August 21, 2015

Life is What Happens While You Are Making Other Plans

Using a paraphrase of a John Lennon lyric, this post is about a life changed in an instant. If you read my last post you know I suffered a heart problem during a week's stay in Portland. I promised a closer look after I had a little time to process what had happened and what lay ahead. This was the picture that closed out a recap of that "vacation" post.


Arriving at Portland's Adventist Medical Center

The staff at the Radisson Airport Hotel, the EMT guys, and the firemen who responded was so efficient and calming. Neither Betty or I knew how serious this was going to be. With a pain level around an 8 (out of 10) and all the classic signs of a heart attack I could have been in real trouble. 

Within just a few minutes of giving me a nitroglycerin pill and several doses of aspirin, my pain noticeably decreased. However an EKG administered during the ride to the hospital did show some abnormalities so something was wrong.

By the time I arrived at the emergency room of the Adventist Medical Center my pain was much more tolerable, and the sweating and tingling had subsided. Another EKG showed a more normal heart pattern and my blood pressure and pulse were only slightly elevated. Even so, the ER doctor said I should spend the night for observation and more tests. Betty and I quickly agreed and off to a room I was sent. 

I am not sure why there are beds in hospital rooms, since no one is allowed to sleep. After being hooked up to all sorts of monitors, the nurses and technicians began a steady stream into my room for blood work, heart monitors, echocardiograms, and additional EKG looks. Every two hours, all night long, a knock on the door and an apologetic medical person came in to do whatever was required. 

By early morning, it had been determined that there were certain enzymes in my blood that indicated some damage had been done to the heart. Within short order a cardiologist came in and walked me through my options which were simple: do nothing and probably have a full blown heart attack on the flight home, take some pills, wait a few days and see what happened, or have an angiogram and take an up close and personal look at my heart.

After choosing option number three, I was whisked away to the operating room for the 35 minute procedure. The results were probably the best I could have hoped for under the circumstances: a very small branch off a main artery had been blocked, resulting in a little muscle damage. The blood vessel was too small for a stent and the option of open heart surgery wasn't a logical choice in this case. I had experienced the joy of angina. 

The doctor felt confident that a regimen of pills and diet changes would allow me to resume a normal life. While I was a candidate for more heart problems in the future, I could do a lot to control that outcome.

After the hole put in my femoral artery for the angiogram had healed enough and the pills had lowered my blood pressure and increased blood flow to the heart, he was supportive of me flying back to Phoenix. 

Here is the important part of this story: 

The Portland first responders were, literally, lifesavers. Those gentlemen took over when I needed someone to act quickly. They kept Betty as calm as possible, talking with her on the drive to the hospital to assure her of my care.

The doctors and staff at Adventist Medical Center earned my love and respect. Without exception they were caring and professional. I felt that each one I came in contact with really was doing everything possible to ease my concerns and help me heal.

Our dear friend, Beth, stepped up in a way that only someone who loves you would do. She became Betty's transportation to and from the hospital and her shoulder to cry on. She became the rock of confidence and steadiness that made this journey easier. As far as Betty and I are concerned, she is part of our family who we love deeply and know we could count on anytime, any place, for anything.

I became very much aware of how many people were worried about us and were praying for us. Members of our small group at church emailed and texted their support. Other friends found out about my problem on Facebook and left loving and supportive comments. Still others contacted me to ask if there was anything they could do.

Our two darlings daughters had their bags packed and were ready to board a flight to Portland within minutes of hearing of the situation. We had learned enough about my condition to tell them that wasn't needed and I would be home in a few days. Staying home also allowed them to console each other and keep the grandkids from worrying about Grandad.

And, oh my goodness, my amazing, incredibly strong wife, was my rock. She held me, supported me, loved, and made me completely confident that we would get through this together. I am so crazy in love with my wife of 39 years, I would need a new book to describe what she has meant in my life.

My faith in God and his plans for me left me with not one single second of doubt or fear. If He had plans for me to die from this, then I believed I would be in heaven and my family would be able to weather the storm. This was not a test of my faith, but a confirmation.

Betty and I know what this heart problem means for our future. We are facing a new approach to eating and exercise with excitement. We are planning vacations and trips with a new respect for what our bodies are telling us. We see this event has a force of positive change and reinvigoration for us.

I don't recommend a heart "event" for anyone. If I had been more attuned to what my body had been trying to tell me for the last few years I would have likely missed all the excitement. But, I can honestly say that, for me, I have come away a better person. I am surrounded by love from so many incredible people. My life is blessed by family and others beyond description. My faith is firm. 

Strange as it may seem, this experience became a very important part of my satisfying journey.



38 comments:

  1. Bob - I highly recommend that you read The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. You can also check out his blog MarksDailyApple.com. If you were told that you need to move to a standard low fat, high carb diet, that is a big mistake. Look up the research for yourself. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Roger. I will take a look. My research and common sense tells me to follow a diet that is low in sodium, red meat, and cholesterol, avoid processed foods, and increase fruits, vegetables, legumes, and olive oil, plus a glass of red wine with dinner. Anything too extreme and I won't follow it. This approach seems to fit most guidelines. I will see what the cardiologist has to say when I meet with him.

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  2. Praying for your continued healing and future lifestyle change.
    It is huge when we actually "see" our "rock" in action! Glad yours was there for you!

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    1. She has been by my side for 39 year and counting!

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  3. Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us. I'm so glad that you had a good outcome, and that you are on the road to recovery. By sharing your story, it is possible that you may help to save lives! Too many people may brush off or ignore their symptoms. Your experience may inspire others to pay attention to signals the body is sending. Given your readership, think of all the people who will read this!

    Your positive attitude towards your lifestyle changes is inspiring. Rather than say "woe is me", you are embracing these changes with an outlook that can only be described as uplifting and inspirational.

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    1. Our bodies are rather amazing machines. Too bad I spent more time on my car and heat pump than my blood pump. But, that is changing and I am confident in the future.

      I certainly hope someone will read about my experience and decide to check things out. The books I have been reading this past week have been eye-openers. Based on my lifestyle I am surprised I didn't have a heart problem years ago.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your story---you truly have touched many lives, some of whom you will never know. I'm so glad that you have a relatively good ending & are ready for the is next adventure (and SO glad to echo the comments that thank heavens!--literally!--that you did not take the long RV trip. That could have been an issue.) Our prayers are with you, Betty and your family.

    Karl is also doing ok; hopefully we'll have more information Monday. What a great reminder--again--to remember to enjoy life & those we love.

    You are loved!
    pam

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    1. Please pass on our good wishes for Karl and drop me an e-mail after you learn more.

      Yes, the 2 month RV trip could have been a nightmare. Maybe I wouldn't have exerted myself in the same way on the same day if we had been traveling. But, it is pretty clear I was a heart attack waiting to happen. I can't even imagine what a dangerous and inconvenient mess it could have been.

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  5. Glad to hear you're back home and feeling good! Sometimes a wake up call is a blessing that changes us in a good way,forever! Sounds like your plan!! I went on my 30 minute bike ride this morning and will do my short yoga DVD later today. I wonder if WHITE WINE with dinner counts?? LOL!

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    1. White wine isn't nearly as good for the heart, but does wonders for the disposition.

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  6. Welcome to adventures in getting older, Bob. I wish you all the luck in your recovery. I do hope that you keep on blogging but I also know that close calls have a way of causing us to reevaluate our lives and activities.

    This is not medical advice, but only my opinion. The medical community does not know enough about food, and in some cases, what they know and recommend are just wrong. Some "common sense" or "media messages" are also wrong. It is all a gamble, and is dependent on your body, your digestive enzymes mix and the microbes in your gut.

    You may find a great deal of conflicting information on diet and what constitutes good diet for recovery and life. I will say this: avoid sugar and processed carbohydrates including modern ground grains. These digest too quickly, raise glucose too high and too quickly, and create numerous other issues (diabetes, metabolic syndrome), including providing the constitute components for formation of excess damaging cholesterol. It is the processing that causes the problem of digestion speed.

    For most cholesterol in the food is a non-issue which the press has built, cholesterol in the blood can be for a few, but statins are over prescribed. There is nothing wrong with red meat, and wine, even small amounts, is hard on the liver as is too much fructose. We also need some sodium or a replacement like potassium. Legumes have issues for digestion for many people and provide nothing unique, but you may need the proteins if you do not eat meat.

    But what do I know?

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    1. A lot to consider, here, Fred. I always remind myself that doctors "practice" medicine. They don't have all the answers and the information we have available changes constantly. We must use our own common sense and know our own bodies.

      A sincere appreciation for your concern and input.

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  7. Bob, I am praying for your speedy recovery.
    I didn't think it was possible, but your experience was the boost I needed to finally go on a diet!
    Nothing motivated me enough, till this.
    OMG!
    Please take care of yourself. Take it easy.
    You've done a lot of things lately (moving, etc.)
    Slow down and thanks for keeping us posted.

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    1. 2015 has been a rather unforgettable year (death of my father, a move, a major vacation cancelled, the adding of a our daughter's puppy to our routine, and the heart issue. I certainly have not become bored!

      Thanks, Cindi.

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  8. Isn't it incredible how often a change of plans becomes a "Thank God we didn't do..."!? We've had a few of those instances over the years and it always makes you stop and realize there actually is a master plan, of sorts. I'm so glad you got good care away from home and can re-evaluate your daily habits and diet.
    Love to you both!
    b

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    1. Betty and I believe something rather than luck led us to change our summer plans. In addition to listening to our bodies, there are other "voices" or feelings that deserve our attention. The tough part is filtering out our own thoughts from those that are possibility from another source. ....is that too heavy?

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  9. Your last paragraph is a tribute to your strong faith in God and those He has placed in your life. I, too, believe that something good can come from what might seem to be a terrible situation. No, we would never choose a medical emergency, but everything fell into place for you. I have no doubt that you have shared, and will continue to share your story, and others will be helped, as a result. As for the days ahead, I am sure that God will help you and Betty with lifestyle changes. I had my first angiogram about 15 yrs ago, and after much research, experimentation, and prayer, I have learned what works for me. I will pray for you to heal quickly and enjoy every moment of every day. Life is so precious. I will pray for Betty, too, because these incidents are life changing for our mates. God bless your heart (He already has...).

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    1. I firmly believe there is a master plan for me that I am responsible to execute. My job to to take all the input I receive, figure out the parts that seem to fit that plan, and do something about it. Sometimes, the guidance seems rather obvious, but most of the time I wish things were a bit clearer!

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  10. It's always amazing to me how life can change in an instant. You are very fortunate Betty called 911 and they were so instrumental in getting you to the hospital. You got the care you needed!! After I was diagnosed with cancer, I changed my life to be more spontaneous and to be in the moment or the day. I pretty much eat what I want and walk everyday. I try not to over think things or get to caught up in , well, now I need to do this or that. I just try and live everyday with awareness.
    My husband and hero, like your wife, has always been at my side. Our anniversary is in a few days, 45 years. Yes we were very young( I was 18)!!! But, thru it all , we're here for each other.
    Keep thinking positve and best to you.

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    1. A strong marriage is a blessing that cannot be discounted. Any strong, loving relationship with another person is so important to our emotional and physical health. Congrats to you and hubby on 45 years! Betty and I are making plans for a few very special trips next year for our 40th (Alaskan cruise and trip to New Zealand). I am quite confident that I will be around to enjoy them.

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  11. Life can change in an instant. Very glad yours is coming along so well.

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    1. Thanks, Linda. You take care of Art and we will see you in Tucson this winter.

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  12. Hi Bob, I am so glad that you're doing better. Yes this is a life changing experience, and you'll never look at life the same way. Since I have had two rides in the back of an ambulance, I found that I have a new found respect for them winding through traffic.
    It's always helpful to have friends and family there for support. No matter how strong we think we are sometimes we become like little kids when we're in a crisis. We just need someone to hold our hand and tell us it'll be alright. Our faith is always tested and much welcomed at these times.

    To answer your question, I will semi retire at 62. I want to have Uncle Sam's money available to me in case I cannot find a part time job.
    Take Care of yourself.

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    1. One indication that I thought things might work out OK is that the ambulance went to the hospital Code 1, which means no siren. The fact that they weren't rushing I found that oddly encouraging.

      You will LOVE retirement.

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  13. Thanks for sharing this experience. I wish you all the best in your recovery and health related lifestyle changes.

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    1. Thanks for your well wishes, and one of the more interesting blogging names I have run across in awhile.

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  14. Great article, Bob, more for the end result than anything else. It does sound like you had excellent care along all the steps to getting you better, which was very opportune. And having a great support system was helpful, no doubt. And isn't it great to have your faith to say "hey, no matter what happens, I have had a good run", and that you expect to be with Him if that was the way it was to end? I feel sorry for those who don't have such faith.

    Best of luck, my friend, in the coming weeks and months as you recover.

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    1. Thanks, Chuck. Yes, living life without a solid believe system in place (whatever that belief) makes for a scary and unsatisfactory situation. If we only depend on ourselves for everything we are in for disappointment and fear.

      The folks at Adventist Medical Center in Portland were absolutely top notch. I was very blessed to be under their care.

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  15. Goodness, Bob, what an experience. Thank goodness for good medical care! I'm so glad you are recovering at home! Keep us posted on this leg of your journey! Best wishes for continued recovery and return to good health.

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    1. It is great to be home and feeling good.

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  16. That was certainly an unexpected twist on your journey! I am so happy to read that all turned out well and you and Betty are back home safely. Your attitude and faith are an inspiration. And it appears you had a lovely time before your ambulance ride. As always, Betty's pictures are wonderful. Take care.

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    1. It was a great vacation until the heart problem. Even so, I would classify as one of our better trips because of all we learned and all the love we received.

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  17. It sounds as though this turned into one of those "I'm lucky; this could have been much more serious and instead gave me the warning I needed to take better care of myself." I'm glad to hear it. -Jean

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    1. Yes, this event turned out much better than it might have. Now, if I don't get another attack when i see the bill...!!!!

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  18. Glad to hear you are home safe and sound. My "wakeup call" came 3 years ago with a diabetes diagnosis. Rather than start pills, I dropped 40 # and have kept it off for over two years.

    In the process, I developed a special diet I dubbed the SEC diet, for "Stop Eating Crap." Seriously, my research suggested I was eating too much of the wrong stuff -- too many calories and too many carbs. What amazed me is that on a healthier low carb diet I'm just not that hungry. Plus I feel MUCH better - stopped taking naps and have a lot more energy. Best of all -- the blood sugar is now normal.

    At our doctor's recommendation, last week Mary (my bride of 47 years) and I had calcium heart scans ($99 each.) He feels it is a good predictor of future heart problems. Mary's results were very good -- mine not so hot, so the incentive is there to get back on the good diet wagon and drop some more weight. My doctor assured me that was probably the best thing I could do.

    So when we get together for lunch this fall, how about salads and iced tea? My sincere best wishes to you!

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    1. Salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a dressing! Sounds perfect, Daryl.

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  19. Wow Bob this is the first I learned of your experience. Thankfully you are okay and had the support and love to help you through. Take care of yourself - you are still a youngster! :)

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    1. Thanks, Dave. I am doing well. A better diet, increased exercise, and medications should do the trick.Hard to believe it was already a month ago.

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