Profile: Derek Franz

Writer, Journalist

What about Derek Franz? In a nut 'graph, you could describe him as a professional journalist who dabbles in all forms of the written word, including fiction and poetry as well as essays. He is 32 years old and is the author of 'Open Space,' an introspective column that was published twice a month in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent newspaper from 2007 to 2014. His writing has also appeared in Rock and Ice, and Alpinist magazines, including a short fiction trilogy published in Alpinist issues 36, 41 and 47. He writes a monthly climbing blog for SplitterChoss.com as well.
Derek is a Colorado native. He grew up climbing, skiing, snowboarding, kayaking and backpacking. He currently lives in Carbondale, Colo., with his fiancée, Mandi, and their dog, Soleille. They are getting hitched on the rim of the Black Canyon June 13 – ten days from the time of this writing!
Besides that, Derek is recovering from open heart surgery that happened Oct. 30, 2014. You can find many related articles about it throughout this blog, especially in The Open Heart Series, and elsewhere. Seven months after the operation, Derek is thrilled to be climbing and kayaking again!
These days, after seven years in the newspaper business as a copy editor and reporter, when Derek isn't in the wild places or writing about them, he is working at Ragged Mountain Sports – the best outdoor consignment shop you'll ever find.

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NoteStreams By Derek Franz

Continued, Spectacular Recovery

This summer has been a whirlwind. I've been so excited to get my old life back – wait, scratch that. I've been so excited to start a new life, I haven't spent much time looking back since Mandi and I got married on the rim of the Black Canyon in June. That party capped a year of planning for it, in which time we also dealt with my unplanned open-heart surgery (October), a flood in our house (January), and Mandi's final year of grad school, which she completed in May while nursing me back to health and working full time as an elementary teacher.

Category: Health

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Muscles are Weak Without the Mind

Note: This is part 13 of the "Open Heart" series. To start with part 1, click here.
Stronger. I just need to get a little stronger.
Bullshit.
Why do so many climbers jump to this conclusion when they find their performance plateauing on a project? Probably because it’s easier and more straightforward to build bigger muscles than a stronger mind.

Category: Health

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Back On The Rock

Note: This is part 12 of the “Open Heart” series. To read part 1, click here.
Truthfully, as I write this entry about what has otherwise been a fantastic physical recovery, I wonder if I'm overdoing it, or if something else is going on, or if this is related to the "new sensations" my cardiologist told me I'd feel for the rest of my life.
I've had a nagging chest pain for the last three weeks, and it feels very similar to what I felt right before I went in for surgery. Then again, my muscles are perpetually sore and I'm stretching out a lot of scar tissue in the rehab process. There are moments when I convince myself that I'm fine, because look at me – I'm doing great in every other way! – but then there are moments when it doesn't feel like the pain could not be anything other than my heart

Category: Health

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Eating What I Am

Note: This is part 11 of the “Open Heart” series. To read part 1, click here.
As many know by now, my aortic heart valve was replaced less than two weeks ago. When I think of what has been done to my body, there's plenty of freaky images to consider – for example, the surgeons sawing through my ribcage, stopping my heart and cutting it open while a machine pumped my blood for 90 minutes (sure glad my ticker started back up on command). There is another detail that is nagging me as the scars heal and the pain fades, though. My new aortic valve was harvested from a cow.

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Pills, Pills, Pills, Rest, Rest, Rest

Note: This is part 10 of the “Open Heart” series. To read part 1, click here.
This segment of the Open Heart Series aims to cover my first days back home after five days in the hospital, my first days back at work, and what daily life was like up to my first check-up in late December, two months after surgery. In the next chapter, I'll recount my physical recovery from Thanksgiving 2014 to present, and my return to rock climbing.

Category: Health

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Still Waking Up

Note: This is part nine of the “Open Heart” series. To read part 1, click here.
It's been eight days since I awoke in the cardiac intensive care unit at CU-Denver Hospital, yet it seems I'm just now rousing from the fog of that dream world. Simply learning to handle basic life functions on my own has been a draining task, filling up most of my days. It's an experience my body seems intent on forgetting as soon as possible.

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Waking Up To A Fresh Start (Part 3)

Note: This is part eight of the “Open Heart” series. To read part 1, click here.
I'll tell you now that the four-and-a-half days in the hospital after open heart surgery feel very distant. It was less than four months ago as I write this, but it seems much longer than that.
At the time, the ordeal was a magnanimous one, but now it is almost a speck in my rearview mirror. You might say it's out-of-body, because it's so far removed from your typical life, and then suddenly it's over and almost everything is back to normal. And normal isn't entirely a good thing. Normal means that shit continues to happen.
This NoteStream covers Days 3, 4 and 5 after surgery. For Day 1 see here. For Day 2 see here.

Category: Health

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Waking Up To A Fresh Start (Part 2)

Note: This is part seven of the “Open Heart” series. To read part 1, click here.
I'll tell you now that the four-and-a-half days in the hospital after open heart surgery feel very distant. It was less than four months ago as I write this, but it seems much longer than that.
At the time the ordeal was a magnanimous one, but now it is almost a speck in my rearview mirror. You might say it's out-of-body, because it's so far removed from your typical life, and then suddenly it's over and almost everything is back to normal. And normal isn't entirely a good thing.
This NoteStream covers Day 2 after surgery. For Day 1, see here

Category: Health

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Waking Up to a Fresh Start (Part 1)

Note: This is part six of the “Open Heart” series. To read part 1, click here.
I'll tell you now that the four-and-a-half days in the hospital after open heart surgery feel very distant. It was less than four months ago as I write this, but it seems much longer than that.
At the time, the ordeal was a magnanimous one, but now it is almost a speck in my rearview mirror. You might say it's out-of-body, because it's so far removed from your typical life, and then suddenly it's over and almost everything is back to normal. And normal isn't entirely a good thing.

Category: Health

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While I Was Out (With Bonus Content)

Note: This is part five of the “Open Heart” series. To read part 1, click here.
Hearing people talk about what happened while I was in surgery for five and a half hours is like hearing my parents' stories about the day I was born. I was there, but I wasn't. For this segment, I interviewed my fiancée, and my mom and dad to get an idea of what they went through in the waiting room during the operation, and afterward while I was recovering in the hospital for several days. I asked them in particular if they had any advice for people facing a similar waiting-room experience.
Included are Bonus Notes: 3-2-1 was originally a post on my home page near midnight Oct. 29, hours before my operation.

Category: Health

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Walking the Long, Red Hallway

Note: This is part four of the “Open Heart” series. To read part 1, click here.
The month before I had open heart surgery on Oct. 30 is mostly a blur to me now, as I write this 60 days after the fact. The feeling I recall is that of a procession down a long hallway with crimson rugs and no light at the end. During that time, I made a point not to dwell on a future that couldn't be avoided. I wanted to savor the beautiful fall days as best I could, knowing my physical ability would be very limited for at least three months after surgery. I climbed. I hiked. I partied my heart out. Then I would go to bed and try to sleep easy, but of course that became more difficult. I was 31 years old.

Category: Lifestyle

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Don't Watch The Movies

Note: This is part three of the “Open Heart” series. To read part 1, click here.
Six weeks after open-heart surgery to replace my aortic valve, I finally got around to Googling videos of the procedure. If you are about to have open heart surgery, I would recommend not doing a Web search before you go in. Saying that will just give you the urge to do it more so than ever, I know, but hear me out for a moment.

Category: Lifestyle

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An Aspiring Hardman

Note: This is part two of the “Open Heart” series. To read part 1, click here.
“Hardman” – what does it take to be one? That fabled term has been thrown around by climbers since before I was born, and ever since I started reading the history and lore at age 11, I knew I wanted to be a Hardman.
By the time you read this, I will be in a hospital bed recovering from open-heart surgery, with my 32nd birthday approaching in December. You can bet my definition of “hardman” has evolved since those adolescent years, especially this last season.

Category: Lifestyle

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Clinging To The Moment With An Open Heart

I started posting the first segments of what became "The Open Heart Series" in my "Personal Blog" in the weeks before I went to CU-Denver Hospital to have my chest sawed open and have my aortic valve replaced. Writing was a way to process what I was going through, including the massive fear I faced. Somewhere along the way, I realized it would be a good idea to consolidate the stories as much as possible, so that others facing a similar experience might benefit from an outline of what I went through.

Category: Lifestyle

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