Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

End of Year Update

Well, 2008 has certainly been an eventful year. Now we are almost on to 2009. Traditionally I take this time of year to reflect back on where I have been, but mostly look ahead to where I am going.

As many of you may know, I have been in sort of a semi-retired state for the past 6 months or so. When I started out, I didn’t know how long it would last — and I still don’t know for sure. I’m definitely getting the itch to come out of this self-imposed rest and get back on with something entrepreneurial. Of course, I still serve as a hyper-active board member for CustomScoop and do a little bit of consulting on the side for fun, so some may dispute the retired status to begin with. But when I work less than 20 hours a week most of the time, I think that’s well-qualified to be characterized as retirement. In any case, it lasted more than the 3 days my last attempt at retirement enjoyed a few years back.

I may make a decision on my next chapter as early as January. First, I have a little health business to get out of the way.

As I explained when I drastically cut back on my workload earlier this year, one (of many) factors was the time I would need to devote to addressing the increased frequency of an irregular heartbeat I have had for many years. For much of this past year, I have been in atrial fibrillation (to refresh in just a few words, that’s when the heart beats erratically fast, but in a non-life-threatening kind of way).

I have been tested every which way you can imagine (for the umpteenth time in the past 12 years) and again everything came up normal. Which means that the irregular heartbeat isn’t likely a sign of anything else wrong, but rather just some bad heart wiring. By cutting back on work and travel and such, I have managed to eat in a much more reasonable way, knocking off more than 30 pounds of weight along the way so far. Exercise hasn’t increased as much as I had hoped, in part because of a very bad ankle sprain over the summer that took several months to fully heal and in part because of the effects of some of the mediciations I have been on to control the a-fib.

About a month ago, the a-fib appeared to go away, likely as a result of the most recent drug cocktail my cardiologists (yes, I have more than one now!) have me on.

And that’s good news. But in its place came a different but not-unrelated irregular heartbeat, this time atrial flutter. That’s essentially a fast heartbeat that occurs with regular frequency, rather than the random pauses between beats that comes with a-fib.

The good news about this new atrial flutter is that it is fairly straightforward to correct in most cases. So next Monday, I will be headed up to Dartmouth-Hitchcock hospital to have some relatively minor heart surgery that will hopefully cure the flutter. If it does, then the hope is that the medication will continue to control the a-fib, meaning I would be in normal rhythm for the first time in quite a while.

Now, it is my experience that when I say “heart surgery,” people start to freak out a bit. The medical professionals seem to prefer to call this a “procedure” as opposed to surgery, but since they will be making a small incision and putting tools inside my body, I choose to call a spade a spade.

However, it is important to note that this isn’t something on par with open heart surgery. In fact, they won’t even be cutting open my chest. Instead, they will snake some narrow tubing through my veins in order to be able to get near my heart and perform what is called an “ablation.” Basically, that means they will burn some tissue to try to interrupt the erroneous electrical signals from telling my heart to beat irregularly.

There are several types of ablations for heart rhythm conditions, and the one I am having for my flutter is among the more common and less risky. It should last a few hours and I will not be put to sleep for it, but will simply be on some drugs to control pain and make me a bit groggy (I sort of envision something similar to when I had some teeth pulled as a kid).

This may not be my last ablation. It is designed exclusively to stop the flutter and does not address the a-fib. If the medication stops controlling that, then I may well have to go back in for one or more ablations to cure the a-fib. Only time will tell.

In any case, the recovery should be pretty swift if all goes according to plan. In fact, former British PM Tony Blair had a similar procedure while he was in office and was back running the country in just a few days. My immediate goal is much less lofty — I just want to be able to enjoy watching college football on New Year’s Day!

Once I have the ablation behind me, I will be in a better position to decide whether to end my semi-retired state and, if so, what venture to pour myself into.

I have a slate of ideas already (some involving more time on existing projects and others that would involve launching brand new ventures). But if you have a stellar idea you think I should be involved with, by all means share it!

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  1. Good luck with the procedure! Can’t wait to hear what you’ve got up your sleeve for next year. Hope your holiday season has been good.

  2. My thoughts will be with you, Chip; best of luck with the procedure AND a speedy recovery. From recent experience, though, I’ll offer one bit of advice: Take all the time to rest and recover your doctor tells you to take!

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