It’s been awhile…

…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.)

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.

Pain & pain meds

Pain

‘Does it hurt?’  ‘How long until the pain goes away?’

Those are common questions that I often hear, and that I had myself.  I can say that results have not met expectations… in a good way.  Right out of surgery you would think it would hurt like hell.  You would think the pain would be constant.  It really didn’t.  I was sore, very sore, but not really in pain, per se.  Of course there were some really good pain meds being pumped into me via the IV, so I’m sure that had something to do with it.

It did hurt when I would try to sit up, or twist my upper body.  Getting in and out of bed was a chore, and in the first few days I really needed help doing it.  This was tough for me.  I’m someone who always prided them self on being independent.  I’m a big boy, I could get up and go to the bathroom on my own, right?  Well, no, I couldn’t.  I needed help.  At first from nurses, two in ICU, one in the regular room, but later as I improved Missy was able to help me alone.  Then, once back in bed I wouldn’t be up high enough so two nurses would have to ‘adjust’ me.  One on each side, they’d grab the sides of a pad that I was laying on, 1… 2… 3… *heave!*, and that would work.  My bed could be adjusted up now and I could go back to sleep.

It hurt when I coughed, which I was warned about from everyone, but not as bad as I had been warned.  A local charity gave me a heart pillow that would become my ‘security pillow’ for the foreseeable future.  Coughing is a big deal.  You hold this tightly to your chest when you cough, it helps manage the immediate pain somewhat, and you’re encouraged to cough often to clear your lungs of stuff so you don’t get pneumonia.    Breathing clearly is one of everybody’s foremost concerns in your recovery for this reason.

What does hurt, and what no one had really warned me about, is sneezing.  One person did warn me, after I mentioned it to them, to “let it fly” and not hold it in, and now I know why.  When you hold it in it creates a great pressure and strain on your lungs and chest, and they don’t need that right now.

By the time I came home, there was virtually no pain at all, except for coughing and sneezing.  The soreness lasts quite awhile, and you move slowly everywhere and for everything.  Two days after I got home I unloaded the dishwasher, and that single effort wiped me out and left me in some pain and soreness, so I took a nap.

As I sit here writing this almost three weeks later my chest is still sore, but much of that is the skin around the incision tightening as it heals, which it is doing quickly.  Last couple days I have had a few instances where it felt like my heart ‘jumped’, and would sometimes cause a reflex in my arm and/or leg.  This is new.  Some internet research indicated that it might be AFib (Atrial Fibrillation), which is fairly common after heart by-pass surgery.  I am on meds to prevent blood clots, and AFib usually goes away fairly quickly in this case.  I have a doctor appointment with my surgeon for a check-up later today and will ask about it.

The two very small incisions in my left leg have been fine.  The long incision on my inner left arm has been the most problematic.  It’s appeared more inflamed, but my cardiologist said it was fine.  It gets sore as well, partially for the same stretching reasons, but also partly because it keeps rubbing against things, primarily my stubbly chest and stomach hair as it grows back in.

Both my chest and arm incisions are hypersensitive, though.  I do not enjoy not wearing a shirt, but have had to go shirtless a lot here at home because a shirt brushing up against an incision is quite irritating, and if it goes on for too long they do begin to hurt.

Pain Medications

Prior to surgery I was given some kind of medication to take on a daily basis that I call “mini nitroglycerine”.  If I remember correctly this was to expand my arteries, or something like that.  It gave me severe headaches, which I had been warned was a possibility, so I stopped taking it after about 3 days.

I do not remember what pain med they gave me through the IV after surgery.  I was taking Oxycodone and Tylenol in pill form after surgery.  The Oxycodone was interesting.  I had some strange dreams on that stuff.  One while in the hospital had me dreaming of scrolling Facebook on my phone, and I somehow knew my hand was up near my face actually making scrolling motions.  I told myself to stop doing that, but I kept doing it.  I would have thought nothing of it, but Missy told me about it the next morning, and confirmed that not only did she see my hand making the scrolling motion, but my legs were moving, too, kind of like how a dog runs in its sleep.

The second day after I got home I started getting sick.  Discharge instructions said to call the nurse’s station if any issues so I did.  They said call my family doctor, so I did.  They said call my surgeon’s office, so I did.  They initially didn’t want to deal with it, but when I explained more she went and consulted with my surgeon and he said to discontinue my two anti-biotics and the Oxycodone, as either were known to potentially cause this.  I did so, and I stopped getting sick.  Before we ended the call, though, I was instructed that any other questions should go to my family doctor.  😐  Thanks.

Headaches… and migraines

It’s amazing how busy a person can get even when something like impending heart surgery is looming on the horizon. It has been twelve days since my last post, and I have more stuff to say. But today we’re going to take a detour from my path to this point and talk about headaches… or more specifically, migraines (with aura).

I am not one to get migraines. Never have been. I’ve tried to understand what people who do suffer from migraines go through, but I’ll be honest and say that I don’t fully understand it. It’s not literally required that a person has to have “been there, done that” to fully know, but it often helps.

This past Friday, after lunch, I felt a headache coming on. Within about 30 minutes it had progressed so far so fast that it was almost unbearable. Intense pain, most only on one side, the right side, if I recall correctly, primarily behind and above my eye and radiating back into my head.  (I do get sinus headaches, so I needed to make sure it wasn’t that.)  Inability to focus mentally and really think, though if I absolutely had to I felt that I probably could. Aura, or visual disruptions, inability to focus visually, distorted vision, black spots. Oh, and did I mention the excruciating pain?

It wasn’t fun. But did I leave and go to the doctor? No. One, I don’t think I would have been able to drive safely. Two, I had just gotten back to work after two days in the hospital for what turned out to be something of a false alarm… but we’ll get back to that in a future post.

Anyway, it was incredibly difficult to work, and after a little over an hour it subsided. Not completely, but bearably miserable. Quitting time came and I was out of there and on my way home. Still had a non-migraine regular headache that hindered my concentration into the evening. Took a long nap that evening, and woke up with headache. Yay me. It didn’t finally go away until I woke up the next morning.

That day, Saturday, went well. No headache, no issues.

But Sunday. Woke up fine. Ok, woke at 1pm, but to be fair I didn’t go to bed until after 4am. Anyway, was fine in the beginning, then around 3pm it came back. It’s 9pm as I write this  Not migraine level, but bad enough. So I have to wonder, what causes migraines and/or headaches in general? Each of these incidents was preceded by a stressful event, so there may be that. I was also started on a new medication, some what I call a min-nitro glycerine pill that I cannot remember the name, and was told that it can cause headaches in some, so it could be that. At this point I really don’t know, but I don’t like it.