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Hello from Doug … and so much thanks

Hey, remember me?

Anything happen while I’ve been away?

Veteran Star basketball writer Doug Smith is on the road to recovery after suffering a heart attack at the ACC in April.
Veteran Star basketball writer Doug Smith is on the road to recovery after suffering a heart attack at the ACC in April.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

A fair bit, I guess … probably shouldn’t take so long the next time.

Well, I’m not sure how caught up any of you are with what’s been going on but this is my first foray back to these parts since the first weekend in April.

I was felled by a heart attack walking up the ramp from the ACC workroom to Dwane Casey’s post-game chinwag at the last home game of the regular season and it’s been a bit of a spiral that has since calmed down.

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There was a laundry list of things that went on — the heart attack, a couple of weeks of waiting until they could operate because they needed to get things like kidney and blood pressure issues under control, and then a 13-hour operation where they apparently rebuilt the heart, it seems. I had never heard of an aortic dissection but I had one; a bunch of other arteries are better and some valve work got done under the leadership of Dr. Anthony Ralph-Edwards, whose team basically saved my life.

It was frightening to think they could mess around inside me for more than half a day and bring me back but they did. Amazing, even if there were some unexpected complications a couple of weeks later that landed me back in an operating theatre, this time at Trillium out here in Mississauga, where they cleaned up everything that needed cleaning up.

It’s been a helluva ride.

Look, I can’t publicly thank everyone who kept me alive through it all without leaving someone out and that would be wrong. From Drs. Paul Marks and Howard Petroff of the Raptors staff that Sunday night to Scotty McCullough, part of the team at the arena; from Dr. Ralph-Edwards and Dr. Eric Degen and everyone at Toronto General to my family physician, Dr. Williams, who got me to Trillium in the nick of time; from Dr. Shafqat Ahmed, who was there for the final tuneup, and every other doctor, nurse, resident, specialist and therapist who had anything to do with getting me back to the level of normalcy I’m at right now. I don’t remember all the names because there were too many of them but they were all important.

And that gets to part of the reason I’m doing this: I’ve had so many notes and emails and texts from so many places that it’s been impossible to thank everyone individually, outside of a few in the Super Family who continue to go to untold lengths to make sure I’m taken care of.

I’m probably more than 100 emails or texts behind in the reply department but, trust me, I’ve read and appreciated and needed every single one.

Irregulars, colleagues, friends: the support and good wishes have been amazing and touching and gives me a new appreciation for the good in people, some of whom I’ve never met. We really have developed some kind of unique community here and it’s something that truly kept me going through some difficult and scary times.

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But those scary times are over. It’s going to be a slow trip back but the walks around the ’hood have begun, I expect to be out among people somewhere in the not too distant future and I don’t imagine I’m done working in the least.

There’s a new Raptors coach to break in, perhaps a massaged roster to deal with and you are kidding yourself if you think I’m letting the Canada Basketball programs go, especially the senior women who have been my story for years.

I don’t know exactly when I’ll be fully back but a stop in this spot every now and then – perhaps going into the NBA final next week – might be a way to ease the transition and keep me from watching another three episodes of Bones or searching out salt-free recipes.

The Tall Foreheads and I haven’t had a serious discussion yet about what the future holds but I hope it’s a calmer, easier version of what the past held.

We’ll stay in touch on that but I just wanted to catch you all up.

The Raptors?

Well I saw all the games, was surprised how meekly they went against Cleveland, I know it was not an easy decision for Masai Ujiri to replace Dwane. I don’t think I would have done the same thing but that’s not my call.

I’m going to chalk it up to one undeniable thing about professional sports that I’ve come to realize: Sometimes very bad things have to happen to very, very good men and it truly sucks. It’s a sad fact of the world in which they live and you move on as best you can.

Talk to you soon. If you need to reach me you know how to do it — askdoug@thestar.ca — and I can only reply to notes there if you include an e-mail.

Take care, I’ll be loafing somewhere.

TORONTO STAR