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.

Diet… Does Eating Suck Now?

Many people worry about this, and I’ll admit that I did, too.  I mean, who doesn’t like good food, right?  We can all breath a sigh of relief, it’s not quite as drastic as our fears led us to believe.  A couple friends of mine told me that, for the first month or so after surgery, food tastes terrible.  Not different or unrecognizable, per se, just bad.  Lucky for me, my experience wasn’t like that.  Food still tasted like it was supposed to, though maybe a little ‘dull’ for a short time.  In my case, food tasted fine and I was able to eat almost immediately.

The first day in ICU I was restricted to a solely liquid diet, but that soon after surgery I really didn’t want to eat anyway, so that was fine with me.  The first day and a half in the regular hospital room they fed me normal meals, but I wasn’t all that hungry so I ate only bits and portions.  One meal I didn’t eat at all because I simply wasn’t hungry.  After that I ate fine, and my appetite has been normal since.

And for what it’s worth the hospital food was actually pretty decent, even good at times… though the “pot roast” had the texture of something out of old Army C-rations.  There’s a not too fond memory I’d rather push back into the deep dark recesses of my brain.

The big change in my diet kind of surprised me.  Being diabetic and having everybody continually harp on me about blood sugar and carbs I was expecting a huge restriction there.  Not so.  Now don’t get me wrong, carb watching is still as important as ever.  I still have to keep them in check and do the right thing.  No, the big thing for me, at least for the foreseeable future, is sodium.  I need to keep my salt intake down and well-managed.  My hospital meals were specially designated as low-sodium, or possibly even no-sodium, I forget.  They also made it a point to provide packets of Mrs Dash for seasoning to replace the salt.  So the #1 dietary goal for me right now is reduce my sodium intake.  I can do that.

About 15-ish years ago I eliminated added table salt on all foods, except french fries, corn on the cob, and popcorn.  I did that for several years, but slowly backed away and started adding table salt to everything again.  Well, now I’m determined to go back to that goal… and add french fries to the no salt rule.  I even used Mrs Dash on some corn on the cob tonight and it was very good.  I still can’t envision unsalted popcorn, though.

I’m also making an effort to make more foods either from scratch, or at least simpler.  Packaged foods and mixes usually contain a bunch of sodium, for both taste and preservative purposes.  And here’s a fun fact:  Low-calorie, reduced-calorie, non-fat, and low-fat foods… basically anything packaged and marketed as an allegedly ‘healthier’ alternative… almost always have something increased to make up for what they took out, and very often that addition is a boatload of sodium.  For a few years now my position has been to eat the real thing, just watch portion control.

So, here’s my ‘new’ dietary regimen…

  • Reduce sodium greatly.
  • Keep watching my carbs.
  • Watch my portions… not easy for me, but I’ve been good so far.
  • Eat real food, not bastardized concoctions, just watch portions (there’s that theme again).

See, it’s really not all that bad.  Instead of ordering a meal and an appetizer, I pick one or the other, but not both.  If I go to fast food, instead of a value meal and another burger as a side… yes, I do that… just the value meal.  No more side burgers.  And guess what… it’s really not that bad.  I’m still satisfied when done.

Eat well, and bon appétit.  🙂

How Do I Feel?

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.

Discharge!

The next morning I get woke up by a nurse at 6:00 am with a single pill for me to take.  Yes, I was a bit annoyed, especially when they bring the rest of my pills with breakfast two hours later.  My surgeon is supposed to visit a couple hours later, as well, so I go back to sleep.  About an hour and a half later I wake up with my surgeon standing over me, smiling, and ready to talk.  Oh, ok, let’s talk.

A bunch of people come in and out over the next couple hours, each with a different task.  My proclamation of sarcasm seems to have worked well for making friends with my assigned nurses, gave us something to talk about and they better understood my corny jokes.  Consensus is that I’m ok, for now, and no reason to keep me any longer.  Also no reason to move up the surgery date, and we keep the appointments I have planned for the next week.  I’m ok with that.  As much as I want to get it done, I also want the time I had set aside in my mind to get things done beforehand.  Stuff with work, personal tasks, a couple more paychecks if I have to be honest, stuff like that.

We finally, get clearance to check out and go home, so Missy and I get around, get dressed, and do just that.  Not without eating lunch out, of course.  Now I have to make a comment on the hospital food.  Maybe I’m in the Twilight Zone, or something, but my experiences so far have been positive.  The food I’ve had so far, and with my thyroid surgery about five years ago, has actually been pretty tasty.  Last night I had meat loaf and mashed potatoes with gravy and green beans and some frozen cherry yogurt push up thingy that was pretty good.  Breakfast this morning was french toast… no bacon :(… with sugarless syrup that was surprisingly good, milk, and cereal.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I have a friend who has been having some medical issues and been in and out of the hospital and can’t seem to get a good meal.  She does things sometimes like have pizza delivered.  (We have our Toastmaster meetings in this hospital, as well, and I’ve seen pizza delivery people here, too.)

So, we go home, I go back to work the next day, and take it easy during the weekend.  The next week will be a few appointments and things are about to get busier.  Much busier.