Written by: Robert (Bobby) Milton H. Getschel
Photos taken by: Robert Getschel, Sr.
Edited by: Mom & Dad, two years after his death.
This book is dedicated to all the people in this world who have had,
or will have open heart surgery in there lives.
This book is also dedicated to all the doctors who keep us alive.
Imagine that you are only thirteen years old and have already had open heart surgery.
Well guess what, I did. My name is Bobby Getschel and at the age of thirteen I had open heart surgery.
The day of any surgery is very frightening. Especially a surgery where your heart is being cut. For grown-ups and children any surgery can be frightening, but for a kid it is much more noticeable.
Before I get into the story to deep, lets go back a few years, before anyone knew anything was wrong. I was a fairly normal boy. I would run, jump, play, and ride my little bike. I went to a normal school and led a normal life. I was always making jokes and laughing. Basically everyone knew me. I would cough once or twice every now and then, but it was nothing to noticeable. One day when I was about ten, I was coughing a lot, so my parents kept me home from school and brought me to my doctor. His name was Kenneth J. Higgins. He is a pediatric doctor. He listened to my cough with a stethoscope and told my parents he didnít like what he heard. He said that my parents should bring me to a cardiologist, also known as a heart doctor. So my parents and I went to find a cardiologist. We looked in a few places and asked the doctors about my problem. We didnít like what many of them had to say. So we kept on looking for second opinions. Finally we found a really good doctor, who we liked. His name was Frederick Z. Bierman. He said that maybe when Iím twenty-one Iíll need some surgery.
Well time passed and he kept seeing me about every six months. Finally when I was about eleven or twelve, he said that I might need surgery before Iím twenty-one. Things got worse, fast. I had four leaky valves. The left atrium, right atrium, left ventricle, and right ventricle. Even though I still felt fine, I was in bad shape on the inside. I wasnít coughing as much as I was before. I had no fever. Before I knew it, my parents and I were being asked what date we wanted the surgery to be. We had not a lot of choices. I had to get the surgery in July or August of 2001. We chose July, so that I would have more recovery time before school started in September. We settled on July 9, 2001.
We then picked a surgeon to do the actual surgery. We picked Vincent Parnell, M.D. He did a great job, considering that I am still here as of today. Dr. Parnell is the Chief Surgeon of Pediatric Cardiology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
The doctors and my parents told me what the surgeon was going to do to me, about a week before the surgery.
First they were going to cover my body in ice. This technique was used to lower my body temperature and slow down my heart beat. Then they would cut my skin down the center of my chest. After that they would saw my ribs in half and spread them apart using a rib spreader. The doctors said that after I was opened they would massage my heart to calm it down even more. Then after looking at it they would either be able to repair my valves or put an Annuloplasty ring around it or replace it with an artificial valve or pigs valve. Then they would close me up and Iíd be good as new in a few months.
My whole family and I woke up on July 9th, 2001 at 4:30am. My brother John and his wife, Kathy (as of today my sister-in-law), came to my house around 5:00am. I got all my belongings, including my ďsurgery pillowĒ and ďsurgery Scruffy.Ē These things are my lucky things. My ďsurgery pillowĒ is a pillow that is shaped like a dog. My ďsurgery ScruffyĒ is my stuffed animal that I sleep with every night and have with me every surgery. I named it Scruffy after my dog (who is now deceased). After all my belongings were packed, my father put them in the car. Then at about 5:15am my grandpa, grandma, aunt, and uncle all arrived at my house. I was scared more than anything, but at the same time I was happy. My whole family woke up very early and took the day off work just so they could be with me all day long. My mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law, and I went in the van and drove to Schneider Childrenís Hospital, LIJ. My grandparents and my aunt and uncle followed in their cars.
We got to the Hospital at about 6:00am. We all were in the waiting room for about five minutes. Then my parents and I went into an office. I said ďgood-byeĒ to everyone. Gave everyone a kiss and said ďI love you.Ē After that my parents and I went into another room, called the preparation room. I put on my ďHospital robeĒ and was sterilized for needles. They put white numbing gel on my left arm and the right side of my neck. This is so I would not feel the huge needles they would put there later on. Then we went into the anaesthesiologists hallway. There I was placed in a wheelchair and given some ďI donít careĒ medicine. It tasted horrible but after five seconds I did not care. The medicine makes you not care about anything. Then a pulse reader was placed on my finger. After that I said ďgood-byeĒ and gave my parents a kiss and said ďI love you.Ē Then an orderly wheeled me into the operating room. As he wheeled me in, he asked, ďAre you ready for surgery?Ē I replied in a drunken voice, ďSure, why not.Ē I was picked up and placed on the operating table. The gas mask was then placed on me and I took deep breaths. Soon after I feel asleep.
I dreamt about some wired things. I was standing on a black and white tiled floor. All the walls were white. Then in front of me I saw four square pictures of four different people. One was my doctor, then other was my cardiologist, the third was my surgeon, and the last one was the anaesthesiologist. All four pictures started to spin in a circle in front of me. Then they disappeared. After that the black and white tiled floor fell tile by tile down into thin air. I fell with the tiles. The tiles disappeared and I kept falling in a dark empty place. I suddenly stopped falling and saw a white light. I started to walk toward it. It felt like walking in space or walking on air. I almost got to the white light, but then I woke up. The dream happened so quickly, but when I woke up, it was three days after the surgery. I asked the doctors how I was. They said something horrible happened. When they opened me up, they noticed that one of my valves, the mitral value, had snapped off and was not closing for some time. They had to reattach this valve along with everything else they knew they had to do. The surgery started at 7:00am on July 9th.
They stopped my heart for about two hours. I was in surgery for four hours and forty minutes in total. Then my parents had to wait another two hours before they could see me in the Intensive Care Unit (I.C.U.) I think they really call it I.C.U. because they can see me.
I was very tired the whole time I was in the hospital, two weeks in total. My parents also told me that there was a tube down my throat breathing for me.
Me after surgery with my mom.
Later on my parents told me that one of my cousins came all the way from Hawaii just to see how I was doing. His wife also came. They also said that two of my teachers for Floral Park Memorial High School, came to see how I was, along with many other people, friends, and family who also came to see how I was doing.
I received millions of balloons and get well cards. I also received a ton of gifts and money. The Tulip Sweet Shopee came to my house and gave me about $30.00 worth of all types of watermelon candies. Watermelon candy is my favorite flavor. The Sweet Shopee knows that I like Watermelon candy because Iím always in there buying some.
I also had lots of visitors at the house. Some people were friends, family, and many other people who knew me. But being home was not all fun. I was in the hospital for one week, then sent home only to go back to the hospital again in a few days.
At home one night, I was very cold in bed, so I put the covers over me. I then got very hot. I put on the air conditioner on full blast and I was still sweaty. Not dripping sweat, but ďNiagara Falls sweating.Ē I could wring out my shirt and fill a gallon container very easily. I was having nightmares in my sleep and when I was awake. I was hearing voices. Also I saw things fly around in front of my face, that were not there. I was crying and scared. I woke my parents and they took my temperature. I had a fever of 105.8įF.
After any major surgery you may have a fever. We were told that anything over 105įF was considered a fever. My parents said that in the morning we would go to the hospital. So I went back into my room and turned on the television. I couldnít sleep. I saw the chair at my desk role around the room. I saw the radiator in my room walk out of my room. I thought morning would never come. When it did, I was happy.
We went to the hospital and they took some tests. They said I had an accumulation of fluids in my left lung and around my heart. That is not good at all. So I had to stay in the hospital for another week. It was worse this week because now I knew what was going on. I was happy to go home again. At home I slept all night and all day in the air conditioning. My cardiologist had put me on a low sodium diet, or low salt diet. All I ate at home was low sodium foods. It took a little getting used to. At first I thought that everything tasted bland, but as time passed I have been getting used to it. I ate low sodium potato chips. Had low sodium soups. Had special cheese, ham, and bacon. I didnít eat hot dogs any more. If I did have a bite of a hot dog, it would burn my mouth from the amount of salt in it.
Salt is a spice that many people are used to. It is a spice just like pepper or curry is. Some people who are not used to eating pepper or curry, donít like it because it burns there mouth. Salt is the same way, just many people are used to it, so it doesnít bother them. In time, you can get used to anything.
Remember to always look on the bright side of things. No matter how bad a situation is, it can always be worse. Think about that. If you were going into surgery for one broken valve, be happy itís not two valves. What if the problem is to far gone, and you might pass away? It could be worse in a few ways. What if you were alive but were paralyzed and couldnít do anything, or your disease was contagious and you, along with a few other people you know passed away.
Bobby, with his new scar.
Surgery isnít that bad if you do not remember it. I didnít remember all of it, but I did recall many things. My parents told me what I didnít know or remember. Besides surgery isnít what kills people, itís the anaesthesia. Anaesthesia is the real danger in any surgery. People can die from the surgery also, but itís less likely.
Before my open heart surgery, my heart was not where it belonged. My heart was enlarged and therefore was in between my rib cage. Not at the top, but at the bottom, where the rib cage stops.
After my open heart surgery, my heart was behind my ribs, where it belongs. They fixed my mitral valve and put an Annuloplasty ring in so the valve wonít stretch anymore and keep its proper shape. My heart was covered in a Teflon fabric so that when I will have to go through this again, it will be easier for the Surgeon to get to my heart. Also, my ribs are held together by six metal wires.
I was very happy to get out of this whole ordeal alive. The doctors said that if I had not gotten the surgery, I may have passed away as early as September of 2001. My advice to you is that if you need surgery, get it.
As of today, I feel fine. I donít even feel any pain anymore. I act the same as I did before the surgery, Iím very active. I ride my bike around town all day long, literally. I have more energy now then before the surgery, but all in all I feel basically the same. My attitude toward life has changed a little though. I used to volunteer at my local nursing home before my surgery, but after, I loved volunteering at all types of places. I love helping people, my friends, and my county. I still volunteer at my local nursing home, Garden Care Center, along with: the Veterans Home at St. Albans, the Veterans Hospital, my local TV Studio (4VS), the Floral Park Fire Explorers (Iím Captain), and the Nassau County Police Explorers (Iím Captain).
I believe that through my good works as a teenager I have helped hundreds of people young and old. I love to see old people smile, it gives me great joy to see that they are happy. When I go to volunteer at the nursing homes and VA homes I help bring people down to the main floor for BINGO. I help those who canít see or those without arms play BINGO. I also serve them coffee and cake after the games. They love doing something and seeing someone, it brings them pleasure in their boring day.
Young people of all ages I help as well. Kids who are as young as ten and as old as twenty-one ask me for help with little problems. They ask me because they think Iím a cop, since Iím in the Nassau County Police Explorers, but Iím not a Cop. Iím an Explorer, which is like a Jr. Cop, but I donít have a gun, police radio, or a cop car. I have a bike, a police scanner, and Iím friends with almost every police officer in town. I tell my friends that Iím not a cop, but they still ask me about things anyway. I donít mind, I like helping them out. If they ask me to talk with some guy who is harassing them, I find the guy and look at him from afar. If he looks like an okay guy, Iíll ride my bike past him and see what he does. If heís scary looking, Iíll call the police and tell them what happened. I never put my self in any danger.
I have taken many training courses in the fields of medical and police. I help my friends when they get cuts and are bleeding. I have a paramedic kit on my bike. I also have non latex gloves just in case the person is allergic to latex. If itís bad enough, Iíll call an Ambulance. Iím in the Floral Park Fire Explorers, which is like a Jr. Firefighter. We donít go into burning buildings or put out fires, but we help the Firefighters with air tanks and drinking water. We also block off roads at a fire scene. When I smell a gas leak or fire, I call it in. I like to help out my town. I donít want it to burn down. I saved my town about five times. I once smelled gas in front of a bank. I waited a little bit before I called it in. I donít like calling in every little thing I smell. I went home and my mom and her friend were talking. They told me they had smelled gas there too. I said, ďWhy didnít you call it in?Ē They said they didnít have a phone with them. So I went back to the area and smelled it still. I went in the bank and asked if anyone smelled it inside. The manager came out with me and said that he smelled it too. I told him I had already called the police. When the cop got to the bank, I said, ďDonít you smell that?Ē He sniffed around and called the fire department. The fire department got on scene and called the gas company. It was a good day, no one got hurt.
I like helping everyone and I will keep doing so, as long as Iím alive.
I got accepted to John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Iím going to go there. I want to become a Nassau County Police Officer. I hope I can make it in, even with my heart problems. If I canít be a patrol officer I want to be a 911 operator or ASPCA (animal cop).
Bobby wished to leave the students of Floral Park Memorial High School
( his alma malter ) with a bit of advice - that was printed in the school
newspaper - that came out the morning he died ( but was at the printer a week before) :
"a bit of advice, to enjoy being kids and have a good time while they are still alive to do so."
Gone, But Never Forgotten.
Bobby, Dad & Mom
Copyrighted 2009 by RMG