Ode To My Father: V-necks, Coors, and LVADs

My earliest memories of my dad are a mix of lawn mowing in a V-neck Fruit of the Loom, Coors Beer and blood stained lab coats. He was a PhD student when I was born, doing cardiovascular research on cows. He was studying the viability of implantable artificial cardiac support devices. I remember going with him to work and feeling the whirring of the mechanical device vibrating when I patted the cows side. My earliest exposure to medicine was that the unbelievable premise of an artificial heart was simply… normal, achievable, and the topic of dinner discussions. In fact models were often at the dinner table, it wasn’t science fiction…I could touch it.

If my memory serves, that calf I patted in the early ’70s needed to be tethered to a cart of gizmos almost as big as it was to keep the device going. Now in 2012, Dick Cheney has an implanted LVAD (left ventricular assist device) with a battery that fits in a fanny pack. I am not sure Dick would take kindly to my hand on his side to feel for the whirring….but maybe he would take a hi-five for innovation and the innovators that started the path to prolonging his life in the 60’s and 70’s. He and many others are a walking testimony to my dad’s life work, devoted to thinking outside the box. The norm was not enough, he along with many others challenged the standard of care and have propelled his field to never settle for “oh, well, that’s the best we can do” but instead to ask “what if…?”

It was embedded in me early to ask those “what if…” questions in my own pursuits, work and field. I have found my passion in changing the standard of care for how women recover from injuries and return to function, fitness and sport. I get unsettled sometimes at the day to day, one step at a time drudgery that is the lengthy pursuit of bringing change. It feels so slow, but change is coming. Refinement of our understanding of how to optimize rehabilitation outcomes and return to play is happening with more research, clinical creativity, tearing down thought walls, conversations, questions, and simply never being satisfied with mediocre outcomes. Our cow-size norms of yesterday  are being refined into sleeker fanny pack sized ideas, strategies, and clinical models.

My dad’s career spanned decades, the science fiction of the 60’s and 70’s took years to grow into the reality being enjoyed by many on implantable cardiac devices (just google LVAD). It is a nice reminder to me that the path that I and all of those out there working towards change** are on is a long one. It is a path I started almost a decade ago with the end-game goal of impacting my own daughter. When Zoe is grown-up, I want the normal standard of care for women’s health, for pregnancy recovery, for return to fitness to far exceed my own experience when I recovered from my pregnancy with her.

“Zoe and Zack…I am your grandfather”

I also want her and Zack to continue the legacy of asking “what if…”. Thanks Dad for inspiring generations of change!

Happy Father’s Day!

**insert #solvept or your own area of impact here

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