Keeping Busy

The past two weeks have been very busy. My daughter and two grandsons living in Okinawa came to visit before my scheduled surgery and my wife and I flew to Indiana to see our first grandson graduate from high school. Thankfully, no anxiety for this trip. Changing the dose of the beta blocker has worked great.

IMG_4187We had a wonderful time and I’m so proud of my grandson. While we were there we got to see him run hurdles for his track team in the sectional and he has qualified for the regionals next Thursday. Wish I could be there but I’ll probably still be in intensive care and it will probably a day later before my mind is clear enough to know how he does.

All of the extra visitors in the house and travelling have me feeling a bit tired. The advantage is it has also kept me busy enough I’m not sitting around thinking about the open heart surgery scheduled for this week.

Speaking of open heart surgery: I got a call from my surgeon this morning to tell me I had been bumped back to Wednesday afternoon but there was also a chance I could get bumped again for Thursday morning. Guess what? I’ve been bumped to Thursday morning now.

I’m Ok with it really. I am ready to get this over with but I also realize there are others needing the same surgery and in much worse shape than me. I’m gratful I am otherwise healthy and I will be praying for those who are the reason I’ve been bumped back. I had hoped to be home on Sunday. I knew it was a long shot but I was hoping I’d be home in time to watch the Indy 500 from the comfort of my home. With the delay it looks like Monday (Memorial Day) will be the soonest I’ll be home.

Another plus is my daughter (the mother of my graduating grandson) is flying here tomorrow and with the delay this will give us some extra bonding time before my surgery. We tried over the weekend but with the graduation activities going on there wasn’t alot of opportunity. We did what we could.

I’m not sure when I’ll post to the blog again. I don’t think it will be before the surgery so it will depend on how I feel afterwards. We’ll just have to wait and see but I hope to post again over the weekend.

I Think it was the Meds

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A week ago I was going crazy with feelings of anxiety that would just come out of nowhere. I really hated missing my trip to Indiana for the Mini Marathon and getting to see alot of my family members but I wasn’t sure how I could control the anxiety so I bailed on the trip.

Really, the only thing that has changed recently was my medication for high blood pressure. About two weeks ago my cardiologist prescribed a beta blocker and it wasn’t too long after that I started having the anxiety.

Anyway, I decided on my own to cut my beta blocker medication in half to see what would happen. Yep, without my doctors permission. I’m already watching my heart rate and blood pressure closely so if this change would have a significant effect I would know pretty quickly. On the very first day I noticed the feelings of anxiety weren’t as bad. Now, this was on Saturday, the day of the Mini Marathon. By Wednesday, I was feeling more like myself again and the anxiety was pretty much gone. My heart rate and blood pressure did go up slightly but not at a level to be terribly concerned anyway.

I’m not going to speculate why this worked. I Googled and Binged all over the place trying to find information. All I found was a posting on some website from 2010 from a guy who was having the same thing happening once he started taking beta blockers. The post didn’t say if he did anything to correct it. It just so happens he was a runner too! All I can figure is the dosage was causing my pulse to go too low and then my body started reacting to tell me something wasn’t right. I did record HR’s in the very low 50’s several times. If I had been in top physical shape when all of this started, maybe low 50’s would be fine for me. I know I’m in decent physical shape but no where near top form. From what I read, low 50’s are very low. So maybe that is it?

That’s when I shot off an email to my cardiologist to tell him what I had done. I don’t know what I would have done if he told me I was crazy and get my dose back up to the prescribed level but thankfully, he didn’t. He gave me the OK to continue at the reduced dosage. Yeah!!!

I’m still having nervous reactions to any little ache or pain I get. Especially in the chest, neck, arm but I guess that’s probably normal for most people knowing they will be going through open heart surgery in a few weeks. For the most part, I don’t feel any different than I did two weeks ago or even two months ago. I’m a little bored because I can’t do much other than sit around. That probably doesn’t help with keeping the bad stuff off my mind either. I’m hangin’ tough and just living on day at a time.

I guess the moral of this story is, it’s good to know your body and to listen to what your body is telling you. Even more important, follow your body’s orders!

Anxiety: You Suck!

IMG_4035For the past few days, I’ve been getting what I would call minor anxiety attacks. They seem to really come out of nowhere and for no reason. Well, that’s not quite right. There is a reason: coronary artery disease.

The attacks started the first part of the week and have become more frequent as the week goes by. I mentioned them to my doctor the other day and he told me it’s natural and he didn’t seem overly concerned about. The worse attacks have happened in the middle of the night and have been keeping me up for an hour or two.

Yesterday, I got two attacks at work. One at lunch time and another as I was leaving work to go home. By yesterday afternoon I was having doubts about going to Indiana for the Indy 500 mini marathon and then going on to visit family in Muncie Indiana. On my drive home from work I called my wife to talk about it with her. Of course, she was supportive but in the end it was my decision. Once I got home, I called my son-in-law to talk to him about it. My daughter and he are meeting me in Indy because the original intention was all three of us would run the mini marathon. He too was supportive. It wasn’t too much longer after that I got a call from my daughter and we talked about it some more. She told me to go with your gut. Before the end of our conversation I did just that and decided to cancel the trip.

I went online to start canceling as many reservations as I could. I was able to cancel the motel reservations in Indianapolis and the car rental for the trip, but I couldn’t cancel the motel reservation in Muncie. And of course there was no way to cancel the flight reservation.

At this very moment, my clock says it’s 7 AM on Friday morning. The exact time my flight was to take off on its first leg to Indianapolis. I slept through the night without a single anxiety attack. I’m disappointed. I was looking forward to hanging out with my daughter and her family, visiting my family in Muncie and seeing a few friends from my high school days. Oh, and eating Pizza King pizza. If you ever lived in the Muncie Indiana area you know what I’m talking about. But…  once I get through the surgery I will have other opportunities. I know that but it doesn’t make it any easier. It’s not easy but I have to take this one day at a time. This too shall pass.

Drats! Another Change of Plans

In my last post I said I plan to walk the Indy 500 Mini Marathon on Saturday, well… my heart surgeon OK’d it but today I had to go for a follow-up with my Cardiologist and he put a nix to it. He told me it’s fine for me to travel but I should do nothing to exert myself. The way he talked I shouldn’t walk anymore than absolutely necessary. Now, I’ve been walking 3-5 miles a day since all of this started! He told me he would rather I hang out at Hooters, drinking beer and looking at the ladies than doing any walking. I have to admit I did laugh at that one.

I’m not happy about it to say the least. My wife is happy to hear this and I haven’t told all of my kids yet but I’m pretty sure their opinion will be the same. The kids that would actually read this blog already know. The others will find out later this evening.

So now, I’ll be flying to Indy to pickup my race packet and number but after that I’ll just be a spectator. This really stinks. My Cardiologist did tell me he thought by August or September I could start running again so if I wanted to sign up for a race later in the year to go for it! I was happy to hear that news but I think I’ll wait until I can actually run again and then decide where to go from there.

If there is anyone reading this that will be running the Mini Marathon, best of luck to you. Maybe I’ll wave you through the finish line.

False Alarm, To a Certain Degree

In addition to scheduling me for a nuclear stress test my doctor also prescribed blood pressure medication. I really hate taking it but it is what it is.  Also, no more running!

The stress test was scheduled first thing the following day. I’ve never had a nuclear stress test so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It started out pretty simple by just answering a few questions. But before filling out the forms to answer the questions they insert an IV in your arm and shoot you up with heparin. After about 1/2 an hour they attach electrodes in various locations on your body and have you lie down so an x-ray machine that takes a series of 64 x-rays of your heart. After that, they took me to another room and had me walk on the treadmill. I think every three minutes the elevation would rise on the treadmill. I lasted almost 9 minutes before they stopped the treadmill. They tell me most patients with heart problems can’t even make it to six minutes so I felt pretty good about that. I have admit though the treadmill portion was more difficult than I expected it to be. I was breathing pretty hard at the end but I recovered very quickly. The EKG done at the same time indicated I had not had a heart attack. So I was really happy to hear that. Finally, they had me lie down again and they take another series of 64 x-rays.

After that they sent me home and told me my Doctor would call me by Wednesday with the results. Now I have no idea what any of the terms in the results mean. The one thing stressed the most was “left ventricular ejection fraction was calculated at 48% at rest. They tell me it should be around 55%. Now my doctor refers me to a cardiologist and he was able to get me an appointment in just a couple of days. I had a pretty good idea this would mean I would end up having a heart cath to find out if and where there are any blockages in my arteries. That’s exactly what happened!

The cardiologist told me one of three things could happen during the heart cath.

One: the stress test was a false alarm and he would to send me home.
Two: if he found blockages that were easily repaired he would go ahead and put stents in at the same time. Also, I would have to spend a night in the hospital.
Three: if the blockages are severe he would send me home but schedule me for heart bypass surgery.

Still, no running until the cath results came back. The heart cath was scheduled for a week later on April 25th. I’ve got to close for now but I’ll have you all caught up in a few days.

 

So am I Still Living?

I can’t believe it’s been over three months since my last post. It’s been a very eventful time for sure and I’ll try to get you caught up but it will probably take two or three posts to get through it. The first part won’t be very exciting but you need to know what has been going on so you know where I’m going in the future.

I started my half marathon training right after my last post to this blog. Since my break from running was much longer than I anticipated, I decided to gradually build up my running miles. The first few weeks I kept my miles down to about 2 to 3 miles per run. The weather in January and early February was pretty crappy so most of my running was on a treadmill. Not my favorite way to run!

By mid February I was up to running three times a week for about 4 miles each And by March, my weekly long run was over five miles. As my runs got longer, I was noticing for some unexplained reason it was more difficult to run. Almost to the point where it wasn’t even fun anymore. No, I take that back, it wasn’t fun anymore. Also, my running pace had slowed down dramatically from last year’s running season. Now I’ve never been a fast runner but I was finding my running pace wasn’t much faster than my walking pace– especially uphills. This is probably the biggest reason I haven’t posted anything in so long. I’m a little embarrassed about my results. Since returning to running my progress hasn’t been anything to brag about for sure.

By the third week of March I was nearing my scheduled semi annual checkup with my doctor. I used to have high blood pressure but with diet and exercise I managed to come off of it. I’ve been taking statin drugs for high cholesterol for years– probably close to 30 years. Over the past several months I had noticed my blood pressure was slowly creeping upward. To the point I stopped measuring it because I didn’t want to know the results. But since it was close to my scheduled appointment time I figured I should start taking blood pressure readings for my doctor to review at my next appointment.

Okay, you are probably starting to see where this is going, right? Over the course of the week, I took blood pressure readings at random times during the day. I would imagine anyone reading this blog knows what a normal blood pressure readings should be, but just in case, a normal reading would be 120/80. I’m not going to explain those numbers so if you don’t know what they mean just “Google” it. My first measurement was on March 19th with a reading of 139/92. Not good by any means but not high enough to be overly concerned. As it turns out, this was one of my better days. From there I had readings ranging from 139/92 for a low, and 171/102 for a high! Now this concerned me enough to call the doctor to ask if I should come in now or wait until my scheduled appointment on April 17th. My doctor scheduled an appointment for that afternoon.

Once I arrived at the doctor’s office, they asked their usual 20 questions, got my weight, and took my blood pressure. I don’t remember the exact BP reading but it was something like 190/100 something! My doctor knew I was a runner and talked to me about my issues with blood pressure and my other concerns and difficulties in running. He ordered up an EKG right then and there in the office. Within seconds of the nurse getting the EKG readings she immediately called in the doctor.  I jokingly said to the doctor, “So am I still living?”  My doctor said “You are, but it looks like you’ve had a heart attack!”

Now my reaction was something like, “What? No way! If I did, I sure didn’t know it.” He told me to stop running immediately until more test can be done and I was scheduled for a nuclear stress test for the very next day.

I think I’ve built up this story enough to close it out for now. It’s should be pretty obvious I’m still alive and kicking but the story gets more interesting for sure. Honestly, I need a little more time to reflect before I continue writing. Stay tuned, I promise I’ll be back to post something in the next few days.