By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — For Everett Silvertips head coach Craig Hartsburg, health will have to take priority over hockey for the time being.
Hartsburg announced Monday that he will undergo heart surgery in early November. He will take a leave of absence that is expected to keep him out until after Christmas.
“This is something that’s pretty scary,” Hartsburg said. “But I’ve been reassured by doctors, and I’ve done some research on it. It’s tough to get through the first part, but I should be back to 100 percent at some point.”
Associate head coach Jay Varady will assume the head-coaching duties during Hartsburg’s absence.
Hartsburg, 51, was diagnosed with an ascending aortic aneurysm. The condition was caused by a dilation in his aorta, which is the primary artery that carries blood away from the heart.
The initial signs of a potential problem were first diagnosed in 2003. When undergoing tests for an unrelated ailment, it was discovered Hartsburg was born with a bicuspid aortic valve in his heart instead of the standard tricuspid aortic valve. Incidents of aortic aneurysms tend to be more frequent in those with bicuspid rather than tricuspid aortic valves.
Since then Hartsburg has had his heart checked annually by doctors. His latest examination, which took place a month ago, revealed the aneurysm, and after further tests it was determined surgery was required.
“It’s not something you have a lot of symptoms with,” Hartsburg said. “So it’s a good thing to get it checked. The worst thing that could happen is (the aneurysm) ruptures, so we’re going to get it fixed so we don’t have to worry about it.”
Hartsburg is scheduled for two procedures, both of which will take place at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. The preliminary procedure, a heart catheterizaton, takes place Wednesday. During that procedure a camera will be inserted into Hartsburg’s leg and be moved through the blood vessels into his aorta, where the full extent of the situation will be evaluated.
Hartsburg will then undergo open-heart surgery in early November, during which the affected areas of the aorta will be replaced with an artificial graft. This is a common form of heart surgery, and the prognosis is for a full recovery.
Hartsburg will miss all three of this week’s games because of the preliminary procedure. He then intends to be back behind the bench until the operation takes place. The Tips have just one game next week, then three road games during the first week of November.
Hartsburg said it will be difficult being away from the team.
“I’ve been hurt playing where you have to leave your team,” Hartsburg said. “But this isn’t the same. You don’t want to be away from the team, but for short-term and long-term health this is what has to be done. It’s certainly not an easy thing to do, but it puts things into perspective.”
But Hartsburg believes the team will cope during his absence.
“It’s not about anything other than following the program we’ve tried to put in place the last two years,” Hartsburg said. “Jay will do a great job and Chris (Hartsburg, the team’s assistant coach and Craig Hartsburg’s son) will help Jay do a good job. The players just have to listen to the coaches.”
Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog: www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog.