It’s good to be “back in the saddle again,” as Gene Autry used to croon. (Yes, showing a bit of age, there, with reference to “America’s Favorite Singing Cowboy” from far too many years ago.) Being back home, back at the keyboard, and back at it – spinning tales, sharing news, etc., etc., etc.; it sure is nice.
Some of you, dear readers, may have noticed a little change in the tenor of my articles since my return. Good eye! Looking back at the articles, the do appear a little deeper in thought than my previous ramblings.
Well, I’ve changed slightly. Yes, just slightly – I’m letting the heretofore hidden depth see a little daylight. It’s nothing permanent. I’m sure to revert back to the old ways, but once the genie’s out of the bottle ………
There is reason behind my new rhyme. Sort of an “unexpected becomes reality” thing going on, here. This past “vacation from our vacation” didn’t have the same vacation zest as in previous years. Changes were afoot back in the homeland long before the one’s noticed and dutifully reported a couple of articles ago were discovered.
Our trips back to the States are meant to be spent with family and friends. We see as many as we can afford to (they’re well spread out across the nation, so those we can see one year may forgo our visit in the next, while we visit another group in the following year). This year, however, the visits were limited; most being with other than “family and friends” professionals.
You may have noticed my absence from these virtual pages during that time, too. All part of the unexpected – I didn’t plan on playing hooky. I did manage to squeak one or two articles out, but truth be known, each took a considerable amount of time to slowly poke up and send.
Getting down to the “nitty-gritty” (oops, another age tell), I went through some health scares. That’s sugar-coating it – they were about 30% scare, and the remainder was reality giving your humble scribe a good dose of “today in health.”
It’s given me time to reflect, and one of the results of that reflection is that “de-bottled genie.”
HEALTH SCARES OR …?
I promise that I won’t go “octogenarian with a list of complaints” on you. While there are a few health issues that I dealt with and that I continue to deal with, I’ll just speak about the real scary one. It was (and remains) scary – very scary.
Years ago, in my Naval career, something was noticed during a routine physical exam. The examining physician couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but he knew something wasn’t exactly how it should have been. The something? My heartbeat.
A trip to a military hospital for tests and further diagnosis was followed by more trips and more tests. So many trips, that they named the military hospital for them: Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. (Sorry, I know, poor joke. Have to keep the spirits upbeat, you know.)
The first “final” diagnosis was an irregular heartbeat caused by one of the lower chambers of my heart working at 35% efficiency. WHAZZAT YOU SAY? Well, that was the diagnosis. It was also the reason for more trips and more tests. True to military medical protocol, I was tested and retested until whatever they were testing for went away. Given a clean bill of health (known lovingly as a “Fit for Duty Chit”), I was dismissed back to the grind of everyday sailoring.
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF?
Now, it’s last June. My every five-year colonoscopy was due, so off to the clinic I went. No problems at all – they put you to sleep, do what they do, then awaken you from your slumber to hear the results and go on your way. Results were great, yet I was asked to wait as the anesthesiologist wanted a word with me. HUH? Did I fail that go to sleep part of the procedure?
The anesthesiologist politely took only a minute of my escape time, handing me an envelope to give to my “primary care physician” and telling me that within the envelope was a copy of my heart monitoring chart. He mentioned that the heartbeat didn’t quite look right, and wanted to make sure that I had it checked out immediately.
Later in the week, one look by my “doc” at the chart in the envelope had me immediately wired for an EKG. After about 10 or 15 feet of printout, my “doc,” the printout, and I were immediately seen in the cardiology clinic. Wired for sound again, a longer “official” EKG was performed. The diagnosis: a third-degree (complete) heart block. My heart, instead of going “thump-thump,” “thump-thump” was going “thump-thud,” “thump-thud.” (Scary, huh?)
Once again, it was time for the battery of tests, including the infamous rising treadmill run stress test.
TEST RESULTS AND PROGNOSIS
After about three days’ worth of testing, the “third-degree” complete heart block diagnosis was lowered to “somewhere between first and second-degree” partial heart block. A bit of relief, I guess, but ……
A heart block, btw, has nothing to do with blood flow. It’s a condition totally contained in the heart itself, and the little heart-generated electrical impulses that make a heart beat with a healthy rhythm. The “block” is when those little impulses don’t quite make it to their destination. In my case,to the lower chambers of my heart. Luckily for me, the cardiologist said, the bottom half of my heart was kicking in on its own, just as it should be with the impulses, but slightly out of time – delayed.
During the stress test, the cardiologist noted that when my heart was placed under stress, the block disappeared. Deja vu of the Aloha kind? After recovery from the stress, the block was back. Of course, some of the most feared words in medicine were then uttered: “Strange – I’ve never seen or heard of this before.”
So, a new regimen was added to the routine. As days go by, my stamina is returning and I don’t fatigue as quickly as before. Still, I’m not “cured,” just lucky enough to have a ticker that wants to keep on ticking. I do my exercises (meant to place stress on my heart for about 30 minutes a day), take my pills, and not “overdo” anything.
The final bit of good news from the cardiologist is that the cure for my condition is a pacemaker. When asked about when I’d be receiving one, the cardiologist said, “Oh, when you’re about 85.” So, until then, it’s follow directions and just limit stress, not eliminate it.