My Tough Few Days

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Dear Bearfeeders,

Many of you, especially those close to me or watching my Facebook feed, are aware that the last few weeks were not precisely the best for me.  Some may not know the whole story, others may not know at all.  Well, it’s time I share the full package.

So here’s the story.

On July 5th, I brought Auggie down to Temecula to spend the weekend with my close friends Chadd & Heather Creed.  After a night of dinner & wine, I went to bed at a fairly reasonable time.  Around 2AM the morning of July 6th, I woke up having a hard time breathing and a heart that felt like it was racing out of control.  For months, I’ve had trouble breathing a condition I suspected to be allergies as it always seemed to clear when I travel.  The racing heart had me concerned though, concerned enough, I woke my friends and had them take me to the ER at Temecula Valley Hospital.  Within an hour of my arrival, I was diagnosed with critically high blood pressure, edema (fluid) in the lungs, and evidence of heart damage.   They admitted me to the hospital and started work on reducing my blood pressure through blood thinners.  During that time, I underwent an ultrasound echocardiogram and a  Cat Lab (a procedure to study the arteries around the heart for any blockage).  Those tests found no arterial blockage but did see buildup from cholesterol.  After four days, my blood pressure was reduced to a “good not great” level and was given a series of prescriptions to help manage blood pressure, my heart condition, and cholesterol until I meet with my primary care doctor and come up with a long term plan.  I went into the hospital on a Saturday morning, released on a Tuesday afternoon.  Was telecommuting from Temecula the next day, drove home on Sunday, and the following Monday I was back at work.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been told I have not had a heart attack, but I remain in a condition where it is still quite likely.  Tests show there is damage to my heart, which now leaves it weaker.  Since leaving the hospital, my blood pressure remains higher than average, but not the levels it was when I was first admitted.  Since leaving the hospital, I have made some life changes, minor at this point.  I am meeting with a new doctor this week and expect that to drive smarter, more significant life changes, so I am just following the prescribed meds and making better choices.  The meds are a challenge, they tend to make me dizzy and unfocused during the late mornings, but that improves by the day.

I’ve reached a point where it’s hard to talk about what happened. Mostly if asked why it happened, the only thing I can say is “I didn’t take care of myself for the last three years” — that’s an uncomfortable thing to tell people, and it’s just as uncomfortable for people to hear.  It’s worse in that mindset of answering what I am going to do about it.  The answer is always: eat better, exercise more, see a doctor, do what they tell you what to do.  I know that answer because I had heard it before, followed it before, been successful with it before, then still ended up where I am.

Then again, I want to do more than I’ve done the last couple of years.  I want to be happier.  I want to see more things.  So, doing the hard stuff is what I am going to have to do.  I’m 47, and I’m not ready to call it quits yet.

I have to say I am utterly grateful for the outpouring to love and support the last couple of weeks.  Phone calls from cousins.  Cards from old friends.  Flowers.  Balloons.  I got back to work and found my dry erase board filled with welcome backs, a lovely desk plant to take care of, and cards of well wishes.   I received so many notes from people on Facebook, I couldn’t even come close to answering them all, or even get started.  It was uplifting, and humbling, to know that wherever I find myself with this condition, I have so many people wanting to help me and support me to climb my way out.

Yet two have to stand out above all the care and love I’ve received.  If there was a blessing in all this, it was where it took place because, from the moment I knocked on their bedroom door and asked for help until even this moment, Chadd & Heather Creed have been my concrete foundation.  Friends, as close as friends as ever could be, let their world shake as they made constant visits to my hospital room, became my conduit to the medical staff, and ensured I was going to come through this.  They were there when we laughed, they were there when I cried.  When I was released from the hospital, there was no question where I was going to stay to recover.  When my parents and brother flew in to be there for me, there was no question where they were going to stay.  They didn’t ask for thanks, they just wanted me to get better.  I can only hope that I can repay the kindness and love they have shown me during this time.

So, that’s the news.  I can’t say for sure how much I will share regarding my health in the future because … well … it’s the kind of touchy feeling stuff I tend not to want to blog about.  I’ll try, though.  That’s what it’s going to be like for the future.  The Lord knows I might fail, but he’ll know that I tried.

3 thoughts on “My Tough Few Days

  1. Jerry Robertson

    WOW! Just WOW!

    I had my own epiphany just 14 or so months ago.

    For 5-7 days I had been waking up in the middle of the night due to some powerful acid reflux. I’d chomp on a handful of Tums and wash them down with a warm Ginger Ale (or a beer) so I could get back to sleep. As the situation was not improving, I called my primary doctor to see what might be the cause and find solution to my issue.

    During his exam, he kept talking about my chest pain and I kept reminding him that the pain was not in my chest but at the base of my throat. It didn’t seem to register with him. The last part of my exam was an EKG to check the status of my heart. The results did not cheer either one of us up. He was convinced that I was having a cardiac event right there in the office and I was convinced that he was delusional. We decided that I should visit the cardiac emergency unit next door at the hospital.

    I literally went out of his door, drove to the next parking lot and entered the ER area. They immediately hooked me up to enough stuff that I looked like Luke Skywalker in a bacta tank. After about 2 hours, the attending physician decided that nothing was happening and I should be dismissed. My primary did not agree and I wound up being admitted for overnight observation. It took them several more hours to find me a room. In the meantime, they administered oral medication for acid reflux and hooked me up to an IV of some more reflux medication.

    I spent an incredibly uncomfortable night hooked up to 3 monitors and 2 or 3 different IV solutions. At 6 a.m. the spectators began coming into my room. Ist up was the Cardiologist. He affirmed that I had not had a cardiac event (heart attack) nor was I likely to have one anytime soon. Due to my age, weight, and high BP he did want to do a stress test sometime soon and left contact details for me to call his office & schedule one. The second was the Gastroenterologist. He confirmed my original idea of severe acid reflux but was unable to give any detail without sending a scope down my throat & into my stomach. We made arrangements to do so as soon as the surgical center could get me in. I was dismissed after 24 hours of poking & prodding.

    Within 2 weeks I had seen both of them. The gastro scope showed that I had several large lesions in my throat and continuing down my esophagus into the top part of my stomach. His diagnosis was that they were caused by excess acid which gurgled out of my stomach and up my throat like an old fashioned coffee percolator. They were already beginning to heal as a result of the medication prescribed earlier so we just let things continue as I was on the mend and scheduled quarterly follow ups.

    The cardio was a different matter. I did the stress test. I had to do a “chemical” test as my lumbar area with 2 herniated disks will not facilitate the vigorous activity of a physical one. I was pumped with isotopes and an IV that simulated running a mile or so. They then took body scans of my reactions, in color no less. After feeling like the alien was trying to break out of my chest for 10 minutes or so I was given a shot of something to stop the reaction. After pronouncing me still alive, they sent me home with an appointment to see the doctor in about a week. His diagnosis was not pleasant or reassuring. He suspected that something was amiss but could not confirm without doing an angiogram. We scheduled it for the following week. They entered my system at the wrist instead of thru my groin & sent a camera all the way thru my arterial system. They found a blockage in one of the arteries feeding my heart. Normally at this point, they would have inserted a stent to open up the artery. Not possible. Mine can only be accessed by cracking open my chest. He decided that I was in more danger from the surgery than the blockage and we have left it alone. I take 2 different BP meds and an anti-cholesterol med to prevent further complications.

    Still working my way thru it all. Still making lifestyle changes to make my chances of a long retirement possible. Less bad food, trying to stop smoking, and less alcohol. Trying to get more exercise but have to fix the lumbar area first so I can do more. Right now I am limited in what physical activity I can do until we either get rid of the pain thru meds or correct it with surgery. The surgery procedure is not very successful so we are still using shots to control the pain. Just haven’t found the right cocktail of drugs yet.

    I hope your repair process has fewer detours. Stay the course & follow the recommendations.

  2. Thanks for sharing Jerry. Sounds like we weren’t too different in the experience, and the wake-up call was probably similar too. All the best in your recovery, and looking forward to seeing you soon.

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