#TBT…One year on…

So how did YOUR year go?

Mine? Well let me see…

On October 29th 2014 I went through the 2nd most complicated heart surgery…AKA The Benthal Procedure:

General anaesthetic, body temp lowered to 18 degrees C, Blood & Lung machine plugged in, breastbone split into two, chest open, heart opened, Aorta disconnected, Aortic valve removed and replaced with a mechanical one, Aortic root replaced with a Dacron sleeve, Coronary arteries reconnected, heart restarted, chest cavity stitched, breastbone glued and clamped and after 7 hours on the table, chest was closed…

Was it fun? I have no idea because I was asleep…I only remember waking up in the High Dependency Unit a few hours later.

Was hospital fun? Err…NO!!!! It was horrible, by far the worst experience I have ever had!!!

4 days in hospital with a bunch of tubes stuck in my hands and neck and a few more coming out of my chest, and a catheter…oh and lots and lots of drugs. I could not eat anything, It was hot, sweaty, the continuous chatter of the men around me was annoying.

Then they pulled the wires and tubes out. Wires were there in case they needed to fit a pacemaker, so where they decided it was not needed, they pulled them out…and that 1/4″ tube that was collecting fluids was a tough one to get out…

While I was still heavily drugged, the surgeon came in and said something about me being lucky…I was too dosed to enter a conversation so when he came in a gain the day after, I asked him what was it all about. He then explained that when the took the old aortic root out, it already had a small tear in it! In simple word this is called aneurism…except that in my case, by some miracle, it did not burst!

i also lost my voice…completely! It took nearly 2 months (!) to get it back. If you know me, I like to talk, a lot…so not being able to was not fun at all.

And then recovery…walking, walking, some more walking, then turbo-trainer in the freezing garage, initially just staring at the walls and then adding an iPad for entertainment. Then some jogging and 11 weeks after surgery, on the day, I went out on my road bike for the first time.

We knew that this operation was unavoidable and once this was established, we decided to do it ASAP. I did have some time to prepare physically so that I am in the best shape possible, which, as we learned, was key to a fast recovery.

However I did not have too much time to prepare mentally…I was busy with work, travel, family stuff and obviously training. On the day before the operation I did, what I then considered to possibly be my last ride ever…I stopped at one of my favourite spots and prepared a set of short videos for my family; one for each child, one for my wife Yael and one for them together…essentially saying goodbye and giving them some practical advice…sounds corny I know but that was the best I could think of at that point.

One we’ll sit down and watch those videos, with a smile I hope:-)

And today when I look back at last 12 months I can almost say “What was all the fuss about?”

Yes those 4 days at the hospital were terrible

Yes the first 5 weeks of recovery were a nightmare

Yes I still do a blood test every 3-4 weeks and I take Warfarin every evening between 6pm-6:30pm, with a whole glass of water and I use an app to track and monitor it. I also read and learn about new and future medical developments that at some point will make my life easier.

Yes I have to watch my diet carefully, avoiding high levels of vitamin K (didn’t even know it existed before the op), I cannot drink alcohol (well I can but then I’ll have to adjust the medication dose which takes months)

Yes I still cannot sleep properly and I have a frozen shoulder which is painful & that requires regular physiotherapy and may require surgery if that doesn’t cure it.

But

  

Paris, Sept’ 7th 2015; Giles House (Left) and myself arriving at the #BHFL2P 2015 finishing line

I can now cycle and run longer and faster than before (like riding 477km from London to Paris, in 3.5 days, with my friend Giles and in support for the BHF). I can work, I travel, I play with my kids and I can hug my wife Yael, and I know that what nearly happened before the operation, will never happen. It is now 6am, still dark and I am celebrating by getting out on the bike before another busy day starts ūüôā

2nd Beach, Olympic National Park, WA

2nd Beach, Olympic National Park, WA

This is it!!!

So a couple of days ago I had an echo scan and a meeting with my surgeon to review my “condition”.

7 months post-op and he said he does not want to see me again, ever!

Going through my bucket list, one of the first things I always wanted to do was to cycle from London to Paris, and this year I will finally be doing it with my Friend Giles House, as part of a group ride organised by the British Heart Foundation

BHF has been part of my life for the last few years and I wish to continue to support¬†them. I have set up a fundraising page¬†which allows you to donate as little or as much as you can. The BHF helps thousands of people with research and support. They’ve helped me and now I am helping them, with YOUR support!

Note that all the expenses for the ride are covered by myself, so everything you donate goes directly to the BHF !

I survived the operation, got the T-shirt and won a second life. I am now asking YOU to help others who have to do the same! Please click on the image below to go to my fundraising page.

Thank you!

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Happy 6 months birthday

I guess that, as the saying goes; time flies when you’re having fun!!!!

October 29th 2014 was the day I went under the knife and today, April 29th 2015 (which by the way happens to be a Wednesday as well) we are celebrating 6 months…yes! 6 months!!!!

A lot has happened in the past 4 months since my last post; there was winter, which came and left (thankfully). I started traveling again and have visited France, Germany, Denmark, Israel and the Netherlands for work, in a new role with new challenges.

Sport has played a centre part in my recovery process. It is the way I chose to stay focused, to tell myself and the world that there IS life after such a traumatic experience and that anyone who has to go through such an event, can go back to leading a normal, healthy and busy lifestyle.

As soon as I was given the green light, I abandoned the cycle turbo trainer and hopped back on my road bike – I cannot tell you how¬†exciting that day¬†back in January was! Since then I’ve done nearly 2000 kilometres (inc. about 200 on the mountain bike), which is more or less on target for this year.

The longest ride so far was a 121km sportive up in Cambridgeshire and I was well pleased with the 4h42m time I posted.

The BHF also has a part in the story. Before surgery I took part in several of their cycle events: London-Cambridge, Oxford-Cambridge, London-Southend, London-Reading, Dorset and a few more. We donate clothes, toys and books through our local BHF shop on a regular base and have also helped organising a few fundraising days at school.

After surgery I have joined their online community where people can share their stories, experiences and concerns. I also visited their headquarters in London and took part in a photoshoot with a few other heart patients who love sport.

Sure, there are a few things that have changed…like having a blood test every 2-4 weeks, and like taking medications twice a day at a regular time, and like carrying a medical ID card everywhere and wearing a medical alert bracelet. Sleeping more than 2 hours straight is still considered a privilege and the ticking sound of the mechanical valve can be annoying at times but it is something I am growing to like and appreciate as it constantly reminds me that the alternative could have been a lot worse…actually there was NO alternative…so, it’s all GOOD!!!

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Photographs © Copyright Sportivephoto Limited

Photograph © Copyright Sportivephoto Limited

Recovery….

It is now 10 1/2 weeks since my surgery and recovery in general has been going well…there were a lot of ups and downs during the first few weeks (mostly downs) but as time passes I feel stronger with less pain (no more pain killers), Sleep (pr the lack of it) is something I will have to work on, long-term, as is getting used to the loud ticking noise coming from the mechanical aortic valve…

I am a lot more mobile (I can drive long distances!), taking daily exercise and all (or most) of the signs say that I am going to be OK…

And since I am still not allowed to fly and as I have to do regular blood tests etc., we had to settle for short local outings during the holiday season…so you are not going to see any wonderful, warm, sun-spelled photos but here is a small collection from a few trips to the RAF Museum in Hendon, to Trent Park and to the South coast; Milford On Sea and the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu. I was in a “One camera, One lens” mood so all these images were taken with the Mamiya 645DF+, Leaf Credo 50 Digital Back and a Mamiya 35mm/f3.5 D lens, a very versatile and capable combo that lets me shoot handheld at high iso and get some wonderful colours (yes also in B&W) and details. Images processed in Capture One Pro 8. Click on an image to view a larger version…Enjoy!

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¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†All images ¬©yair shahar and cannot be copied, printed or displayed without the author’s permission

Reset

It’s been MONTHS¬†since my last post…for lots of different reasons like work and other things I was busy with, but those were all just side-stories…

I continued to work a lot, traveled a lot (mostly for work, naturally…), cycled plenty (how about >6000 km in 10 months?) but I was also busy with preparations for the main event!!!

The main event was an open heart surgery (OHS) which I underwent on October 29th 2014, Just 7 days ago. I am writing this post sitting at the dinner table at home!

They replaced the defective-from-birth aortic valve, with a new one made of metal and carbon fibre. They also had to replace about 5cm of the ascending aorta, called the Aortic Root, which was showing severe dilation creating a huge risk of aneurism…

The situation was compounded by a rare blood disorder which they’ve found a few months ago, causing my blood to clot a little slower than usual and leading to a long series of blood tests. Eventually the green light was given, under the assumption that this disorder could actually be caused by the defective valve.

So we went into St. Bartholomew’s hospital on the 28th after lunch. In the morning I felt like getting out one last time, you know…just in case…and did a 39km on one of my favourite local routes, which was lovely ūüôā

After checking in, the nurse at the Vicary ward showed us around, talked us through the pre-op stuff and showed me to my bed. I was chosen to get on the table at 8am the next morning so after dinner I had to take a shower with a special antibacterial soap and was handed a shaver, which I had to use for removing any trace of chest hair…they do not want any hair to be dropped into the chest cavity during the operation!

They gave me something for a better sleep, I said goodbye to my wife Yael and that was it!

05:45 wake-up, into another thorough shower and at 07:30 Yael escorted me to the lift, gave me a big goodbye hug & kiss and up I went to the 5th floor where the operation theatres are located.

I remember rolling over onto a narrow bed and going into a small room with a small team who were all joking with me while fitting various needles into my hands and into my neck and after that I do not remember ANYTHING!

I woke up about 11-12 hours later, in the Intensive Care Unit. My first memory is from High Dependency Unit a couple of hours later, that was already after they removed the airway and the camera that were stuck in my throat, my lungs and heart were already running on their own and Yael says that I was even able to talk…nothing sensible obviously, but still…

The next 3 days were not easy…I moved out of the HDU very quickly, only 2 nights there but the help and care of the staff there were unbelievable! I was still hooked to various drips and wires, mostly for monitoring but also with a tonne of painkillers, and those come with all sorts of side effects such as sickness, dizziness, drowsiness and various other “nesses”…

Back at the Vacary Ward, I was put in a large room with a funny bunch of male patients, all in their late 60’s…”veterans” of various heart deceases, strokes, bypass surgeries, lung cancer and whatnot! I was the youngest and the only one who could not say a word…due to the camera that was stuck in my throat I lost my voice and we are still waiting for it to come back (personally I am not in a rush and am quite happy to stay silent for a little while).

I was determined to leave the hospital as quickly as possible. I mean the staff, care and service were all fantastic, but I kinda didn’t like being a patient, wearing a pyjama, having a constant bad taste in my mouth and listening to old people’s conversations…

So on Monday, November the 3rd, when the doctors did their morning round, I shared with them everything I was still struggling with but I also told them that I feel like I’m taking valuable space in the ward and that they will be much better off without me. 10 hours bureaucracy-littered hours later and we were in a minicab heading home!!!! Yael and my daughter, Arielle, came to fetch me.

Today, just 7 days after the operation, I walked my children to & from school, Yael and I took the tube down to the hospital for a blood test (I will have to do lots of those in the coming weeks/ months) and to change the dressing on the wound. We continued to meeting my parent for lunch at the nearby Hummus Brothers restaurant.

I expect to remove the dressing in a couple of days and to have a nice looking, 20cm-long scar on my chest. The wound is healing quickly, although the chest bone underneath it (the sternum) is going to take a couple of months to become one piece again. I have to be very careful with movement, lifting etc. and it will be a while before I can cycle outdoors. I was happy to find out however that the turbo trainer is great for getting back in shape, along with walking, walking and more walking.

I am utterly amazed at how today’s medical developments and the ability of the surgeons to mend you in such a way that you can go through this trauma one day, and a week later you can sit on the sofa¬†with your loved one and watch Downton Abbey….I only missed One episode!!!!

I chose to call this post “Reset”. My odometer¬†was reset on October 29th 2014.

 

Reset

 

 

A new era in Medium format photography

The Phase One IQ250 Medium Format digital back was announced today. This is the first time we see a modern CMOS sensor that is larger than 36x24mm (full-frame 35mm) in Medium Format.

CMOS technology has improved over the last 14 years, since the Leaf C-Most came out (36x24mm, 6MP) and the IQ250’s 44x33mm, 50MP brings high ISO capabilities, fast capture rate and excellent Live View functionality, previously available only in high-end DSLRs.

As expected, a number of naysayers and armchair warriors are jumping through hoops to find “holes in the plan” and to compare it to cameras 10 times cheaper; some in attempt to justify their own purchase decisions and some because they cannot see why some photographers like, want or need to shoot medium format…none of it is new and I’ve been around long enough to know that there’s a huge gap between on-line forum chatter and what happens in the real world…gladly in favour of the latter.

What they fail to realise, perhaps because they can only see and read numbers and charts on their computers’ screens (easier than stepping out and taking photos) is that this is a milestone for Medium Format and for Photography in general, regardless of format. Adopting and implementing this technology in “larger than 35mm” cameras is a sign of good things to come and it demonstrates the strength and the breadth of “Team Phase One” and its ability to innovate and to lead the market for the foreseeable future!

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Virgile Simon Bertrand on Fuse Visual

My Friend Virgile Simon Bertrand was recently interviewed for the Fuse Visual website, talking about his work and background. I’ve knows Virgile for a number of years and am also proud to have him as a customer. Enjoy the read:¬†FUSEVISUAL | Virgile Simon Bertrand¬†and visit Virgile’s website:¬†http://www.virgilebertrand.com