Thursday, June 9, 2011

Furthur on down the road (goin down the road feeling fairly good)

Onward and upward!!! Saw my cardiologist yesterday and he said "I am not concerned". A medication adjustment(stopped one BP pill) seems to be working. The real test will be tomorrow at rehab and we see if my BP is better. he said thereis not really a problem with it being low unless I feel bad, which I did.

I am thinking that the worst is over(for now). This has been an interesting and educational experience I could have done without. I am still determined to turn it into a good ting. So may people have thanked me for writing about it, and if it helps one person to avoid or respond to similar problems I will happy.

Live long and prosper!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Six weeks down the road...

It's been over a month now since the "event". The recovery has not been as smooth as it seemed at first or as I hoped. Soon after my last posts I started getting short of breath from time to time, and real tired along with that. Not all day, not everyday, but enough to have me concerned.

I started the cardiac rehab class a couple weeks back, been a real good experience. Great program, wonderful staff and it's nice to hang with my fellow cardiac cases. What happens is we get portable EKG transmitters that keep an eye on our heart rates and we work out on treadmills, exercise bikes and recumbent stairsteppers. Our progress is closely monitored as is our blood pressure. After 40 minutes of aerobic work we do stretches and relaxation stuff and discuss a pertinent subject, like food choices, exercise etc.

But even with the exercise(3 times a week) I was really not feeling better. last week I had a couple days of being really short f breath and just feeling generally lousy: no energy, aches, depressed. After the honeymoon of feeling better right after my procedure it was discouraging and disconcerting. At first I figured it was just getting used to the medicine, I was told it takes a month or so to stabilize. But by last week, I was starting to wonder if there wasn't some other problem.

Yesterday when got to class my blood pressure was 90/48! Maybe the medicine is working too well. Exercising did not bring it up more than a few points and the nurses were quite concerned. Instead of taking it twice during the class they must have taken it six times. They were surprised I wasn't fainting every time I got up.

Now I had been trying to get in to see my doctor, but it is so hard to get an appointment by yourself. I finally was able to schedule one:July 7! Over a month down the road. That just didn't seem right. So yesterday I asked the rehab nurses if they would call my doctor with their concerns, maybe that would get me in. I called my doc again today and laid it out to the guy at the call center. After maybe 15 minutes on the phone he got me a better appointment: June 29th. He said he had gotten no message from the nurses. Still frustrated I took the apt, but said i was gonna keep pushing. A while later I got a call from a physicians assistant who actually had some advice(cut back on one of my blood pressure pills). But the big thing was that I needed to see the cardiologist and that's where the nurses note went. So after being on the phone for well over an hour today, maybe 2(mostly on hold listening to crappy musak that was constantly breaking up) I managed to get an appointment with the cardiologist tomorrow.

So, the care I have gotten has been excellent, got no complaints there, but what I have had to do to get to the care has been a royal pain. And I have good insurance(thanks to TJ and a few hundred dollars a month) What hell it is for people without.

Something is dreadfully wrong in our "greatest country in the world". It's just gonna get worse with the graying of America. People die for lack of affordable health care, people have to make choices between food and medicine.

Call me a socialist, but HEALTH CARE FOR ALL is imperative, if not now when?? I know other countries have figured it out. The care my daughter got in Israel was inexpensive, very personal, and very skilled. She said that doctors there make a living but don't get rich, they do it out of dedication to helping people.

So I got my fingers crossed that the doc will have an answer, more on it tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Getting better all the time!!!

Still mending and adjusting to this new phase in my life. For example: instead of 3 pieces of left over pizza for breakfast I now have a bowl of Go Lean Crunch with a heaping portion of wheat germ over the top. Reading labels has become a new obsession. Did you know that wheat germ has no cholesterol and no sodium? Little discoveries like that make my day. Or did you know that a serving of sardines has 40% of a day's allowance for cholesterol? Needless to say the sardines didn't make it into my basket.

Tomorrow I go get oriented for Mercy's cardiac conditioning class. I guess you get 20 minutes of education and then they hook you up to monitors and exercise you for 40. My insurance should cover it for six weeks 3 times each week. I really do want to get back to working out, I had been slacking for a month or so before the "event" and been laying low since(2 1/2 weeks) Starting to lose muscle tone.

I am determined to use all this to my advantage, it's time to get real about my health!! Heart disease changes your look at life, even a small event like mine points to so much: my state of denial and the preciousness of life for example. I can imagine how life changing a major heart attack would be. In my case, it happened in such a way as to be a blessing, hopefully it will help me have many years of living, loving and grooving!

The music never stopped!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I feel better than James Brown

This picture was taken on my first gig back this Saturday, actually a house warming party for Bayou Boy Boss, Ron Bombardier. 6 days after my surgery and you can see the health coming back. Ah, the miracle of modern medicine. Again and again I see the value of allopathy, particularly in acute or dire problems. Quick intervention saved my heart from any damage from being deprived of blood. It took less then 5 minutes for the paramedics to arrive after Ryan made the call, and maybe 10 to get me to Sutter Faith Auburn ER. The docs and staff there and at Mercy were nothing but great! I will never forget you.

Went and saw my PCP yesterday. He said 2 things that really stuck with me: 1. "The game has changed" 2. "With lifestyle change there is no reason you can't live to a ripe old age"
He said that this might be a blessing in disguise, I could have gone on a long time without an "event" and the blockages could have gotten way worse before they reared their ugly heads. It was small enough that with quick intervention there was no damage but it was big enough to get my attention.

Already TJ and I have taken steps to improve what was a pretty poor diet. We have become label readers. We are determined to turn this into a positive thing.

What is amazing is how quickly I felt better. Almost immediately I could feel the difference. Looking back I can see that this had been in the works for a long time. Past few months I just felt OLD. I wondered why I really didn't want to do anything but sit on the couch and watch cop shows(between Law and Order, CSI, NCIS, Bones, Cold Case Files, Criminal Minds etc. you can pretty much fight crime around the clock). Was my well managed depression coming back? Did I have lung problems? Was I old or just lazy? I had been to the doc with breathing problems 3 times but he couldn't find anything. Heart disease is often silent, we only find it too late.

What I have learned from all this is: listen to your body and be proactive with your doctors. And taking care is more than just a saying.

In closing let me say this: Have Mercy(pun intended) and It's a brand new day, let the man come in and do the popcorn!!!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Heart Trouble

It was Friday afternoon, the day before my birthday. I was just finishing up 2 days of recording for the upcoming Stardust Cowboys' CD "That's How the Cowboys Swung the West". Flying Whale Studio is up in the hills past Colfax on the site of an old gold mine, very cool place and Bruce the engineer/owner does great work.

As I pulled out of the driveway, my left arm started cramping soon followed by my right and then a shooting ache across my chest. I kept driving, thinking maybe it was the stress of recording, too much coffee or what???? After a few minutes of it I pulled off the highway and Ryan, the drummer pulled in behind. I walked around for a few minutes and the pain seemed to subside. "Well I guess I am OK" Back on the road, within 5 minutes the pain is back twice as bad. At that point I was pulling onto the freeway, but I was getting concerned. I spotted the Weimar Park and Ride and pulled off and Ryan was right behind me. "Maybe you better make that call"(911)

After a dropped call or 2 Ryan had the paramedics on their way. They took this VERY seriously. Strapped to the gurney, with oxygen in my nose, they gave me a spray of nitroglycerin and soon I was feeling ok. They took me to Sutter Faith in Auburn. At this point I felt pretty good.(See the first picture). After an EKG, blood tests and an ultrasound the doc came in and told us (TJ came up) that everything looked ok, but SOMETHING had happened. He said I could go home but this really needed to be looked into, he would let me go if I promised to go see my doc as son as possible, but he really thought I should stay and have a stress test.

Now me, I wanted to go, we had plans to go celebrate my birthday in SF, like we usually do. He said OK but didn't look to happy. When he left to start the discharge process, TJ convinced me to stay so I was admitted. TJ told me she had bought tickets to see the Giants for my birthday. Damn!!!

So the next day I spent at Sutter they did a bunch of tests, including a chemical stress test, where they scanned my resting heart then shot me IV with a drug that made my heart race like exercise(way easier than the gym) and scanned again. I still mostly felt good, had one reoccurence of the symptoms. Tests were clean. I was still hoping to make it home for at least a bit of my birthday.

But the cardiologist Dr Birdie, wasn't satisfied. I was told that one in 12 people like me have a false negative on the heart tests and my story was so classic heart attack stuff he wanted me to go to Mercy in Sac and have a heart cath.

So another night in the hospital. Easter Sunday morning I was put in another ambulance and taken to a great cardiac hospital, Mercy, in East Sacramento. Around 11 they prepped me for surgery. I called TJ, wanted her to be there when I went in but for once things moved FASTER than expected. They wheeled me down the hall to the heart cath room. My cardiologist was Dr. Singh, a fierce looking Sikh who wore his turban as he worked on me. Don't know what drugs they gave me, but the next thing knew I heard them talking about a stent. One of my heart arteries was pretty much totally blocked, the one that supplies the back side of the heart.

Once my head cleared(matter of minutes) I had this great feeling of well being. I guess this had been building up for some time. I'd been short of breath and sort of narcoleptic a lot for the past year or more, and I guess now we know why.

So they took me back to my room with strict bed rest instructions. After a while my nurse comes in with what looked like a tire jack. It was time to take the drainage tube out from my thigh where they threaded the cath into my femoral artery. Then the nurse leaned on me with all her wait holding the incision closed for a few minutes, then they moved me to the edge of the bed and jacked me too it with the tire jack. Lots of pressure. 20 minutes of that and they took the jack away but taped a sand bag to me to keep the pressure up. All told I was flat on my back for 7 hours.

I got really great care at Mercy, pretty much everyone was really nice, supportive, skilled. They made a difficult experience not really "pleasant" but tolerable. They really care.

The next morning I met with a teaching nurse. She explained what had happened, what they did and what I needed to do. Mercy has won many awards for their heart program, deservedly.

So now, life will be different. I never expected to be a heart patient. I need to change my diet exercise more, avoid stress. Got 9 pills to take everyday, all with long lists of side effects and interactions.

So this was nothing like a near death experience, it pulled me down into my body, not out of my body, but it was a brush with mortality none the less. The staff at Mercy was so upbeat it didn't really sink in until Monday when I finally got home.

Life is precious, every second of it and the most precious thing is the love and support i got from my family and the dozens of friends who expressed their support!!! I love you more than words can tell!!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Finally I rocketed to the early 21st century

So this Christmas I was totally blown away when I was gifted with an ipod touch from my dear sweet TJ. I thought we had agreed to not spend on each other so much as the kids and other family as money was a bit tight this year. So imagine my surprise when what looked like maybe a deck of cards was a brand spanking new ipod!!!!!

So I have spent the last month dumping my music collection on my computer and then to the pod. Been digging deep into the huge stacks of CDs in pretty much every room of our house. I been finding things I haven't seen in years. Some of the best: John Scofield's Ray Charles Tribute, 100 Year Hall- Grateful Dead, lots of jazz, Sonny Boy, Little Walter, James Brown, Tower of Power and the list goes on.

It's just an 8 gig box, which means 6.5 usable. I got 800+ tunes on there still a couple gigs free.

What I don't understand is how I lived without one for a decade?!? It certainly enables my ongoing love affair with music of all types. I love having it when I work out at the Y, in the car, when I am teaching or practicing.

Being the technophobe that I am, I have barely used any of it's other features, except the camera, which actually works pretty good compared to my phone cam.

I am determined to get back into regular blogging, see you on the 'net.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Another one bites the dust

Goodbye 2010 and hello 2011!!!!!!

Damn this year went fast!!!! Remember in old movies how the passage of time is symbolized be the pages of a desk calendar blowing in the wind, faster and faster!! Isn't life like that????
How did I get so old!! Why are my friends showing grey and wrinkles??? What's going on here??

2010 was quite a ride, mostly good!!!!! Had some fat times and some lean times, but what else is new. In spite of the tough economy I am still eking out a living doing what I love with people I love. This summer I rehooked up with the Stardust Cowboys and fell in love with Western Swing. Between the Cowboys, the Bayou Boys, Wingnut Adams and Frankie Lee most of my summer was spent on the highway. It was like being on tour all summer except I got to come home more nights than not and sleep in my own bed. My HRR and my GPS were my most constant companions. Took a couple great vacations with TJ, one to SF and another to Seaside Oregon. Everyone was relatively healthy, solvent and happy. I am truly blessed with a great life.
Someone said (Freud?) that success in life is having love and satisfyingly work and I have them both in spades.

So all I can hope for is more of the same in 2011. To all my friends and family: Keep on keeping on, love life in spite of it's hardships, live long and prosper. I love you more than words can tell!!!!