Setback? Nah.

I really need to fix my header area.  But I digress, already.  *sigh*

Anyway, things have been going well.  Astonishingly well.  I feel good.  I feel better.  I can do more now than before the surgery.  That’s all good.  Then this past week I hit what I thought might be a speed bump.  Around last Monday I started having some chest… not pain, per se, but… discomfort.  It wasn’t bad, but I was a little concerned.  As the week went on it remained, but it lessened.  Ok, I thought, it’ll go away.  I spoke to some people at rehab about it on Monday, and we agreed it might be natural long-term side-effect of recovery, but to still keep it in mind to have it looked in to if I thought it necessary.

Fast forward to Thursday, and I’m home from work for another reason, but I’m really not feeling well, either.  The discomfort in my chest has suddenly increased, and is very uncomfortable.  It was in the center of my chest and my upper chest in front of my shoulders.  I describe the pressure as standing against a wall, trying to take in a deep breath, and feeling pressure on my chest because the wall will not give way.  I also felt pain/pressure when I would move suddenly and/or turn abruptly to either side.

But at the same time I don’t *know* what it is.  I’m also constantly told, “If you feel anything bad have it checked immediately.”, so I did.  Later in the afternoon, Missy and I headed down to the ER again.

I am again whisked into a room in the back… I later learn they have 36! rooms in the ER and that it’s not common, but not unusual, for them all to be occupied at the same time… and am asked a slew of question, the usual poking and prodding, and so on.  But because this is heart related they do an EKG, which came out fine.  The doctor was afraid of a possible blood clot, which is not unheard of for people after heart surgery, so they do an X-ray and a CT Scan.  Those both came back negative.  It is decided to have me stay overnight for observation… which I had kind of predicted would happen before I even went in… to do some more tests in the morning and to consult with the day’s cardiologist.

I felt gypped because, during my surgery, I had a very small broom closet-like room that was very sterile and cramped.  This time I had a very nice and spacious room that was actually comfortable.  But I digress, again.

The next day I have another EKG, an Echocardogram, and a treadmill stress test.  The EKG (which might have been the night before, I forget), was even better than the first time.  The Echo was fine.  The stress test was fine.  Interspersed between these tests is consultations with the Hospitalist (on-call doctor of the hospital), an on-call cardiologist and his nurse practitioner, pretty much everything heart-related is ruled out.

As coincidence would have it, I already had an Echocardiogram scheduled for the next Monday, which I now no longer needed.  In talking with the on-call cardiologist, he wants to keep me for a second night of observation “juuuuust to be safe”… where have I heard that before?… and because my regular cardiologist was on-call the next day, but Missy and I quashed that pretty quickly, and he backed off, though I sensed grudgingly.  It was after this that the treadmill stress test was done.

The cardio nurse practitioner was present during my treadmill stress test, and afterward she saw that I was not suffering any heart ill-effects.  Bottom line, through an incredible series of process of elimination, it was determined that it was most likely just inflation in my chest cavity and/or around my lungs.  I have some anti-infamatory medication for the next 30 days and instructions to take ibuprofen as needed.  I’ve been out for two days and I feel much better.  In my non-medically trained opinion, the inflammation makes the most sense.  So here I am, telling another story, and I hope it helps someone down the line.  We shall see.

As a last point, I want to reiterate again what amazing and stellar care I was given by everyone at my local hospital, especially the nurses.  I said it before and I’ll say it again, the nurses make or break the entire experience.

Appreciation and the New Year

For the past several years I have seen people who were happy that the last year had passed. Just in a general sense. 2016 and 2017 seemed especially to draw people’s individual ire. I’ve only seen a couple people that wanted 2018 to “FOAD”, so maybe things are getting better, but meh, maybe not. I guess it’s all individual perspective, and that’s fair.

How do I feel about the passing of the new year? I’ll tell ya how I feel. I am most certainly looking forward to an even better 2019, but all in all I felt that 2018 was a good year.

Seriously. Honestly.

How can that be? A case could be made that I was somewhat near death in 2018, being lucky to not have had a heart attack, having had major open heart by-pass surgery, and on and on. So much negative. But here’s the deal and here’s why I feel appreciative and good about it… I did NOT die. I did NOT have a heart attack. My issues, through mind boggling coincidence and chance, were caught in time that they could be fixed… and they were fixed. That’s not a small thing. I have every reason to be appreciative for what has worked in my favor. And I give a lot of credit for my progress and attitude to my medical care givers (family, friends, doctors, nurses, rehab people, etc.) in being both competent and compassionate… making my experience actually pleasant at times. The outpouring of help, in all forms, has been overwhelming. I had very few instances where I wanted to condemn the people working with me.

In spite of my deep-seated grumpiness and natural cynicism, I’ve also been a somewhat “glass is half-full” kind of person all my life, so I’m sure that has a part to do with it. I’m ok with that.

I know other people who have issues and/or experiences that are not as easily-fixed and/or satisfying as mine, and I do not intend to be smug about it or throw my feelings of good fortune in anyone’s face. But the flip side is that a great many more people don’t have the issues I have, either. It’s all individual… I see this a lot in rehab. For whatever it’s worth, I do feel that one’s own attitude plays a part in their own recovery. The mind is powerful. It’s not the be-all-and-end-all, but it helps. Use it to your advantage.

Clearance!

Well, kinda.  I went to the doctor today.  Routine follow-up appointment with the heart surgeon.  Had an x-ray done first.  Went for the appointment, first met with his nurse, whom I had developed a special rapport with the last few months.  For example, she said she was going to put me in Room 11, so I said I didn’t want Room 11.  She, being the cool and sarcastic person that she is, instantly picked up on what I was doing and we shot back and forth humorously for a few minutes.  It’s pretty good when you can connect with a person like that in spite of seeing each other only half a dozen times.

Anyway, the doctor comes in, asks how my breathing and (lack of) pain is doing, tells me my x-rays look good, that my breast bone has completely healed, and… that I am cleared of all physical restrictions.  No more weight lifting limits.  Woohoo!

Ok, I do need to keep being mindful of things.  If something suddenly seems out of place, or suddenly hurts when it shouldn’t then give a call, but otherwise I don’t need to see him anymore.  I’m good with that.

Consciousnesses

I honestly consider myself very fortunate that everything has gone so well, regarding surgery and recovery. I do struggle with maintaining a proper diet, but I am doing better in a relative sense, so I’m telling myself that’s going in a positive direction.

I don’t remember if I mentioned this before, but in my rehab class I’m probably one of the better/best “in shape” people, which makes me feel good, but on the flip side I’m also clearly the youngest, which I do not consider to be a badge of honor.

You never know, though, just by looking at someone.  There was one guy, 79 years old and super nice, who could run circles around me and everyone else, but he’s done now.  He left early because his insurance wouldn’t pay for anymore and he could walk at home for free.  Can’t say that I blame him on that one, though I was sorry to see him go.

It’s interesting to me that there’s a couple guys in rehab that you can tell are concerned with their macho image. As part of our “cool down” at the end there’s a little weight training, just really minor. These guys will pick the biggest weights, and the way they work them you’d swear they think they’re on Venice Beach, or something, posing for the babes. 🙄

One of these guys, who finished just last week, I believe has had a couple minor “events” during his rehab workout. He always has the biggest weights, his treadmill was always set at the highest incline and a high speed, and so on. I felt like he was showing off as much as anything, but the “events” told me he needed to be smarter about it.

As for me, I’m quite content just doing my thing and working in a smooth and steady progression.  That’s fine by me.

It’s the little things… and some TMI

Checking in before the big Christmas holiday and thought I’d share some random stuff, just some random observations and experiences.  So, let’s get started…

Water Weight

No, I’m not talking about weight gain from water retention due to increased sodium.  Technically.  This time, anyway.  Though that is part of it.  I’m talking literally how much water weighs, and how this relates to your body weight.

As part of my water retention regimen my doctor has me weighing myself once a day every day and recording the results.  I had always been told that when on a weight loss program that you should weigh yourself no more than once a week, or else you become too obsessed with the numbers and start making bad choices and veer off-track.

But I’m not trying to lose weight, per se, I’m monitoring water retention in my body, which is most easily measured by body weight, and since water retention from sodium can fluctuate drastically from day to day, then a daily weight measurement is justified.  Plus, to keep an accurate comparison you should weigh yourself at the same time and same circumstances every day.  My choice is to weigh myself before I get into the shower.  Naked, of course.

In my quest for ‘encouraging’ numbers, I became curious the difference between before and after peeing.  Turns out there’s quite a notable difference… 1.0 to 1.8 lbs difference, in fact.  I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I got kind of excited.  I could shave one to two lbs off my weight in an instant.  The numbers looked now ever so slightly better.  Obviously nothing had really changed, I was merely gaming the numbers, but at the same time I’m not cheating, either.  I’m still weighing myself under the same circumstances every day.

Sometimes it’s the little things, the little “victories”, that serve as unexpected encouragement.  LOL!

Reasonable Eating… Holiday and Otherwise

As a heart bypass surgery patient I have doctor instructions to consume less sodium, as little as possible, knowing that one’s body needs some sodium to survive and that some level of sodium is in virtually everything.  This has been placed as an even higher priority than watching my carbohydrates (carbs) for my diabetes.

The key, of course, is to strike a sensible balance.  Too many people freak out and try to do zero sodium, and that’s simply not realistic.  On the flip side, many people completely ignore the advice and warnings and go back to what they’ve always done… go back to what got them where they are to begin with.

I’m trying to strike a reasonable balance, a happy medium, if you will.  I want to be healthy, but I also want taste, and given that a person literally needs some sodium I think that’s a reasonable quest.  Here’s my current plan of attack, as preliminary as it is…

  • Virtually eliminating adding salt when cooking.
  • Eliminating added table salt on most dishes where it really doesn’t make a difference and I was adding it for added flavor.
  • On a small handful of dishes where it does make a difference, I keep adding table salt, just not as much.
  • Seeking and trying various low-sodium recipes… which is a very hit-and-miss prospect.

This whole process doesn’t necessarily have to be rocket science.  That’s why I’m thinking my approach above is reasonable… and realistic.

And be wary of various pre-packaged low/no-sodium and low/no-fat and low/no sugar.  Read the labels.  Read the ingredients.  If they cut the fat, they might have increased the sodium.  If they cut the sodium, they might have increased the sugar.  You can’t win for losing.  “Diet products”, I call them, generically.  I prefer to eat the real thing and watch my portion control.

Here’s a recipe that I found that is quite tasty AND low in sodium, 150 mg per serving, Green Beans Amandine with Almonds and Garlic.  The only modification I made was using regular fresh green beans instead of haricot verts.  It was a nice edition to my Thanksgiving dinner.

For every yin there’s a yang.  Another new recipe I tried was a low-sodium turkey gravy.  Long story short, I’ll never do that one again.  I’m going to guess that it is for people who have to aim for almost nothing in sodium because they’re in an even more dire health situation than I am.  It literally had no taste, even after I added pan drippings to enhance the turkey flavor.  My dressing and mashed potatoes actually tasted better without the gravy than with.

There’s going to be a lot of testing, triumphs and failures, as you work out your new diet.  The primary point that I’m trying to convey here is to be reasonable and realistic.  You will never find the ideal food or recipe, the one that combines perfect sodium, carbs, vitamins, and taste.  Work out something you can live with… literally.

Note:  This is just what I am doing.  I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice.  Please consult with your physician before making any changes.

Cruising Along

Almost three weeks have passed since my last post.  Time flies when you’re having fun, so the saying goes. It should be noted that things are beginning to wind down and normalize, so my posts will be a little less frequent from here on out, but they’ll still come.  I’m also working on a way to contact me with comments and/or questions, and should have that in place within the next day or two.

We have a few different things going on here, so I’ll do this as kind of a combo post and provide some updates.

Work:

I’m in my third week back to work.  The first day I was extremely sleepy, but the adjustment was very minor.  It was almost like I’d never left.  I sit at a desk all day, so physical requirements were minimal.

Rehab:

My cardio rehab is going very well.  I almost feel like the rehab people have become friends.  A couple in particular I feel like I have established a true bond with.  That’s a good thing.  I keep increasing my efforts each week, and have been able to keep up nicely.

Medications & Weight Gain:

About three weeks ago I started gaining weight rapidly.  Three or so pounds every couple days.  The rehab people were concerned and asked me a lot of questions… that I really didn’t know how to answer… but they called my cardiologist and gave them a head’s up for my upcoming check-up appointment.  My cardiologist confirmed that I was indeed retaining water.  I had ended my water pill a month earlier, so he had me start it up again.  This made a huge difference almost immediately.  I’m now back down to where I was before, my “normal” weight, and I’m not as achy in all my joints.  I can move around again.  A minor detour on my road to recovery.

And that’s it for today.  Just wanted to get a quickie update in.  We’ll talk in a few days.  Thanksgiving is coming up, and I’ve been learning a lot about eating and cooking a lower sodium diet… (It’s not as bad as you’d think)… and I think that’ll be my next topic.

“Are you ready to go back to work?”

“Are you ready to go back to work?”

That’s the most common question I’ve been getting the last couple weeks.  That, and “How are you feeling?”

My standard answer:  “Yes and no.”

Yes:  I like my job.  I like what I do.  I find it both challenging and rewarding.  I’m very proud of the projects I do, and get kind of giddy when I can point to something while driving and tell my companion, “I did that.”

I’m looking forward to getting back into something resembling a productive and reliable routine.  Read my Grump blog post from today to see what I mean.  Most people don’t realize it, but humans *need* structure.  It adds purpose, and we *need* purpose to balance our lives.  This is why many people who become long-term unemployed or retire and sit in a rocking chair seem to physically and mentally deteriorate quickly.  People need purpose.  I need purpose.

No:  I won’t lie, I kind of like having my time as my time.  I’ve been free to come and go as I please.  This is probably the biggest aspect I miss about being a self-employed consultant a few years ago… flexibility.  Having flexibility, not being so rigid that I feel hemmed in, is huge to me.  If I wanted to make an appointment at 10am on Tuesday, I’d check my calendar and schedule accordingly.  I never shirked responsibility or deadlines, but I had flexibility.  I will miss that.

“Are you ready to go back to work?”

Today is November 1st… the 26th anniversary of my Dad’s passing, but I digress… and I have medical clearance to go back to work on Monday the 5th, four days away.  I am excited and looking forward to it.  (Ask me again next Wednesday.  LOL!)  I am feeling so much better, in many ways better than before the surgery.  I’ve been warned that the long days will wear me out, but I work at a desk and should be ok.  If I do have some days that catch up to me, I suspect they’ll be few and will go away in a short time.

So, yes, I’m ready.  🙂

Privacy? Yeah, sure.

When in the hospital you will have so many different people walking through your door wanting to poke and prod and just look at your various crevices and orifices.  For the most part, this is legit, though sometimes you have to wonder.  For example, if one person took my blood pressure 2 minutes ago, and they’re still in the room, why can’t you just use their numbers and leave the patient alone?  I’m sure they’re told to do it anyway, so they can check off their checklist that they did indeed check the patient’s blood pressure, but there has to be a better way.

That’s not extreme, but you can forget about privacy… or modesty.  Maybe that’s the real loss here, your modesty.  I mean, you try to maintain some sense of dignity, but there comes a point where you feel like you want to throw your clothes off and yell, “Ok, here!  Look at me!”  Not that you seriously consider that, of course, but the thought does enter your mind.

Example:  On my last full day the nurse’s aid comes in and asks if I’d like a “bath”.  A “wipe bath” with sanitary baby wipes, it’s easier with less clean-up than sponges.  Anyway, She seems surprised that I had had none since the morning before my surgery at home.  I was never asked.  <shrug>

I’m sensing maybe I should, and I was feeling a bit ripe, so we go for it.  Missy and Vicki were visiting at the time.  They left at my request, I still had that much say in who sees what.  The nurse’s aid is a 22 year old who normally doesn’t work this floor, normally she’s in a rehab wing.  This was the second day (not in a row) that she was my aid, and we had built up something of a casual rapport.

So, Missy and Vicki leave.  The aid pulls the curtain closed in case someone else walks in.  It’s just us.  She starts on the legs with the sanitary wipes and works up to the neck, then back down the other side.  Then, *sigh*, the “fun” part.  She needs to do the more intimate regions.  We both are a bit hesitant, I am actually her first “sanitary wipe bath”.  I’m here to help.

We both figuratively heave a sigh of resignation, and the sheet and gown are whipped off leaving me in all my glory.  I’m embarrassed, but not as bad as I normally would have been were I not gradually eased into a lack of modesty the preceding week.  She does the outer regions, and the only part left is… you know.  She hesitates, I sense she is really uncomfortable, but breathes another sigh of resignation and dives in.  I am now clean all over.

We finish up, I cover myself, and all is good.  We’re both relieved it’s over.  She might be scarred for life, not sure.  Our banter was not quite the same for most of the rest of the day, it had an awkwardness that we were both dealing with, though we both lightened up later on.

To top it off, when Missy and Vicki come back, the aid is still there having just finished, and Vicki says somewhat loudly, “Did she get your ‘junk’?”

Oh, the aid blushed.  If she wasn’t scarred by the procedure, she had to have been now.  I, on the other hand, was speechless.  I didn’t know whether to say something serious or sarcastically funny.  I said nothing, just sat there.  There are very few people that can make me speechless, but my sister is good at it, and succeeds more than most.

Many women,especially women who have given birth multiple times, tell me that you just give up trying to stay modest at some point.  I can kind of understand that now.  You develop an attitude of, “Here, just get it done.”

Stir Crazy

I’ve addressed this before, but what to do with all this ‘extra’ time?  It has been seven weeks today since my surgery.  I’ve been progressing well.  I keep feeling better and better.  Late last week I took what I feel is a remarkable turn… for the better.  All of a sudden I started what I would categorize as great.  I could move faster and easier than I have since, well… I can’t remember when.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I still have my weight lifting restrictions, and if I forget I still get very clear reminders that I have other limitations, as well, but overall, I’m feeling really good.

With that, is my mental faculties.  I feel like my mind is engaging much better than it has.  Things seem clearer and my brain cells are more active.  I’m thinking like I used to, and that especially feels good.  But now with all this time, I’m starting to go stir crazy.  I was warned by my friends that this would happen, and they were right.

I went into work today for an optional employee meeting.  We have these once a month, “Lunch/Breakfast with Management” they call it.  It was presented to me as an option by my supervisor last week, and I jumped at it.  I have to say that I enjoyed it, too.  Not only was it something to do, it felt mentally stimulating, at east much more than I’ve been experiencing lately sitting at home.  I mean, one can watch only so many episodes of Forensic Files while surfing Facebook before they start to go stir crazy.

I haven’t had this officially confirmed with my surgeon yet, but I am eyeing Monday, November 5th, for getting a doctor’s release and going back to work full time.  That seems like a reasonable goal.  I have tentative plans to go to the Manchester office, where I used to work, and have lunch with friends next week.  I talked with my supervisor today, and we hashed out plans for me to continue my physical rehab after I return to work.  It will be three times a week until roughly Christmas, but I will be able to do it with minimal disruption to my work schedule or productivity.  That’s good.

I have to say, in spite of some feelings of stir craziness, I’m also feeling greatly encouraged and optimistic.  So many things make more sense now, in hindsight, for why I was feeling so poorly for so long.  I won’t say the surgery was the best thing to ever happen to me, but I am feeling good and encouraged and excited going forward.