Pilgrim Update: Key Thoughts

11 months ago 20
Posted in: blog


First let me apologize for being so long bringing you an update, a lot has happened in last two weeks!!  Today is the first time I have made it upstairs to my computer in two weeks.  Let me run you all through what has transpired over that time period.  


Monday, May 8th:  I had my TAVR, (Trans Aortic Valve Replacement),  the surgery went well and the valve was replaced and was performing as expected.   My Surgeon, Dr. Anthony Rogers and my Cardiologist. Dr. Paula Hollingsworth did a great job!  I was released to go home just one day after the surgery.  I rested and recovered most of that week, feeling better each day.


Sunday, May 14th (Mother’s Day):  I started to have some episodes of AFib where my heart rate was running from very slow to very fast.  Sherelene insisted I go to the emergency room, but I resisted, not wanting to go back in the hospital.  She kept insisting and I kept resisting, then she talked me into getting the car to drive that direction.  I told her if I had one more almost fainting episode we could to the ER.  I had no more than said that when I almost blacked out, in minutes I was in the ER.  Within minutes of arriving there I coded and was without a heartbeat for a four to five seconds.  They did chest compressions and had me back in this world quickly. Had I not listened to Sherelene I might have died at home on Sunday!  About fifteen minutes later I coded a second time with the same response.  At this point they called for an air vac and flew me to Lexington Baptist Heart Center where Dr. Rogers was waiting for me.  I coded a third time in Lexington in the Heart ICU, then they started a drip of a medication that stabilized my heart rate and observed me in the ICU overnight.  The next morning, Monday, they did a procedure to place a pacemaker in my chest, further stabilizing the afib.  I was released to come home on Wednesday.  I’ve now been home recovering since then.  Until today, Saturday the 20th.  I’ve been struggling through broken or cracked ribs from the chest compressions, (no complaints, they brought me back from death three times).  


Today. May 20th:  is my best day yet as I can walk around without help, even climbed the stairs to the office to do this entry!  My heart rate has remained stable and my surgery sites are all healing very well!


So some Perspective on all this:


In my entire life I have had two pivotal “Physical Events” the have shaped my life.   42 years ago when I was told I had terminal cancer and thought I had only a few months to live.  You’ve all heard that story.  And, last weekend when I died three times, only to be brought back each time.


42 years ago my entire perspective on what is important in life was changed and it forever re-directed me in my desires, goals and purpose.  This week has deepened the commitment I made back then.  Back then I gave my life and heart completely to God and vowed to serve him “every moment for the rest of my life”.    This week I remembered how precious this life is, the family and dear friends that God has so graciously given me, and of whom I am unworthy, but still thankful for that gift.  I now have  redirected my goals to listen for God’s voice and be obedient to whatever he asks of me.  I think I was already doing that, but my attention has been more laser focused on His will.


God deals with each of us where we are and in the way we need to be spoken to, I’m not beating you up with what I have gone through, only sharing where it has brought me.  I have no idea whether I’ve been given a few weeks, months or years to live for Him, but whatever time I have it is His!  I do know that he loves you more than you know and He wants you to belong to Him, I can only pray that everyone who reads this gives thought to where they want their spirit to reside,  I hope it is with my loving, caring, gracious and forgiving Heavenly Father.


For all of you that have payed for me, thank you, I will be forever grateful for another chance at this life!


With all His love,



the pilgrim


Note: A special thanks to my dear brother and friend Jack Graham who has stayed with me at home the last three days,  you’ve aided in my healing my friend!  To my best friend, partner and love of my life, Sherelene. your tireless efforts to watch over me are beyond what anyone could ever deserve, I Love you and want to live on for you!

20 Responses

  1. Jack Graham says:

    ..the least I could do…thank GOD im now only 1:49 away!. We’ll be back in the field soon!-JG

  2. Rodney McKNight says:

    Well, you’ll do anything to get up in an aircraft won’t you! haha. Praising the Lord for all the great care you got and a wife that got you in that car! You’re a strong man Bill, in life as well as faith. So glad this world is going to have you around awhile longer! Praying you keep healing well and quickly so you can get back to those things you love and those things He still has for you to do…

  3. John L Gompf says:

    Glad you made it through. Glad to have you back. Praying for you to have a long, God filled life.
    Bless you,

  4. Eric Wojtkun says:

    Well Praise the Lord…I get more love of Christ through your lens and words! I knew something was off Wednesday, doubled up on my prayers, and activated the Fortney-Wojtkun friend connections this week to check up on you while praying more! Stay in touch my brother in Christ! I think it is a testament to how not only you love the Lord, but how you brought seekers together for the Lord.

  5. Nick Coury says:

    What a journey this has been. I’m thankful that your bride is strong enough to convince you to head for help. We share strong “caregivers” after our cancer journeys. I’m thankful Jack could come help out, I’m a text away if you need me. Hope to see you this summer. Thanking the Lord for more days with you.

  6. Jerry Reece says:

    Sounds like you’re on the road to recovery. Glad to hear it. Do hope you will have a workshop or photo shoot in the future out west that I can attend. Love working with you (and Jack too!).
    Your ole student,

  7. Bill, first of all I’m thankful you made it through this experience. God has more for you to do. Praise the Lord. You have been an inspiration to me both as a photographer but more importantly as a human being. Thank you…

    I normally check your blog daily but for a week or more I was preoccupied. So I’m just catching up. God bless you and keep you. I had a sever medical episode 8 months ago. Not to the extent of yours but it landed me in ICU for 3 days and still have some side issues. My wife didn’t argue with me she just called the ambulance 🙂 We owe our wives a grate deal.

  8. Bill Ball says:

    So very relieved to hear you are doing so much better Bill. Just know that your friends are praying for your complete recovery from this and are with you every step of the way. God’s Blessings to you my dear friend.

  9. Bill+Fortney says:

    Thank you Bill, all players are so appreciated!

  10. Dick Ginkowski says:

    I have been dealing with health issues which are a bit less involved that yours (enlarged left atrium and 13% PVCs) and have been recommended for a similar procedure not to replace a valve but zap and freeze the troublesome part of the heart into compliance. Won’t be able to even consult the specialist until mid-July. Enough about me — just enough to say that I hadn’t visited here for a bit but somehow tonight an inner voice was telling me to stop what I was doing and go here.

    I’d be lying if I didn’t say that reading this scares me a bit! I’m just a few years behind you. But I appreciate your faith and the love others have shown you here and always. And I am scared when I read that things went well after the valve replacement and then went south. I’m praying that your recovery is full, speedy and complete. Amen.

  11. Walter Willis says:

    Thanks be to God brother. With you and for you.