On Christmas Eve at 1AM I awoke with a pain in my chest… not sharp, but enough to wake me and prevent further sleep.  I got up until 3AM doing some minor tasks on my computer and then returned to bed, slept and arose after 7AM… still with the pain.  Not enough to stop me, but of concern.  I did the general stuff and then drove 10 miles to Sonoma to have breakfast with my daughter, drove back home, had a coffee visit with my friend Richard and then got to work in my studio… after about two hours, I felt very tired and decided to quit and get some lunch.  At that time, I still did not feel well… and decided to bite the bullet and call 911 and go to the hospital.  Then the excitement started.

During the ambulance trip to Sonoma Valley Hospital…  I was told my heart was beating much too fast. (about 150 beats per minute)

An IV was started to slow the heart rate, and after arriving at the hospital there were more drugs and the beginning of numerous needles and tests… I was told I had Atrial Fibrillation and needed to be transferred to Marin General Hospital  (another ambulance trip) … arriving at 11Pm on Christmas Eve. I was there for three days. I never saw Santa, but I did see more tests, more doctors, nurses and many very nice people taking care me. My daughter Monika and her husband Nathan and my good friends Richard and Ann Schindler were very concerned and visited often.  After my heart rate returned to normal, I was discharged taking blood thinner drugs to avoid blood clots, and control the heart rate… while I waited for a schedule for surgery to replace the Aortic valve in my heart. 

Life was almost normal for the next three weeks as I waited and worked on paintings I wanted to finish before surgery.

Between December 27 and January 22, I waited, had doctor appointments, met the surgeon, and had a battery of pre-op tests.

Then the chest pain returned … not as strong, but now I knew what it was and drove myself to Sutter Hospital in Santa Rosa (where all my pre-op tests were done) to confirm and then I was not permitted to leave.  I waited in the hospital another week and had Open Heart Surgery on January 30.  Followed by four days in ICU and another four days in Re-hab at Park View Acute, both in Santa Rosa… and I was finally allowed to go home on February 5 to take care of myself while I mended completely…

As I write this, I have been sleeping in my own bed for about a week and it will take about four more weeks before the chest bone grows back together and this entire phase of my life will be over. I am fine and expect to be more energetic and healthy for the foreseeable future.  I am a very lucky dude.

All in all, my time in the hospital was very interesting, with very little pain or discomfort.  There were lots of nice people taking care of me, bringing me food, a good bed, plenty of TV to keep me entertained, and several attractive nurses to tuck me in at night. In fact, except for missing the sunny beach, this has been the first vacation I have had in years.  Really. And after Medicare pays for most of it, almost a free vacation at that.

I am already working on my next art show at the Alley Gallery in Sonoma in September, scheduling activities at my home gallery in Kenwood for this Summer and working on the Art Encounters program with the kids at Kenwood School for this Spring.  Already busy, busy…

So… that’s it… Hope this has helped all of you that were concerned and that each of you will realize, as I do, how precious and fragile life is… and live it to the fullest.  Remember, Attitude is Everything.

Best to you all,
Fred Parker

Or now, with that pig valve in my chest… Phred Porker
Now I am waiting for that first ham sandwich so I can thank the little guy.