If you have read my book or blog posts, you know healthy habits are a key part of my life. I eat well and I exercise a lot. My goal is many healthy years – a long healthspan.

My mom passed away from Alzheimer’s in 2022 after an 8-year battle with the disease that began at age 74, very young in my opinion. I know genetics can be a factor in one’s healthspan and lifespan – but I do all I can to reduce the chance of illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. In addition to eating well and exercising, I don’t smoke, I am careful about midday sun exposure and use sunscreen when I am in the sun, I don’t drink a lot of alcohol, I go for an annual physical, and more.

My blood pressure, cholesterol, and other numbers measured at my annual physical are always excellent. When I went for my age-58 annual physical, my doctor said, “You’re the healthiest 58-year-old I’ve ever met.”

And then, three months ago, something happened that I didn’t know was possible.

The story began during a business trip in Arizona.

My wife and one of our daughters were with me on the trip. We arrived in Arizona on Wednesday night, October 18 and had a nice dinner with a bunch of my colleagues and clients.

On Thursday, October 19, the symptoms began. I was shivering and began alternating doses of Tylenol and Advil to stay ahead of what seemed to be a fever. To be safe, my wife moved into our daughter’s room. I slept a ton of hours that day and my wife and daughter left meals for me outside my door.

On Friday, October 20, I tested negative for COVID, and we flew home on Saturday, October 21, as planned. I wore a mask to protect others in case I had something contagious.

On Sunday morning, October 22, I drove myself to a nearby urgent care clinic. They tested me for COVID and the flu, checked my vitals, administered other tests, thought my urine showed some signs of an infection, prescribed antibiotics, and sent me home.

On Tuesday afternoon, October 24, still feeling crummy, my wife drove me to the hospital emergency room where once again I had a series of tests. They didn’t find anything, told me to stop taking the antibiotics, and sent me home.

On Wednesday morning, October 25, I was getting ready for work. At about 8:00am, I was about to brush my teeth when my world began to suddenly, literally spin out of control – in particular, my right eye saw everything spin and I had an odd sensation in my right ear.

I sat down on the edge of the bathtub with my eyes closed. When I opened my eyes again, everything was spinning, so I got face down on the floor. My wife was downstairs. I called her on my cell (which I fortunately had it in my pocket). I asked her to call 911.

An ambulance brought me to the hospital, where they gave me meds to stop the spinning. It appeared I had a case of vertigo. They ran some additional tests, didn’t find anything, and around 6:00pm were planning to send me home. They had me sit up, but I couldn’t, so they admitted me.

On Saturday, October 28, after countless tests, a doctor came to tell me they figured out what was going on. I had an aggressive bacterial infection. I was already on several antibiotics and they left me on the one they hoped would cure me, as they continued to conduct tests.

On Monday, October 30, a surgeon and an infectious disease specialist explained to me the antibiotics wouldn’t be enough. I would need surgery to remove the infection.

This was unfathomable to me. I had been perfectly healthy, but needed major surgery. It was a shock, to say the least. They had no idea where I got the infection, and never would; they just knew it was an airborne pathogen that had been extremely aggressive, had taken up residence in me, and had to come out.

There are many more details regarding my time in the hospital but, to cut to the chase, I had the surgery the following Thursday, November 2 (after many more tests, so the doctors would not encounter any surprises during surgery), then stayed in the hospital for another week to recover, before continuing my recovery at home.

Incredibly, thanks to work-from-home as a result of the pandemic, I only missed three days of work – the day I was taken to the ER by ambulance, the day of the surgery, and the day after the surgery.

A physical therapist came to my home several times and showed me exercises, which I began to do every morning and evening. The exercises were challenging for my recovering body, but they were easy to understand because I was a regular exerciser for more than 35 years and my muscle memory kicked in right away.

I was told I would be eligible to begin rehab approximately four weeks after surgery. After those four weeks, the doctor wrote a prescription for rehab and, following two intake visits (essentially interviews and orientation by an exercise physiologist and a nurse), I arrived for the first of my 12 weeks of three-days-per-week sessions. By that time, it was close to six weeks after surgery, and I had already begun my own rehab, going on walks with family members, adding to the number of steps I was taking each day. Those walks had already helped me to regain quite a bit of my strength and endurance.

Here is my biggest takeaway from this experience, and why I am sharing this story: No matter how healthy we are, we are susceptible to certain illnesses, and our chances of survival and recovery are far greater if we go into the situation with healthy habits. Countless medical professionals told me my recovery would be faster because I was so healthy before all this happened. And that came true. I progressed in the rehab program much faster than most patients.

I already knew how to exercise. I already had the exercise habit. I already ate in a healthy way.

A quick story about my eating habits. The day before I was discharged from the hospital, a nutritionist visited with me. She told me she wanted to share suggestions for healthy eating, but before she did she wanted to hear how I eat. I gave her a sense of a couple of days worth of typical meals and snacks. Breakfast: eggs and avocado on rice cakes or yogurt with berries, walnuts, and muesli. Lunch and dinner examples included: salmon, canned sardines, tofu, salad, and roasted veggies. Snacks: apples and nuts. Beverage: lots of water, and not much else.

After listening, she paused briefly and said, “Okay, keep eating that way.” It was nice to have my healthy eating habits affirmed by a professional, and kind of amusing to me. She clearly expected someone recovering from major surgery to be a person who needed coaching on their eating habits.

In closing, I want to share a bunch of things I am grateful about:

  • the doctors and others who figured out what was wrong with me, knew how to fix the problem, and took good care of me
  • the nurses who were incredibly caring during my hospital stay
  • the kind hospital transport people who wheeled me around from one test to another
  • that I was at home and not driving when the vertigo-like experience struck and that I sensed laying down on the bathroom floor was the right thing to do
  • my healthy eating habits
  • my exercise habits
  • my amazing family who helped nurse me back to health
  • family and friends who were supportive to my immediate family, and encouraging to me

I know I may be preaching to the choir when I write about eating well and exercise – but, if you are not part of the choir – if you have not yet jumped onto the healthy lifestyle bandwagon – I hope my story will encourage you to do so.

Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2024,