Monday, August 31, 2015

Eight Benefits to a Summer Cold

Winter is the time for colds and colds should come in winter. It's that simple. They aren't any more pleasant or convenient then, but if you're going to be miserable you should be able to be so covered in thick blankets and fuzzy slippers. It's just like that famous song, how does it go...

The weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we've no place to go
Blow your nose!
Blow your nose!
Blow your nose!

It looked like I beat my Chicago cold, but it came back with a vengeance. When I was in my "I think I'm much better" phase, we had company, we did some yard work and cleaned out the garden shed, I went back to work, made a quilt, shopped, showered, dressed up like a lady - all that good stuff. But then I started feeling like there was an elephant sitting on my chest. OK, that's an exaggeration, more like a thousand little tiny elephants inside my chest. Stampeding. I got a little nervous, because, um, we've already had one heart emergency in this family this month.

My doctor knew I felt really sick when she saw me, because she said "Wow, you must be really sick, I never see you." She ran all the usual tests, and the official diagnosis is Yucksville, otherwise known as bronchitis. Her advice is rest and plenty of fluids. Those silly doctors, don't they know how hard that is? But I'm listening, and trying to find the positives to being sick when you're sick of being sick and it doesn't have the decency to be wintertime.

  1. Laundry consists of underwear, tank tops and pajama bottoms,
  2. Dishwasher loads consist of soup spoons, soup bowls and tea cups.
  3. You go through all the weird left-over herb teas in your cupboard.
  4. You finish off that gnarly piece of ginger in your fridge.
  5. You can reinvent your Fall wardrobe by watching the last six seasons of What Not To Wear on YouTube.
  6. Beer is considered a fluid.
  7. Coughing is the new running.
  8. You have an excuse to stop KonMaring your house for a while.
We plan on having a garage sale next weekend, a dear friend is getting married Sunday and I have to work Labor Day. So, it's rest, rest and more rest this week - doctor's orders.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Like plumbers, but for the heart

This was going to be a post about our trip to Chicago, my new favorite U.S. city. It really was. I was planning on writing stuff about...

...the Romanian language convention we attended and how much of the language I understood this time around...

...and the good friends we got to see there, so many good friends...

...and our sightseeing around the city. There's so much to visit and revisit. Five times in a year and a half and Chicago still surprises me...

... doing everything to make tourists feel happy... how they installed the brand new Maggie Daley Park, which feels like an oasis tucked into the skyscrapers...

...and that has crazy fun play structures for the kid in all of us. I was going to write about our visit to the free Lincoln Park Zoo, where we saw baby gorillas riding the backs of their mommies, our trip to the Museum of Science and Industry, and the epic (I don't use that word lightly) Second Annual Moldovan Circle Dance Around the Bean and all the other fun stuff we did. I even had a post written in my head of the misery of flying home with a head cold, stuck in front of The Exceedingly Boring Woman Who Spoke in a Loud Voice for Hours About the Weather in Various U.S. Cities. Did you know, for example, that it rains a lot in Portland and Sacramento is dry and that Buffalo gets a lot of snow? Riveting. She could not be drowned out by my significant hearing loss and noise cancelling headphones playing the Beatles greatest hits. The only thing that could drown her out was my hearing loss plus noise cancelling headphones playing the Beatles greatest hits pushed into my ears while munching on carrot sticks. No, this post is not about Chicago. It's about plumbers of the heart, otherwise known as cardiologists.

That's my husband, on his way to get his third heart procedure. His paramedic was from Romania and was shocked we had heard of his language, Gagauz. Note to self: Learn a few phrases of Gagauz because you never know when it can come in handy. But wait, I jumped ahead a bit. This is my husband, who unknown to me had been experiencing a bit of tightness in his chest while walking back from the free Lincoln Park Zoo, while touring the Museum of Science and Industry, while playing at Maggie Daley Park, but oddly enough, not while dancing the extremely invigorating Second Annual Moldovan Circle Dance Around the Bean.

Upon returning home from our Chicago trip, while my cold was getting worse and worse, his exercise induced chest tightness was getting worse and worse. He called the advice nurse, who contacted his cardiologist, who told him to get his heart over to ER soon, along with the rest of him. So he went and cleaned the pool. Then when I stumbled out of bed to hydrate my sick body, he told me. And I collapsed into a puddle of tears onto the couch. Not again. Not again. There was no way I could go to the ER with him, so once again, his coworker and amazing friend Jeff went with him to the hospital.

His EKG was normal, that blood test they do (which I really need to remember the name of) to see any recent cardiac events also came back negative. Which was positive, because he hadn't had a heart attack. Yippee. They decided to keep him overnight for observation and do an angiogram the next day.

The next morning, still feeling awful, I decided to see what a shower would do for my situation. I survived, so I put on some presentable clothes and went to the hospital. I wore a mask, because that's what responsible sickies are supposed to do when visiting hospitals. They discovered his last stent procedure seven months ago had slightly damaged his artery, and there was some plaque buildup at the edge of that stent. They needed to add another one. There was also an iffy area, a place they had opted to let off the hook last time, they were going to revisit it with more testing to see if it needed a stent. It really starts to feel like cardiologists don't like to put in just one stent, they like the two for one deals. So off to Mercy General he went.

We got settled in the amazing new heart center there, very fancy shmancy. We waited. And waited. I kept the mask on as well as I could, and felt pretty darn yucky, until a nurse brought me a warmed blanket. Warmed blankets are about the best thing ever at hospitals, almost as good as that life saving stuff they do on the side. And we waited a bit longer. Turns out the patient before Ernst had an angioplasty that lasted five hours. They said it was five hours of reaming out calcified arteries and sucking out plaque. I would have lost my mind waiting that long, an hour or so seems like forever - even when I'm a pro at this now.

Sitting with the doctor after, supported by my friend and neighbor Linda, I watched him diagram what happened (why am I still so ignorant of the physiology of the heart?) Discussing with him Ernst's case, he said to me " your husband is in his sixties..." My first thought was, "Did they operate on the wrong guy?" So I ever so politely said "My husband is only 47." The doctor smiled and realized his brain was still on the five hour case he had done before Ernst. The next morning during his rounds, this doctor looked about 10 years older himself, We found out he went until 3 am with two more cases, then woke up at 6 am to handle more emergencies. If you're planning on having stent surgery, you might want to pick a day that other people aren't having heart attacks. Which won't be easy, because unfortunately that place was crazy crowded.

So, what NOW? Just keep doing what you're doingthat was the advice. His other stents are still clear, as was the area that was merely sucked out last time from the ruptured old plaque. This is getting old and extremely frustrating and scary and annoying and tiring. But as of now, Ernst has a freshly revamped set of arterial arteries, all systems are good and we will just keep eating like hamsters. Hamsters with heart.

Cardiac Vegan should be a self-cancelling phrase. Or a rock band. Or maybe a line of plant-based frozen foods? Hmm...