By John Kass
Tuesday, January 10, 2023
How far is Sweden’s Kvistrum Bridge from my room at the University of Chicago Hospital Center for Care and Discovery? You can see by the photo there are men salmon fishing upstream from that bridge. Isn’t that enough? Does it matter how far it is? Or who is in the water?
They’re human. They’re men. That’s enough. They seem to be fishing for sport, not for meat. Tight lines, boys!
I can’t even get my mind around the distance now. An eternity. An impossibility. For me the middle of the night isn’t the time of measuring distances, thinking of schedules, fretting over flies, guides, tackle. Right now, late at night, it is the time of trying to slow down the mind. A time of calming. And praying. It is not a time of worrying about politics either, of Chicago’s broken politics or Joe Biden’s broken border.
Betty reading on the couch in my hospital room. Holley, the nurse practitioner, has just left after interviewing me about my medical history. She wanted to see if I’ve got my mind around this thing. I think I’ve got my mind around it. But it’s really too late now to worry.
You’ve been with me for years on this great adventure, back when our sons were born. When we almost lost Betty during a difficult labor, only she and the boys were saved by the doctor with the great big hands, the late Ron Lorenzini, whom we called “the bricklayer.”
You were with me then almost 30 years ago. And for the past few years you’ve been with me as I’ve started this new thing, this adventure in independent journalism, johnkassnews.com.
I’ve never lied to you and never will. And I owe you the truth.
In a few hours I’m scheduled for open-heart surgery, a double bypass. And yes, I’m a bit stunned, a bit worried. More than a bit actually. The heart doctors here at the University of Chicago are among the best heart surgeons in the world. And still, I’m worried.
How did they find the blockage? By luck. I’d been recovering from shoulder surgery and Jeff Carlin, and I did the most recent episode of Chicago Way podcast with mayoral candidate Paul Vallas.
Vallas was great and spoke with confidence. I mocked myself for taking pain pills while speaking into a microphone. But it wasn’t disastrous. Minutes after we hung up the phones, I felt strange, as if I were having an allergic reaction to the pain pills.
Doctors at Franciscan Health, Crown Point, kept me over one night for “observation” and just as they were about to release me, I began feeling chest pains and they ran one more test just to make sure. They found 100 percent blockage in one artery and 90 percent blockage in the other. Such blockage is called “the widow maker.”
Cardiologists at the University of Chicago accepted me as a candidate for surgery. They tell me it will hurt. But what doesn’t hurt? Life hurts. So what?
And now we wait. The Lions and the Packers are playing but the sound is off. Betty is reading “Laptop from Hell.” Chicago politics is Chicago politics. Biden Inc. is Biden Inc. It is what it is.
I’ve emailed some of those great writers who’ve written guest columns here, telling them I might have to rely on them just a bit more over the next few days. I hope you don’t mind. And I hope they don’t mind.
I’m just trying to settle my mind with a prayer. I hope you don’t mind if I rely on you just a bit more too, and ask you to pray for us.
(Copyright 2023 John Kass)