My name is Bryan Russell, I was born in the 80’s which is rad in itself, but, I am also a father, a husband, a lifelong martial artist and I have also undergone 5 open heart surgeries.
I basically had a crappy heart valve that resulted in having to have both my valves replaced. My 1st surgery was in 2000. I then had to have the same surgery again in 2008 after the first failed (WTF). I then had to have a tube inserted in my aortic artery in 2011 due to it becoming dilated, in fact, the doctors exact words were “it’s like a balloon that has filled up with water that is going to pop”. If this wasn’t bad enough following this surgery I had a major bleed in my chest wall, that was literally bleeding onto my lungs suffocating me internally (the only person who picked this up was my wife, who tried to tell the nurse something was wrong but wasn’t listened to!!). This resulted in emergency surgery to stop the bleed and save my life (thank the Lord!).
Should be done now right? That’s were you’d be wrong!! Just to kick me when I was down, a blood clot from the bleed had travelled to my brain. I had a STROKE. When I say stroke I’m talking full on sloppy face drop – like Sloth from Goonies. Yay, why not. This was the worst thing that I had ever experienced. I couldn’t talk, motor skills were gone, actually all I could manage to say was one word and they were usually swear words! The hardest part was I was there mentally, I just couldn’t get the words to flow. It felt like a month but it was only a week to get me to normal again. I went home following this surgery, only to find out that the valve had started to come loose, all due to an infection from the emergency surgery. So why not another surgery to reattach the “button” as it was called, I was getting use to this….while all the time the earth quakes were happening in Christchurch. Luckily only a small after shock, while I was on the table!! (I mean why not I’d survived this far).
It sounds odd but after each surgery, I was getting better and better at recovering. I had been through heart surgery before and I knew it was very invasive and dangerous but I had been through it, knew I could do it again and what to expect. I became determined to get better as fast as possible. My rehabilitation was hard but I had the support of friends, family and an absolutely amazing wife to whom I owe everything to, raising the kids through this difficult time whilst also studying herself. Rachel and the kids were a huge factor for me to get back on my feet. I was back home within a few weeks and back walking around. Eventually running thanks to friends and within 6 months, I was back on the jiu jitsu mats!!
Why go back to the mats? This was my normal life before I got sick, my goal was to get my life back. I needed this, I needed jiu jitsu, I wanted my normal back. This was not an easy path but nothing worth getting in life is easy. There is no easy fix, no blue/red pill like the Matrix movie. If you want something, you need to work at it. There was a story I heard a while back, where an upset child in an airport was crying after saying goodbye to a loved one at the gates. A stranger simply walked past, put a hand on their shoulder and said “Things usually get a lot better”.
True words. Things do usually get better.
“I love fighting. It’s who I am” – Maurico “Shogun” Rua