year career in auto racing and, finally, to open heart surgery in Texas that gave me a “new” life, a return to my Iowa roots and a return to the newspaper field.
Times haven’t been all rosy over two decades, but my wife, Judy, has been with me during that whole journey and has been by my bedside through several other serious health setbacks.
My first heart-attack, mild compared to what followed, occurred the first Thursday of December in 1989 and led to a few days in a Cedar Rapids hospital. Then in 2009, my heart stopped beating and I fell over backwards in a chair from the casino machine I’d been playing. My wife was the first one by my side, pumping my chest in an effort to revive me. Another man, who was on a machine nearby, came over, told my wife he was a nurse, and took over efforts to revive me. Finally, the medical team from the casino, always on duty, shocked me. The rescue squad from Altoona then arrived and shocked me twice more with a defibrillator before I was revived.
“Did I pass out?” I asked one of the rescue workers. “No,” he replied. “You died. We saved your life.”
I missed only a few days of work, but returned to the surprise of my co-workers at the Dallas County News.
Subsequently, I’ve had triple-aneurysm surgery to repair arteries from my stomach down both legs, but those plastic tubes gave me a deadly infection called pseudomynosis argonosia (probably misspelled) which also nearly ended my life. Once again, however, doctors saved me – placing a “pic” line in my arm and giving me a strong medicine which I inserted into that pic line every eight hours for several weeks before the infection was cleared.
The rest actually pales in comparison to those episodes, but I’ve also had a pacemaker-defibrillator implanted in my chest (I’m on my third one of those now) and a couple years ago, I got a new heart valve. The newest pacemaker was implanted at the VA Hospital in Iowa City and my new heart valve was implanted at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, and that was quite an episode for the doctors and nurses there. It was implanted by entering an artery in my leg and doctors had quite a time working the device through the plastic arteries from my earlier surgery.
Through all that, Judy has been by my side. She’s been a trooper when things looked bleakest, but I’ve pulled through.
Yes, the past two decades have been wonderful.
Who knows? I might be around when, someday, Judy and I welcome our first great-grandchild.
To me that would be wonderful. My late father had heart problems that took him at 44, He knew had had a weak heart and he said, “Oh, kid (that’s what he called my mother), all I want is to live long enough to see my first grandchild.”
His brother was only 50 when he passed and my brother was only 54. In fact, I’m the oldest living male in the extended Haglund family. Women don’t seem to have the problem – my paternal aunts both lived long lives and I had a great aunt live to 104. But, the last Haglund male to turn 76 was my grandfather who reached that age in 1954.
God willing, I’ll be around to see a great-grandchild, and that would be wonderful.