Sunday, October 21, 2018

A 2% chance of Dying (Pulmonary Embolism Edition)

Reference #1, Reference #2Reference #3, and Reference #4 for mortality after diagnosis with a pulmonary embolism in the range of about 2% at 90 days.

I've almost died three times in the mountains. Rockfall on Longs Peak in 2004, lightening on Humbolt Peak in 2006, and a 40 foot aid climbing fall in New Hampshire in 2008. And on all three of my 8000 meter expeditions, people have died. On Broad Peak they were more experienced than me, on Everest, not so much. Either way, every time I survive something, I come away with this huge renewed desire to live my life to 100%.

Don't get me wrong, I've lived a pretty full life. Similarly, I'm a Christian, so I'm okay dying. Yet, I'm pretty sure I'm not done yet. I haven't told enough people Jesus loves them. I haven't done those things I am capable of, both physically (athletically), and mentally (career). If God has other ideas, well, I pray all the time for Him to direct my life.

So while I'm alive, I want to live this life as much as I can. It's gotten me revisiting that age old question, 'where do I want to be on the preparing for tomorrow versus living for today spectrum?' YOLO! You see, when I risk an accident in the mountains, I've put myself there. I don't have to be there, if I want to reduce the risk, I simply won't go into those places. I'll never try Annapurna, it's too dangerous. While I spend a lot of time in the mountains, it's a level of risk I am very comfortable with. When my own body throws a normal person health issue at me, well, I didn't accept this risk! I didn't have time to think about it and decide I was comfortable with it! Throughout this process that started with a visit to urgent care on March 29th, I've come to learn a lot about my family health history. I had a grandfather die when he was 40 years old, from diabetes, pneumonia, and a heart attack. That could be me!

I'm really good at delayed gratification. Have you seen the car I drive? So for me, waiting for an 8000 meter expedition, and going into that dangerous place, I like to pretend I can minimize the risk in other areas of my life both before and after that. In other words, let's say you have a 1-2% chance of dying on summit day on Mt. Everest. You had better be on your game that day, not sidelined by anything with a 0.1-0.2% chance of death leading up to it, like going through the Khumbu Icefall. You need to be hydrated, understand the oxygen system, understand your crampons and boots. Be efficient on the fixed ropes. Point being, the risk is compartmentalized. The highest risk is on summit day. The second highest risk is the Khumbu Icefall. With my current pulmonary embolism, it's not compartmentalized at all. It's all day every day.

If you're Christian, pray that God would direct my life. For everyone, it's kind of a fun question to think about, should I be living... um... harder? Should I buy the Porsche or the Cirrus? Should I be traveling to visit family and friends more? Feel free to tell me your suggestions. Most things are on the table, except I'm not quitting my job anytime soon, I'm having a lot of fun there!

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