Tag Archives: CABG Chronicles

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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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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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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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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10K Steps Per Day

Sunday Evening, July 27, 2014: Yes, I Did My 10K Steps Today

14-07-10Ksteps

10,000 steps each day. Hmmm. That’s a sentence fragment. Suppose I should have inserted a verb somewhere in there. Steps are, for example. Ten thousand steps are: then I can add an adjective or a qualifier of some sort. Ten thousand steps per day are good for the heart, a concept that is supposed to be true if the steps involve walking on a sidewalk, trail, street or path of some sort as opposed to stepping on the heart ten thousand times. That’s what my poor, old pumper felt like after I keeled over on the floor.

So, likely walking ten thousand steps each day is a healthy habit to get into. Well, likely it is. Had I been walking 10K steps each day, maybe I wouldn’t have had a heart attack. Of course I’m aware that’s nonsense. I was riding a bicycle 20 to 25 miles four or five times each week and that didn’t save my putrid bacon. The aerobic exercise might have helped keep me from croaking when I collapsed like a used condom tossed to the floor and it might have helped speed my recovery time but it didn’t prevent the myocardial infarction.

No matter, now I’m adhering to the 10K Steps Per Day program. That’s a turn-around area in the image above, it’s just outside the part of town where I live and I can pause for a convenient relief stop before walking back home. My legs are short, only an inch or two longer than the cat’s legs (though his are much more attractive than mine, what with their fluffy, white fur), so I don’t cover a tremendous amount of real estate even when I step off ten thousand times. I did a web search that yielded the estimate of two and a half feet average per step for most homo erectuses. That’s about six inches more than my average. So it goes.

Is it 10K steps each day or every day? Parsing the terms I would think they both mean the same thing, unlike the bet “I can do two pushups for every one you do…” I challenged a Marine captain one drunken night at the 82nd Airborne Bar at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (I seem to remember the club being referred to as The Rathskeller but since I was usually drunk when I went there, well, who knows?) The aforesaid Marine dropped to the floor and pumped out somewhere around 80 or 90 pushups before jumping to his feet.

I did two pushups. The bet was “two pushups for every one you can do,” not for “each one you do.” The Marine didn’t understand the humor in my twisted semantics. I scooted out as quickly as possible before he took his revenge.

Ah, well, now it’s 10K steps every day. Or each day. Or on the occasional day…

Healthy is as healthy does. Wish I could make my brain healthy. Maybe new fuel lines would work for it, too.

 

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Seven Month Old CABG

Seven months ago this morning, about 0630 on December 23, 2013, the fine folks at University Medical Center in Tucson rolled pale, shivering me into the operating theater for what will hopefully be my last performance of the kind.

14-07-23-7

Sometime later in the day, I was wheeled out, down the hall, up the elevator and into Cardio ICU. Anyway, that’s what I was told after I came to in another room, my sternum wired together, my skin silicon RTVed where the chainsaw made its cut,  tubes sticking in various holes that had been sliced into me and a goddamn pipe shoved down my throat as if I were practicing for a part in a gay movie.

Since that fitful, fateful day, I’ve returned home and begun living again. A month ago I began to toss pieces of feces against the wall of the web log to see what would stick. I’ve added a page entitled “Aftermath of CABG: Recovery” listed in the top bar. There, I write about various factors of my recovery. Most of the entries are on the serious side, if that’s what you’re looking for instead of this snarky garbage.

CABG–the operation vastly improved my health. Unfortunately, it didn’t do shit for my taste, writing ability, common sense, personal dignity, respect for others (and their sensitivities) or much else.

In the words of the Right Reverend Bob Dobbs, Give Me Food or Give Me Slack or Kill Me. Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.

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Living with CABG: Going Home

CABG Chronicles: Part VI

Christmas, 2013, was my last day in Cardio ICU. I hoped vainly that the two young nurses with the perky…er…attitude would surprise me with a special treat but no such luck. Maybe had I been younger but I don’t think too many of the girls were interested in a weasley old man who just had his chest opened like a can of catfood. Thursday morning, December 26, I was rolled down the hall–lying on a gurney, not with wheels attached to my extremities–and was deposited back in the 4th floor ward, same room I’d been in before. My surgeon visited that very afternoon.

“Want to go home?” he asked, rather cheerfully.

“Is a bear Catholic? Does the Pope shit in the woods?” No, I didn’t really respond in that manner but certainly I expressed my affirmative to the query, rather as if Scarlet Johansson had appeared in the room and inquired about whether a spate of oral sex might relieve my tension. My only question was…when?

“Tomorrow,” Dr. Poston said. “I’d like you to remain in Tucson for the weekend then return here Monday for a consultation. Otherwise, your numbers are looking good and there’s no point in keeping you any longer.”

I didn’t argue. My constraints were simple. No driving cars for the first six weeks after leaving the hospital. I didn’t ask about riding a motorcycle, assuming that the driving prohibition was fairly inclusive. No bicycling, either. I asked why not.

“Do you ever fall down,” the doctor asked.

“No. Never.”

He smiled. “Well, if you fell down, had a flat, slipped on a sandy corner…and you injured your chest…the result would be very uncomfortable. At best you’d be back in the hospital for repairs. In the worst case, you might need a plate inserted in your sternum.”

“I’ll wait until I’m healed.”

No lifting weights heavier than ten pounds for the first six weeks I was home. Once again my innate fatuity almost overpowered what little restraint I was able to muster. I really did want to ask how I could remove my hose from its secluded dwelling place in my trousers so that I might urinate if I couldn’t lift more than ten pounds. A surgeon with adequate humor might have snapped back with, “that’s no more than ten pounds, not ten grams.”

My first post-CABG venture out into the real world was sitting on the passenger side of significant other’s Toyota on the way to the Windmill Inn motel. We stopped at Walgreens that I might buy a hairbrush, a clipper to trim my beard and some other necessities. I must have been a picture of virility in my plaid Target sweat pants, geriatric slip-on shoes, a loose tee-shirt, hair that hadn’t been washed in three weeks…and a gait that would have without question earned a starring role in Night of the Living Dead, a film which, appropriately enough, had been filmed not too many miles from my birthplace in Pennsylvania.

So, the CABG Chronicles come to an end. I will now add a separate page to the Web Log to detail my experience with cardiologists and recovery. Since theses posts are being composted composed half a year after getting out of the hospital, it’s apparent I have survived for at least six months. Plot Spoiler: if you want to avoid the tedious drivel that will fill the CABG Page, recovery has not been difficult. My consumption of prescription pills is far less than I anticipated. A baby aspirin, an alpha blocker and a beta blocker in the morning…another of the beta blockers at dinner time and a statin at bedtime. I’m walking between five and seven miles a day. Take in consideration that my home is at 5200 feet elevation and it’s in the mountains so I get a significant amount of uphill and downhill each walk.

If you’re wondering whether CABG was worth the pain (at least to me): a simple answer. Yes. As presented by my physician at University Medical Center in Tucson, I had two choices. Opt for the operation ‘er die. Someone out there in ethernetland has likely pointed out that operation or not, I’m going to die anyway. True, or certainly likely. Nonetheless, my coronary artery bypass graft extended my stay here on the planet in the form I currently occupy. By how much no one can be sure. I may be shot next month by a jealous 19 year old man who catches me in bed with his 18 year old wife. Or, vice-versa. No way of telling for certain but I appreciate the extension on my life visa.

As far as pain in relation to actual grinding, miserable, soul-wrenching PAIN, I experienced no significant pain at any point during my stay in the hospital or, for that matter, since I’ve returned home. Discomfort occasionally visited during the hospital stay (oh, god, nurse, please jerk the tubes out again…I love it…) and less frequently during the first couple weeks of recovery.

NOW FOR SOME DISCLAIMERS: All of the CABG Chronicles represent my take on what happened to me. Some dates that I quoted are precise: December 9, 2013, when I fell from my office chair in the wicked grip of a myocardial infarction, December 23 when I waltzed onto the operating theater stage and December 27 when the steel gates swung open and my warders released me from the hospital. Others times and days are approximate, as mind was operating in a miasma of drugs. What the surgeon told me is filtered through the refractory lenses of my capability to comprehend and the distortions I apply to much of what I hear.

The CABG Chronicles will now continue as a separate page of posts dealing with events in recovery.

 

 

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At Last, My CABG Is Here…

CABG Chronicles, Part VI

0600, December 23, 2013…my CABG day had arrived. CABGx3, to be precise. Three new fuel lines to my pumper. No food after 2000 the night before, just fluids. Up at six, my chest is shaved and I’m rolled down the hall to the operating theater. Significant other accompanies me but I’m going onto the stage by myself. A bearded anesthesiologist tells me he’s from Missoula, Montana. I tell him I graduated from high school in Montana, the state where men are men and sheep are nervous. He smiles. He’s heard the line ten thousand times but I’m nervous and I feel the need to say something, anything, regardless of how fatuous.

“Put the mask on, breathe in and out as you count from one hundred backwards,” the transplanted sheep shearer tells me.

One hundred, ninety-nine, ninety……..That’s all, folks. I’m gone, slithering along the tunnels of darkness. I was back where this story started.

Sometime in the afternoon, I think it was early afternoon but I’m not certain, I partially emerged from the fog. Tube down my throat, tubes sticking in and out of my chest, my right leg, and machines burbling away all around me. A large window provided a view of what I assumed was the nurses’ station. I was in cardio ICU, where people who had their heart patched up are taken to stabilize. I’d been told this would be my place for two days. Or maybe it was three. I wasn’t sure. Occasionally a nurse entered the room, my significant other was there and I’m sure she spoke to me but that first afternoon and evening was a blur of inchoate thoughts, little mental murmurings that never really coalesced into real sentience.

Nonetheless, I had survived open heart surgery. I knew I had survived open heart surgery. I was still alive. I knew I was still alive.

Two days ’til Christmas. I don’t recall thinking about Christmas. My thoughts were a water color resting outside in the rain.

Tomorrow I would be better.

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