Well, I Wasn’t Expecting That!

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In a long list of “stuff than could happen”, concerns about my health have rarely, if ever, occupied space in my noggin. “Other” people get sick, not me. I’m the one who keeps on plugging along, caring for the sick and being supportive.

After a month-long stretch of being dog-tired to the point of fatigue, I finally went to see my doctor for a consult. I had attributed my lack of energy, shortness of breath and that pressing fatigue to be the result of a combination of:

  •  getting too lazy over the Holidays

  •  putting on about 10 pounds

  • a slowdown (… okay, a complete stop …) in exercise

  • hangover from a winter cold bug

  • the emergence of tree pollen here in North Georgia

I had my primary care visit, she (the doctor) ordered some blood work, an EKG, and a chest x-ray, and she kind of trended towards “you might have some issues with your heart”. Of course, that got my attention but I still assumed that it was probably just my list of things noted above acting up on me.

Then, I got the initial test results …Acute Congestive Heart Failure

What??? Heart failure??? I haven’t ever had a heart issue in my life, or so I thought, (well, except for when Sheila captured my heart and refused to give it back) (yeah, that is sweet!) (but totally true) and as recently as 1 month ago I was feeling fine … okay, not fine, exactly, but I was blaming these one zillion tall pines here in Georgia … and now I have Acute Congestive Heart Failure.

Of course, that sounds really bad, especially to someone who is rarely sick and has never had a true major medical problem.  But, all of the signs sure do point towards ACHF, and the preliminary test results sure do seem to confirm it, so time to get off of the denial wagon and start doing something about this.

1st steps are to get an echocardiogram and take all of my bundled results to a cardiologist. ECG is being done on Monday, back to my primary care Doc on Thursday, then go to the cardiologist the following week. From there, they’ll come up (hopefully!!!) with a treatment plan and narrow in on exactly what part of my busted heart they have to fix.

Sounds like a great plan, huh?

None of that happened … on Thursday the 18th I awoke feeling absolutely horrible. Every classic “if-this-is-happening-go-to-the-hospital-immediately” heart thing was going on with me. Pain in the chest, erratic heartbeat, pain spreading across my whole upper torso, shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing period, all of those things. Sheila took me to the Emergency Room at Kennestone Hospital in Kennesaw Ga and I was immediately admitted.

Congestive heart failure is a term sort of like “dyslexic” or “autistic” … a really broad general description with a bunch of sub-categories to better help to define the condition. But in my case they have narrowed it down to a bad lower left ventricle in my heart, currently operating at 15% instead of the minimum 55% it should be running.

In case you’re not aware (before this, I certainly wasn’t), 15% is TERRIBLE!!!

So, what does all of this mean in the grand scheme of things? With the understanding that I still need to have a long & serious chat with my own cardiologist, here are the next steps for me:

  1. Slow it waayyy down. Pay attention when my system is feeling tired, and accept the fact that I’m getting old(er) and can no longer do the stuff I used to do.

  2. Eliminate (or at least severely restrict) caffeine. I had already cut back to “half-caff” after Sheila had her stent put in last year, so I can do this step pretty easily.

  3. Think about what I’m about to lift up before I just grab and go. It’s not that I can’t lift heavy things, but I need to be sensible about that kind of over-exertion.

  4. I need to exercise with much more consistency than I have been. Walking will be the best bet for me … now I need to commit to it on a daily basis.

  5. Alcohol is a no-no, so this brings to an end my nearly lifelong appreciation of truly great scotch. Like the caffeine thing, this won’t be particularly difficult. Over the past 4-5 years I have been drinking less & less, to the point where I maybe have 1 drink every 2-3 weeks, so it’s not a withdrawal thing. But, truthfully, I will miss tasting a great single malt every once in a while.

  6. Of course, eating and diet and food intake all need a thorough review. Truthfully, we eat pretty darn well, trying to balance our meals and we nearly totally avoid fast food/pre-packaged meals/heavily processed meats. Sheila loves bacon, so we have some maybe once per month. And when we’re running around, a Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich (just the plain old sandwich, the one served with a pickle) is our go-to option. But we do need to tighten things up a bit … like our friend Spencer always says about a cardiac diet, “If it tastes good, just spit it out” …

 I’m sure there will be more to consider and do, but in essence, that’s it.

And, that’s it because there is no cure. Remember the BeeGee’s, “How Do You Mend A Broken Heart?” In spite of the obvious differences in a love song and ACHF, the bottom line is it can’t be “fixed”. This is a rest-of-my-life issue that I can hopefully control/monitor but it’s not getting fixed. Yes, there are medications I take, but that’s a control thing. And yes, I can limit stuff that could affect me in a negative way, but that’s monitoring.

I don’t have a cure.

So, for the rich blessings of a wonderful 35 year partnership with Bunny, and the amazing love and soul-filling joy I have now with Sheila, this is my price of admission.

Small price to pay for gifts so great …

bella and me

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