I knew one day it'd happen but I put it off for decades. One day I'd need to replace a damaged valve in my heart. Anticipation of the enemy makes him stronger and I fed right into that. A couple of near-death experiences related to the bad valve finally convinced me. It was time. I was ready.

My wife drove the hundred miles to Boston in a blizzard the day before my surgery was scheduled. We stayed in a hotel just a few yards from the hospital. I got very little sleep that night.

We awoke before dawn and walked through the bitter cold and darkness, to the hospital. It was surreal.

My son gave me this pink pig for Christmas. If you look closely you can see the stitching he added on the pig's chest.

The surgery took over five hours and I awoke with an incredible thirst. My wife fed me ice chunks. They tasted like ice cream.

The first night was the only night that I had real pain. After that, it wasn't so bad.

Exhaustion was something I wasn't ready for. My blood levels dropped to about half of what they normally are. Coupled with the inability to sleep, I got run-down really quickly.

I forced myself to walk in the hospital. Two days after the surgery I walked an hour and a half in the corridors.

Your world shrinks when you are in the hospital. I got to know my floor really well after a couple of days. I believe I'm contemplating escape routes in this photograph. Those wires leading out of my shirt pocket are connected to receptors on my chest. Not only do they monitor the activities of my pig-heart, they tell the nurses where I am at all times.

I spent a week of my life in the hospital as a result of my surgery. I would have been out sooner but I developed a low grade fever that resulted from a semi-collapsed lung. Apparently it's a common problem that results from the heart-lung machine. The heart-lung machine keeps you alive while your heart is stopped and your lungs take a vacation during the long surgery.

This is the first full day at home. I craved sunshine and quiet. I got both as my wife wrapped me up and helped drop me onto a lounger on my deck. I fell asleep listening to the birds tell me that spring was coming.

Three weeks after the surgery my wife and I walked to the Quabbin shoreline. I'd last visited this place two days before my surgery. Floating ice rode on waves made by a north wind. It was noisy, the sun was warm and I was hopeful.

Kodak 400