Category Archives: Health

My Heart Failure Returned

The bad news is that my heart failure returned and needs quick intervention. The good news is that the return of heart failure made me eligible for an extra-high-tech pacemaker developed for treating heart failure. I spent much of last week in the hospital for cardiac tests and a pacemaker.

This is not the usual type of pacemaker with which most people are familiar and that has already saved millions of lives around the world. It is a combination ICD and CRT-D pacemaker about the size of a half-dollar coin.

ICD technology is like carrying an emergency room in one’s chest.  If the heart goes so far out of rhythm as to cause a fatal event, the ICD provides a hefty shock to re-stabilize the rhythm. (Imagine paddles in a hospital room reduced to chip size.)

Because the contractions of my right and left ventricles are not synchronized with each other, the CRT-D technology sends an electric signal with each beat that corrects this and makes them beat as one (how romantic). In addition, the constant re-synchronization often remodels the heart muscle over time toward that of a normal heart.

My sudden flurry of medical attention began after I sought my doctor’s approval to resume an exercise regimen.  “Not without a cardiac work-up,” replied my primary care physician.  Long story short, a stress test with echocardiogram revealed my heart function has declined dramatically.  I spent several days in the hospital being monitored before I was ready for the super-duper pacemaker.  My arteries are still nearly pristine and the pacemaker should restore some degree of confidence and restored quality of life. The cardiologists think I’m a good candidate to receive greatest benefit from this particular device.

I’m resting and recovering at home now.  Mark has been an excellent nurse and as always, a great cook.  I’m forbidden to do any kind of housework, including washing dishes, loading the dishwasher, making the bed, doing laundry, or lifting more than a pound with either hand.  Bummer.  I wonder how long I can string out the limitations on housework?

Three cardiologists marveled last week at how well I’ve managed my cardiomyopathy and heart failure for thirteen years.  They are pleased with how faithful I’ve been to exercise and lifestyle changes, and my good quality of life.  They’re also surprised by well my heart is doing beyond the issues that made the pacemaker device necessary.  They also explained that my being short-of-breath and tiring easily has not been because I was a lazy and slothful.  It was because my heart function was slipping.

I’m pleased and hopeful.  I appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

An Impossible Dream Come True

For those of us who live in Pasadena, the Rose Bowl is more than just a stadium or a championship game of American football on New Years Day.  It’s also a park, picnic grounds, soccer fields, an aquatic center, a golf course, and a three-mile bike/walk/run lane that beckons us to get healthy and enjoy life.  I used to “walk the Rose Bowl” often, but haven’t in a long time.  For over ten years, I’ve dreamed of walking that three-mile loop again.  I finally did it!

To be honest, if I hadn’t been a bit crazy with stress that Saturday morning two weeks ago and not thinking quite straight, the dream would still be in the future.  But, hey, the world would be dreadfully boring without a little wild craziness in it.  Right?

The weather was too glorious waste on a treadmill and my usual hike along the Arroyo seemed boring.  I went in search of a new venue and the Rose Bowl called my name.  I promised myself I would limit my walk to 40 minutes, and quieted the inner voice tempting me to walk all three miles.

At the 20 minute mark when I should have turned back, I was on the west side of the stadium, with my car on the east.  I convinced myself that, since I had already walked this far, I should finish the loop.  How bad could it be?  Besides, if I retraced my steps, I’d have to walk in the sun instead of the shade that I knew was up ahead.  Surely shade would be easier to take than the sun, even if the distance was longer.  (I forgot I still had to walk uphill in the sun to reach the shade.)

My stress-addled, oxygen-impaired, and dream-crazed brain used the fuzziest thinking imaginable to justify my decision to keep going:  I usually walk 40 minutes at an average speed of 2.7 mph for a total of 1.8 miles, but will be able to complete an extra 1.2 miles in  just an extra 10 minutes while increasing my speed only slightly.  And . . . since 50 minutes is just a little longer than 40 minutes, I will be fine and not overly exhausted.  Really?  I plowed ahead.

A few minutes later, a fleeting moment of sanity weaseled into my brain and I phoned my husband for a ride back to my car.  He promised to pick me up as soon as possible, but was still in the mountains with our dogs.  He headed back to his truck right away to get me.

“Why sit and wait for him here?  Go a little farther, and a little farther,” screamed the voices of temptation and perseverance inside my head.  Hubby arrived as soon as he could–just after I finished walking two more miles and reached my car.

DisneyCheshireCat[1]The Cheshire Cat could not have worn a broader smile than I.  My 10-year dream came true. I punched my fist in the air and looked skyward, “I did it. I did it.  I did it.”

When I told a friend what I’d done, he suggested I work towards a 5K (3.1 miles) charity walk.  Great idea.  I have a new dream to strive for.   I started training for a 5K by walking two miles thee times per week. God willing and the crick don’t rise, I’ll keep going.  Cross your fingers.

Impossible dreams don’t always come true, but as Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother sing in one of my favorite songs, “Impossible things are happening every day.”

*Cheshire Cat from Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland”

Irony of Ironies

Within hours of my finishing my post about air pollution, Los Angeles’ air quality went back in the toilet.  I was stuck inside my house with air purifiers for two days and desperate to get out.  So I turned on my car air purifier and headed to the mall.  Stretching my muscles by walking in the mall seemed like a good antidote to cabin fever.

My cell phone rang on the way to the mall and, trying to be a law-abiding citizen for once, I pulled to the side of the road to answer.  When I tried to start the car again, the battery was dead.

So, after taking meticulous care of my lungs and writing about how important this is in the hope that others would take my advice and care for their lungs, I waited an hour in gross, polluted air for roadside assistance to jump my car.   If I hadn’t been laughing so hard at the irony of the evening I would have pulled my hair out and screamed.

I didn’t dare go to the mall, after all.  I went home to my air purifiers and watched N.C.I.S.

Car air purifier running, I drove through smog to Sears this morning to buy a new battery.  I decided to have some overdue routine maintenance done at the same time and called my husband to discuss whether I should come home while mechanics serviced the car.  He reminded me about the air pollution I was breathing in the service department’s waiting area and recommended I come home.  Oh yeah.  Duh.

My brain was already so mushy from crappy air that I had forgotten this important information.  Me, of all people!!!  Ironic, huh?

By the time I climbed in Mark’s truck and turned on the air purifier, I had breathed serious air garbage for over an hour.  I was a mush brain with slow, slurred speech, an aching chest, and a queasy stomach.  So much for practicing what I preached just days before.  Thank goodness for people who remind me when I forget.

Three hours later, my brain still isn’t functioning on enough cylinders to do the type of writing I had scheduled for today.  Help!  The deadline on that assignment is in stone and getting close.  I need my brain back.

I guess this shows why air quality is a crusade for me.  I know, personally, how much it can affect our health.  Hear the canary sing:  Cheep.  Cheep.  Gasp.