GamerDad’s Mended Heart

gdsurg1My name is Andrew S. Bub and I’m the GamerDad. I just returned from two weeks in the hospital for Quadruple Bypass Open-Heart-Surgery. In short, I almost died. My wife wrote a wonderful peice asking for donations and without warning, we were gratified to learn that several key gaming communities picked up our banner and ran with it. I can’t convey how much easier it is to heal and face mortality while knowing so many wonderful strangers are singing your praises and giving to your family. I’m not worthy, but I will strive to become so.

I had about 4 massive heart attacks – and then a pulmonary embulism. I played TETRIS Push with the angel of Death and survived. This didn’t happen because of lifestyle – not at 36 – it happened because of genetics. Random factors. Luck. Well, it’s made me think. Re-examine my priorities.

I mean, I play video games for a living – a controversial thing these days – I play with toys. That’s why I’ve been getting this question over-and-over again from all kinds of people: “Wow, you really got lucky! Faced death and won at such a young age! Betcha videogames don’t look so important now? Do they?”

It’s a real question, and a good one. Bear with me. I’ll answer it later.

My heart-attack happened, as such things often do, slowly: one day I was taking care of my two kids (Maggie (7) and Henry (4)), harvesting blackberries from my fruit garden, rescuing – not harvesting – young victims under the sea in a game called BioShock and the next I was I was having a considerable bioshock of my own. It didn’t happen like the movies. I didn’t clutch my chest, say something memorable and collapse to the floor. Instead I kept my wife awake going: “Ow! I’ve got heartburn real bad! It hurts! Owie! Ow-Ow!

Looking back I feel like an idiot, because I endured this for about 3 hours gargling Mylanta all the while and trying to burp. Since I didn’t have a single “typical” heart-attack indicator my wife simply consoled me and worried a bit. When I started writhing in pain, she muttered a quick ‘thank you’ that a neighbor had the kiddies sleeping over already and she bundled me off to the nearest Emergency Room. Note: This was NOT the local ER and hospital famed for heart operations. That’s how clueless were at this time about what was really happening.

traumaUpon arrival I was put on telemetry (routine for any kind of chest pain) and my wife’s face turned green and fell – or fell and turned green. Either way, I knew the sudden flurry of movement, concern, needles, and eventually straps and ambulance meant that I was having a heart attack.

It’s kind of a blur from there. Operations, agonizing pain, immobility, a moment where I believed – really believed – that the mask force-feeding air down my throat and my swollen lips, tongue, and mouth, the pain and restraints, and the strange shadowy figures surrounding me meant I had been renditioned into some secret prison CIA prison. Wanted for questioning.

My parents jetted to Milwaukee, my brother took time off, and my wife at one point stood at my bedside for 3 whole days without eating or sleeping. I was experiencing whole new worlds of pain – and numbness, but I was reminded that the kids were fine and that my job was to recover. Simply recover. Well, I have. Complications arose from time-to-time. I needed about 1600ccs of what I swear looked exactly like Guiness Stout was taken from my back via giant needle. I was X-Rayed enough to probably have super-powers by now. And somehow under blood thinners I threw a potential stroke-causing clot into my bloodstream, where it finally landed in my right lung to make breathing painful for a long while. I spent two weeks barely coherent in the least comfortable bed on Earth. My nurses were Saints, my doctors were Gods, and at 36 years old I’d survived a wake up call set for a man 20-years older than me.

My Grandpa Henry died of this at 42. My Uncle Jimmy was taken this way at 49. No Bub male as survived what I’ve survived. Eerily, my Step-Grandfather Bud Klokie died of this 19 years to the day I was stricken. The day of my heart attack is my parents 40th wedding anniversary. Coincidences abounded and still astound.

I’m lucky. My heart is rebuilt, and they say it’s in better condition than before. I shouldn’t have another heart attack again. In fact, I don’t even need to make a lot of changes to my lifestyle.

Why? Well, my heart was damaged years before. Late teen fast food and partying, my twenties spent smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey. Loads of Bratwurst, cheesecake, fast food all while sitting on my ass doing nothing had turned my heart into small French village from the game “Call of Duty” – a battle-worn moonscape. It pumped along without complaint, hiding the damage from doctors. On someone probably posing as the infamous anti-video game attorney Jack Thompson made this remark: “A lifetime of sitting on your ass playing video games will do this to you.” Like gamers deserve heart attacks or something. In reality, about 3 years ago I worked on a big article for a big magazine about excer-gaming and I’d used Dance, Dance, Revolution to lose 25 pounds. I still do that, and play Wii, to keep it off. But the GamerDad message has always been moderate. I garden, I eat right, I exercise. Those are the things the doctors want me to do now. Those are the things that didn’t save me from my heart attack (the damage was already too severe) but they did help me survive it. And they will protect me from the next one.

I urge everyone reading to clean up their act as much as possible. Ditch the “Gaming Fuel” in favor of homemade fruit smoothies. Get up and exercise between Halo 3 matches. Drop the pizza and burgers in favor of just about anything. It might not save you, but it’ll give you a few extra lives to cash in later.

That’s all the preaching you’ll get here, back to the story.

When you’re in the hospital, everyone asks you what you do for a living. I usually say “writer”, which leads to the inevitable follow up, to which I answer: “I write about video games and children.” Some look confused, some smile, the doctors – particularly surgeons I noticed, from the young bucks to the craggy old guys – all nod their heads and remark how video games clearly help with surgical skills.

I spent the two weeks of convalescence catching up with the TV show “Heroes”, watching movies, drooling under the influence of pain meds, and playing a lot of Nintendo DS (New SuperMario, Picross, Sim City, Metroid Pinball, Tetris, and yes, even Trauma Center). I learned first hand that the good people behind the Child’s Play Charity and Get Well Gamers are right – games do help you deal with anxiety and pain. I supported them before, I’ll continue to do so now. What hurt most of all was missing my kids. I’m a stay-at-home dad and spending two weeks away from them was torture. And no, I don’t use that term lightly.

Recently my wife – my beautiful, suffering, angelic, loving wife – wrote an open letter for GamerDad and GameSanity asking for donations for my cause. It’s gratifying to see that what amounts to her first attempt to really take the role of GamerMom came off so well. It’s easily one of our most trafficked articles and the results and generosity are overwhelming. So is the kindness, concern, and love from the gaming community. She’s always supported this cause of mine. She’s the breadwinner but she’s not a gamer. Taking her to the Penny-Arcade Expo this year and now having this happen has, in effect, given her her own gamer origin story. The kindness and humanity displayed by gamers has created a GamerMom and she’s going to take up the banner and fight alongside me to defend gaming as a hobby and lifestyle – as well as a great way to bond with children.

Oh yeah, that question from above? Let’s repeat it in bold:
“Wow, you really got lucky there. Faced death and at such a young age! Betcha videogames don’t look so important now? Do they?”
Here’s my answer:
I did get lucky and a lot of my priorities have changed. But video games are still my passion because they are so important. They’re how I socialize with friends, they’re competition and challenge, they’re entertainment – in some cases they can be considered “art” and they are one of the most fun ways I bond regularly with my kids. Life is full of small precious moments and you can’t hit the restart button when it ends. So keep your game going as long as you can – gaming with the people you love.

gdsurg2I’m GamerDad. I’m a heart attack survivor. And with your help, I’m going to redoub— no. QUADRUPLE my efforts on your behalf. Video games are good when used correctly, parents need help finding the right games for their kids, legislation, fear, and ignorance need to stop, and everyone who has an opportunity should be “Gaming with Children”, friends and family as much as they possibly can.

Sincerely and with a heart strong and true,
-Andrew S. Bub
The GamerDad

PS: The donation drive is ongoing, support us if you can:

Please give until it hurts (unless it hurts your family). Here’s how you can help:

Send checks and money orders to:

Linda Denison Bub
PO Box 070265
Milwaukee, WI 53207
ALL proceeds will be used to help GamerDad and his websites promote his vision and ideas about “Gaming with Children.”And now – The Thank Yous

Dr.s Gupta, Savitt, Hubbly, Agular, Treissman, Heineman and Baman
The St. Lukes CICU, CVICU and 9th Floor Nurses and Nursing Assistants
My parents – Chuck and Dianne (Happy 40th Wedding Anniversary)
My kids, Maggie and Henry, for being brave and good while Daddy was away
My brother Ryan
My friends Zane and Tom (for coming during Packer games and cutting the lawn)
Colleen Hannon, Simon Windmill, Mike Anderson and the rest of the crew
Gabe & the Penny Arcade Nation
Dennis McCauley, Hal Halpin, the ECA and GamePolitics communities
Shawn Andrich and the Gamers With Jobs community
Every Community, Blog, Gamer, email, and donator
My readers
And the angel of mercy herself, Linda Denison Bub (GamerMom)… thanks for more than living up to that whole “In sickness” bit in those vows some 10 years back.

Thank you all!

Psst! Want to see how a Quadruple bypass scar looks like after three weeks healing? Click here!

36 Responses to “GamerDad’s Mended Heart”

  1. Fantastic to have you back!

  2. Thanks, Andrew, for sharing. We’re all glad you’re better.

  3. Thanks for sharing the story…I wandered in from Evil Avatar and your story struck a chord with me…The name you see up there is my own attempt at gallows humor after surviving advanced testicular cancer at the age of 32…Congrats on surviving and having a smart lady like GamerMom in your corner…BTW, for the pic it looks like your surgeon did an amazing job on the close…Thanks again, and may you have a full and healthy recovery.

  4. When I heard about your site via a webcomic, I thought thats awesome (at this point didn’t know about hospitalization (or heart attacks even)). So I dropped by. When I saw your story (GamerDadSignal #1) I was really affected. I am a gamer too, but younger (18). But I lost my dad a three years ago, and I really hated the thought of your family having to go through the same thing. It really reminded me of a time I had almost forgotten (but in a good way).

    Live Long and Prosper.

  5. Its great to see you back. Your story really struck a chord with me and I will take up your challenge to “clean up my act”. I also applaud your decision to continue your work with video games and if there is anyway I can support you in this effort, please let me know!

    Take care and “Game On!”


  6. Glad to hear you pulled through with flying colors and will keep on trucking in the name of sane gaming.

  7. Good to hear you’re on the mend. I hope that your description of your symptoms will help save one of your readers one day.

  8. Glad to see you pulled through. I look forward to seeing how your message gets out, but feel free to ask us for help!

  9. Glad to hear you’re doing well, I think the entire community was casting “heal” as hard as they could for ya. 😉 I know from my own family’s experience that appreciating the second change you’ve been given is a wonderful thing, and sharing it with your readers certainly isn’t “preaching.” 🙂

  10. Thanks all. Anyone have the courage to look at the scar picture yet? I’m thinking of having Hayden Duvall’s GD symbol tatooed over it. My wife isn’t so hot for that idea… yet.

    I’m healing well, sleeping lots, and still overwhelmed at the generosity of the GD/PA/GP/etc., communities. I wrote the above to tell them the full story of what happened the emphasize that this event has inspired me – not shaken me up. This is my calling. All my bad luck and good luck has connected at this heart attack and I find myself stronger, renewed, as if all the self-doubt and worry were removed along with all the bad stuff from the heart operation. I’m 100% rebuilt, every inch GamerDad, and I’m going to use these generous donations to take GamerDad LLC and really become a thorn in the side of the anti-video game culture warriors.

    Gamermom and I are united now. You ain’t seen nothing yet. Keep up the comments too, I’ll answer any questions you have about this life-changing – life-affirming – event.


  11. “Anyone have the courage to look at the scar picture yet?”

    As people who have been through it say – welcome to the zipper club!

  12. It’s terrific to read this. Now I don’t feel so bad about making that Trauma Center joke in the first article pic..

  13. Andrew, you’re an inspiration. Thanks for doing what you do. I’m glad you’re back.

  14. I’m glad to hear you’re recovering. I hope all goes well and you keep writing. Your passion and dedication is a wonderful thing to see.

    Good luck!

    -Mike Schwinger

  15. One example that represents something good coming out of your tragedy. I may never have heard of had the boys over at Penny Arcade not posted a link here about your heart attack. I’m a gamer dad myself and have been looking for a community to be part of. (I have found some parent’s groups, but none speak to me as loudly as Hopefully more people will subscribe as I did.

    So, thank you for starting this community I look forward to being a part of it.

    Oh and I’m glad to hear you’re recovering and feeling better.

  16. I’m so relieved to hear that you are back at home! I fully stand behind you and support what you do for the community, and fully enjoy playing games with my three year old niece whenever I can get the chance. Really, I just wanted to thank you for doing what you do.

    Hope recovery continues to go well.

  17. Great to have you back! Glad to hear you are healing and have renewed inspiration. We need you.

    That is a heckuva scar!

  18. Hey Gamerdad!
    Nice to have you back! XD

  19. Hey Andrew,

    I’m so glad you survived this experience, and are doing so well now.
    It’s weird to meet someone; and then have them almost die like a week later.
    But, once again, thank you for your words at PAX. They really helped me deal with what was going on in my head at the time.

    And I am much better now.
    But, I shouldn’t be talking about myself at a time like this.

    Be well, man.
    You are awesome.


  20. You played TETRIS with death? What was he like? I remember playing Double Dash (!!) With Jesus once. He won every match….

    All joking aside, its good to see you’re up and going again. Congrats. And you are correct, we should all lay off the Game Fuel. It doesn’t taste very good….

  21. Thanks guys, and if you donated, double thanks!
    If anyone wants to spread the news about this editorial to various web communities, I’d appreciate it. We were visited by over 100,000 non-regular readers and so far people aren’t linking the article (their perogative and I’m grateful they linked in the first place) but I wrote the above as a “thank you” and want it spread far and wide.

    Thanks, I work for you guys now.


  22. I’ve been reading Penny-Arcade for a while now, and I saw their link you site, so I wanted to stop in and check out. I’m amazed at you dedication to what you do, and I’m glad there’s someone who is not only taking a serious stance on gaming for children, but working to make sure other parents get the message.

    In support of you plea to gamers to change their business as usually when it comes to gaming, I’d like to give a few suggestions:

    1) Everyone knows you’re supposed to take a break about every 15 minutes while gaming (yeah right). During that break time, drop down, do a few push ups, roll over do a few sit ups. This is especially great during marathon gaming as it helps to increase your blow flow allowing you to stay more alert.

    2) During competitive play, make the loser do some physical activity. Again, push ups and sit ups are awesome, jump jacks too, cause they make you look kinda stupid. Even some as simple as making them hold something kind of heavy with their arms out stretched is. Get creative.

    3) Level yourself up, do some awesome physical activity with the buddies with whom you play games. My friends start rock climbing at a local rock gym. You’d be amazed the level a game nerdness at that place. But it’s what motivates to make ourselves better.

    Never forget, first and foremost, games should be fun. Make getting physical fun too. It’s not a chore if you don’t make it one. And I think you’d be surprised the impact a little exercise can make on you game.

    Anyway, sorry for the little rant there, just wanted to contribute a little to the community.

    Once again, thanks so much, Andrew, for the contributions you’ve made and continue to make on the behalf of gamers.

  23. Bub,

    Great to see that you are on recovery road. I’m really happy to see more people joining you here. This really is one of the best gaming communities around.


  24. It was when I was visiting Game Politics that I came upon this story. I’d heard of you before, and while I had rarely been around the site, your stories have always inspired and bolstered my confidance in my passion for gaming as an adult in the professional world.

    When I read about the heart attack, I was stunned. I didn’t think that we might lose another opponent to Jack Thompson, didn’t think that we might lose another source for reviews of games we’ll probably end up buying anyway… I just thought about what you had to be going through, and what your family was going through… and it hurt. I’m glad everything turned out alright.

    Thank you for doing what you do best… providing a positive image for gamers the world over.

  25. Thanks Mike,
    That’s exactly the goal. It started by helping parents make sense of the ignorance and fear spread by local news and anti-videogame idiots – and GameSanity marks where I’ve decided to help represent the average gamer too. I’m lucky in a way. I’ve built my career on writing for hardcore mags like PCGamer, GameSpy, etc., but my wife and family are all decidedly NON-Gamers so I always had the mainstreamer perspective. I understand where the disconnect it and I attack it. I’m happy to fight another day.

  26. I’ll be honest, I had heard of, and may have even visited once or twice, but didn’t follow it. Then I saw somewhere, perhaps PA since I visit there religiously, or some other site about your heart attack. I am 38, a dad of two, and a gamer. I had a false alarm a year ago and it scared the living daylights out of me, I can’t even imagine what you and your family have gone through. I am very glad to see that you came through it, not only alright, but in many ways it seems re-energized.

    I believe in what you are doing. I love playing Wii games with my son who is 6. He used to love sitting on my lap while I played WoW adn telling me to make my character jump. Games in general, including video games, are an important part of life and the education process of children. They teach them about following rules, taking turns, and fair play. Games are an important part of life, and, well, I won’t preach to the choir.

    Suffice it to say that GamerDad is now on my toolbar along with all the other sites I check on a daily basis and I will be spreading the word. Keep up the good work.

  27. Did you have many symptoms throughout your life? Anything that, in retrospect, you would have gone to a doctor to have checked out?

  28. You are prompting me to investigate what are likely gas pains, but your symptoms sound terribly familiar. This includes family history.

  29. Good to have you on the mend, Bub! Thank you for sharing your experience, and glad to hear you’re giving Gamerdad mission the quad multiplier.

  30. Andrew, I’m really glad you’re getting better and using the whole thing for a positive experience! So glad that I registered with your new blog just to make this post! 😀

    I hope you keep on improving all the way back to a better Bub! If they can bring back the 6-million dollar woman, they can make Bub better without assimilating him, right?

    Anyway, great to have you back, man.

    And Yegolev, I hope you don’t end up having what he had. Feel better soon!

  31. Nice to see you in good shape again! 🙂

  32. @ Eddie

    Yes. My atypical symptom was like heartburn and I did have mild attacks my doctor decided were ulcers, until that came negative, and then he came up with “panic attacks.” They were stress related and heart attacks almost never register this way, so I don’t blame him for not attaching me to a heart monitor – come to think of it, one never actually happened in his presence. We now believe that those were mild heart attacks. Yay!

    @ Mike, Icarus, Stefano

    Thanks! I have a new lease on life.

    @ Yegolev

    It is very atypical, but any sustained pain in the chest region is cause to get checked out. The good news is that any ER in the country WILL never make a chest case wait very long. If it isn’t a heart attack or something, you’ll go home super quick anyway. If it is well, glad you caught it!

  33. Hi gamerdad!!!!! wow, i have not been on your site for a while,was shocked to read the heart-updates!last year you answered my question about what system to buy my 6 year old son and you gave me a very detailed answer! You are alright by me! And we wish you a healthy heart the rest of your life! My dad had his 2nd bypass late in life and bragged he did 500 kicks each day in the pool so you are now better than ever! I am so happy for you and your family! keep on keepin on!sincerely, a little gamer mans’ mama !ps may be getting wii this christmas and will need some game ideas for my 7 year old gamer man! take care ok!???!!!!!

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