My circumstances don’t define me! 8 reflections from my heart.
This post is about learning from life’s circumstances, it’s not going to help you with your home remodeling project – but it could help you with (what I’ll call) “personal remodeling!”
It happened again…. another fateful Saturday morning run
I’ll admit it right up front – I’ve got an obsession with running. Every single day, 1 hour a day (and I frequently post to social media while I do it). Yes, I’m a sick guy! But this post is not about my continual daily jogging discipline, it’s about the pain near my heart (again) which stopped me in my “tracks” (or basement concrete floor in this case) – and the personal learning which followed.
Taking a quick step back
For those of you who have been following along at home (and like reading my blog) you know on a beautiful sunny morning on June 4th 2016 I suffered a heart attack while running up a hill in my Akron Ohio neighborhood. I reflected on this event and what I learned from it in a post titled, “I get to live my 1%, 7 simple steps on living life more fully.” But let’s get back to today’s story.
Saturday January 7th 2017 – Local ER trip #1
There was nothing special about this day. I was doing the usual – early morning laundry, blog writing and social media posting. Then it was time for my run. I’m 35 minutes into and my mind is escaping into the exercise – getting into that “runners state” most people think you’ve got to be crazy to experience. Then it started.
A pain and pressure in the center of my chest. What????? Not again!!! The pain wasn’t crazy and nasty. Something told me it’s just not right. I didn’t fall off this cardiac train yesterday.
I was smart enough to stop – but then kept walking for a bit (need to try to get that 1 hour in). I told Rose (my wife/Dr. and smart one in the family – ha! ha!). I knew where this was going to lead. The ER.
Emergency room trip #1. Blood enzymes – good. EKG – good. Blood pressure, pulse – excellent (I always rock those stats). Got to watch the Steelers blow up the Miami Dolphins 30-12 in between waiting for all the test results (I know my East Coast business partner and friend, Ron Clelland, is smiling about this game). I’m sent home (cool) with a date for a stress test on Tuesday January 17th.
Tuesday January 10th – 15-hour work day craziness, super-excited for Florida – Local ER trip #2
This day even started out crazy. At 1:30AM the pipes burst in my Columbus hotel and water was literally coming into my room. Everyone out. By 2:00 AM they got the water stopped and offered to find me another room. I asked, just find me another room so I can take a shower – then I’ll be off. Got to my Columbus office by 2:45 AM. I had a TON of work to do anyway. After all I’ve got my yearly pilgrimage to the Kitchen and Bath and International Builders Show in Orlando Florida. In this trip (which I scheduled 4 months ago,) I have two days to see cool products (to add to my biz and enjoy some Florida warmth. Then my wife Rose and kids (Grant, Parker and Jade -who I’m a huge sucker for) will be meeting me for a mini-family vacation on Friday.
I worked a crazy long day. From 2:45 AM until I got back to my Akron home at 5:45 PM (you know how the day before conferences and vacations can be).
I go to bed early (8:30 PM) (my brother Frank is laughing right now – I’m a complete lightweight when it comes to staying up late). I wake a 10:30 PM with bad burning in the middle of my chest. Not good.
Emergency room trip #2. Blood enzymes – good. EKG – good. Blood pressure, pulse – excellent (I’m still rocking these stats). By 2:15 AM Wednesday morning all the testing is done. I’m practically pleading with the Dr. to be able to go to my conference. Rose is not happy with my stubbornness. She tells me this is a dumb idea. The Dr. says we certainly want to see you for the stress test on the 17th – but you can go on your trip! Yah ME! I’m OK getting 3 hours sleep and leaving for the airport at 6:15 AM. I’m determined (I’ll be OK…. I tell myself)!
Wednesday January 11th – The conference doesn’t go well
By the time I arrive in Orlando I know I will have a day and half to see 2 HUGE shows (the Kitchen and Bath and International Builders Show). The Kitchen and Bath has the more products for my business so I’ll start there. I have the taxi driver take me directly to the show. I lug my suitcase (for what seems like a mile) through the middle of this massive show floor to get to the luggage stand so I can walk the show. I’m tired, but I press on.
I’m 2 hours into the conference and my energy just ain’t happening and I’m not feeing right (I can hear Rose telling me this was a dumb idea. Why is she right so doggone often???). I come to the realization it’s best to leave Orlando just in case I start getting worse heart pain and fatigue. We’ll have to cancel our family vacation which starts on Friday. I can’t get a flight out until Thursday. Bummer – but at least I’m staying the night at the Waldorf Astoria. This is one splurge I make every year to stay in the nicest hotel at the conference. There’s got to be a few rewards for a crazy entrepreneur like me.
I decide to take a 15-minute walk outside this beautiful hotel property. This will be my only 15 minutes of Florida sunshine this trip. I’m depressed – but at least I’m going to get 15 minutes of warmth in before heading back up north.
Friday January 13th (maybe it will be lucky for me) – Work at home, enjoy a little Jade and Rose mall time – Cleveland Clinic ER trip #3
I decide (since this was supposed to be a “vacation” day anyway) I would stay at home and work. Then I’ll enjoy a little family time once my daughter (have I mentioned I’m a sucker for her) gets back from school. The poor girl got to go to school instead of being in Florida on vacation. At least we can end the day with a trip to the mall. After all, the mall is the lifeblood and existence of every 14-year-old girl!
Having fun strolling leisurely through the mall with Jade. We meet up with Rose. I say let’s try walking the mall a bit faster to see how I feel. We walk ½ the mall and I’m winded! This is crazy. A 1 hour a day runner is winded from walking ½ our mall! Something is not right!
Rose suggests we drive 45 minutes north to the Cleveland Clinic (which happens to be rated #1 for heart care in the United States). She lets me simmer on the idea. I know what this means (after all this will be my 3rd ER visit within less than a week). More poking, more prodding, more testing and then who knows what??? Do I really have a choice?
Emergency room trip #3. Blood enzymes – good. EKG – good. Blood pressure, pulse – excellent (yes – rocking them for a 3rd time). This time though the pattern is going to change.
The ER Dr. (I remember his name is “Tre” because he was the 3rd with the same name in his family) sits gently on the side of my emergency room bed (I’ve now been joined not only by Rose but also my sister Venera and her incredibly-caring significant other Mark). Tre listens intently to my story. He repeats it all back to me (wow – this guy has way better listening skills than I) in a calm relaxed manner. He postulates I either am having a gastro intestinal problem or possibly another heart issue. He will have Dr. Khatri, a heart interventionalist, talk to me next.
Dr. Khatri has me go through my story again (that happens a lot in the hospital). He also repeats it back to me clearly. These Doctors both have phenomenal listening skills. He then provides me with my options. While I could keep next Tuesday’s stress test he says they are not fool-proof and will not “fix” the problem (especially if there is something going on with my heart). He suggests we skip this step and go directly to a catherization. This way the problem (if it’s in the heart) can be seen and possibly fixed at the same time. The only catch is they don’t do these procedures on the weekend. To keep my place “in line” I’ll have to stay in the hospital the entire weekend. Fortunately, I’ve come equipped. I’ve got 3 books, my computer and two blog posts I’m working on now to “keep me company.”
Monday January 16th – The procedure. I’ve graduated from 99% blocked (1st catherization) to 99.9% blocked (2nd catherization) …but I’m fixed!
Dr. Khatri tells me the procedure will be done by a young Dr. in training (Cleveland Clinic is a teaching hospital) but he will be there guiding the process. I told Dr. Khatri six months ago, when I had this procedure done I was way too alert during the almost 3 hours it took. More sedation this time would be a good thing (my goal is to simply get ‘er done with minimal knowledge). I can tell in some of my “awake” moments of this catherization there is a new stent going in – but I’m not quite sure why. I guess a few more plumbing parts won’t hurt.
Out of the operation – 4 hot babes, I get the blow by blow of what went down
It’s great to be wheeled out of an operation and there are 4 hot babes accompanying your bed into the recuperation floor. These ladies (to me) are even “hotter” than super-models (because they care greatly about ME!). My mom, my Auntie Nita (who at 87 years old is spunk and energy personified), my sister Venera and wife Rose are all at my side. Wow – how blessed am I!
I learn from them (and my Doctor) this time I graduated to being 99.9% blocked in the same artery where my original stents were placed – but despite this I did not suffer a heart attack. It seemed there was scar tissue which formed above the first set of stents which caused the buildup. But the good news is……
I’m fixed! Dr. Khatri told me I would feel well immediately- and he was right! The next day I walked 1 hour on my hospital floor in my cool, sleek, sexy hospital gown (note: I would have run some of this time except I think the nursing staff might have wrestled me to the ground if I had pulled this stunt – or do I mean stent? OK – that’s bad cardiac humor!).
Why did I have “round 2” of heart problems? Maybe I’m on the earth not only to help with “home remodeling” – but “personal remodeling” as well
I believe there are no random circumstances. I believe there is a God who channels me, who guides us, to a perfect end (even if the middle has painful moments we struggle to understand and ask, why me?).
I love my God. I love my family. I love my work. I love blogging. I even love running (yes – I’m truly ill). With all this being said, I still need to reflect and make sense what’s happening during the events of my life. I’ve been blessed (BIG TIME) with being a glass-half-full guy (to which I’m so grateful). I feel I need to see what is good – and express to others what is good. It’s easy to let our lives be drawn down by what is not the way we wish it to be (failing health, death of a loved one, a political environment we don’t feel is leading our country in the right direction).
Towards this end, I want to share 8 reflections from my heart showing the good things I experienced, learned and enjoyed (yes, I said enjoyed) during my second go-around with heart problems. My hope is one of these reflections touches a nerve with you and helps your life in some way.
Refection from the heart #1 – Take the time to enjoy the love which surrounds you
It all begins – and ends – with love. I had SO many people caring about me. My wife – there every step of the way. My brother Frank and his wife Brenda in Portland Oregon texting encouragement. The 4 hot babes visiting me after the procedure. My Doctors listening closely to my concerns. The nurses and hospital staff keeping a watchful eye over me (OK – a few too many blood draws and blood pressure test but what are you going to do?). I need to take the time to feel (and recognize) the love around me. I need challenge myself to be this love in others people’s lives.
Reflection from the heart #2 – The ladies will love me for this – listen to my wife more often
I’m your typical stubborn determined guy afflicted with S.G.D. (Stubborn Guy Disease). I had it in my mind to go to the conference and do the family vacation. It was not a wise trip to take. It was much better to deal with this heart problem at home (and at a hospital rated number 1 in the country). Sometimes I just don’t listen to sound advice from my wife (who also happens to be a Dr. and unbelievably smart) and others who cross my path. I have my OWN agenda. When people I trust give me advice I need to do better listening.
Reflections from the heart #3 – Have fun right here and right now!
I’ve been known at work and home to create a little “fun graffiti.” Adding something funny on a picture, an article or even on a “to-go” container in the fridge which can get someone laughing. When I was in the ER observation room I saw one such opportunity. They have a sign which puts the names of the people assisting you on the board. I thought it would be fun to add my name as the Clinical Practical Nurse on this list. Now – if you know how I hate the sight of blood, needles and anything medical you’d know just how scary it would be to have me as your Clinical PN. It was funny to me – and I thought a little bit of graffiti wouldn’t hurt this ER observation area. Are you taking the time to add some fun no matter what the circumstances?
Reflections from the heart #4 – What can I get you?
The training of the staff at the Cleveland Clinic was phenomenal. The understand the art and importance of customer service. Every single person who comes into your room – no matter if their job is nursing, cleaning, bringing your “food” (hard to find the silver lining in this) asked me, “Is there anything else I can get for you?” What a nice question to ask. Whether in business or personally I need to ask, “Is there anything else I can get for you?” I need to be more caring and thoughtful.
Refection from the heart #5 – What can I like?
There is so much beauty around – but do we stop to see it? Yes – I was in different hospital rooms from Friday through Tuesday when I was released – but that doesn’t mean everything is bad. Quite the contrary. I am a big fan of minimalist architectural design. Low and behold my hospital room was a clean, contemporary black and white designed room. Yes – it would be cooler to stay in the contemporary “W Hotel than being pocked and prodded at the “Cleveland Clinic Hotel” but there is beauty (if I look hard enough) in all circumstances. Can I embrace Philippians 4:12 and learn to be content whatever the circumstances?
Reflections from the heart #6 – Keep my mind moving…. all the time
I am not made to be idle. I’m here to be “used up.” Being able to use my technology and write some blog posts, post to social media and keep myself busy with walking the hospital floors kept me going forward (and my mind off medical problems somewhat). No matter what my situation I need to keep going. There are people creating huge impacts with way more challenging circumstances than I! I need to keep my mind (and body if it’s able) active.
Reflections from the heart #7 – Listen well
How important a skill is the ability to not only intellectually (but also emotionally) listen to people. We’re all crying out to be heard – but how hard are we trying to listen? I am not known as God’s gift to listening skills (in my family we joke around about “having the listening skills of a guy!”). When I see how the two Doctors who managed my care came to my bedside (literally), listened and repeated back what I said I was so impressed. We show how much we care, by how hard we listen. Can I do a better job listening and focusing on others?
Reflections from the heart #8 – Take the time to connect and to be a source of light and hope
Hospitals can be sad places. Hope can be in short supply. I met Elaine while walking my hospital floor. Her husband, Lou, had been in various hospitals for 1 ½ months straight and they were starting to ask “how much longer does Lou have to live?” Elaine was hoping Lou was going to be cleared for a heart operation which could start him on the road to recovery. Lou had told Elaine the night before he had given up. When Elaine asked me to pray over Lou I was honored. Will my prayers for their family and Lou’s health be answered? I don’t know. I don’t have that power. All I know is I was asked to be a small glimmer of hope for Lou and was delighted to be the light. Can you be the light in someone’s day today?
Wrap up – My circumstances don’t define me, but my heart does!
If you’ve gotten down to this final section I really appreciate you taking the time to read and reflect on a slice of my life journey. I know I don’t control my circumstances (God does), my cardiac problems (Doctors will help me here), or even my entrepreneurial success (customers and team-members will make or break me). What I do know is in the end I will be defined by something far more important.
In the end the question will be “what was the condition of my heart?” Did I 100% of my heart into my life and the lives of others despite my circumstances?
The author of this article, Mike Foti, is a passionate remodeling entrepreneur, occasional professional speaker, crazy 1 hour a day runner and super fortunate guy with a family who actually gets along (most of the time). He would love to connect with you. Please feel free to call him through his business numbers below. If you do need any help with remodeling project in Cleveland, Columbus or product supply anywhere in the country, please call his company at the numbers below (shameless plug here).
Call Innovate Building Solutions in Cleveland at 216-658-1280, in Columbus 614-565-5888 or Nationwide 877-668-5888.
If you’re a remodeler or builder and want practical advice on remodeling products, industry trends, marketing and sales tips to grow your business (and cut day to day hassles), start reading my newest blog – Innovate Builders Blog. It’s packed with ideas you can use now. Click here to Sign Up for the Innovate Builders Blog.
Nick – thanks for your wonderful comment! I consider myself very lucky to be a “glass half full guy” and I hope my reflections help someone who is not feeling the best to pick them back up – plus writing is a good way for me to reflect and make sense of things myself. Thanks for reading and for continuing to be a part of our families lives (even though we’re not in Warrensville Hts. anymore – ha! ha!
Michael one again you blew me away from beginning to end. Wow! You are one SPECIAL guy, and happy to say I knew you as a little kid with a paper route in our neighborhood as kids, and always a winning personality. Your attitude and humor are truly inspiring, and yes you are truly blessed. Wishing you continued good health and success!! You deserve it. God bless you!
Lydia – thanks for the nice comments. You are totally correct about the blessing in life often coming through difficult circumstances. Hopefully your husband and I can continue to work on our SGD problem – ha! ha!
Thank you for sharing your journey and your awakening. It’s amazing what blessings can come from the worst of circumstances.
And love the “SGD” acronym. My husband has a virulent strain of it. I keep praying for remission.
Kristi – thanks for your well wishes and I love your play on words (stent of stubbornness – I resemble this remark – ha! ha!). I know you and I both realize tomorrow is not guaranteed – but with excellent relationships today life can be much sweeter. Yes – the gnocchi are still waiting for you!
Mike I’m so glad to hear you’re doing well following your “stent” of stubbornness attack! Thank you for reminding us all to keep the people who are near and dear to us, a priority. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow and thankfully some of us realize that before it’s too late. You have a beautiful wife and family! I haven’t forgotten the gnocchi you promised us next time we get up your way! Lol Keep running my friend!