Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘baby boomers’

I keep talking about getting out of just one week without drama. It is eight P.M., Wednesday evening and . . . well, all I can say is that this is not the week that escapes the drama. I am so tired of dealing with this. I cannot express clearly enough or with sufficient strength for you to understand how I am feeling at this moment in time. Earlier tonight I felt a couple of sharp pains running through my left thigh. Each only lasted a very brief moment. Maybe a second or two each. Later, it happened again, so I went to my bedroom, got in front of a mirror and dropped my drawers. Yes, I am talking about my pants.

Now it is at this point that I feel compelled to clarify what I am doing. It was not too many years ago that I would do this for fun, however the past decade was difficult, so I try to avoid mirrors nowadays. No. . . no, I was looking at my thighs, comparing them for size. I was figuring out if one leg was larger than the other. So I dropped my drawers and took a peek. I immediately had my answer. (sigh)

So you are wondering what the heck I am talking about? If you are a regular reader of the blog, or had read my first book, you would know that I get “Deep Vein Thrombosis” DVT periodically in my left thigh, and now it seems that I have that again. While a definitive diagnosis requires an untrasound machine or a CAT scan, I know from experience that the symptoms I am experiencing is most probably DVT. And to me, concluding that I have a DVT makes perfect sense.

DVT is a blood clot. I have had a sustained blood clot in more than one vein in my left leg for nearly ten years. The doctors call it a “chronic DVT”. Not to worry. They have treatments for this sort of stuff. Treatment that control or allow the body to reabsorb the blood clot. That is important to know because DVT’s may be life threatening. Blood clots or pieces of blood clots have been known to loosen up and travel. Travel to you brain and cause stroke, or travel to your heart and cause a heart attack, or travel to you lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism. By the way. That has happened to me, and I can tell you with confidence that it is no fun.  Any of those ailments can kill you. But like I said before, they have treatments for that sort of stuff and they have things you can do to prevent them. Well that certainly is good news.

For one thing, you can take medicine to prevent clotting. Things like “Plavix” or “Coumarin” help prevent the blood from clotting. Oh, did I tell you that I was on both, just a few months ago? The doctors agreed that I should be off of them in preparation for the transplant. That move , for me was completely understandable. And, they say you may reduce the likelihood of getting a DVT if you are not sedentary. That is good to know except…THAT IS ALL I CAN DO!!

Let me recap. I have a history of DVT, the doctors removed the medicines that help prevent it, and I am less active now that in any segment of my life. Adding to that, I measured the circumference of both legs for comparison. I used a spot three inches above my knees, then half way between that mark and my groin. In each instance, my left leg was two full inches bigger than the right side. What do you think? A DVT? Maybe. If I’ve learned anything on this journey, it is that there is no certainty in medicine. My home health nurse will be here in the morning. If she thinks it is a problem, I will probably be in the hospital by noon on Thursday.

Ok. I am back and decided NOT to tell my home health nurse. At least not yet. I measured my legs, and they were stable from yesterday’s readings, AND, I have a long history of DVT in that area, and it is not close to being as bad as it has been.

Please Note:  Do not do as I do. If you have or suspect you have a DVT seek medical help immediately. DVT is nothing to mess around with.

That being said, I know that as soon as I mention this, I will be sent to the emergency room, where they will begin an anti-coagulant such as Heparin and do an ultrasound. Then they will compare the readings to earlier images. That for me is a 50 – 50 shot of landing me in the hospital. My son, his three children and his dog are coming over today for a visit and dinner. We will dog sit for him for a week. I will not risk losing one of those moments with my son and grand son’s for this. I have a DVT. So what. I’ve had one for years. I will keep an eye on it and if it begins hurting me more, or my leg  increases in size, I will take myself to the hospital.  Just not now. Not today.

Every week, please join me in saying a prayer for the donors and their families. If you do not believe in prayer, perhaps you could send good thoughts and vibes their way. 

Watch for the new book coming to you in October 2012! Also, look for my Anthology of short stories and poems. A totally fictional, sometimes irreverent look at the world. My target release date  for this book is September 10, 2012. Oh, one last bit of news.  A new book; “Memoirs of the Cold War” is progressing nicely and should be released in the fall of 2013 and a management book dealing with strategic and tactical planning for small businesses is scheduled to be released in the summer of 2013.

If you find yourself not really knowing what the heck is going on, you can catch up. Pick up a copy of “Death:Living To Talk About It” here.    http://www.brianhayden.com/  My book is available in Paper back, Kindle and Nook.

Take some time to go back in the blog..one month…six months…a year or more. My life is spilled all over the last 190 blog entries. I invite you in and check it out.

This memoir is the story of a man struggling with heart failure, and the trials he and his family endured for many years. It is the story which proves that no matter what you do not give up. There IS hope.

               

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Waiting for a new heart is complicated. You might think it is just sitting around waiting for the phone call telling you “we have a new heart, Mr. Hayden.” And you would be wrong. Week after week I am confronted with situations that require doctor or nurse intervention. This past week was no different.

Remember me telling you about low blood pressure issues? Well, my blood pressure hit an all time low this past week: 77/52. Now you may know someone whose blood pressure is very low, and that person may handle it perfectly. I, on the other hand cannot tolerate my blood pressure at such levels, so once again, I call Dr. Kwan’s office. I tell the  receptionist that I want to leave a message for a nurse.   He says fine, and asks about my message.I tell the receptionist my problem and he immediately puts me on hold. A moment later the nurse gets on the phone and I tell her what is going on. She says that Dr. Kwan is in the cath lab, but will reach him as soon as he is out.

All through the day, my blood pressure stayed around 80/50, give or take a couple of points. I was completely useless the entire day. I sat on the couch, my mouth half-open, as if pretending to be a recently caught trout. When I do stand, Denise must be near by, as I get light headed and dizzy standing up.I wait there patiently until I can take my nap. Later that afternoon, the doctor’s office calls back with instructions. The nurse said that the doctor wants to cut back more of the drugs. Last week he cut my dose of Lisinopril in half. From 20 mg/day to 10 mg/day. A couple of weeks before that they cut my Topolol from 150 mg/day to 100 mg/day. Today they would reduce my Topolol once again. They cut the dose in half, to 50 mg/day. The nurse said it would take a couple of days, but I should see improvement. In addition, she moved up my appointment with Dr Kwan to next Tuesday.

Staying alive waiting for a heart is tricky business. It is a fine balance of medications that keep me alive. Too little beta blocker and my heart’s arrhythmia problem may re-surface. Too much and my blood pressure crashes. Too little Lisinopril and my kidneys are not protected from the consequences of poor perfusion. Take my Amiodarone too close to taking my Digoxin and there is more trouble. Not enough of the stuff and I don’t get benefit from the drug. And on and on with the other drugs and combinations of drugs. It is truly a miracle that someone can figure all this stuff out.

So when the doctor tells me he is reducing my Topolol by 66% of what is was a month ago – 150 mg to 50 mg, I get nervous. When they cut the lisinopril dose in half, I worry. I am afraid..actually afraid that the change in medicine is going to tip the balance that keeps me going. Tip it from alive to the opposite. I cannot even say it. These are dangerous times for me now, and I trust the doctors know what they are doing. I do trust them, but it is still scary.

On top of all that craziness, my skin is beginning to tear. No, not a cut. You heard correctly. My skin is beginning to tear.  The area around my picc line is covered with a clear adhesive bandage. About nine square inches. Each week, the nurse comes to my house, changes the bandage and cleans the area. Well, when she went to remove the adhesive today, my skin began to tear. She explained it is a side effect of having the adhesive covering for prolong periods of time. There is no fix, except there is different bandaging material that can be ordered. She cleaned me up today, and put the same adhesive on the area. How badly will my skin tear next week? Who knows, but maybe if it tears again she will order the new bandaging material.

On a lighter note, I saw my Endocrinologist this week. That is the doctor that manages my Diabetes.  My A1C, a number that gives a good picture on control of sugars in blood was 6.5. When I first came there it was 6.9. My total cholesterol was 151. He was very pleased at our control.  As each passing week brings us closer to a heart transplant, we needed a plan for dealing with the side effects of the various anti-rejection medicines and steroids. All the doctors on my medical team expect my blood sugars to jump quickly to over 500. Yesterday, we devised a plan for managing the spike in blood sugars, and to help hold the line and keep in control. It is another thing that will be a bit tricky, but I feel good about the plan, and expect our success.

Every week, please join me in saying a prayer for the donors and their families. If you do not believe in prayer, perhaps you could send good thoughts and vibes their way.

Watch for the new book coming to you in October 2012! Also, look for my Anthology of short stories and poems. A totally fictional, sometimes irreverent look at the world. My target release date  for this book is also October 2012. Oh, one last bit of news.  A new book; “Memoirs of the Cold War” is progressing nicely and should be released in the fall of 2013.

If you find yourself not really knowing what the heck is going on, you can catch up. Pick up a copy of “Death:Living To Talk About It” here.    http://www.brianhayden.com/  My book is available in Paper back, Kindle and Nook.

Take some time to go back in the blog..one month…six months…a year or more. My life is spilled all over the last 190 blog entries. I invite you in and check it out.

This memoir is the story of a man struggling with heart failure, and the trials he and his family endured for many years. It is the story which proves that no matter what you do not give up. There IS hope.

Read Full Post »

I don’t know. The longer I spend with the picc line in my arm, the less confidence I have about surviving this journey. The longer I stay dorment on the heart transplant list, the greater my fear of dying – just a day or two too soon. Imagine, an hour after I take my last breath, the doctor gets the call announcing they have a new heart for Brian Hayden. The doctor’s nurses call my house only to find a stranger answering the phone. They ask for me…

“Sorry,” is spoken from a strange man with a deep voice.  He continues, “Brian died during the last commercial. Apparently the Spurs were killing him , or something. Anyway, that’s what I heard.”

Earlier this week I think I may have passed out in my sleep. Can you imagine that?  Wake up…out you go. I was sleeping, when I was awakened by a strong buzzing feeling rushing through my head and down my body. I t was, I think like the feeling one gets just before pasing out. I cannot know for sure though. Afterall, I was sleeping. I took my blood pressure. The machine read 82/52. Not generally dangerous levels, but low by any standard. I had been getting similar results the previous day. If you will recall, I had a blood pressure problem a couple of weeks ago. The doctor made some medication adjustments and I was fine. Now, my blood pressure is once again dropping. It is a curious thing though. If I walk, say from the couch to the kitchen to get some water; immediately returning to the couch, I may walk 40 steps – round trip. When I take my blood pressure directly after sitting, it will read 107/70. Completely normal. But if I stay seated and rest for just a couple of minutes, my blood pressure begins to drop.  100/62. A couple of minutes after that…92/57…and a few more minutes of rest brings me back to my problem – 85/58, give or take a bit.

The day after the passing out incident, I rested more than usual. My blood pressure stayed low, and I experienced light-headedness everytime I had to stand, or bend over to pick something up. That evening I decided to call the heart hospital and talk with the on call nurse. After explaining my problem to him, I was told that what I am experiencing is normal. Expect it from now until the transplant. He continued by telling me that low blood pressure is what the doctor wants, so I will need to get used to it. If it really is becoming an issue, call them back.

Even today – this very moment I continue to have periods of light headedness. I will learn to cope, but I do hope that my new heart comes sooner, than later.

On a lighter note, I have decided to declare the new book “FINISHED”. It’s title is officially, “Road To Transplant.” While it is true that I have not received my transplant yet, I fear that adding the mundane repeated problems I share week after week to be too redundant for the book. It is ok here because it is a journal, following me along. It does not translate when put into book format. So, it is complete. I did, however write in a Epilog at the back of the book, with two endings. The publisher will know which one to use. One ending will talk of my transplant, and have pictures of me in ICU, the step-down unit walking, leaving the hospital and end with a picture of Denise and I standing in front of my home when I finally arrive home from the hospital. The other ending…is my Epitaph/Eulogy. It is a rare opportunity for the dead guy to write his own. Anyway, depending on the outcome, that is the ending which the publisher will insert. You know which one I am rooting for. Right?

I will continue to write the blog, and keep you posted.  The only potential obstacle in continuing the blog after transplant is the increase in shaking I am likely to experience. I will type through it, I think. And, I will not correct the way the print looks. That way you may get a real look at tremors through print. What do you think? At the rate I am going, the blog may last for a while.  I may try leaving the tremors in for practice,  as I have them now. TThey wwil kindd of look like thiss.  Sometimes worse, rarely better.

I intend to write in it for a year past the transplant. We’ll see how it goes. As always, please join me in praying for the donor and their families in the hope they find some peace in giving the greatest gift they can give. God Bless You.

Watch for the new book coming to you in October 2012! Also, look for my Anthology of short stories and poems. A totally fictional, sometimes irreverent look at the world. My target release date  for this book is also October 2012. Oh, one last bit of news.  A new book; “Memoirs of the Cold War” is progressing nicely and should be released in the fall of 2013.

If you find yourself not really knowing what the heck is going on, you can catch up. Pick up a copy of “Death:Living To Talk About It” here.    http://www.brianhayden.com/  My book is available in Paper back, Kindle and Nook.

Take some time to go back in the blog..one month…six months…a year or more. My life is spilled all over the last 190 blog entries. I invite you in and check it out.

This memoir is the story of a man struggling with heart failure, and the trials he and his family endured for many years. It is the story which proves that no matter what you do not give up. There IS hope.

Read Full Post »

What would I give to be able to ride a roller coaster again? How much would I endure to be able to wrestle with my grandsons before they get too big and don’t want to play with their grandpa any more? How much pain am I prepared to tolerate to have a chance to live again? Well, we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let me begin earlier in the week.

Remember me telling you about my low blood pressure? Apparently having such low blood pressure with symptoms like I had a couple of weeks ago, AND waiting a week before telling someone was the wrong thing to do. I was chastised today, a little bit for waiting so long to tell someone that I was walking around dizzy and tired all of the time. The rule of thumb from this point on is; if it is causing me symptoms, let some one no, regardless of what it is or what the symptoms are! I had a fart that only caused my left cheek to vibrate! Help me. I do not know what to do. I have chest pain every day. Sometimes light…mostly light but occasionally not.  I have various aches, pains and “stuff” happening all the fricken time. Last week I had a pain in my left chest, down by the 6th rib. I figured it was probably a muscle pull. In all of these instances I did not call anyone. They say if I do not call that I am not participating in my health care. Granted, the light-headedness and weak feeling that accompanied my low blood pressure should have been reported before the week which actually passed, but I figured that I would adjust to the new medicine. OK. Lesson learned. Oh doctor!! Would you come here and fix my ass. I think it’s cracked!

My rant for the day is behind me. Now we can talk about other stuff. The doctors were able to get my blood pressure under control. The simple solution was to eliminate the 50 mg of Topolol XL that was added to the existing 100 mg of Topolol XL a couple of weeks ago. Also, It appears that the Amiodarone is doing what the doctors wanted – namely relax my heart to allow the pace maker to pace. My pvc’s seem to be mostly in check now. I drew that conclusion by the fact that my bi-ventricular pace maker is actually keeping my pulse up over 80 beats per minute. In fact, my pulse is at or above the pacing setting nearly all of the time. I wonder though: based on the previous paragraph, should I let the doctor know that from time to time my resting pulse is around 100? That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but they want my heart to work less while pumping more. I do not know if 100 beats per minute at rest is the right thing. I guess I will CALL THE DOCTOR tomorrow and ask him. See…I can learn!

On a more serious note: I had the most amazing discussion the other day. The transplant nurse runs a face book site that is kind of an extension of the transplant support group. I had joined the group a few weeks ago, but mostly stayed quiet. The truth is, there is not much action going on in this area…that is until a few days ago. One of the heart transplant patients: a woman who is more than one year post-transplant made a note about going on a roller coaster and how much fun it was and that she loved the feeling life gave her now. Uncharacteristically, I chimed in and introduced myself. I told her I was listed and longing for the day I can begin living again. About that time a gentleman who is probably about my age based on his picture chimed in. He is two and a half years post transplant and is loving every minute of his life, and even talks to his new heart as if the donor could here him. I was quite moved and talked with him as well.

Turns out both had second thoughts about the heart transplant; like the thoughts that occasionally run through my mind and despite the trials and hardship associated with transplant surgery and the year that follows, neither of these people held any regret about going through the process. Facing the mortality odds, the pain of surgery, the hassles of a low immune system, the diabetes from steroids, the increase hand shaking, the weekly heart biopsies and the myriad of  obstacles all recipients endure, both agreed that having a second chance at life is worth any price that must be paid.

What would I give to be able to ride a roller coaster again? How much would I endure to be able to wrestle with my grandsons before they get too big and don’t want to play with their grandpa any more? How much pain am I prepared to tolerate to have a chance to live again? Back at the beginning of this blog I posed those questions.  They were  questions I never really asked myself before. I had gone through a lot of mental gymnastics trying to figure stuff out, but never actually asked myself what would I give for another chance at life.. The answer is the question. What wouldn’t I give for another chance at life?

If you find yourself not really knowing what the heck is going on, you can catch up. Pick up a copy of “Death:Living To Talk About It” here.    http://www.brianhayden.com/  My book is available in Paper back, Kindle and Nook.

Take some time to go back in the blog..one month…six months…a year or more. My life is spilled all over the last 188 blog entries. I invite you in and check it out.

This memoir is the story of a man struggling with heart failure, and the trials he and his family endured for many years. It is the story which proves that no matter what you do not give up. There IS hope.

Read Full Post »

       

 

                              By Fran Lewis

               http://www.gabina49.webs.com/ 

In August of 2003 my family’s life drastically changed.   On August 25 of that year, my mom got sick.   She woke up with a sharp pain in her back and could hardly breathe.   She called my Aunt and told her to come down to her apartment and not to call my sister or me.   She wanted to handle this without worrying either one of us.   However, this was not to be.

 My Aunt called 911 and they responded to the call but insisted that one of her children be present when they did initial exam and assessment.   I was and still am the only one who knows what meds my mom takes and how often and the dosage.

 After dealing with the preliminary issues and arriving at the hospital, the staff immediately addressed my mother’s issues and concerns.   They did numerous tests to find out what had caused her problem.   From what she was saying, it sounded like she did not remember taking her blood thinner medicine and had overdosed on it by accident.   She had always been very careful with her Coumadin.   However, she had been forgetting to take it and was forgetting a lot more too.   Frightening this might seem it only got worse.

 From this hospital, she was taken by ambulance to another one where they thought they could address what they believed was an aortic aneurysm.   However, this was incorrect.

 The following morning I received a call from the heart surgeon in charge of my mom’s case asking permission to operate before it was too late.   Of course, I did not hesitate and allowed him to save her life.   Fortunately, I got there just in time to see her before surgery.   This was the last time she would sound lucid or clear for a very long time.   She came out of the operation with many more problems.   She had died twice on the table and had to be revived.   (I was told this later on)   She began to slur her words and not understand what was happening around her.   The physical operation was a success but her mental capacity for dealing with things and understanding what was happening around her were greatly diminished.

 When she finally came home from the hospital 2 weeks later she had to reenter the next day due to complications that no one realized when she was discharged.   Because of four, more stays in the hospital my family and I noticed that her ability to process information and deal with daily situations had been compromised by the surgery and the anesthesia that was given.  She even realized that she could not remain alone for any long period.  

 Due to all of the stays in the hospital and many other factors that changed her ability to care for herself, we were forced to find help for her by enlisting VNS to find us aides to care for her the right way.   Unfortunately, this turned out to be costly to my family and me. I had to change my lifestyle and my way of living which no one seems to care about. I had to retire from teaching early and find other interests that I could pursue at home. One of course is writing books and the other short stories. I have even tried to publicize the fact that I am writing a book about Alzheimer’s as a resource for other families to be able to learn more about this illness and to get the help and care they need for a loved one.

 The only problem is that no one realizes that as the person who has to deal with nurses, doctors, home care agencies and home care providers that you still need to take time for yourself and have some kind of life. I have been nowhere for the last 7 years since my mom was diagnosed with this awful illness. She is getting much worse and now rather than make her presence known she just sits and stares all day while sitting on her chair in front of her television.

  Although the aides do try and sometimes succeed in taking her out in her wheelchair to get some air and possibly run into an old friend who might stop and say hello, she often rebels and refuses to leave her chair. It seems like it is her safety net and she is afraid of anything that is different or change in general.

 It is really hard to remain calm and neutral when it comes to other family members that go away on vacation and do not check and see how my mom is or if there is something that I might have planned or need to do. They usually plan their flights, or trips and tell me about them when they have their trips finalized. This gets me quite upset and I often get into it with the other person. I try to explain that there are times that I would like to just do something during the day or even stay over in a hotel with my husband for the night. The home health aides are not allowed to give my mom her meds. I have to give them to her twice a day. I can put them together once in a while in the morning but the pill she takes to stay calm should not be given in a double dose in the morning. She will be too calm and possibly sleep throughout the day making it hard for the day aide to feed her.

 People forget that caregivers might actually do other things during the day. So, when I state that I am busy writing an article for a magazine, or just for one of my books, or to post on one of the many sites that I belong to, people often say, “What are you busy with, you don’t work.” I work from home and probably get more done in a day then they do working in an office. I never put anyone down and I respect whatever other’s do. I worked for over 36 years in the NYC Public Schools and I miss working with the students in reading and writing everyday. I had fun teaching my writing classes and working with students in reading and teaching the classics was not only fun but also, rewarding.

 Caregivers are people too and not just people who provide time and care for a person that is ill. They need to understand that the caregiver needs time to regroup and regenerate him or herself and take time to feel. Caregivers: Are Special People: Tips to Help      You Survive

 As the primary and only caregiver for my mom whom has Alzheimer’s I have had to develop different ways to keep myself active and my mind stimulated? All too often as a caregiver you become so immersed in taking care of the needs of the person who is ill that we forget about our own.   When you make the decision to care for the family member at home you are really taking on a challenge of herculean proportion. Everyday is different and every challenge unique and must be handled differently but with kindness and care.

 When a person has Alzheimer’s the hardest thing to deal with is their forever changing erratic behaviors. They can be calm one minute and out of control or violent the next. These behaviors tend to put a lot of stress and strain on the caregiver.

 Here are some kindness tips for both caregivers and volunteers to help make your job easier.

                        Kindness Tips

 

  Always say good morning when entering a patient’s room

  1.   Address the patient by name and tell the patient your name
  2.   SMILE!
  3.   Explain the task you are going to perform before you do it and explain the task as you are performing. Patients are often leery or afraid of strangers and    need to feel confident and safe with you.
  4.   If a patient needs assistance bathing, eating or walking help them and do not leave them before they complete the task.
  5.   Patients that need help eating: You need to make sure that person eats and are fed. Make sure that you do not leave the tray untouched and if you have to  feed the patient you need to do it with kindness and patience.
  6.   Ask the patient if they need help dressing or assistance going to breakfast or any other area of the home or hospital
  7.   If you are bringing magazines or books allow the person to choose
  8.   Never speak to a patient as if they were a small child
  9.   Speak to people with respect and as an adult
  10.   Making sure that the person’s environment is safe
  11.   Make sure you have a list of things that need to be done for that person and complete them
  12.   Meet with other volunteers and discuss their successes
  13.   When you speak to a patient make sure that you make eye contact and have their attention
  14.    Speak at eye level and speak clearly
  15.    Use simple and direct statements
  16.     Never raise your voice
  17.     Include the person in your conversation: Talk to the person not at the person
  18.     Never speak to them as if they are a third party and not in the same room
  19.     Speak to them as an adult not a small child
  20.     Listen to their concerns and show a lot of understanding
  21.     Never leave a patient in distress

 

Remember: What you are doing is a blessing to the person who can no longer handle life alone and who needs your love, support and assistance. Remember they did not choose this disease unfortunately it chooses them. Alzheimer’s is really deadly and unfortunately there is no cure. But, let’s hope with research and better understanding of the causes that someday there will be a solution.

 

Read Full Post »

Fighting heart failure is a relentless battle. Today I awoke, barely able to get out of bed. My abdomen distended. Hands swollen. Even my legs, which normally takes several hours of awake time to feel the extra weight were beginning to swell. My arms are heavy. Walking today is a chore. Breathing too. Denise and I were going to have a nice day. Lunch, shopping and just hanging out.  I am afraid that must be delayed. Instead, we will stay at home.

Do you remember, several months ago I was in a cardiac rehab program?  The idea was to get as fit as I could before taking my run at a heart transplant. At first it seemed to be working. Then, after a few months of training the strangest thing happened. I began getting worse. Not better – worse.  It seemed  at this point , exercise was causing the heart failure symptoms. The doctors stopped the rehab. I would have to do this without the aid of exercise. At least for now.

Then, as you might recall, two weeks ago I had a heart attack.  An occlusion of a small artery in the left branch of my coronary arteries. The results are unclear. Even the procedure is changing. I was told that I received a second stent. It was near the existing one. A message from my heart failure nurse a few days ago told of a different story. Apparently the area that was stented back in 1995 once again closed. The new stent was placed inside the old one. A stent inside a stent. We are not sure how long this one will last because it drastically narrowed the artery they were trying to open. For now, they say it should help. “We want you go back into cardiac rehab Brian”  the doctor said. He feels that with the improved blood flow that I might be able to tolerate rehab this time. “Sounds good”, I replied. I will do whatever is necessary to forge a better life .

Last Thursday was my first exercise period. The staff was happy to see me back. This is my third return in four years. Perhaps the “Lucky Three” will be the charm. The exercise program went without a hitch. Arm crank – 3 minutes. Tread mill set on 2.0 lasted for 6 minutes. I concluded with some arm exercises using 3 pound weights.  Piece of cake. I went home. The next day Denise and I went for a walk at a park in the neighborhood. I walked slowly, but I did two laps. Each lap is .35 miles. That was pretty good. Saturday came and we once again hit the track. About half way through the first lap, I began struggling to breathe. My legs were aching. It was clear to me, I was not oxygenating the muscles the way I should be. I made it around the track one time and stopped. Sitting on a park bench, catching my breath and watching Denise finish her laps.

When Sunday rolled around, I did not feel like I had the strength to walk.  We were going to visit my grandchildren later. We just hung out around the house.  Monday rolled around  and I had gained five-pounds. That is to say five pounds since the previous Thursday. About a pound a day. I was feeling weak and lethargic (tired). So, you must by now understand that when yesterday (Tuesday)  presented itself I was apprehensive. I still felt poorly. My next rehab appointment was just a few hours away. I cant do it. Not now. I called to cancel. I called my heart failure nurse. I cancelled the day.

It is 6:58 a.m. on Wednesday morning. I am lying in bed, my eyes only half-open. I cannot move my arms or legs. The weight of them is too much. I cannot breathe either. I have the oxygen thing in my nose. I must concentrate on breathing through my nose. Finally about an hour later I drag myself out of bed. I am nauseated and sick. I feel swelled and uncomfortable. I am now ten pounds more than I was just 6 days ago.  I take my pills, and put a call in to the CHF nurse (congestive heart failure). Then, I sit down and relay this story to you, while I await to see if I will be called in and hospitalized once again.

Congestive heart failure is relentless. Despite our best efforts to control it, CHF is a force of nature. As you would not expect to control a tornado, or a hurricane, CHF cannot be contained for long. You can prepare for it, minimize the effects of a direct hit and minimize its effects while the storm is in progress.  But like all things,  at some point mother nature will reclaim what is hers.  There is no avoiding it. That is the way of the universe. . That is the truth. That is my truth.

Read Full Post »

Not a question that most people have to think about. It is for Denise and I. Last Friday we asked ourselves that very question. Is this the day I die?  This is what happened.

It’s 10 am just this past Friday. I was writing, as usual. Though I didn’t give it much attention, I noticed that my left arm began going numb. The kind of numb you feel when a limb “falls asleep”. I rubbed it for a minute and continued my writing. About an hour later Denise came into the office and suggested we go to an early lunch and a movie. Sounded good to me. While at lunch, I subconsciously rubbed my left arm as if to awaken it. My arm was still numb. Not completely mind you. Only from my shoulder to the tips of my smallest two fingers. This next part is familiar. Denise asks me “do I want to go to the movie, or do I want to go to the emergency room?” Something inside told me that the right answer today is clear. “The emergency room” I proclaimed.

This is why I hate to go to the emergency room. My cardiac history is, shall we say extensive. That gets me the quick ticket to the back. That is the good news. The bad news is that  they immediately put a catheter into each arm. They just assume that it is necessary. Then, the problems happened. My blood pressure kept dropping. Not too low. Just low enough for them to be concerned. Also, I was getting pressure in my chest. They asked me to rate the pain on a scale of one to ten. I repeated myself. “I am not in pain. I am feeling pressure and it is difficult to breathe.  “SIX”, I proclaim.  Then the doctors start talking among themselves. Another doctor soon approaches. “Where is the Pain”, he asks.  Once again I effort to make them understand. “IT FEELS LIKE SOMEONE IS PUSHING DOWN ON MY CHEST. IT IS PRESSURE. NOT PAIN.  IT IS BECOMING HARDER TO BREATHE.” The doctor gives me an “ahhhh”. He continues; “so the pain is in your upper chest?”

A few moments later they did an EKG. (For the record,  it stands for electro cardiogram.  ECG. I am not sure why the common usage made it EKG) My EKG began telling the story. Immediately, doctors were gathering around, talking about my ekg as if I were not in the room.  “T wave” this, “ST” that. I knew that there was a problem. A few moments later they came to my bedside to talk with Denise and I. “We believe you are on the verge of having another heart attack”, they said. The enzymes had not showed up yet. That is a good thing. It means there is not yet any damage to my heart. They want to do a heart catherization right away.  Like right now.

They wheeled me into the cath lab. Now normally, heart catheters are placed in the groin area. I’ve also had an occasion to have the instruments placed in my heart via my neck. I have never had the stuff done through my wrist. Apparently, I am too anti-coagulated. Remember I had said that my INR is maintained between 3 and 3.5. Well, this night my INR is 3.6. Too high to attempt a groin entry. Also too high to go through the neck.  Normal INR is about 1.0 So you can see that being more than three times normal, bleeding, or rather controlling the bleeding becomes an issue. For any of you that have had an “arterial blood gas” test, you know that they poke you on the underside of your wrist. Deep. And it hurts. They would put much larger catheters, and sleeves in my wrist. Large enough to put their instruments through. Oh, and one more thing. No sedatives. No pain killers. My blood pressure was too low. I would have to white knuckle this procedure.

The doctors were successful. They stented an artery called the “obtuse marginal” It is a branch that originates from the “left circumflex” artery. The stent is in fact very close to the one that was placed in 1995. The only problem was this; the doctors would have to sacrifice a small artery off of the obtuse marginal in order to stent and save the other. Save a larger artery at the cost of a very small one. Sounds about right. At some point in the near future, I will experience a small heart attack. Small yes. But in my world of already damaged heart muscle, how much more muscle can die before I follow suit? At some point, this house of cards the doctors are building will come down. But for now I am alive. For now, I can get on with my life. Still, I wonder. When will the next episode occur and will I ever get to see a movie with Denise?

Before the stent placement


post stent placement

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »