August 16, 2015

Friends, Fun, a Powerful Memory Relived, And Then....

One of our favorite cities is Portland, Oregon. As a cool escape from Phoenix in the summer it can't be beat. The downtown is vibrant, full of restaurants, bars, museums, parks, and interesting (weird?) people. The local neighborhoods don't have a big box store in sight, just endless mom and pop stores to fascinate and delight. The light rail system is efficient. Bikes are everywhere. The Willamette River through downtown is a refreshing sight for the eyes. And, we have dear friends that make every visit something special and a very important part of our satisfying journey.

Betty and I are back from a week in Oregon. A flight of less than 3 hours took us from 104 to 76 degrees. Our airport area hotel and rental car were waiting. Friends and things we wanted to do had our week packed full enough maybe we should have planned on two weeks.

Friday was spent visiting a place that is part of a very vivid memory from my past: Mount St. Helens. On the morning of May 18, 1980, a massive eruption tore almost 1500 feet from the top of the 9,600 foot mountain. Fifty seven people were killed, almost 300 homes vanished, 47 bridges, 15 miles of railway and almost 200 miles of roads were destroyed.

At the time of the explosion I was on a train that had just left Portland, on my way to Seattle for a business meeting. We had crossed into Washington State and were approaching the town of Kelso when the train abruptly stopped. We were told that a few miles ahead a bridge over the Toutle River was in danger of being sweep away by the huge rush of water, mud, trees, and volcanic flow pouring out of the mountain.

Less than 40 miles from the volcano, the air had become smoky, dusty, and dangerous to breathe. As passengers looked out the windows on the east side of the train, we could see a plume of smoke tens of thousands of feet in the air, and the first stages of destruction evident near the mountain. After a five hour delay the train was finally allowed to proceed to Seattle.

This was well before cell phones were available. My wife knew I was on a train and my approximate location on that May morning, but had no way to find out my condition. And, of course, I couldn't contact her either until arriving at the Amtrak station in Seattle later that day. When I  was finally able to reach her, the relief in her voice was evident. I was never so glad to be 5 hours late, instead of washed out to sea or buried under tons of mud by the eruption.

Today, the Volcano Visitors Center is a very well done reminder of what happened and why. Frankly, seeing the power of the event and how close I was to being very personally affected left me rather emotional and in awe.









Saturday we reconnected with the energizer couple, Mike and Tamara Reddy. In Portland as part of a two month RV trip, they had asked us to reserve a day for winery tours, a picnic lunch, and dinner in Dundee, and a day full of meaningful conversation, coffee, and great memories. We will see them again in January at the Palm Springs Film Festival, but meeting up with Mike and Tamara always guarantees a great time. 









Sunday, Betty and I visited Silver Falls State Park. About 90 minutes south of Portland, this park is home to 10 waterfalls and deep forest beauty. What a fabulous day spent enjoying cool sunshine and drop-dead scenery. The hike was a little tougher than we normally tackle, but all seemed fine. 














Monday, we ventured north into Washington State for a hike along Salmon Creek, then back to Oregon for a drive around the west side of Sauvie Island. I will admit I took a peek at the clothing optional beach on the island and quickly hurried back to the car.  Then, on to more normal activities with a stroll through the very busy Nob Hill section of Portland

Tuesday, our good friend, Beth, Betty, and I spent the afternoon at Oregon Garden. Enjoying amazing flowers and planting, seeing the only Frank Lloyd Wright designed house in the Pacific Northwest, and another perfect weather day allowed Betty to snap hundreds of stunning photos.













Then, everything changed.

As I was returning to the hotel, I began to feel a powerful band of pain clamp across my chest. I started to sweat. I felt nauseous.  My right arm started to tingle. By the time I made it to the hotel I could tell I was in trouble. I asked Betty to call 911. Within 10 minutes EMTs and firemen had swarmed into the hotel lobby. I was wired up for an EKG, given nitro pills, aspirin, and oxygen and rushed to a local hospital.

Yes, I had a coronary problem. Obviously, I survived but with a new lifestyle, medicine regimen, and diet ahead of me, plus an abrupt slap in the face from life. What started as a vacation ended up altering my life. 

Look for a post in a few days about my heart problem. Frankly, I need a little time to process what happened and share with you.


51 comments:

  1. Oh, Bob, I am so glad that you are OK. I worked a few years in a coronary care ICU. You are fortunate that you had symptoms, and that you listened to them! I have seen cases where someone ignored their chest pain, shortness of breath, and the outcome was not good. Fortunately you are now in good hands, and aware of what changes are needed.

    A life altering experience! Knowing you, you will follow the medical advice you have been given, which is so important following a cardiac event. It reminds of how precious life is, and how important it is to make sure we are leading a satisfying journey!

    Please take care, and let us know how you are doing in your recovery.

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    1. I just want to add that it must have been very frightening for you. EMT's and ER staff have a way of helping us to feel we are in good hands. How poignant that you were reliving your brush with death 35 years ago, and then this!

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    2. Without a doubt it was one of the more intense 8 days of my life. Between the Mount St. Helens experience and the heart issue, I will not forget our trip to Portland in August 2015 very soon!

      The medical people I interacted with were simply incredible. From the EMT folks to every single person I dealt with at the hospital, I came away deeply moved and impressed by their concern and professionalism.

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  2. Wow, very scary! I'm glad you had Betty call 911. Let us know how you are doing in the next couple of days. Good thoughts sent your way.

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    1. I will have an update in a few days, but so far so good.

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  3. Bob, just wanted to let you know my dad had similar issues about 30 years ago. This was before stents were common, and he ended up with four bypasses, but at 84, he is hale, hearty, still walks about an hour each day, and passes his annual cardiac exams with flying colors. Take your time to get your head wrapped around this, know you will run to the doc for every twinge for awhile, but do the daily exercise, which is basically the best med there is, and then live your life.

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    1. Thanks, Peggy. I have been a guy who has never been to a hospital before, take almost no medication, and generally take care of myself. It will take some adjustments, but I have a very confident view of my future.

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  4. One day at a time, Bob. Glad you listened to your body.

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    1. I am actually looking forward to a new diet and the weight loss that is sure to accompany it.

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  5. Bob, SO glad you are okay. Just know I'm keeping you in prayer brother!

    Bob

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    1. I believe all the prayers that have been lifted up for me are important and helpful. Thanks, Bob.

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  6. Thinking of a praying for you Bob. Please let us know how everything is going when you are getting back around again.

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    1. Things have stabilized though I taking things gingerly until I see my doctor in about a week. Started short walks around the neighborhood first thing in the morning while the temperatures are still reasonable.

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  7. I'm sending good thoughts & prayers your way. With your permission, I'll put you and Betty on our church prayer list. I also am SO glad you listened to your body & will pay attention to your health.

    I'll send extra good thoughts Betty's way. I'm sure it's scary for everyone. It was certainly a memorable trip!

    with love & prayers,

    pam

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    1. Absolutely, an addition to your church's prayer list would be appreciated. God is in control and knows exactly what He is doing with me at this moment. But, prayers are the perfect way to communicate our thoughts and concerns. And, I believe He listens.

      Betty is a marvel. She is my rock.

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  8. Best wishes to you and Betty, Bob. I'm always amazed at how life can take a turn when we least expect it. I'm reminded of Garth Brooks' song, The Dance. There's a line - I could have missed the pain, but I'd have missed the dance. It may be a good thing at times not to know what's in store for us. If you were anticipating a cardiac even that day, you wouldn't have enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Take care.

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    1. I had some pain on Sunday after the strenuous hike to and from the waterfalls but it passed after resting so I thought I had just strained some muscles. Tuesday proved differently. But, yes, we can't predict when something bad (or good) will happen. We just have to be open to it all and realize that is what life is.

      Bless you, Mona.

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  9. I was about to comment on your great trip until I got to the bottom of your post. Best of luck with the new regimen, and we look forward to hearing about how great you are feeling in your new self. Good luck, Bob, over the next few weeks of adjustment.

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    1. There is a bit of a twist at the end!

      Thanks, Chuck for your thoughts. I am looking forward to learning all there is to learn about protecting my ticker for as long as I can.

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  10. Take care! Thinking of you and Betty on this new journey...
    Robin

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  11. Best wishes on your newest journey. I am glad you listened to the warning.

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  12. Yowzers, Bob, that was some vacation! I can't help thinking it was fortuitous that you & Betty had decided to skip the long RV trip this summer... I'm so glad you were in a place with great care available and with friends to support you and Betty when this happened. I am grateful that you are on the mend and look forward to hearing uodates as you wish to share them. I am also glad that you chose to return to writing your blog, albeit less frequently -- your candid sharing of your thoughts and experiences always teaches your readers something and so often stimulates some interesting exchanges. Take good care... My best to you & Betty,

    Pauline in Ithaca

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    1. You are absolutely right about the RV decision. We would have been about 10 miles further from the hospital with no immediate backup. Plus, Bailey, our dog, would have been stranded in the RV for extended periods. And, our kids would have had to fly up to see me and be with us which would have been expensive and difficult. The decision to fly up for a week turned out to be a very fortuitous choice.

      Thanks for your well wishes, Pauline.

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  13. The end of your post was a shocker! Sending prayers your way... for both you and Betty. Keep us posted.

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    1. I should have a new post by Friday with more details and what all of this has taught me.

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  14. I'll echo the comment from Judy--health scares are rough on us and all those who love us. Thank goodness for emergency workers who serve us so well. I will definitely be praying for you and Betty as your journey back to full health ensues. God bless you, Bob.

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    1. Thank you, Pam.

      I was rather calm through this event, but worried about its effect on Betty, my daughters and son-in-law, and grand kids. The kids had suffered the loss of a pet a month or two earlier and are young enough to worry that when anyone they love gets sick that person will die and not come back (just like the dog). We were quick to reassure them that I was not going to follow the fate of Dakota, the puppy.

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  15. Bob, this was shocking news. I do hope you will recover and be back good as new. Please take care! You are in my prayers. We retirees just never know, do we?

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    1. Every day is a surprise! I am on the road to recovery and excited by the future.

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  16. Bob, I hope you are feeling better. Maybe a good thing that you didn't take that big planned RV trip this summer. I'm sure you'll be in better shape than ever after they send you to those cardiac rehab classes! -Jean

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    1. Not taking the RV trip turned out to be one of the most important decisions we have had in the last several years. At the time it felt like a bit of a disappointment, but now I feel blessed and grateful that whatever caused me to cancel it was so right.

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  17. More prayers have been offered for you, Bob. Thanks for just sharing the incident. I can imagine most bloggers skipping over something so personal but your sharing offerings this blog community and opportunity to support you and to identify with you as the retirement years have challenges for all of us; and all remind us of our mortality. I know you have shared that longevity is in your genes and that's great; but nonetheless, I bet you're glad you filed for social security at 64 versus 70! Be well...

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    1. Both my parents died from heart-related issues, as did my favorite Uncle. Heart problems obviously run in my family so I should have been paying attention to what my body was telling me well before I ended up in the hospital. When I think back over the last year, my body sent me several warning signals that I ignored. Hopefully my experience will cause others to listen to what their physical self is telling them.

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  18. Prayers from Oklahoma.
    Jeff

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  19. Wow, TWO close calls in Portland! Maybe you should stay in Phoenix! But seriously, hope all goes well ... and please take it easy, and take care of yourself (as I'm sure you will). Our thoughts are with you.

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    1. Keeping Portland weird, and a little dangerous! Thanks, Tom. I ignored several important messages from my body and paid the price. Portland isn't to blame.

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  20. Oh Bob, I guess I am late here but glad to hear you are on your way to recovery. I had my "event" nine years ago and yeah it is an eye-opener. But in some way I am better because of that. It gets you to thinking about your own mortality and therefore appreciating life even more....

    A speedy recovery to you my friend.

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    1. My body had been telling to make changes in my lifestyle for several years. Like too many, though, I ignored the signals.

      Things are going well. I miss salt and the good old American diet already, but know this is for the best.

      Thanks, RJ.

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  21. Wow! I commented before, but am contributing again, because Karl (my partner) had a pacemaker/defibrillator implanted in May. I thought that would take care of everything, but yesterday at the gym, while exercising (fortunately WITH a trainer!) he fainted & apparently the defibrillator went off. This means even more adjustments than we had already made (& I thought we'd already done pretty well! His body seemingly does not agree) Also two of our neighbors had 9-1-1 calls & trips to the hospital in ambulances.....it's been a month. I echo the comment that "we retirees never know what will happen" --- and realize the folks of ALL ages really don't know what will happen.

    I thought of you & the ambulance as I saw another important man in my life vanish into a green & white vehicle!

    pam (again)

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    1. Golly, I pray Karl is now OK. Luckily he was in an environment where someone could act quickly. I was thinking it is time to start to take walks in my neighborhood, but then realized if something went wrong I would have to walk home to get help. Walking on the treadmill at the gym is much safer for now.

      I have mentioned it before, but now is a good time to state it again for everyone: listen to your body. I had several warning signs a good 12 months before the Portland episode that I ignored. Never again.

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  22. Get better soon and make the necessary changes in lifestyle.
    Your wife and all the people who love you deserve it.

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    1. Lifestyle changes will be good for me. But, as you note, I am ultimately doing it for the people I love who love me.

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  23. Hi Bob, I've been absent for awhile due to my own family issues. I'm glad you're doing better. A heart issue is life altering... I've been there too. Mine was a dormant heart defect. Take good care of yourself and do what the doctors tell you to do. I have officially become eligible for early retirement this month. I guess coming back to see this makes me that much more determined to live life on my terms. All the best to you and Betty.

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    1. So, are you taking early retirement? Are you ready to begin the next phase of your life? Inquiring minds want to know!

      Unfortunately, I have had to wait over a week to see a doctor at home. Just before we moved from Scottsdale to Chandler my doctor of 20 years retired.So, I was a man without a regular doctor. I finally found a new one and scheduled an appointment just before we left for Portland. I am anxious to start my relationship with him next Tuesday. Then, he will have to recommend a cardiologist who can see me rather quickly.

      The timing wasn't the best, but then again, who schedules an emergency?

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  24. While you are waiting to meet your new docs, there are lots of websites to explore such as drmcdougall.com,maybe Dr. Dean Ornish's site, and the Happy Herbivore.MUCH good info out there as you take your next steps into lifestyle changes. The good news is: the lifestyle changes work!!!! Happy Herbivore and Dr. McDougall have TONS of uplifting case histories on their sites!

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    1. I am enjoying the new diet Betty and i have switched to. It is so much healthier for both of us.

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  25. I was happily reading your blog and reminiscing about my visit to Mount St. Helens and - wow - life does hit you between the eyes now and again. Glad to hear you are on the winning side of the coronary. Following the doctor's instructions is the BEST thing to do. Get well.

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    1. Seeing Mount St. Helens again was powerful. At the time I was worried about missing a business meeting in Seattle. Obviously, I was missing the much bigger picture!

      Feeling better, Eileen. Thanks.

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