It is strangely comforting knowing the likely means of one's own death.
My father died of an aortic aneurysm; my uncle died of an aortic aneurysm; this summer, my 20 year old nephew died of an aortic aneurysm; my sister has been diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm; just before Christmas, I too was diagnosed with an aneurysm of the ascending aorta. In effect, I have a live grenade in my chest, and the pin has been pulled. Although I am otherwise in excellent health, over time the risks of my dying from this defect lie on a curve that approaches one. This condition is operable, but it does require major open heart surgery involving circulatory arrest, and thus the risks of neurocognitive deficits, paralysis, rental failure, infection, or death also lie on a curve that approaches one. My current task, therefore, is to make a judgement where those curves intersect, at which time the risk of the aneurysm are greater than the risks of surgery. I have been searching the known universe for the right organization and surgeon to address my case, and thus far my search has led me to the University of Colorado Hospital, the Mayo Clinic, the Texas Heart Institute, and the Cleveland Clinic. IBM's chief medical officer has assisted my search, given the company's vast connections with medical institutions around the world. It is not clear how events will unfold, but in the interim, life does go on.
While this local drama consumes me, my thoughts and prayers go out to a much more global drama, and the lives of those devestated by the recent tsunami. The raw power of the earth and the ocean are humbling indeed, to us who try to control only tiny structures composed of silicon and thought.
This is most somber beginning to the new year, I realize, but let me offer to you my wishes for a healthy, prosperous, and lively year.