Category Archives: Heart and Other Vital Body Parts

Temporarily Down for Maintenance…

Four years ago I was Temporarily Down for Maintenance, sprawled on the wooden floor of my computer room, gasping for breath, hoping for a quick reboot to recover from what ailed me. Well, that’s what my significant other tells me. I don’t know; my memory of that particular day–the entire day and a few other days on each side of it–vanished somewhere. My personal disc drive was jiggled at the wrong time. That particular sector was corrupted, the data is unable to be recovered. No matter, I suspect she (my S.O.) is telling me the truth about what happened to me. I’ve examined my medical records, paperwork that says I went Code Blue shortly after the Paramedics arrived at our house.

My recollection, all of it, is blank from a day or so before I hit the floor up the the point when I came to in a hospital bed in Tucson. That’s when my memory recorder kicked back into gear.The precise moment was early in the morning. I was hooked up to a bunch of wires and tubes; machines with blinking lights were glowing balefully all around me. I struggled to get out of bed, managed to get on my feet on the floor…I wrote about that experience on a separate page of this web log that covers heart attack, operation and my first year after having CABG X3…

Anyway I jot down a few words on my anniversary date each year, kinda keeping up with what happened the past twelve months.

I’m fine, still walking five to seven miles most days, lifting weights, saying the wrong thing at the most inopportune moment, getting older but not wiser. That’s me.

Hmmmm. However…

My country is in much worse condition than I am.

This nation is in dire need of some sort of recovery procedure; maybe that applies to the entire world. After all, England shot itself in the pocketbook by voting to leave the European Union. North Korea is a major threat to the planet. Vladimar Putin dreams of world domination. So does Silvio Burlusconi (if he’s still alive). Here in the US of A, a madman has been elected Preszidunt. He’s brought an entire gaggle of maniacs into government along with elevating others who were lingering under rocks awaiting their opportunity to wreak havoc. Meanwhile, fires are raging along the west coast, burning California to the ground. Floods washed away major parts of the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas. Temperatures as rising (when the mercury isn’t perversely dropping out the bottom of the gauge).

Storms are increasing in violence at what seems to be an exponential rate.

These conditions, difficult as they are, might be patched up much as I was though I was prostrate at the door of whatever comes next. (No, gentle reader, I didn’t hear angels singing, see bright lights or smell brimstone…)

Unfortunately, we in the US (along with many other equally misfortunate lands) have a government that denies the existence of a problem. Imagine if my housemate, my significant other, would have prodded me with her foot and said, “Lazy bastard, get up. I’ll check on you later, see if you’ve come to your senses.” Or maybe the paramedics might have just shrugged. “He’s fine,” one of them might have said. “Just resting,” grunted the other before they left.

That’s what we’re doing in this country.

We’re Temporarily Down for Maintenance. Hopefully it’s just a passing phase, like computers and code blue heart attack victims go through.

Check back later.

If there is a later, later.

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Memorable Occasions: 3rd Anniversary

Three years ago today I hit the floor of my office like a large sack of shit. My fucking heart had stopped.

Many fortuitous coincidences combined to culminate in my posting this web log entry today. My significant other was home at the time–not unusual but quite necessary in the overall scheme–and she heard the thud when I collapsed on the maple boards. My office chair has been modified, the right armrest has been removed so I might be able to practice guitar without wacking the instrument on a metal support. That missing section allowed me to fall from the chair instead of sitting upright until rigor mortis set in and I began to smell worse than usual.

Next, instead of ignoring the sound, SO investigated. Upon discovering me in the prone position, glasses askew, she grabbed the phone and called 911. According to the paperwork I read after returning home from University Medical Center in Tucson, I was Code Blue. Fucking dead. Prompt arrival of the paramedics and appropriate action on their part kick started my ticker.

And so on.

On December 23, 2013–two weeks after the big office party–Dr. Robert S. Poston, my cardio-thoracic surgeon, ripped my chest open with a chainsaw and carefully threaded three, shiny, new, stainless steel braided fuel lines and a fresh in-line fuel filter onto my heart. He did a wonderful job. Thank you, Dr. Poston. Wish you could have included six inches taller, forty years younger, a few million richer and much more handsome into the procedure but a functioning heart is still a good deal.

Three years later:

Memory of the events surrounding my heart attack is a tabula rasa. I lost about nine days from my hard drive. No recollection of a couple of days before the myocardial infarction, no memory of about five days after. No recall of the helicopter flight to Tucson. Likely that’s the way it is, folks. I awakened with the beast in my arms, no idea how she got there or what part I played in the performance.

I’m still irascable, as one might tell from reading my ramblings, flatulence and blather.

Three days ago, 6 December 2016, my cardiologist performed an echocardiogram. My EF–ejection fraction, not ejaculation factor–is in the mid-40% range. My system looks fine. Meds work. I take them every day, just as the doctor ordered. Carvedilol, lisinopril, atorvastatin. This morning, before breakfast, I walked two miles in the early frost. Felt great. Later today, I’ll add a couple more walks for a total of five or six miles. This is my normal, daily, aerobic activity. No shortness of breath, no angina.

In February, I visit my VA physician for my annual meet and greet. Each year his nurse asks me what my health goals are for the coming year. Each year I tell her, “I want to return next year without having had another heart attack or other significant health disorder.” Same old, same old…for another year.

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Coffee and Heart Disease

OK, more information on heart disease, to be specific: coffee and heart disease. Before reading my drivel, you might want to scan this article in the New York Times written by Dr. Aaron Carroll, a pediatrician. Now, assuming you read the Time’s health story, has anyone told you not to drink java ’cause it’s bad for you? If so, you’re certainly not alone. A couple of doctors at Tucson’s University Medical Center where I was ensconced as a patient at the time asked me whether I was a heavy caffeine consumer, as if that would have explained my myocardial infarction (commonly known as an FHA, a fucking heart attack). I told the dudes in scrubs I drank one cup every morning. They told me to stop, cease and desist, throw away my supply of green coffee beans, my roaster, my espresso machine. Did they have proof that caffeine is the big killer? Nooo…but they be sure, just like my ex-wife was sure I was screwing every woman I met.

Read Caldwell Esselstyn’s Forks Over Knives (or watch the documentary, which is much better than the book). An admission: I’m a vegetarian, I think Esselstyn’s on the right track as far as not eating meat and processed foods, but I think he tosses in all his other prejudices such as don’t drink coffee. Dr. Essylstein reminds me of my high school football coach who frequently told us, players on what was demonstrably one of the worst football teams in the state of Florida at that time, that the reason we lost so many games was masturbation. Hmmm? Yeah, coach said we lost ’cause we all wanked too often. What proof did he have that his players polished the bobby’s helmet when they should have been doing sprints? Stains on the uni’s? Not…hardly. Just his intrinsic dislike of one of nature’s great relief valves. I think the good Dr. Esselstyn has much in common with my coach.

 

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CABG Update: 1 Year and 4 Months

Time for a CABG update: 1 year and 4 months without any complications, problems or, surprisingly enough, complaints. That’s right, folks, it’s been a year ‘n a third since Dr. Robert S. Poston of Tucson opened my chest and replaced three fuel lines. What did I expect at the time? To be honest, I wasn’t at all sure of what I should expect. Dr. Poston assured me that, if I worked on my recovery, I’d be able to do pretty much anything I’d been able to accomplish (physically and mentally) that I had before my heart disease had reduced my single cylinder engine (yeah, the old thumper) to only popping on an occasional power stroke.

Let’s make this specific. As of 16 months after the operation, I’m doing my longer walks five days a week. That’s between 5 and 7 miles, hilly terrain, mile high elevation. I’ve not returned to bicycling not because I don’t think I can but because I’m enjoying the walks so much.

Strength: I’m strict curling 30 pound dumbbells for six reps, that’s a pyramid of 20 lbs. for 12 reps, 25 lbs. for 8 reps, 30 lbs. for 6 followed by 2 straight bar sets with 75 lbs., all curls are alternated with triceps cable press downs with 60 lbs. on the cable. This is my routine for arms days, which I do twice weekly before a walk, curls and press downs are followed by light dumbbell deltoid lifts, head strap (neck)  lifts and lat rows.

Two other days I do chest, which is, of course, rather a careful process considering my sternum was wacked open then sewn shut with titanium thread. I delayed doing any chest work until June of last year, allowing my chest a full six months to heal. Each bench press is strict. I lower the weight to my chest, touching, for a count of three before beginning the press up. I pyramid, 10 reps with 100 lbs., 6 reps with 140 lbs., 2 reps with 160 lbs., then singles for the remainder, all alternated with “T” bar trapezoid lifts with 150 lbs. on the bar. Big news: I’m doing a strict single with 190 lbs., well on target for my goal of 200 lbs. two years after CABGx3.

Physical statistics: I was 68 years old, 5 feet 8 inches tall, and I weighed slightly over 160 lbs. when I rolled out of Tucson’s University Medical Center on December 27, 2013, with the skin of my chest glued together. My weight was down a few pounds, no more than four, from my weight when I wobbled through a myocardial infarction on December 9, 2013.

As of April 12, 2015, my weight is about 170 lbs., which I have no problem maintaining with proper exercise and diet. I’ve added significant arm and chest strength compared to what I had when the heart attack occurred. My chest (normal) is 44 inches, waist 33 inches (yeah, I wish it were smaller but better fed then dead), arms 15 1/2 inch flexed. That’s down from a lifetime best of 195 lbs. in 1974, waist at the time of 30 inches, arms 17 1/2 inches and best bench press of 335 lbs. ‘Course I was a tad younger in 1974.

Regrets: I’ve had a few…think I stole that from Frank Sinatra…but so far, the trip’s been fun and I look forward to another 15 or 20 years of irritating the hell out of the world in my miniscule way. If you’re in line for open-heart surgery: Do it. You’ll feel much better if you don’t die. That’s truthful, there’s always the chance of not surviving but if you feel the way I did just before my MI, going missing wasn’t the worst possible outcome.

Dr. Poston said recovery was up to me. I could do it on a couch eating potato chips and watching TV or I could work my ass off and get better.

 

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In Fine Anni Observations Part I

In Fine Anni: end of the year, twelve months have limped, wobbled and slithered by since 1 January 2014. On a personal level, 2014 has been a significant improvement compared to 2013. Outside my skin, here in southeast Arizona, then statewide and certainly at the national level, 2014 has been another few steps along the down staircase with the descent appearing as if it might become a bit more rapid.

Let’s wander outside my house and take a look around. I will first offer a caveat. I’m a spectator. I don’t want to be a participant in much of what I observe around me and go to some lengths to avoid too much contact with outside affairs. This explains why I’ve lived in a mountain community of about 5,000 lost souls for more than thirty years. I don’t have to participate if I don’t want to and, for the most part, I don’t. This trait probably had its inception when I first worked as a reporter in the early 1960’s. Observe, report, exit the room without leaving footprints in the dust.

OK, now we’re outside the house. Our little town elected new council members this year. On the + side, the former mayor will return to her fantasy-laiden reality without asking the denizens of Bisbee to join her. The putative heir to her domain lost his bid for election. He, too, shall hopefully fade away. Can the new council and retread mayor (who held the office several years ago) repair our ills?

Can my cat fly a 747? Sure…and so much for that.

The street outside my house was torn to the ground and a layer of chip-seal applied two years ago. Road engineers–the very ones who were supervising the project–told me a new layer of chip-seal should be applied every two years. When, oh Lord, will the tar and rock machines return? Probably when the ruts and potholes in the new street are deep enough to conceal the trucks that pound up and down our street periodically. Ah, well. We, myself and my neightbors expected no less.

Where is the city going to cover its denizens with monetary largesse? Probably outside the city at the local airport which services…US Air?…United?,…no, it services maybe 14 single-engined aircraft that fly upon occasion. Some of them are even owned by local residents. A few are, anyway. Two members of the airport commission have private homes beside the runway. THEY will benefit.

I wonder why the city can’t buy a shop for me to work on my motorcycles? There are far more people who own motorcycles in our little town than there are aircraft owners. Why the disparity?

What walks and what talks?

We shall look farther down the potholed road of local economics in In Fini Anni Observations Pt II (to be posted soon).

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Filed under Heart and Other Vital Body Parts, Odd, Odder and Oddest, Philosophy, Politics

Another Anniversary

Well, it’s another anniversary, December 23, this one marking one year since Dr. Robert S. Poston took a chainsaw to my chest and exposed my black heart. I vaguely remember hearing the surgeons discussing what they found.

Which one is the heart? I can’t find the number on this fiche…”

“It’s the one on the left side, the one all encrusted with drip and dripping fluid out the bottom…”

“The pump with the corroded lines?”

“Yep, that’s it. Off with the lines…”

“What is all that red gook?”

“It’s three-decade old Thunderbird wine. This man had the palate of a pot-bellied pig and the constitution of an iron-hulled frigate.”

In all seriousness, thanks to Dr. Poston for a wonderful job. Early in the morning I was rolled into the operating theater (unconscious as I was) will all faith in Dr. Poston’s abilities and I have no doubts that I was correct in surmising that he was the best mechanic for the job. He had the new lines in hand, the shiny, silver ones all covered with braided stainless, two in-line filters and a roll of Teflon sealing tape. Job completed, now I’ll be good for several more years. Thanks, too, to Eric Crawford, the PA who kept reassuring me that I’d be fine, that before another twelve months passed I’d be like the old bull on the hill, waiting to walk down and mount all the young heifers. Now, Eric, about those heifers…where are they, again? Do I need a stool? How do I stop them from telling other cows about what I did…

It’s off to Tucson today so significant other can help me celebrate surviving one year since the CABGx3 operation. I feel much better today than I did a year ago. I think I do, anyway. I don’t remember much of this day a year ago. I awakened in cardio intensive recovery with more tubes sticking in and out of my carcass than a supercharged/turbocharged IO-540 Lycoming engine. I do recall wondering how long would it take before I could move on my own.

Four days later I was out of the hospital and walking around. Amazing.

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It’s Been One Year Since I Had a Heart Attack (Reborn…born again…Airborne, sir!)

It’s been one year since I fell over on the floor of my office and tried to pass into another stage of being using a heart attack as my ticket to oblivion. EOTWAWKI, personal version. Very personal. Ah, well. Didn’t make the transition quite yet. No ashes to ashes, dust to dust, shit to fertilizer. Some day…but not yet. So, how have I celebrated my surviving another twelve months?14-12-09-desertswingDon’t fret, that’s not me playing the trumpet (although there was a time when I did play trumpet and I am likely in the same age range as the gentlemen pictured…).

Following a weight lifting session and a five mile walk, my significant other and I visited the local–25 miles to the west of us–mall to where we experienced the shopping madness. OK, there wasn’t much shopping, just a tad of madness, not too many shoppers and we sat for a few minutes listening to Desert Swing, a Sierra Vista, Arizona, based band contribute to the Christmas cheer. Yes, that’s the connection to the above image. After returning home I found the band’s web site and learned that a family friend, Joe Anton, was one of the founders of the group back in the 1980s. Joe, at least as I recall being told, had also made the helicopter journey to the big city following some sort of illness. Farm Out, as we hippies like to murmur in a stupor.

That was Saturday’s activity. Sunday–following another five mile walkabout–we attended a small concert to hear Rene Serrano, an internationally recognized guitarist, present a selection of classical Bach. No photos, I don’t lug my big camera into an intimate venue to disturb the other patrons with its obnoxious noise.

Monday was another walking day, a working-on-the-motorcycle day, a fiddle-around-the-house and meditate-on-the-past-year day. I can not truthfully say that I can contrast how I feel now with the way I did during the hours before my heart attack. I don’t remember the hours before the attack. Nothing. Nada. Not a fucking thing, not for a couple of days before the myocardial infarction, not for several days afterward and certainly not the moment of the big event. Rather like the aftermath of a really bad drunk, I can truthfully claim innocence of my actions. My significant other tells me I was awake and talking while at St. Joe’s hospital in Tucson. That’s great, I believe her, but the recording mechanism in my brain was not operating. Yep, just like a bad drunk. No memories.

Tuesday. Walked five miles, beautiful weather, legs felt strong…then waiting for the “witching” time. According to girlfriend, she heard the thump at about 4:30 PM on December 9 (2013). At 4:30 PM, I didn’t thumb. Maybe I farted (though I’m sure I didn’t, gentulmen don’t break wind…), so I’ve survived one year since I had a heart attack. If I make it through December 23 of this year, I’ll have logged a year since surgery but I don’t see that as a problem.

Now for the next year.

 

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El Milagro del Scottsdale: Heroes, Tents and Piles of Shit

23 November 2014

14-11-pos

Yes, people, beginning in mid-December, you, me (and anyone else with money to burn and no brains) can wade through merde at El Milagro del Scottsdale.

What?

We, the brainless moneyburners, can interact with fictional (the best and bravest kind) heroes while wading through piles of shit, courtesy of Marvel Comix and our tendered cash, all in lovely North Scottsdale. It’s not real shit, no, sir…it’s virtual shit, but the smell is there, the taste, the texture, all of the reality of shit without having to scrape the stuff off after you leave the reality tents. (Image above was borrowed by quickmeme.com, it was just too appropriate to pass up.)

Where did this nonsense come from? Well, my significant other’s brother is working on the setup of the Marvel Experience show in Scottsdale and she (significant other, not her brother) showed me the website. For $27.50 I could get in the gate and for another few bucks, no, that’s dollars (bucks is an insensitive term that offends native Americans and various antlered animals), I could visit various tents that would allow me to interact with comic book heros in a form of virtual reality. The site promises that I can choose to be any hero I want…

So, I made my choice!

To hell with SpiderMan, CockroachMan, or CrabMan (the scourge of the sexually active everywhere…)

I want to be: Young Man. I want to hook up with gorgeous young women on the spur of the moment anywhere. Gone are the 1/4″ thick rubber girdles of my youth, the ones that adhered to skin the moment a woman began to perspire then couldn’t be removed even with the complicity of both consenting parties and the likelihood of the woman consenting was rare enough as it was, even without the chastity device her parents had forced her to wear. Modern times are here. Vanished like zits under a coating of Clearasil are the woman’s fears that a French kiss will lead to pregnancy or that a brush of a hand against her breast might cause a bright, red A to be burned into the skin of her forehead.

Yes. That’s who I want to be: Young Man. The very words resonate through the interstices of my mind. YOUNG MAN. Gone is my gray hair, gone are the whiskers that grow from my ears and nose, gone are the wrinkles everywhere, gone is the need to begin my day with Lisinopril, Carvedilol and a baby aspirin. No more visits to the cardiologist every few months. No more wondering where went the memories of what happened when I keeled over at my desk eleven months ago today…to awaken in a hospital room in Tucson days later, hooked up like one of the comic book heros at the Marvel Experience Tour.

Sheeit. Maybe I am living (or at least existing) in a form of virtual reality. Young Man? Not likely. At least I’m still living.

All the rest is just piles of shit in North Scottsdale.

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Ten Months Seems Almost Like a Year When it Comes to CABG

December 23 ten months ago is a pretty vague memory; I spent most of the day in a thick fog of anesthesia and pain medications following my CABG. Coronary Artery Bypass Graft-CABGis an acronym that still sends a chill up my spine now that I know what the letters stand for and how they apply to me. Maybe more significant, the heart attack that tossed me on the floor of my office didn’t mark the end of life as I knew it. I’m back to bench pressing 150 pounds (my goal is 200, not what I did when I was 40 or even 60 but one hell of a lot better than I could manage ten months ago). I walk at least five miles almost every day and top seven on most days. I practice t’aichi daily. Squat on the floor without using my hands then get back up, same thing, no hands? Takes less than 15 seconds and I do it five times daily.

I do not have shortness of breath even when exercising strenuously. I can carry a 75 pound cooler into the house following a shopping trip to Tucson. Shortly before the ol’ ticker stopped marking time, I had difficulty sliding the cooler out of the car after we arrived back home.

There are parts of life I miss: Passionate sex with five or six different beautiful young women every day, for example. Of course I missed that when I was twenty, too, and could have availed myself of the opportunity had it been presented. The was a time when I could run five miles with a pack on my back but that was five decades ago when I was enduring airborne training and I can’t really say that I enjoyed the trek.

So, two more months and I’ll mark one year of survival. Will I make the year? I think so but I didn’t think I was about to have a heart attack last December 9.

One Day at a Time…

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CAGB and BMW

October 08, 2014

Ten months since CABG, just a couple of days since grafting new brake lines on the BMW. I just completed a post on my Recovery Page looking back on the ten months since I toppled onto the floor and, like the leper playing poker, almost tossed in my hand. Well, it hasn’t been all exercise and self analysis since suffering the big one on December 9, 2013. In fact, here’s a photo of what I spend some of my time doing:

BMW-Shell

That’s an old service station in Lowell, Arizona, just a few miles from my home, that I used as a backdrop for my BMW and a spin around town celebrating another month since undergoing Coronary Artery Bypass Graft  (me, not the station or the motorcycle). The station is being renovated, receiving gas pumps, Shell colors and nifty posters in the windows along with a car parked by the pumps. The Ford is…I believe…a ’54 that belongs to the owner of the Broken Spoke Saloon in Sturgis. The BMW K1200rs is mine, a ’98 with 94,000 miles on the clock. It just received a set of Speigler stainless wrapped Teflon brake lines so it stops better than ever. (Kinda like me: I received new fuel lines so my pump works better.)

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