A most wonderful 80th year

There are videos and photos associated with this article which are not included in the published version since they would make the piece too long. However, they are included herein as links and can be easily seen by clicking on each highlighted link.  

Becoming 80 seemed like a major milestone in my life. I therefore wanted my 80th year (October 3, 2017- October 2, 2018) to be memorable, enjoyable and exciting. It was all of these in spite of a major surprise in the form of open heart surgery which turned out to be no more than a mere blip in the road. Hopefully, the story of a most memorable 80th year will be of interest to others and may benefit those confronted with open heart surgery and other such major surgeries.

My oldest daughter, Sandra Hatfield Clubb, played a highly significant role in many of the challenging events in my 80th year as described below.

The highlights of each event are summarized as follows:

Highlight  #1. World’s longest bungee jump, Macau, China (October  3, 2017). My wife, Mary, my daughter, Sandy, a lifelong friend, Gregg Hollomon, and I traveled to Macau to take part in the world’s longest bungee jump on October 3. Sandy also did the world’s longest bungee jump. (See Video on the David Muir program, an article in the Frederick NCI Newsletter on this website and Photos).

Highlight  #2.  Chengdu, China (October 4-5, 2017) and Tibet (October 6-17, 2017). Gregg and I flew from Hong Kong to Chengdu, the Panda capital of the world, and visited the Pandas. We departed Chengdu by train for Tibet to see Mount Everest and a number of Buddhist temples. (See Photos). We also had the pleasure of speaking with a Buddhist Monk for 45 minutes.

Highlight  #3. Tanzania (December 5-13, 2017) and Uganda (December 13-16, 2017). I visited Tanzania to see my youngest Tanzanian “son”, Deogratias Mtui, graduate from medical school and to visit my oldest Tanzanian “son”, Frank Mella, and see the superb property he was developing for his business. The three of us went on a humanitarian trip to Uganda to visit malnourished and severely starving families in northeast Uganda. I wrote an article on visiting Tanzania and Uganda entitled My two Tanzanian “sons” and our life altering visit to Uganda which was published in the Medium Daily Digest on November 25, 2018. (See Story and Photos).

Highlight  #4.  Cuba (March 19-26, 2018). Mary and I took our first trip to Cuba. The trip was organized by Ms. Marilyn Seiber of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, with a group of 17 others. We thoroughly enjoyed this visit to a most extraordinary country. (See Photos).

Highlight  #5. Senior Games, track and field (May 1 and May 19, 2018). I entered the Senior Games in Washington, DC on May 1 and in Henrico, Virginia on May 19. In DC, I won a total of three gold medals (50 and 100 meters and long jump) and 3 silver medals (shot put, football and soft ball tosses). In Virginia, I won two silver medals (50 meters and long jump). (See Photos).

  Highlight  #6. Double bypass surgery (June 8, 2018). On June 4, I learned that I had run the 50 and 100 meters in Washington, DC and the 50 meters in Henrico with 95% blockage in my left, main artery (see Photo in the text). This artery supplies most of the blood to the heart. A heart attack caused by its blockage is called the “widow maker” as most patients having such heart trouble die immediately. I had double bypass surgery to correct the blockage. I was fortunate to have had excellent medical care which resulted in my being able to consider this event no more than a mere glitch in my life. The  Physicians Assistants of my heart surgeon credited me with performing tasks they had not seen open heart surgery patients do who were much younger, even as young as 40.

Upon hearing that I was going to have heart surgery, Sandy came immediately. She played a big part in helping both Mary and me through this event.

How I was able to make double bypass surgery a minor event, and also several other serious health confrontations that occurred during the previous several years was having absolutely no fear whatsoever. Each health encounter are in the process of being described in detail elsewhere (article in preparation tentatively entitled Dodging four bullets in six years).

Highlight  #7. Attempting to run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain (July 9-12, 2018). My heart surgeon, Dr. Ammar S. Bafi, M.D., had cleared me three and one-half weeks after surgery to go back to a normal life. Thus, my four grandchildren, Amber and Logan Hatfield, and Tristan and Skyelar Clubb, my daughter, Sandy and son-in-law, Jeff Clubb, Mary, and I went to Pamplona to run in the San Fermin with the bulls on July 9-12.

I tried on two consecutive days, July 10 and 11, to run with the bulls, but the Policia insisted that I leave the streets on which the bulls ran as they said I was too old. On July 12, Logan and Amber darkened my beard with mascara to make me look younger, Sandy gave me an official red running jacket and an official shirt and scarf for the bull run, while Logan gave me the official white pants. Most upsettingly, these efforts also did not result in my running with the bulls. (See Photos).

Highlight  #8. Skydiving in Shenandoah, August 11, 2018. Mary and I went to the Skydiving Center at Skydive Shenandoah and I did a tandem skydive. My instructor and I jumped from 10,000 feet. (See Photos).  

Highlights  #9 and  #10. Ziplining and paragliding in Puerto Rico, August 20-24, 2018. Sandy and I visited Puerto Rico and did ziplining on the Beast and the Monster ziplines on August 23. Our speed on the Monster was as high as 95 mph. We did paragliding on August 24. (See Video and Photos).

Highlight  #11. Skydiving in Delmarva, DE (September 6, 2018). Mary and I went to the Delmarva skydiving center and I did a tandem skydive from a height of 18,000 feet. This skydive was far higher than I had ever jumped. In numerous earlier jumps, I exited the plane at 13,000 feet with two instructors, we fell to 5,000 feet where I opened my chute and completed the drive on my own. (See Photos).

Highlight  #12. Enshi, China (September 25-30, 2018). Brad Carlson, who managed my laboratory for more than 20 years, and I were invited by Dr. Xingen Lei to Enshi, which is known as the selenium capital of the world. Dr. Lei was one of the principal coordinators of a meeting that had been specifically organized for presentation of the translated version of the 4th edition of our book, Selenium: Its molecular biology and role in human health, into Chinese. (See Photo).

Highest Highlight involving my 80th year. Annual physical exam for 2018. On January 16, 2019, I met with my internist, Dr. Daniel Young, M.D., for my 2018 annual physical. Dr. Young told Mary and me that I had to be commended on how I had handled all aspects of my health issues the past year. He said this was due to my attitude; and that 90% of his patients who had open heart surgery used this as an excuse not to stay active, whereas I had stayed very active.

Mary chimed in to say that the open heart surgery motivated me to go skydiving, ziplining, running with the bulls and other challenging activities.

I consider these comments by Dr. Young as among the highest compliments that I have ever received. These comments prompted me to write the above story of my 80th year.