Awesome, a new Taylor Swift song came out today! Taylor sure likes to hype thing up a bit and she sure did with the new song called, “Me!” I’m a fan of Taylor Swift but I’m not sure I like this one. Guess I need to listen to it a few times.
No, I’m not posting today because of a new Taylor Swift song…
One year ago today I went in for a heart cath thinking they might have to put in a stent or two to open the arteries to my heart. Now that was my worse case scenario. Honestly, I went into University Hospital on April 26, 2018 thinking I’d walk out from the procedure knowing it was just a false alarm.
Boy was I wrong. I needed open heart surgery–a triple bypass.
I was in shock. My wife was in shock. Hell, everyone was in shock. I think my cardiologist was even a little surprised too. I didn’t look like a heart patient. I didn’t act like someone with a heart problem. How could anyone who is active and a runner need open heart surgery? Well, it happens. For me, it was mostly genetics. My body produces too much cholestrol. I’ve taken statin drugs for years and they probably have helped and most likely delayed the need for a triple bypass for a few years anyway. But come on, I’m only 61 years old! Trust me, if it happened to me it can happen to you too.
April 26th, 2018 was a game changer for sure. I was just a few days from running the Indy 500 Festival Mini Marathon which I reluctantly cancelled. I really hated hearing the news and honestly I had no clue what layed ahead.
Let me say I’m blessed to still be here today. I guess God’s got something planned for me. I survived the surgery, the recovery, the rehab, and now by my own choice I’m retired. It’s been an adjustment for sure. Honestly, I’m still adjusting a little. Overall, things are great though–just different.
I’m looking forward to hitting the road in a few days to visit family along the way to Indianapolis to attempt the Indy 500 Mini Marathon on May 4th. I haven’t had a run in a couple of weeks now because of a head cold and the longest run in my training has been ten miles. Not quite where I wanted to be right now but I think it will be fine. Thankfully, Indy is pretty flat.
Tonight I’m runnin in the “Til the Cows Come Home 5K” and this will be my first run in two weeks. Just going to go out and have fun and I’m thinking about not even starting up my watch and just go with the flow.
Anyway, I felt like today was worthy of a blog post. Enjoy your April 26th!
I haven’t posted anything since the middle of November and I wasn’t posting much in the month of October either. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a post and never finished it. Why? Well, mostly life just got in the way. It’s affected my running schedule as well but I’ve never stopped running–I just stopped blogging.
Thankfully, life has settled down again. Ah! The relief. I guess I’ll begin by giving a rundown of my running life the past four months:
On the very first day of December, which was 191 days after my triple-bypass surgery I ran in a 10K. I was really kinda down on myself the week before the Jingle Jam 10K in Evans, Georgia because I knew I hadn’t been training to the expectations I has set for myself. I just wasn’t ready for it. It’s a fairly hilly course so I decided I’d run the flats and descents but walk the inclines. I did exactly that but it was more incline than I though. The organizers essentially reversed the course route. I think it made it harder, not easier but maybe it was just because I wasn’t trained up enough. I finished but at my worse time ever! It was so bad I didn’t even write it down. It was something like and hour and 20 minutes. Really awful finish time.
Like I said, I was down on myself all week but once I got out on the course all I could think about is how grateful I am. Here I am at 62 years old and gone through open heart surgery just six months before and running in a 10K road race. That’s quite an accomplishment isn’t it? I think so. Sure, I wish I could have done better but don’t we almost always feel that way?
The month of January started with going with friends to Hilton Head, South Carolina to celebrate the new year. We spend five days and the first two were a bit wet but the last three days were beautiful. Anytime I travel I like to find a place to run and Hilton Head is a fantastic bike and pedestrian friendly place. We stayed in Harbour Town which is a little more secluded and we could see this historic landmark from our condo. Anyway,
I got one run in on New Year’s Eve. It had rained during the night so it was very humid but a nice mid-sixties temperature. Got a little over 3 miles in.
Of course, I ate a lot of seafood there. Mostly raw or fried oysters. It was New Year’s Eve after all so I also drank a bit too much but no hangovers anyway.
Just seven days after our Hilton Head trip we were on the road again. This time to St. Augustine, Florida. Actually, this wasn’t our final destination, it was just the first leg. Final destination? Keep reading. HAHA!
It was chilly! A cold wave starting coming through Florida the day we hit the road. No shorts or beach for this portion of the trip anyway. On our first full day, we drove over to the World Golf Village and the World Golf Hall of Fame.
As you can see in the photo above I’m not wearing a jacket but that was only because it would interfere with my golf swing. Trust me, just as soon as I finished trying to get close to the pin (wasn’t even close), my jacket was back on again.
Our second day we spent mostly in the historic part of St. Augustine doing the usual tourist stuff. I didn’t do any running in the historic part but I sure did walk a lot! We did the Historic Tours of America thing in St. Augustine. If you’ve travelled in the U.S.A. you’ve probably seen them before. They’re open-air bright green and orange trolley’s and you can get on and off wherever you like all day.
After a few days in St. Augustine we were on the road again heading down I-95 to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Still windy and chilly though. The winds made driving a little hard sometimes but we made it safe and sound.
Just like St. Augustine, this isn’t our final destination. Hold on, I’m about to tell you. On our first full day we headed to the Port Everglades to catch a ride on this baby:
Once on board the ship, we get settled in and just before sunset we headed out to sea for two destinations:
Key West, Florida and Havana, Cuba
This was with a group of people I went to high school with Indiana. Even though it was sometimes chilly, sometime cool, rarely warm we had a great time. Our ship was smaller than any other cruise ship I’ve travelled on and no running track. I did get to the gym 3 of the 5 days on the cruise. We were at the port in Havana for a day and a half and looking out the windows in front of me on the treadmill I had a great elevated view of Havana while I ran. So technically, I’ve now ran in Havana, Cuba! HAHA.
Things are starting to get back to normal again! A few months ago I signed up for the Augusta University Half Marathon scheduled towards the end of the month but I wasn’t ready so I didn’t even go. I did run for an hour on the day of the race! Monthly mileage still isn’t quite where I would like it but it’s better than it has been. For the month, roughly 37 miles. The longest run was for just shy of 5 miles. That’s no where close to half marathon distance.
March (So Far…)
So far this month everything is going pretty well. I’m on track to log over 50 miles this month. On Saturday I ran seven miles and that’s the longest run in a long time. As in BEFORE my open heart surgery.
I’m 47 days away from running the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini Marathon. You may recall I ran this one week after the St. Jude’s Half Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee in 2017 and was supposed to run it again last year but the heart issues caused me to cancel. I’m pretty happy with my conditioning at this stage. I’ve lost 19 pounds since the 1st of January! I’m only about a pound and a half from my race day goal weight. Maybe I’ll have to reset my goal before then? Looks like I’m well on my way to being ready. I’ll try to post more often now.
Since April the University Hospital Heart & Vascular Institute in Augusta, Georgia has been my home away from home. On Monday my cardiologist told me I’m doing great and he wants to see me in a year. Today, I graduated from Cardiac Rehab! God willing, no more visits to the hospital for quite a while now.
Dealing with knowing I needed a triple bypass and then waiting several weeks before I actually had it wasn’t easy. The surgery definitely wasn’t easy. Recovery after CABG surgery wasn’t easy. Rehab has had its ups and downs but thankfully, mostly ups. Everyone I’ve worked with at University Hospital has been great. The doctors, nurses, specialists, therapists, and admin staff have all been professional, helpful and caring. I don’t think you could ask for better care than what I received in the past few months. Just awesome.
I want to thank my surgeon Dr. Beecher, my cardiologist, Dr. Rahman, my primary care doctor, Dr. Fischer and of course their support staff. They have been great. I want to especially thank the Cardiac Rehab Team at University: Norma, Joy, Bob, Kit, Lauren, Jeff, Mary Kay, and Lorraine. I’m really going to miss them all. That group is a perfect example of teamwork. Their guidance, encouragement, and smiles really helped making the rehabilitation process so much easier.
Ok then, rehab is officially over. I retired on the 1st of August and honestly with all the rehab and doctors appointments I haven’t felt like I was retired. It’s just felt like a continuation of the convalescence. Now it’s time to start another chapter of my life and I’m looking forward to it. Time to get into retirment mode and I’m excited I can start running again. I really miss it. It’s going to be kinda like starting all over again but that’s OK. In time, I know this will pass and I’m hoping the end game will be I’m a better runner than before my bypass.
The day after my 62nd birthday, I officially retired. Has it really been 14 days since my first day of retirement? Where has all the time gone? Honestly, with cardio rehab three times a week and at least one doctors appointment every week I really don’t feel like I’m retired yet.
The first five days all the family celebrated by going to a cabin in the North Georgia Mountains. It was great to have the kids and grandkids all together for a few days. The cabin was awesome. And the view! Oh my, it was gorgeous. It rained a lot the first day and a half but by the weekend we had enough sun to sit out at the infinty pool to soak up the sun and enjoy the view.
Next week is my final week of rehab so things will change a bit once that is off my plate. I believe after next week the frequency of my doctors appointments will reduce too. Yeah!
I haven’t felt the need to post much right now because it’s the same old, same old. Three rehab sessions each week and on non-rehab days I walk five miles. I will say I’m feeling better and stronger. The use of the rowing machine and weight machines at rehab have been a big help. Oh! and NO FEVERS in over two weeks now! The doctors never could figure out the cause but they are gone so I don’t really care anymore.
In the past week I have added a little bit of running to my walks. Just short 30 second sprints and each day I add one or two more. I’m up to six sprints now. Once I get up to twelve I’ll probably start trying one minute sprints. On my last walk I placed all six sprints within the same one mile split. My split time for the mile was 14:39. Just before I found out I needed a triple bypass, at times I was logging running mile splits slower than this. How did I not know something was wrong back then? Well… I guess I did realize it but never would have guessed it was a heart problem. A mile split of 14:39 with only three minutes of running included is pretty impressive to me right now.
On Labor Day weekend I plan to consider rehab officially over and will begin training to run a 10K in December. Registration for the local Jingle Jam 10K opens right after Labor Day and I plan to sign up. It’s a course with quite a few hills so I’m not sure how ready I will be, but it’s a goal. Hey, if I can’t run the whole thing–so what! At least I’ll plan to be there.
I’m considering a gym membership too. We have a small gym in the clubhouse of my neighborhood but the equipment is somewhat limited. I’m really going to miss the Concept 2 rowing machine and the muscle specific weight machines available at rehab. We have an Anytime Fitness gym within walking distance of my house so I plan to go check it out next week and then decide.
So far, retirement has been great. Super busy right now and so far I’m not really getting much done that I thought I would. Where does all the time go and how did I get anything done before? Crazy! Unless there is a drastic change of some sort this will likely be my last post concerning my recovery from open heart surgery. The next time you see something from me it will be about my preparation for my next 10K!
I had to think about what I wanted to title this post. I could have picked, “First Two Weeks Back to Work” since its the first two weeks back after having a triple bypass but instead, I went with the title above because it’s my last two weeks of work before I retire!
Officially my last day is July 31st but since I do work for the federal government you have to deal with red tape before you can do anything. Friday was my last work day. Monday (my 62nd birthday) and Tuesday I’ll be out-processing.
I must say the past two weeks have been difficult. I had 60 mL of fluid removed from my chest cavity in the hopes it would stop my frequent fevers. But nope, that didn’t do it. I was put back on 400 mg of Motrin twice a day to help but it wasn’t really working. Granted, no fevers but I still had headaches and flu like bodyaches as if I had a fever. So for much of the past two weeks I’ve felt down right awful.
The doctors have pretty muched ruled out infection. I did see a infectious disease doctor since my last post and I’ll see him again in a few weeks. He was honest with me from the start and said since it had been eight weeks since surgery it was highly unlikely an infection was involved with my fever. In the past two weeks I’ve also seen my surgeon who had released me from his care and has given me the go ahead to do anything I feel physically able to do. Saw my Cardiologist and I’ll see him again in a few weeks and he’s in agreement with the surgeon, do whatever you feel capable to do. He’s sticking with this advice to go ahead and sign up for a race around the end of the year because I’ll be ready. My goal is to begin running again in September. It will be just like starting over once I do and at this point I’m not sure if I’ll start at the beginning of September or late in September or somewhere in between.
For the most part all the Doctors are telling me they don’t understand the cause of the fevers but they all seem to be saying this is something I will need to work through and eventually it will go away. I get it but when you feel like crap its not very comforting.
On Thursday I decided to change things up a bit. I stopped taking the Motrin. It didn’t take long before I saw the low grade fever return. I decided to take only Tylenol or aspirin but if I can get through the fever without it I’ll do it. Thurday afternoon: fever. I sweated it out through the night but the fever broke and I felt better. I was little tired because I’m not sleeping all that well but overall once the fever breaks I don’t feel too bad. Friday afternoon: ditto, fever again. Sweated it out again and discovered using ice packs on my head seem to help just about as well as Tylenol or aspirin. On Saturday morning I actually went out for a four mile walk! For the past two weeks, other than my Cardio Rehab sessions I haven’t done anything so this is an improvement.
At the time of this writing it is late Saturday afternoon, early evening. I do have a low grade fever again. I’ve used ice packs twice and lowered my fever by one degree anyway. At this very moment, I have sweat rolling down from my forehead. Right now I’d rather have to deal with a night of fever so I can have at least eight to twelve hours of feeling almost normal during the day.
I’m not sure where this is leading but sometimes you have to listen to your body and do what you think is right. I can only hope this will pass very soon because it is beginning to wear me down. I feel like another phase of my life is about to close and another exciting adventure is about to begin. I can’t but wonder where this will go.
Just take a moment and compare the results of a run I had just before I found out I needed triple bypass heart surgery and a walk about two and a half weeks after my surgery. Notice there isn’t that much difference between the walking and running pace.
SPOILER ALERT: Just this morning, I went on a brisk walk of about 2.5 miles and my pace was 15:29 per mile. Not running–walking!
I’m trying to figure out when the signs of heart disease first appeared and honestly, I’m starting to think I never will figure it out. I’ll take a stab at it and say it was maybe the fall of 2015 but I really can’t explain to you why that might be the case. Maybe after a few more months or years even things will become clearer. Until recently, I attributed any slowdown in my running performace as just a sign of old age.
Backing off my mileage last summer and then pretty much coming to a complete halt to my running while I fought off a three month respiratory ailment spell certainly confused things. I blamed the layoff, respiratory ailments and some weight gain for the poor performance this year. Now that I’ve had some time to evaluate things with some passage of time it seems to me I WAS SO WRONG!
Yes, all the above contributed to my poorer performance but I can see clearly now it was much more than that. Hindsight is truly 20/20! I should have gone to the doctor much sooner than I did. Thankfully, nothing serious happened before I finally went to the doctor. I wish I had some sage advice for anyone wondering if they are having heart ailments but I can’t. Because of my active lifestyle my body created collateral arteries around my heart to supply blood so the symptoms just were not the same as someone with a sedentary lifestyle. I’m blessed that those extra arteries helped me continue to live a normal active life. The other side of this is had I continued to run without some sort of medical attention I might not be here today posting on this blog.
I’m a survivor! My progress after just three weeks post surgery has really been amazing. The active lifestyle before surgery and after have both allowed me to achieve great results so far. I’m not 100% yet and will be many more weeks from now before I am. People ask me if I feel better now but honestly, I feel about the same as before. I’m not sure when I can run again but I’m expecting some speed boost once I get 8-12 weeks of running behind me. This is when I’ll know if the bypass surgery made a difference. I’m expecting it will!
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.
We 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.