The End Game

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.

14 Days of Retirement

IMG_4287The 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 Was So Wrong!

compare

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!