Games. Make friends, make enemies.

It’s time to play a game

The Recovery Chronicles #11

AE Stueve
4 min readDec 13, 2020


Perhaps you’ve heard of this one. It’s called “Three Truths and a Lie.” In this game, I give you three truths and one lie and you figure out the lie. Naturally, my version has a theme. It’s (surprise, surprise) recovery from open heart surgery.

So without any further ado, here are my three truths and a lie:

  1. There is a part of me much larger than I’d care to admit that wouldn’t mind going back to my second or third week home from the hospital. It’s a bit fuzzy, but I remember my wife was with me and took care of me with the patience of a seasoned nurse. At this point in recovery my brain was beginning to free itself from the effects of the oxycodone. Additionally, while I couldn’t move much, I could, you know, pull my shirts on and climb up half a flight of stairs without getting winded. I was even taking short walks to the end of the block and back. I was not paying much attention to the news but instead found myself wiling away the hours zoned out in front of the television or with my nose buried deep in a book. I only had to get up from my recliner or the couch for one meal a day, the rest were brought to me. My sleep schedule was strange but pleasant and left me hours of solitude in the middle of the night. Aside from the pain and weakness, I was coming back to myself. And I was doing so in the comfort of my own home. Nice.
  2. Right now, I am no more likely to get COVID-19 than any other man in my age and health bracket. My health bracket, by the way, is a surprisingly good one despite my recent open heart surgery. I have my wife to thank for that. Almost a decade ago, she was the one who convinced me to workout with her and who helped me change my diet. However, if I were to catch COVID-19, since my heart and lungs have recently gone through quite a bit, I am more likely to face hospital time than your average man in my age and health bracket. In other words, I’m not at high risk to get it, I am, however, at high risk to get a bad case if I do get it. Facing another prolonged hospital stay is terrible for obvious reasons, but also because I would have to use my own money to pay my substitute. I work in a school district that has no short term disability plan therefore when I run out of accumulated sick days (which, by the way, I already have), I have to pay for my substitute out of my paycheck. Cool.
  3. After surgery, having woken up strapped to a bed with a breathing tube shoved down my throat, I discovered the thing I fear most: waking up strapped to a bed with a breathing tube shoved down my throat. Since that morning, I have had more than one nightmare in which I wake up that way, but because my fear is so intense, when I realize what is going on, I actually wake up right away, partially terrified, partially relieved that I am no longer strapped to a hospital bed, unable to speak, choking to death on my own sputum as a breathing tube simultaneously keeps me alive and tries to kill me. I think it says a lot about how easy my life has actually been that A)I didn’t discover my biggest fear until I was forty-three years old, and B)My biggest fear involves having my voice and my ability to move taken from me. Whoa.
  4. My heart condition is contagious. Yes, when you see me walking my dog down the sidewalk, it would probably be best to cross the street because, trust me, you do not want bicuspid aortic valve. It is always a good idea to keep a wide berth while you ask me how I am doing. Don’t try to hide the pity and fear in your eyes either. It’s useless. I see them both. I also know that the pity is for me and the fear is for you. And I understand. Though I was joking and this condition is not contagious, there is something about knowing I have it, isn’t there? There is something off-putting, there is something that makes me an other. In your thinking brain you know that you can’t catch what I have but you fear what I represent, our tenuous grasp on life. This, I have learned over the last few weeks of my return to the “real world,” is the most difficult thing to deal with. But I want you all to know that I do not blame you. I get it.

Okay everyone, which is the lie?

Fooled you.

None of them are lies.



AE Stueve

AE Stueve teaches and writes in Omaha, NE. Check out all of his available work at