It has been hard to watch Ken with this latest frustration. He is the heaviest he has ever been and it is water. He knows this, but it doesn’t make it feel any better when you don’t fit in your clothes. He cuts out a lot of sodium foods. Still nothing budges. I see how frustrated he is and can do nothing but encourage and pray.
This is something I have not had too much experience with. I have high blood pressure so I don’t add salt myself. I just have never had the water weight like this. I continue to support and do my best. I just know we will get past it. One more trial that we will win!
As I have said before, the farther I go out the less I’ll post, and there’s been nothing earth shattering to report, I feel like giving a quickie update, so here goes…
Sodium and Weight
The last week of May my Cardiologist put me on a much more serious dose of a new water pill, Torsemide, and off I went. I was supposed to check in a few weeks later, but haven’t yet. I will do so early this next week.
I still have the extra weight. In fact, other than a couple short forays up to 268, I basically haven’t budged. What HAS changed, and not for the better, is that now I am more achy, I am getting winded and getting tired easier. Those aren’t good things. Those are effects of the extra water weight.
We will get this worked out.
Scars & Body Image
A strange topic, but one that most people don’t talk about, so here I am.
My chest is looking very good, almost natural skin color. You can still notice it if it peeks above my shirt collar, but it’s not bad. There is no pain to this or any of the scars, which is good. My arm scar is still not progressing as fast as the chest scar, but is itself moving along nicely and I have no issues with it.
Part of my left wrist is still constantly numb, and always will be. Expected, warned, but just sayin’. I hardly even notice, anymore, and I’ve always retained full functionality.
The only new development that I do not like is that I now have the beginnings of varicose veins. On my inner left knee, next to where an incision was made to remove a vein for the surgery. They’re small, but they’re still there. I am NOT happy about this. I have never had a varicose vein, until now.
I will have a major announcement in about three weeks, but don’t want to say anything just yet. Not even hints.
…yes, indeed, it has. You’ve heard the old cliches… life gets busy, you feel better and start forgetting, yada yada yada. And all that’s true. I have been feeling better. Life has been busy. You forget things as mundane as keeping up a blog. All that stuff. And while things have been going in a generally positive direction, for which I am deeply grateful, all has not been perfect.
Back on December 18th I talked about water weight, sodium, and weight in general. My cardiologist and I got things worked out pretty quickly and things were going along well… until mid February of this year. Nothing had really changed, and I started gaining weight in leaps and bounds. Long story short I gained about 22 lbs in just over two months. I usually hover around 242-ish, give or take a pound, or two, on any given day. Now I’m hovering in the 260 to 265 lb range, the highest I have ever been. At least I seem to have plateaued, but it still feels defeating.
For about two months I didn’t think it was water weight, so I didn’t contact my cardiologist, which was a mistake. I wasn’t showing any of the other symptoms. I wasn’t bloated (heavy, uncomfortable, but not bloated), I wasn’t achy, I wasn’t short of breath, or any of that other stuff, just gaining weight rapidly.
Once I woke up and realized what was going on, to the doctor I went. We decided to change one of my medications, the ‘water pill’, and increase it and my potassium to twice a day, lower my sodium intake as much as possible, and go from there. I’m still hovering, which is kind of disappointing. I owe him a new blood test next week, and we will reassess then and move forward.
The moral of the story: Don’t be proud. Don’t be stubborn. Stubborn is dumb! Stubborn is dangerous. Stubborn could lead to congestive heart failure. That’s not a real fine option. Don’t be stubborn!
Upcoming: Rehab & glucose monitoring. (For my own reminders, more than anything.)
I was not panicked. Just concerned. I did not think that I needed to worry too much, but I did pray. I had to pray we got there in one piece, as the roads were a bit dicey. We got there and I dropped Ken off at ER so I could park the car. I knew he would be in a room when I returned and he was. They had already started hooking him up to do his EKG and we were once again drawn into the crazy world of do a test and wait.
At one point they gave Ken a nitro pill. After that the symptoms subsided and they did another EKG. His EKG had changed ever so slightly. Right after this they took him for his CT scan. I sat in that little room thinking about the fact that the nitro effected his symptoms. For the first time I started to worry. I started to get major anxiety. He was gone a bit and I really just needed to see him. I was very relieved when they brought him back and said they were thinking of keeping him over night for observation. This was a relief because I WAS worried at that point.
I left Ken so I could go home and get some things for us. (Yes, I stayed with him.) I made a couple phone calls as I was leaving the hospital and warming up the car. Then took my time going home. Once I was home I gathered items and took care of the cat. On the way back I stopped to get something to eat. I sat and ate it before heading back. I guess I took too long because Ken started to worry about ME. Time to settle in for the night.
I slept on a cot and we got a few hours of sleep. Not much though. The morning brought more testing and waiting. We made do but it was a LONG day. When the Cardio doctor came with his nurse practitioner they pretty much said they knew it was not his heart. However, the doctor started talking about staying another night. We wanted nothing to do with that! They sent him for a stress test and called it good. We finally got out after 5 that night. 24 hours in the hospital, but it was all worth it to know he was well and safe!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How DO I feel? Since tomorrow is the one month anniversary of my surgery I realized that I haven’t given the simplest of updates… how I’m feeling as I progress in my recovery.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I am fully recovered. As I understand it, it can take up to roughly six month, on average, to be fully 100% (or better) yourself. I understand that, and can live with that. All things considered, though, I feel really good. I feel like my recovery is going quite well. Judging by comparing to others around me in rehab, and from what nurses tell me, I believe I am recovering faster and better than most people in the same situation. My breathing exercises have been lacking, and I still have a small issue with lung congestion, which I am working on. Even with that, I get the feeling that I was in better shape than most people going into a bypass surgery, which seems odd to me, but ok. I mean, I wasn’t exactly a pillar of physical strength and virility prior, if you know what I mean. I’m certainly younger than pretty much all of them, which isn’t something to brag about, either.
I have virtually no pain whatsoever from the surgery itself, meaning the inside stuff. I’m still short of breath and tire easier than pre-surgery, but that’s normal, and that and my stamina are steadily increasing with each day. The day after I got home I got wore out and had to take a long nap after just unloading the dishwasher… which Missy chastised me for doing too much too soon. Fast forward to today and I can do that and more, to the point that I feel like I’m actually accomplishing things.
My skin is… interesting. The two incisions on my left leg are pretty much fully healed. The two small incisions on my stomach from the drainage tubes are almost fully healed. I am amazed at how well the 7″ chest incision is doing. The scab portion is almost gone, only about an inch left. The 9″ incision the length of the inside of my left forearm is taking longer. It’s making progress, so I’m not worried, per se, but it is still about 80% scabbed with inflammation and redness. Just in the last week has it started healing enough in places for the scab to disappear. My skin on my forearm is forming some ‘pockets’ where the skin is pulling together unevenly.
Part of my left forearm and a portion of my left palm, in just the last 10 days or so, have developed some numbness and sensitivity. I was warned up front that this would be perfectly normal and not to worry about it. I have also since been told to ‘exercise’ it by stretching and working my hand and wrist from time to time.
My feet already had some very minor neuropathy from my diabetes prior to surgery, but now my feet and my upper chest, along with my left forearm, are all hyper-sensitive. Something as simple as wearing a shirt can be painful. My shirt will lightly brush against the incision areas and cause irritation, which turns to actual pain if it goes on for a few hours.
Part of my upper left chest will always be numb because they took out an artery that had some nerves attached for the bypass. And… this surprised me… I will never again have a legitimate pulse in my left wrist. The artery is gone from there, too, so there’s nothing to measure. Makes sense now that I think about it.
Mentally and emotionally I feel fine. I’ve been very open about this from Day One of being diagnosed. That’s been very therapeutic. I’ve been very stoic about it. It just is what it is, let’s deal with it. I feel like this blog has also been very helpful, keeping me in a good frame of mind. As I have mentioned before my sleep schedule has been upended, but I’m getting enough sleep and it has been good sleep. My appetite has been fine, though I’m consciously trying to eat smaller portions. I’ve pretty much cut out table salt, and have tried to make some better choices, though I haven’t gone total health nut whack job, and doubt that I will.
So that’s it. My health checklist, you might say. I’ll revisit this a couple more times before I’m done.
Aka exercise. Proper exercise and physical rehabilitation is crucial to a good recovery. This is something that both the professionals and the people who have gone through this have told me, and it is stressed a lot. Some people have told me about family members who blew off any physical aspect to recovery, and suffered for it. They either had more medical problems or at least took far longer to recover.
The first thing you’re going to do is walk. Three to four times a day in the hospital, even in ICU, and even as early as the next morning after the surgery. It’s not going to be far at first. It certainly won’t be fast. Are you familiar with Tim Conway’s old man character on the Carol Burnett Show who shuffled along with 2″ steps? Yeah, it’s going to be kind of like that. In the beginning you will have an entourage of 2 to 3 nurses dealing with your various IVs and tubes, etc., plus to make sure you don’t fall. A few days later you will get the regular physical rehabilitation people coming to see you 1 to 2 times a day, and they’re going to push you to go a little further, make sure you can do stairs, and so on.
Next comes a more rigorous rehabilitation, at the hospital three times a week. Here you do things like a treadmill, exercise bicycle, stretching, etc. I just started this week so my treadmill is at 15 minutes, but my goal is to work up to 30 minutes. I will eventually do some strength training, but right now my focus is on aerobic exercises. You wear a heart monitor the whole time, and they check your blood pressure several times before, during, and after. It’s pretty thorough. I also took a bunch of surveys the first day, which will be repeated for comparison purposes at the end. It’s a twelve week program, so I will have to work something out at work once I return.
Another aspect, both before and after surgery, is the incentive spirometer. This is a device intended to stretch and exercise your lungs. Prior use was recommended by my surgeon, it is not ‘normal’. The purpose for after surgery is that your lungs are negatively affected during surgery… “got lazy” is how one person explained it to me… and this contraption helps expand the lungs back into shape so they can be fully usable again. This is a big deal, but I have struggled with it. I can do it a few times then I start gagging, and I think the whole thing is mental. You’re supposed to do this 10+ times an hour, every hour that you’re awake.
I was also given a set of four arm exercises, stretching type exercises. These help stretch your body and muscles in your arms and upper chest back into shape, and it’s surprising how ‘closed in’, almost protective, your upper body becomes. You are expected to do these 3 to 4 times a day. For me it helped when I combined them with my walks, while in the hospital. They’re easy in a ‘hurts so good’ way. You do not have to do these anymore once you start the official rehabilitation.
Doctors and medical people can tell you all about the physical recovery. They can’t tell you much at all regarding what to expect emotionally and mentally. Oh, they can give vague and generic suggestions, but not first-hand experience.
I’ve been fortunate, I’ve been very straight forward throughout this whole experience. I’ve openly lifted my shirt and showed people my chest scar in public several times. I’ve been very open about it, almost absurdly. I haven’t really felt down or depressed, and I think things like this blog have contributed to my acceptance.
As I said in a previous post, while you are off work you’re going to have a lot of “extra” time on your hands. First and foremost you need to rest and rehabilitate, but what about you mind and emotional state? Be sure to keep your mind occupied. Do some easy projects around the house. You get a positive sense of accomplishment. Read and/or study some topics that interest you, but you wouldn’t normally have time for. Don’t be a couch potato mindlessly watching television every waking hour, but when you do watch tv include some mentally stimulating programs that will make you think and keep your mind occupied.
You will gain strength both physically and emotionally the farther you get from your surgery. Take advantage of it.