LOS ANGELES — Stoney Curtis told XBIZ that surviving open-heart surgery in March and persevering through what turned into a traumatic recovery has changed his outlook on everything.
“I faced the darkest challenge of my life, got through it and it made me tougher, made me stronger,” Curtis said. “Now I can take anything on.”
In an exclusive interview, the 21-year veteran producer and director who owns Lethal Hardcore recounted his five-month ordeal that started on March 16 when he went to the hospital after noticing he had “a weird heart rhythm.”
“I had a combo of Atrial Fibrillation and abnormal rhythm going back and forth,” Curtis said. “They kept me overnight and the next morning I did an ultrasound of the heart and that is when they told me that my Mitral valve leaflets were not closing, causing blood to regurgitate back up into my left atrium; and that my left ventricular heart muscle was swollen.
“They decided to schedule open-heart surgery for me on April 15, but they needed me to do a angiogram on March 21 to see if I had clogged arteries around the heart.”
He said that doctors informed him that he did have two clogged arteries, “the left circumflex and left anterior descending — or ‘the widow maker’ — since so many people drop dead from it yearly.”
“It is a quiet killer. I was lucky they found it,” Curtis admitted.
Doctors also told the Chicago native he needed a Maze procedure, which is a treatment for the Atrial Fibrillation that he has suffered with on and off for 20 years.
It was at that point the situation was deemed more urgent than previously thought, causing Curtis’ surgery to be pushed up to March 24. That day a team of four surgeons operated on Curtis’ heart for eight hours at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, Calif., where he underwent a heart valve/double bypass and Maze procedure.
“They shut down my heart for six hours and I lived on a breathing machine with heavy sedation,” Curtis said.
He recuperated for the next 10 days at Hoag Hospital, but little did Curtis know that his hospital stays had only just begun.
“I was very upset that this happened to me since I ate so well, was thin, watched my cholesterol. But it was genetics that caused most of my problem,” he explained. “I have only had A Fib for 20 years and never had a problem with structural issues in my heart ever. So it was shocking to me. People walk around every day with clogged arteries and have no clue until it is too late. I never had a heart attack or stroke, so I should make a full comeback.”
That comeback became an increasingly complicated matter as soon as Curtis got home from the hospital on April 4. That day he had to go right back to the hospital due to recurring Atrial Fibrillation and one of his lungs filling up with fluid from his heart.
By April 10, Curtis had checked into a rehab center for heart patients. But five days later, he was forced back to the hospital for a second lung drain in addition to a chest drain. This time his stay was three days.
Curtis’ problems were far from over though. After returning to the rehab facility on April 19, Curtis needed a third lung drain on April 28, leading to a four-day stay at the hospital. He went back to rehab on May 2, but by May 12 he needed a fourth lung drain and was re-admitted to the hospital.
“May 15th I finally went home for a while,” Curtis said.
That same day Curtis said that his girlfriend, an adult performer that had been living at his house, told him she was breaking up with him. That came as a shock, he said, as she had been supporting him until that point.
“You need peace when you come home from what I went through and I had very little of it,” Curtis said. “She was yelling at me complaining she didn’t ever get her apartment and her website I promised her, and that I was holding her back from her career, costing her money.”
He continued, “It was like she forgot I paid all her bills and she lived rent free while she visited me for two months. Some try to convince me she just used me but I didn’t believe it. But it seemed when the fun ran out, she ran out as well. I just couldn’t believe the girl I trusted and seemed to care about me at surgery time could grow so cold and mean so quickly."
Curtis said the stress from the break-up hindered his recovery and on May 25 he found himself back in the hospital for another chest drain issue that led to a three-day stay. Then on June 3, Curtis underwent more medical exams — a CT scan and MRI tests — to determine why he had pain in his ribs.
On July 10, things took a turn for the worse — again.
“I went into Atrial Flutter and was re-admitted to the hospital,” Curtis said. “I had three electric shock treatments, or cardio conversions, but they didn’t work. One time they shocked me before I went under. So I was awake.”
Finally, on July 29, Curtis said he was examined by the state’s best cardiologist for Flutter problems at UC San Diego Medical Center, “and he was able to correct it.”
“It is called catheter ablation,” Curtis said.
During ablation, a doctor inserts a catheter, or thin tube, into the heart. Then a special machine delivers energy through the catheter to tiny areas of the heart muscle that cause the abnormal heart rhythm.
“Keep in mind I was given 12 different drugs or more for various reasons,” Curtis said. “Pain is the big reason. I didn’t smoke or drink or get high prior to my surgery so for me to be on Delotta, Morphine, Norco’s and strong heart meds, I had mood swings and side effects from all of that as well.”
If his progress continues on its course, Curtis expects to be “back to normal” in October. Curtis said Monday he already is back in the gym getting into shape, working out lightly and doing cardio exercises.
“I just need to be careful and not lift anything too heavy,” he said, noting he overcame numerous obstacles to get to this point, including just getting through the rehabilitation process.
“Rehab recovery was a place dedicated to treating people recovering from surgery but there were a lot of elderly people in there. I slept on a tiny, hard mattress that killed my back.
“I missed 60 days of work and the company was run by my manager [Dan Deal]. Although from every hospital and rehab I was approving all DVD covers, creating new porn titles, picking girls I liked from the bed, jerking off with nurses walking in.”
Curtis added, “One time they were getting ready to shock me into normal rhythm and I was approving a DVD cover on my IPhone. I put it down and three minutes later I was under anesthesia, but business came first and looking at naked chicks.”
The director said one of his most difficult challenges simply has been keeping a positive attitude amid his laundry list of complications from surgery on March 24.
“I kept praying this would be the last visit to the hospital,” he recalled. “I looked at it as a challenge from God to see if I was a quitter or if I could overcome this brutal surgery. Life is precious and I try to not waste a day anymore. I appreciate the sunshine, my family, my friends and being in a healthy body.”
Curtis continued, “My inner circle of friends and family really kept me going. [One male performer in particular] and my friend Dan were amazing to me and supported me, visited me, brought me things I needed. And it would have been terrible to have gone through that without them there. I had a girlfriend at the time but my friends helped me more than she was willing to.”
Now he approaches his days in a different way.
“I realize that any hurt anyone has done to me I need to move on from and let go of,” Curtis said. “I just felt people should know what I went through. I am a very positive person and can’t wait to get back into shape and build my body back up. A lot of wonderful things have gone my way with business and my family since all of this happened and I look forward to being in the best shape of my life by the end of the year.
“When life or God deals you a negative hand, remember stay strong, this could be a test of your human resolve. If you want a better life, you must fight for it and work hard and stay positive as best as you can, and life will turn around for you. I have a happy aura and energy about me now. Life is more precious than ever.”
To contact Curtis, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Photo of Curtis (right) with actor/comedian Bryan Callen.