Giving Thanks, Day 3

Adapted from http://www.maryo.co/giving-thanks-day-3/

Today I am hugely thankful that the last major issue we had here was in 2013 when Tom had his heart attack.  That event caused me to start a whole new blog to post about our experiences.

screenshot-2016-11-05-06-30-59

Adapted from https://maryomedical.com/2013/02/08/the-beginning/

January 27, 2013 was our 40th anniversary.  DH called me and said he was leaving a conference in Washington, DC and we’d go out to brunch when he got home.

The next thing I had heard was that he was in the ER with a suspected heart attack.  I rushed to the ER and found him in his cubicle.  He’d had 3 nitroglycerine pills by then and figured he could go home.

Wrong!  They had him stay overnight at the hospital.  January 28th, they decided to send him by ambulance to Fairfax Hospital for a cardiac catheterization and possible stent.

At the end of that, the surgeon came into my waiting room and said that he needed triple bypass NOW.  Three of the arteries were 100% blocked.  They got me calmed down to see him in the OR.

He was trying to get odds of not doing this surgery and just leaving then.  Finally, I said that he would do this surgery, we weren’t going to fool with this.

I really lost it when they asked me if we had any children and I said 1 son in NYC.  They called him at work in New York and had him get there as soon as possible.  I’m sure he could hear the fear in my voice.

They wheeled DH off for surgery and I waited again.  Luckily, 2 church friends came and sat with me and our pastor arrived about 8:00PM.  Our son arrived about 8:30PM after taking the Acela and a taxi directly to the hospital.

The surgery was over about 9:00PM but when we saw Tom, he was still under anesthesia.  They kept him that way until the next morning since he was too confused when they woke him up.

Long story short (too late!) – he got out of the hospital on the 31st and I played nurse 24/7.   He couldn’t drive/go anywhere for 6 weeks, and then there were 12 weeks of cardiac rehab.

One of the things that came out or cardiac rehab was becoming friendly with 2 other couples (although one of them has since split up).  We go out to dinner every couple months…and none of the surgeons would be happy about our choices.

heart-line

A slightly different take on the events, written 3 weeks later on the same blog.

Icy Days and Mondays…*

* With apologies to Karen Carpenter!

I know I’m not supposed to “relive” events.  I have done that too often with my Cushing’s and cancer adventures and I’m told that reliving causes nearly as much stress as the original event.

So, I plan to write down my memories here and try to let them go…

It all started on Sunday, January 27, 2013 – our 40th wedding anniversary.  I picked up my mom and went to church so I could sing in the choir.  DH went to a meeting of some sort on Benghazi.

After church, I stopped off in the church office for a goodie bag that the Staff Parish Committee had left.

Dropped my mom off at her house and went home.  I put the goodie bag on the dining room table and logged onto the computer to do some work.

I got a couple text messages from DH:

Text message

I figured I’d take a nap until DH came home for that late brunch.

The next thing I hear was my phone ringing, a call from DH.  He was in the ER at Fair Oaks with a heart attack.  OMG!

I immediately leaped up and rushed out the door.  I called one of my pastors and got to the ER in record time.   When I arrived, he was in a bed, all hooked up to monitors, fluids and such.  He was awake and feeling pretty well thanks to the nitroglycerine they had given him immediately after arrival.

When we had a chance to talk, it turned out that he had been in his conference and realized his chest was getting tight.  He found the hotel’s store and bought aspirin – 3 for $11.00 which he thought was extravagant.  He bought them and took them anyway – and probably saved his life.

On the way home, he was feeling pretty good so he stopped at the mall to buy an anniversary gift.  The salesgirl in Zales didn’t know that ruby was the stone for the 40th anniversary and was kind of ribbing DH for waiting until the last minute to buy a gift.  He walked out of there, felt more tightness and headed to the ER…where he called me.

DH was feeling pretty well thanks to the nitroglycerin and aspirin plus whatever else they had in the IV and wanted to go home.  The staff said no way – he had to stay overnight so he could be monitored.

The “automatic clock” on the wall said it was Monday.  Other rooms said Sunday.  Hmmm

A trainee EMT came in to ask some questions as part of his learning process.  Every time DH mentioned the word “Benghazi”, his blood pressure spiked about 40 points or so.  That term became verboten ever after.

My pastor stopped by and we had some nice chats and prayers.

Time passed, tests were done, doctors and nurses stopped by.  Finally, DH was moved to his room upstairs.

About 9 or so I went home and found our dog huddled by the front door – I had left so quickly I hadn’t left her any lights on.  I imagine she was quite worried.

I can’t even remember what I had to eat for dinner but I really wanted something chocolate.  On a whim, I looked in that goodie bag and there was a double-sized brownie.  I think I ate that in record time and it really hit the spot.

Ice

Monday morning (for real!), I checked the weather and found that school was starting late because of icy conditions.  I put on boots and took the dog out.  It seemed to be raining – if it’s raining, it must be warm, right?  So I didn’t really pay attention (and I had other things on my mind!) and completely missed seeing the black ice.

Next thing I knew, I had fallen on one knee, my cell phone in my pocket bruised my other thigh and my left arm hurt where I’d reached out to catch myself.  Luckily, I hadn’t let go of the dog’s leash.

I ended up sitting in a puddle of icy water for a long time, figuring out how to get up.  I finally sort of crawled up the trash can that was sitting in the driveway.

The dog had an abbreviated walk, I changed my wet, cold clothes and headed to the hospital.  I was showing DH my knee and one of the staff bandaged it up for me.  I told him I hadn’t fallen at the hospital and wouldn’t sue but I guess he wanted to be sure.

(Today, Monday February 18, my knee still has a huge lump under the skin and hurts when I touch it, although I’m no longer limping,  The bruise/pain from cell phone finally went away)

The hospital staff decided DH should go to another hospital which is world renowned for its work with heart cases to have a heart catheterization and possible stent.  DH was ready to walk out to my car to drive him to Fairfax Hospital.  He wasn’t thrilled when he was strapped to a gurney and out to an ambulance instead.

I headed over in my car.  They’d changed the entrances to the hospital since the last time I was there and I couldn’t find the “Grey Entrance”.  Finally, after wandering around for a long time, I found it.

I saw DH in the prep room where they got him ready for the heart catheterization – then they rolled him away after explaining all the things that could go wrong.

I went out to the waiting room, got some coffee and a sandwich and hunkered down with my iPad.

Eventually, my beeper went off and I was called back to the room where DH had been prepped.  The surgeon was there this time.  She said that 3 arteries were nearly 100% blocked and they needed to do emergency triple bypass.  They also needed me to convince DH of this since he was figuring he could tough it out.

I started crying but she said I had to get myself together and convince him NOW.  I had to put on scrubs and off I went to the OR.  I got there, DH was on the table trying to figure out the odds if he didn’t do this surgery.  All the medical staff said that he had  a very low chance of survival without the operation.  He still wasn’t sure.  He wasn’t afraid to die.  Tough Guy, Yadda Yadda.

One of the nurses asked me if we had any kids.  I said only one, in NYC.  She said I should call him and get him here ASAP.  She even dialed the number.  I talked to DS at work and he agreed to come right away.  He was pretty scared, too.  He later revealed that he had been crying on the train ride.

I went back to the OR, told DH that DS was coming and that he was going to do the surgery like it or not.  I signed the paperwork and sent him to a very scary surgery.

It was about 4:30 by then and I needed to take the dog out again.  They said I could go home – surgery wouldn’t be over until about 8:00PM or so. Got home, took the dog, made sure that there were lights on, and headed back to the hospital.  Another pastor from my church called.  He said he’d be by the waiting room later.

Two friends from the church office texted me to say they were coming over to sit with me in the waiting room.  They got there about 6:30 and we decided food might be a good thing.  We headed out, following a variety of directions and signs and walked for a l-o-n-g time.

My knee was killing me.  We got to the cafeteria and found out that it was closed.  the 24-hour one was elsewhere.  We finally found that, got some food and my cellphone rang.  The surgeon would be coming out soon to talk to me.

We hustled back to the waiting room and the surgeon came out about 8:00 with good news.  Successful surgery!  DH wasn’t awake yet but we could see him about 9:00PM.

The pastor arrived about 8:30, then DS got there about 8:45.  Finally, they said we could see DH although he still was asleep.  My friends left, pastor and DS went in to see him in ICU, sleeping so peacefully with so many lines attached.  The pastor prayed, then left.  DS and I decided to stay to see DH awake.

About an hour later, the ICU tech said they were going to keep him asleep overnight so we went home.

Monday

Tuesday, January 29 – DS called the hospital fairly early and found that DH was still a bit agitated so they were keeping him under a bit. I took the dog out and we got ready to head back.

I got a call that he was waking up but agitated.  He kept fighting with the nurses on the day of the week.  He kept saying it was Monday, even though it was Tuesday.  Surprise, surprise.  The calendar on the wall hadn’t been changed.  It still read Monday.  No wonder that’s what he thought!

We stayed all day, though nurses, techs, doctor visits and such.  He was in ICU so was monitored very well.  DH was quite confused and repeated himself a lot.  He wasn’t quite sure what had happened.

Monday

Wednesday, January 30.  DH had been moved from ICU into a regular room and we had to follow visiting hours, even though we were family.  We could visit at 11 and had to leave at 1, then back for 6-8.  Actually, this worked out well since I was able to take my first nap since this whole ordeal began.

DH had called DS early in the morning and  said he “needed” his cell phone to make some work calls.  Luckily, DS talked him out of that, saying that he could say some wrong things, given his temporary memory issues.  Thank goodness!  I didn’t want him spending his days talking on the phone.

We got there about 10:45am and they still wouldn’t let us in due to “flu season”.  I’m not sure how we could give him the flu in those 15 minutes before official visiting hours.

I glanced at the whiteboard on the wall where the nurses’ names, doctor’s name and such were written.  Unfortunately, no one had changed this whiteboard since Monday, so that’s what it still said.  <sigh>

We visited – DH got to eat a bit and had started having lines removed.  He thought he might put his shorts on so went into the bathroom to do that.  Unfortunately, he managed to pull the IV out of his hand and bled quite a bit.  The nurse sent him back to bed and said no more of that!

A representative from the group Mended Hearts stopped by with information and a heart-shaped pillow.  They have meetings the first Saturday of the month, so we might go to some of those.

The first pastor dropped by again and we made plans for Friday to pick up DH’s car which was still at the ER.  No one else I know could get it – it’s a standard shift car.

Not much else – visiting, napping, improvements every day.

Not Monday

Finally, it’s not Monday!  Nowhere, nohow.  Just Thursday, January 31 after 4 days of Monday.  Hooray!

DS had a headache so I went to the hospital alone.  He was going to come for the nighttime visiting hours.  As it happened, DH came home this day after lots of testing, last minute X-Ray, discharge notes, complaints about the night nurse…

We got home about 5:00PM.  Yea!

Now the real work began – visiting nurses, medications, doctor visits, rehab.

Since it’s no longer Monday, this post is over 🙂

heart-line

Whew!  There was a lot more after the surgery – visiting nurses, cardiac rehab, so on and on.

I am hugely thankful for my pastors, friends, family, people who brought us dinners, all the doctors, nurses, surgeons, visiting nurses, rehab personal, Mended Hearts, ambulance folks, aspirin, nitroglycerin, insurance, Fair Oaks Hospital, Fairfax Hospital, everyone involved in any way with this escapade.

Five orange pumpkins sit in a row in front of a distressed, wooden background.

As of Today…

Cardiac rehab is finished!

WOOHOO

 

The heart attack was January 27, 2013 and it took until today to finish the rehab but it got done.  We’ve both learned quite a bit and I doubt that we’ll ever go back to our earlier way of eating.

What a journey this has been – and I hope it’s done now.

I know that there’s always something else right around the corner but I hope it doesn’t hit us too soon.

Heart attacks: What you should know

Three coronary artery bypass grafts, a LIMA to...

Three coronary artery bypass grafts, a LIMA to LAD and two saphenous vein grafts – one to the right coronary artery (RCA) system and one to the obtuse marginal (OM) system. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note: Dr. John P. Reilly is editor-in-chief ofsecondscount.org, the patient education website of the Society of Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, which is focused on raising awareness of heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases. Reilly is the program director for the Cardiology Fellowship Program at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans.

(CNN) — If you are one of the nearly 785,000 Americans who suffer a first heart attack this year, what you do in the first few minutes can determine an entire lifetime.

Unfortunately, many people do not know what symptoms to look for or what life-saving steps to take. To help make sense of it all, the following can help you or someone you know survive a heart attack:

Q: What are the top three things I should know about heart attacks?

A: When a heart attack strikes, seconds count.

Seek medical attention immediately. The longer your symptoms persist, the greater the amount of heart muscle damage you may suffer. The start of your symptoms is a signal that blood flow to your heart muscle has been blocked. The emergency department and interventional cardiologist or surgeon will move quickly to restore blood flow to your heart to prevent further damage.

Call 911 for an ambulance. Don’t drive yourself or have someone else drive you. During a heart attack, your heart rhythm can become abnormal or even stop.

Emergency medical providers can perform an electrocardiogram, or EKG, on the way to the hospital and confirm whether you are having a heart attack and treat your heart rhythm abnormalities if needed. They can also call the hospital in advance to prepare a medical team for your arrival so treatment can start immediately.

If available, chew one uncoated aspirin while waiting for the ambulance. This may help slow the formation of blood clots that can cause heart attacks.

Q: What are the common symptoms of heart attacks, and how do they differ between men and women?

A: We’ve all seen the scenario where the actor grabs his or her chest in agonizing pain and falls to the ground. A heart attack seems obvious, but in real life, it’s not always that clear.

Heart attack symptoms can vary and don’t always involve debilitating chest pain. Many patients say their symptoms were not painful but more like an ache or discomfort. Symptoms may start with a dull pain in the chest or disguise themselves as indigestion, nausea, shortness of breath or heartburn. Other common symptoms include arm, neck, jaw, back or upper stomach discomfort, dizziness, change in heart rhythm and sudden cold sweats.

But these symptoms may differ for your wife, mother or sister because women do not always experience the same heart attack symptoms as men. Symptoms may be subtle and difficult to identify and may not even include chest pain.

While this does not mean women cannot have chest pain, other symptoms that may signal a heart attack for women include sudden weakness and fatigue, body aches or flu-like symptoms. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, so it’s important that you don’t ignore these symptoms, regardless of how subtle they are.

Q: What are my heart attack treatment options?

A: There are various treatment options available when you’re having a heart attack. The most effective treatment is angioplasty and stenting. In some cases, clot-busting medication is administered intravenously. In rare and severe cases, emergency coronary artery bypass grafting is needed.

Angioplasty is a minimally invasive, nonsurgical procedure that opens the blocked artery. During the procedure, a small mesh tube called a stent may be placed in the artery to restore blood flow and scaffold the vessel open.

Clot-busting medications melt away the blood clot that is blocking the artery. Coronary artery bypass grafting is open-heart surgery where a healthy artery or vein from elsewhere in the body is connected upstream and downstream from the heart artery blockage, bypassing the blockage and creating a new path for blood flow.

Fortunately, medical technology has advanced tremendously in recent years, and many patients can return home and back to their normal — if not better — quality of life within days of treatment.

Q: What should I do following my heart attack?

A: Experiencing a heart attack is a life-changing event and an important time to reflect upon your current lifestyle.

Cardiac rehabilitation benefits many patients by helping them resume a healthy lifestyle following their heart attack. You’ll also be taking medication regularly. Adhering to your medical therapy and scheduling consistent follow-up visits with your cardiologist and primary care doctor are both beneficial habits to adopt.

In addition, it’s important to become your heart’s No. 1 health advocate. Assess your current lifestyle and see where you can make improvements. Can you eat healthier and exercise more, reduce your stress levels or quit smoking? These changes will greatly increase your odds of fighting off future heart attacks.

From CNN.com

Monday, 12 Weeks Post-Op

falling-behind

Looks like I’m falling w-a-y behind again.  That’s a pretty good thing since that means normal life is resuming.

When we started rehab, DH was the only student – now there are 5 and they seem to get along pretty well.  Slowly but surely, the challenges are getting greater.  Today (or soon) he will start using weights.

Today’s hav is 14 of 36, just over 1/3 of the way through.

He’s been driving pretty normally for a few weeks but still can’t walk the dog.  Maybe that will come after the weights get started.

We had our class with the dietician and there was only one other woman in the class so it was more of a private session.  At the end, 3 of the guys from Mended Hearts came in to see if we had questions.  One said that he liked having me in the meetings and talking about the role of the caregiver!  This is just not me, talking in any group!

Last week, we had out one-on-one with the dietician.  I’d pretty much already learned most of it from online and books but it was good to check.

This week, on Tuesday, we have a class on how the surgery is performed.  I’ve seen videos but it will be nice to see what they have to offer.  We can also observe a live surgery.  We’ll see!

Last week, on Tuesday, we had the privilege of attending a Congressional Caucus on Rare Diseases.  I took the opportunity (of course!) to say a few words about Cushing’s.  If you’re interested, my write-up is here:  Cushing’s on Capitol Hill.

I have an opportunity for a conference in San Francisco in June.  I happened to have airplane credits so I, without thinking, I got 2 tickets.  Hopefully, DH has the go-ahead to fly by then!

I’m amazed at how well things are going at the 3 month mark.  Hopefully, it’s smooth sailing from here on out!

Starting Cardiac Rehab

cardiac-rehab-fairfax

 

It’s started finally!   Tuesday, March 26, 2013 was DH’s first day in Cardiac Rehab, just over 8 weeks post-op.  This was an “intake appointment”, and much longer than the normal ones will be.

We got to choose when the future class would be – either Monday-Wednesday-Friday at 7:00 am or Monday-Wednesday-Thursday at 1:00pm.  Anyone who knows me knows that I chose the afternoon class.  I just didn’t want to get up that early and have to deal with early morning rush hour each of those days.

Diana, the intake nurse was very nice – in fact, everyone we met was.

First things first – money.  We found out that his insurance would pay for most but that there would be a $15 copay each session.  However, we did get a parking voucher saving us $5 on the parking garage.

Description unavailable

Description unavailable (Photo credit: pennstatenews)

We got a packet of information on all kinds of things, including food guides – what to eat, what not to eat.  Hooray!

I noticed a poster showing the image (right) for choosemyplate.gov.  I looked at that site when it first came out – and I’m looking again!

Diana was the one who set up the class times, as well.

Next was Claire, a nurse.  She checked all the meds and vitamins that DH takes.  She said that saw palmetto interfered with one of  his prescriptions and she suggested we take the list to CVS so that they can look for other interactions.

She did an EKG,  checked pulse in several locations, looked at the  scar, checked blood pressure on both arms (sitting and standing), listened to the carotids.

BP was  136/64 right,   112/60 left,   119/70 standing left.

She made an appointment with the dietician for Wednesday April 17 at  2:30, after a rehab class.

Turns out that there are patient meetings on the second Tuesday of each month.  We’re getting very busy with patient meetings, Mended Hearts and rehab plus doctor appointments!

 

They were out of t-shirts his size so we got one that was very large.  Another one will be forthcoming…sometime.

These shirts are special because they have a pocket for the portable EKG machine over the heart in addition to the obligatory logo on the back.  As luck would have it, DH was wearing a t-shirt with a pocket.

DH was hooked up to the EKG.  I gathered that he’ll do that himself in the future.

Next up – Shelly, an exercise physiologist.  She talked a bit, asked DH how often he got new shoes.  She said that it should be every 6 months.  Who knew?

She said to drink water every 15 minutes while exercising.

DH started off slow – Treadmill 5 minutes; Bike 15 minutes; Walked on indoor track for 4 laps

When he was done, we went to the Healthy Heart Cafe for a bit of lunch.

Wednesday, Day 2

We got there in plenty of time.  DH turned out to be the only person in this class, at least for now.

He did his exercises but was told he needed to eat breakfast in the future – his blood pressure was too low.

It’s becoming a habit – when he was done, we went to the Healthy Heart Cafe for another bit of lunch.

I had bought him a Groupon for a local garden shop as a Christmas gift.  Of course, I had no idea then that he wouldn’t be doing much gardening this year.  In any event, it was going to expire on March 30, so we went there after rehab and got a few things 🙂  They may all become house plants – we’ll see!

Absolute exhaustion by the time we got home.

Cardiac Rehabilitation Starts Today!

cardiac-rehab

DH finally starts his cardiac rehab today, just over 8 weeks after his triple bypass.

Cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) teaches you how to be more active and make lifestyle changes that can lead to a stronger heart and better health. Cardiac rehab can help you feel better and reduce your risk of future heart problems.

In cardiac rehab, you work with a team of health professionals. Often the team includes a doctor, a nurse specialist, a dietitian, an exercise therapist, and a physical therapist. The team designs a program just for you, based on your health and goals. Then they give you support to help you succeed.

If you have had a heart attack, you may be afraid to exercise. Or if you have never exercised, you may not know how to get started. Your cardiac rehab team will help you start slowly and work up to a level that is good for your heart.

Many hospitals and rehab centers offer cardiac rehab programs. You may be part of a cardiac rehab group, but each person will follow his or her own plan.

Who should take part in cardiac rehab?

Doctors often prescribe cardiac rehab for people who have had a heart attack or bypass surgery. But people with many types of heart or blood vessel disease can benefit from cardiac rehab. Rehab might help you if you have:

  • Heart failure.
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD).
  • Had or plan to have a heart transplant.
  • Had angioplasty to open a coronary artery.
  • Had another type of heart surgery, such as valve replacement.

Often people are not given the chance to try cardiac rehab. Or they may start a program but drop out. This is especially true of women and older adults. And that’s not good news, because they can get the same benefits as younger people. If your doctor suggests cardiac rehab, stay with it so you can get the best results.

Medicare will pay for cardiac rehab for people with certain heart problems. Many insurance companies also provide coverage. Check with your insurance company or your hospital to see if you will be covered.

What happens in cardiac rehab?

In cardiac rehab, you will learn how to:

  • Manage your heart disease and problems such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Exercise safely.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Reduce stress and depression.
  • Get back to work sooner and safely.

Exercise is a big part of cardiac rehab. So before you get started, you will have a full checkup, which may include tests such as an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) and a “stress test” (exercise electrocardiogram). These tests show how well your heart is working. They will help your team design an exercise program that is safe for you.

At first your rehab team will keep a close watch on how exercise affects your heart. As you get stronger, you will learn how to check your own heart rate when you exercise. By the end of rehab, you will be ready to continue an exercise program on your own.

What are the benefits of cardiac rehab?

Starting cardiac rehab after a heart attack can lower your chance of dying from heart disease and can help you stay out of the hospital. It may reduce your need for medicine.

Cardiac rehab may also help you to:

  • Have better overall health.
  • Lose weight or keep weight off.
  • Feel less depressed and more hopeful.
  • Have more energy and feel better about yourself.

Changing old habits is hard. But in cardiac rehab, you get the support of experts who can help you make new healthy habits. And meeting other people who are in cardiac rehab can help you know that you’re not alone.

Adapted from CardioSmart.org

Monday – Eight Weeks Post-Op

Monday

I’m happy to report that life continues to return to normal.

I was out walking the dog this morning, and it was snowy again.  The sidewalk was very slippery and it reminded me of that Monday two months ago when I was out with her and slipped and fell.  My shin still hurts a bit from that day.

DH has been out to several meetings and has won a court case – all without driving himself.  He’s still having to “pay” for a lot of activity by napping later.

He’s able to easily put on sweaters now that go over his head.

Tomorrow is our first rehab appointment.  We’re both looking forward to that for different reasons.  I’m eager to get my life back on a schedule.  He’s looking forward to being able to drive and become stronger.

We’re still mostly vegetarian.  I hope to get some food/cooking advice at the rehab meeting tomorrow.

DH went to church again yesterday for Palm Sunday, then we went out for breakfast again.  He’s found a healthy meal at a local restaurant without too much prodding.

He’s busy trying to find a timeshare in Japan that we could trade for although it will be a while before we could consider that kind of travel.

On the 20th, I had to make a very difficult decision.  There’s a Cushing’s Conference in Las Vegas next month.  I already had plane tickets but hadn’t registered for the conference or a hotel room.  I decided that I didn’t feel comfortable leaving DH alone for 5 days with a dog he couldn’t walk or a car he might not be able to drive.  I’m also just afraid to be away that long, just in case…

Hopefully, next week’s update will have more good news to report.