Friday, March 08, 2013
Saw the cardiologist nurse practitioner earlier this week. And the news? Frustratingly less than conclusive. But in many ways it is pretty positive...even if it DID send me into a bit of a funk this week, struggling to see the glass as at least half full. I remind myself of the far more difficult medical conundrums others manage to navigate. I've seen clients who have neurological conditions which render them in excruciating pain 24 x 7 who would be elated to find that their medical problem was terminal!
Still, I spent the better part of a week or longer moping...stuck in a mood of "if-I-can't-do-what-I-wanna-do-why-bother-
doing-anything" mode. Yep, a pretty bad case of stinkin' thinkin'. Good news? I finished the anti-coagulant injections in the belly and am only taking oral Coumadin. Bad news? My belly is a multicolored mess with a nasty hematoma the size of a grapefruit bulging out where I must have bumped it...making me VERY self-conscious and wincing when making a number of movements. And you know, since I'm already in a *mood*, I am of course all OVER that half empty glass! Been avoiding the fitness center. Not good, I know.
More info from the NP: she offered a helpful metaphor so that I could better understand my atrial flutter. The heart as a house: you got plumbing and electricity. My plumbing, from what they could tell, appears in pretty good shape. Good news! However: my electricity is less than optimal.
Even after the cardioversion (shock to the heart) during my holter monitor study of my "corrected" heart rate, my heart rate dipped down to the 30s again and there was one point at which my heart STOPPED, for nearly three seconds. Sobering!
Atrial flutters such as what I have are very unpredictable and the cause of the condition is likely never to be known. REALLY hate not being able to KNOW this!
In all likelihood, my condition will deteriorate over time and require an ablasion and pacemaker to prevent my heart rate from dropping dangerously low. Since I've come around to understanding that a pacemaker is not a bad thing, if I had my druthers I would almost just as soon get it over with and have the darned thing put in.
But my condition is not serious enough to warrant this. We must wait. Watch. Monitor. Wonder. Ugh.
And in the meantime for the next few months I must take the Coumadin due to the previous lengthy period of atrial flutter there is potential for all sorts of clots lurking throughout my body which could wreak havoc and potentially kill me.
So my Coumadin paranoia continues. My road cycling days are delayed. Registration is opening up for upcoming summer cycling events and I dare not put my money down...at least just yet. We're heading into the 50's this weekend and bike club members are posting all sorts of rides they're going to be doing...sigh.
The good news about my condition is that it is not the kind of heart problem that will take me out at moment's notice, ala Jim Fixx. The very worst case scenario she painted was that after exerting myself my heart rate could potentially drop so low that I might pass out with an episode of syncope. Given that I went for at least months with this condition without ever experiencing anything close to that I suspect the odds of syncope are very long for me.
So okay, I've got my full clearance to return to the fitness center with no restrictions...great news! But you know our buddy Newton: an object at rest tends to stay at rest...? The challenge now is getting back in action and doing what I want to do, sans road cycling.
While waiting for my belly to heal a little more (say, another week...?) I'm going to commit to getting out for walks, Nordic walking and build back up to jogging. The Binghamton Bridge Run is coming up early May...it will mark my 3rd year doing my one and only annual official 5K. As most of you know...running just ain't my thing...! :-) But gotta mix it up!
In that spirit, I got out for a 70 min. chunk of Nordic Walking through Otsiningo Park which very quickly gave me just exactly the boost I needed! I had forgotten how wonderful it was to get out into nature and "lose" myself into the music, movement, skies and sights! I could put all this medical stuff a zillion miles away!
Near the beginning of my walk Sergio Mendes' "Funky Bahia" just had me smiling and grooving! Even though the song conjures warm summer images, the weather was sunny, snow almost gone, hinting at warmer weather on the horizon...be forewarned: you're gonna wanna clap, sing along and MOVE your body!
How do you Nordic walk and move to the groove at the same time...? Dunno, but I had fun trying! :-)
Later a remixed version of Incognito came up...couldn't remember the name of it. but the remix is WAY better than the studio version...funky, jazzy bass hooks, snappy drums and then the vocals...I recognize the title from her singing and I laugh out loud as it seems to be a "message" for me: "It Ain't Easy!" Unfortunately it doesn't appear to be on YouTube, but if you happen to have Spotify you can play it here:
Incognito – It Ain't Easy - Tom Middleton-Cosmos Remix
A speed walker passes me by and I feel a stab of envy over his pace...he's making tracks faster than that jogger who passed me earlier! I make a feeble attempt to try and keep up for a little bit and then just let it go. I'll build my speed up. I'll get there! Later he loops back passes me on his return and I compliment him: "Nice pace!" He smiles as he goes.
Bruce Hornsby's "Valley Road" comes up and I smile some more, thinking back to that video he made with his band while performing this number and all the townspeople, hog too! are just boogying along to the song: "Walk On!"
Here's the original video...I remember it from the days when I used to catch a little VH-1 now & then:
You just can't watch that video without smiling and feeling better! Heck I even smile over the stones that have hitchhiked their way into my sneakers, remembering how that feels all over again!
Near the end of my walk I'm approaching the large field with several soccer fields end-to-end where I practice my cross country skiing when there is enough snow. Today it is filled with geese grazing among the blades of grass poking through the last of our winter snow and Paul Winter's song, "Common Ground" begins. It is from the 1979 album of the same name and I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone with musical preferences along the New Age, ecologically-minded and multi-cultural influences. Mr. Winter is the global ambassador of peace, good-will and sharing across all people and animals. Unfortunately this is another one that isn't on YouTube, but you can hear a little snatch of it at Amazon...and check out the praise others lavish for this album!
"Voices are calling 'round the earth.
Music is rising in the sea.
The spirit of morning fills the air,
guiding my journey home.
Where is the path beyond the forest?
Where is the song I always knew?
I remember it's just around the bend,
in the village the music never ends.
In a circle of friends, in a circle of sound.
All our voices will blend when we touch common ground.
Somewhere is the melody we need.
There is a certain harmony,
Even a rhythm in the trees,
in the song that we've always known.
As every road comes to its end,
So every path must cross again.
Now I'm returning to my heart,
back to the song that is our own.
In a circle of friends, in a circle of sound.
All our voices will blend when we touch common ground."
Heartfelt thank you's going out to my SparkFamily, my "circle of friends" with our Common Ground!
My walk today reminds me, for all the angst and aggravation I've experienced through my body, I am still SO FORTUNATE to have a body that feels SO FINE to MOVE!
Monday, February 18, 2013
Well, I have certainly fared better than I feared and am back home, but there are some "kickers" I didn't know when I wrote my last blog which have been hard to deal with:
Having to give myself belly injections of (forget what it's called) to prevent clots for the next 10 days. Me? Give myself injections? The guy who finally screwed up enough courage to go donate blood? Well...did it, will keep doing it. How ironic that getting up the courage for a single needle stick to donate blood should lead to this!
Worse yet: going on Coumadin for the next three months while we see if I can avoid converting back into this weirdo atrial flutter. If I get through that time frame okay the Coumadin can stop.
Okay, with the Coumadin comes the Vitamin K restriction...bye bye leafy greens, broccoli and a lot of my favorite staples which have helped me to avoid higher calorie options!
Oh and I'm to ease up on workouts. No real definition of what that involves. The nurse suggested nothing much more than walking for the next several weeks to begin with.
And with the Coumadin I am going to have to be EXTREMELY careful about lumps, bumps, scrapes and cuts. Well this ol' klutz is ALWAYS getting those things! How does a body live one's life fearful of the slightest bump...? How do I get on a bike and zip down hills at 35 mph like I usually do just commuting to work? Cross that off my list...
So perhaps I'm not the enfeebled, doddering old coot with the pacemaker (oh, and pacemaker remains a possibility lurking in the dark should I convert back to the atrial flutter) that I had feared, but I'm going to have to slow WAY down which is going to have to mean EXTREME caution on the food end of things...my weakest link is going to be tested!
Some folks have shared positive pacemaker stories, which I appreciate, being totally new to the concept which may yet be visited on me at a later date.
I want to entomb myself into a protective bubble for the next three months until I'm off the Coumadin. I am so paranoid about bleeding out due to a reckless move! No cycling outdoors for me until this is cleared. I will return to the spin bike as my cardiologist allows. But only walking for now.
Ugh...where did that new inspiration and resolve evaporate to?!?
This is going to be one helluva test!
Wish me luck and a lot of fortitude!
A thought I've had which I'm hoping I can turn into action is to explore yoga as a quieter, safer option for workouts. We'll see what I can do with that notion.
The other is to rededicate myself to getting to swing dance more faithfully each week, even if it IS on the other side of the county and gas is running at top dollar...!
Taking tomorrow off to get more settled into my routine, hook up with the Coumadin blood draw so they can properly adjust my dose.
Thank you, THANK YOU everybody for your SUPER support!
Going to do my best to make the most of this and grow through this experience!
Friday, February 15, 2013
It all began last Friday with my decision that I've been a wuss long enough about needles and it was time for me to get over it and donate blood at our employer's blood drive.
Well...? I flunked! Couldn't donate blood! Why? My pulse was only 36 and they didn't want me passing out on them. They didn't tell me to see a doc or anything they just said I'd be eligible to donate blood in two days if my heart rate was normal.
Being a typical guy I ignored my son's advice (he's a Physician Asst.) to get in and see my Primary Care doc and just went on my merry way for the next several days, shoveling snow, spinning class, elliptical / treadmill / weight workouts. But I wasn't TOTALLY stupid: I checked on my heart rate at various times and found that despite an HR that climbed right up to my usual workout rates between 120-140 when I sat still for a little the rates dropped right down to the high 30s, low 40s.
So this past Weds. I decided I'd better see my PCP and he got WAY nervous, insisted I go to the ER & THEY got nervous & admitted me with an atrial flutter.
Its the strangest thing. I'm nearly asymptomatic other than some fatigue after exertion. So it feels pretty weird sitting here in the hospital. Heart still pops right up to 130-140 when working out but probably won't be doing any of that for a while.
I'm on a holding pattern as they have been hoping that my heart rate will pick up a bit since stopping my meds which have a heart rate lowering effect. They want to perform a TEE (trans-esophageal echocardiogram) to see if there are any clots around the heart. If there aren't they will then shock the heart, hoping to convert it to a normal rhythm. If there are clots the waiting game continues.
I spent the day yesterday pacing the halls killing time. Heart rate pops right up there but then drops down. Overnight I hit a new low of 28, but the RN said I was just sleeping fine. While pacing it was kinda cool to see more folks filtering out into the halls each time I looped around the floor. So many patients and visitors figuring out maybe there's a better choice than to be vegging out in front of the TV or staring out the window!
With a heart rate so low they couldn't release me from the hospital. But the other problem is with a heart rate so low it can be risky to shock the heart as although the intent is to bump the heart into a normal rhythm there is also a risk that a shock could bump it into a LOWER rate.
And there wasn't much lower for my heart to go.
So while they were planning to shock me today it was still possible that it would be another day of thumb-twiddling and hall pacing.
While most atrial flutters result in a rapid heart rate, some like me kick into a slow heart rate. Staff all the time do a double take when they see me bopping along pacing the halls with a heart rate that would send most folks passing out on the floor.
The biggest fear that I terrorized myself with overnight until I spoke with the doc was: what if the shock didn't convert my cardiac rhythm to normal? The next step would be a cardiac ablasion and pacemaker. Knowing nothing about pacemakers I envisioned myself transforming into an enfeebled old coot and knew I wouldn't stand for such a life! Needless to say I slept very little that night. The doc later reassured me that I could still lead just as active a lifestyle with a pacemaker as I wished.
Today I waited and waited and it appeared everything was on track for me to get shocked. Nervous as my heart rate was still slow...but we did it and...
SHOCK ME BABY! I'm back to the world of normal heart rhythms!
Go little heartbeat GO!
I got plans for YOU!
I am so freakin' relieved!
I'm taking it as a message from Someone: You want your life back? You got it! Now make the most of it!
What a HUGE ZEN THUNDERBOLT to: make absolutely the MOST of my life and whittle my compromises and accommodations down to the bare minimum.
Another message I'm taking away from this:
the pay-off of good intentions (wanting to donate blood) resulting in getting the help I needed to not drop dead in the middle of a spinning class! I believe this condition I have was the same one that took out Jim Fixx, the famous runner.
So hey everyone: Life is too short & getting shorter all the time.
If you have some words and actions of love and caring for yourself or others, just DO IT! Don't just daydream about wonderful things happening in your life, start taking steps to MAKE IT HAPPEN!
The clock is always ticking. It's experiences such as mine which pulls that awareness of the passing of time to the front and center of the stage of life!
Friday, February 08, 2013
WAY long time no blog!
And as usual, no news is rarely good news when it comes to me. Been back-pedaling badly on the food / tracking front. The lose/regain/lose/regain cycle isn't always very predictable. Thoughts like "oh, I've lost this much weight before, I'm up for this challenge!" runs into elusive walls and barriers that weren't there before and I find out that: No, it ain't necessarily SO that I can lose weight as I have in the past...! But I keep doing my best to put one foot ahead of the other and keep a positive attitude. One song that has helped, even tho it is a breakup song, I like to play fast & loose with lyrics and often spin them to meet my needs. So Never Not Too Late, for me morphs into "hey, it's Never Not Too Late to keep working toward pulling my act together!"
You can't catch this song at YouTube, but you can play it at Matt Woods' My Space:
Working out continues to be my strong suit and is well locked-in.
Here's another song that has helped me to keep on keeping on: Mick Overman & The Maniacs - When You Are Guided By Your Heart (gotta keep living our lives with all the heart we can!)
This is a live version probably in somebody's home studio. The album version is better, but it is kind of fun to see them hamming it up.
Another upbeat tune I've enjoyed is "Amsterdam" by Box Set on their album "Thread"...you can hear a sample @ Amazon (another track that I cannot find on YouTube other than a rough live track: youtu.be/cEM0G2QKKaA Gotta get myself to Amsterdam someday...SUCH a cyclocentric city and lifestyle!
I owe these musical discoveries to Pandora and my radio station, Jazz - Folk - World Music:
I've enjoyed a few workout challenges here & there. The other day I just finished working up a good sweat on the elliptical for a half hour. I was going to head to the Spinning room for another half hour of my own workout as the Spinning bikes ride so much more like my road bike than the regular stationary bikes. But OOPS! I began seeing some of the others who frequent the Spinning class with me and I remembered: Oh yes...tonight's the ADVANCED Spinning class I usually can't take due to a conflict which I happened to not have on this night.
What the heck, so what I'm already 1/2 whupped from the elliptical workout? :-) Whew...! Advanced Spinning has a lot more time up outta the saddle, with more resistance and very little recovery time.
Yesterday I read GREENGENES blog in which he ever-so-ho-hum mentions spending 70 minutes on his treadmill, reminding me of my record 80 mins. once upon a time. With all my time at the fitness center my treadmill has been gathering a bit o' dust. Tonight with the snow coming I didn't want to stay out at the fitness center and risk a slippery ride home so I decided I would head up to my SparkHaven workout room, kick out the jams on my quad-speaker stereo set up and fire up ye olde treadmill and see how it goes. I did 45 mins. on it last weekend. Was able to toss 60 mins. in the hopper tonight and felt pretty good. We have our Binghamton Bridge Run in May and I'll be doing it again for the 3rd year in a row. I am not a runner (11 min. mile is as good as it gets, which is fine by me) and it doesn't come easily, but I figure it's good to mix it up with some other workouts sometimes. So I make a commitment to doing this one 5K each year.
In other ways I keep myself hopping. Managed to catch up with others at a local anti-fracking rally recently and I'm planning to head to Wash. DC for the Forward on Climate rally with Sierra Club & Co on Feb 17th. They were kind enough to arrange for a bus from our area down to DC...we'll be leaving at 5 am returning at 10:30 pm...long day! Lotsa walking & new sites! Haven't been out & about in DC since I was a kid!
This Sunday the concert event of the YEAR awaits! Luciana Souza and Romero Lubambo are playing their Brasilian Duets at our local SUNY Binghamton University! This music is heavenly! These artists represent two of the best of Brasil and the bossa nova grooves are gonna put me on cloud 9 for days if not weeks! YouTube either or both of these artists to see how superb and heartfelt their performances are! I'll be catching it with an old friend who joined me back in 2007 when Romero Lubambo was in our area with his Trio Da Paz (Trio Of Peace).
One of my favorite songs sung by Luciana is with another great Brasilian guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves, Morrer De Amor (To Die Of Love):
Her final note just pierces my heart with its beauty!
Rambling on, wrapping up with just a note of gratitude: Not that New England really WANTS all the snow they've got coming their way, but my cross country skis are getting QUITE restless & itchy tonight, nipping at my heels, hoping New England didn't snatch ALL the snowfall for themselves and that there will be enough to allow us to get out at least ONCE more this year tomorrow! :-)
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