I'm not particularly superstitious. Black cats, ladders, and the relationship of the stars and planets don't concern me. However, like most guys who played sports, I have certain peccadillos. As a youngster, I had lucky socks, a lucky jock and, of course, a lucky jersey. When they were old and threadbare and eventually thrown away by my mother, I was crestfallen. I wondered if I could ever play ball again. But play I did.

I became very partial to the number four. I wore it in baseball and basketball and its big brother 44 in football. I wore 44 in football even though I was a center and inside linebacker. Yes, we played both ways in those days and special teams as well. I was unable to wear four in rugby because each number denotes a position. As a loose head prop, I had to wear number one. I also had certain little routines in tennis and racquetball that were always preformed.

For no particular reason, I avoided the number thirteen, although it's worn by and lucky for a lot of players. None of us could avoid 2013. We each had to live through it. It should be the only year we shall ever see that ends in thirteen.

For me, 2013 was a kick me in the head, knock me to the ground, and stomp on my chest kind of year. Thankfully, I survived it and I don't look forward to any more like it. Usually, January and February are happy times for our family. We celebrate the birthdays of my granddaughter, my daughter, my sister, my brother, and my son. I had arranged to have some prostate surgery in early February after a powerlifting meet on February 2. I didn’t beat any PRs at that meet, but it was respectable. Four days later, just before they wheeled me into the operating room, a routine EKG was performed. Then everything stopped!

The operating room nurse noticed that there was an abnormality in the EKG. She informed the doctors, who informed me, and the whole damn thing was called off. I was advised to see a cardiologist immediately. I did that and one test led to another, which led to a heart catheter that led to the damndest news I had ever heard—you need five bypasses!

You people are crazy! I don’t need anything of the kind. I just set four IPA world records. I haven't had any symptoms, and I'm as healthy as I've ever been. I'm in the best shape and stronger than I have ever been. I don’t need, nor will I have, any freaking heart surgery! Oh yes you will! Thus began the whirlwind of activity that in fact resulted in open heart surgery with five bypasses within two weeks. What I thought would be a three-week break in training turned into six months.

Being involved in powerlifting and with elitefts™ were both strong motivating factors to get better. Writing about my experience was very cathartic and wanting to get back to training was a very strong motivation to get healthy again. Four weeks post- surgery, I had a visit with my surgeon. At that early stage of my recovery, I stupidly asked when I could resume training. He was very unhappy with me.

“Do you know what I did?” he asked. “I cut your chest bone in half with a saw. Then I opened up your entire body and stopped your heart for an hour and a half while I took a vein out of your leg and made five arteries out of it that I used to fix your heart while a machine was keeping you alive. Then I put you back together. Now, let all that heal before you start talking about training again.”

He scared the hell out of me and I shut up. In a later visit with my cardiologist, he strongly recommended that I start and complete the cardiac rehabilitation program before I even thought about training. I promised my family that I would do as the doctors requested and I did. However, about six weeks into the cardiac rehabilitation program, with the knowledge and consent of the powers that be, I began to train on the off days. Very, very slowly I began to regain a little strength. I completed the cardiac rehabilitation program in early July, but I still had to have the prostate surgery that started the whole damn mess. I did that on July 10 and had to wait three weeks before any serious exertion.

I started training on July 29 with a view and hope to compete in a powerlifting meet on December 7. I had a plan and a program and I adhered to both. I was as weak as a kitten. I started very slowly and gradually gained both strength and confidence. I slowly worked my way toward the meet. The year 2013 literally kicked my ass!

When I asked my cardiologist what would have happened had the problem not been discovered, he said that I might have gone years without a problem or the next powerlifting meet or the next could have been my last. I guess I've had my share of bumps in the road and serious surgeries. The world seemed dark at those times and I was scared as hell. Neck, back, knee, and hip all seemed serious at the time, but none were really life threatening. Fortunately, I wasn’t aware how serious this was until after the fact.

So why is this article titled "Lucky 13"? What the hell was so lucky about 2013? That I survived the son of bitch for starters. Actually, I'm extremely fortunate that the problem was discovered. That in and of itself probably saved my life. Now, I truly have the heart of a younger man. What could be luckier than that for a little, old man powerlifter?

My wife, my children, my siblings, and I realize the frailty of human existence and we've all become much closer. How lucky is it for a washed up ball player turned little old man powerlifter to be part of Team elitefts™? I get to write stuff that actually gets published and that people read. I'm part of a team that includes some of the best coaches and lifters there are as well as a company that cares about more than just the bottom line. How lucky am I to have participated in a powerlifting meet at age 72, nine months after open heart surgery? I certainly would not like to relive 2013. However, I'm lucky I survived it. I truly am a lucky little old man!