Heart Warrior

“Heart Warrior”, my battle back to health and a normal life.

BeforeAndAfter-New-sm

Photos below

It’s the morning of my first day after triple bypass surgery and I’m waking up in CICU. The battle is just beginning. Yes there’s pain but it’s being managed by medication. That is until the nurse hands me the Volodyne 5000 volumetric exerciser. Could someone please exorcise that evil contraption out of my room? As I rapidly breathe in the pain in my diaphragm becomes burning and intense yet the pointer barely moves. Things improved rapidly after the drain tubes were removed. The doctors ask me what my pain level is. I replied 2 or 3. You see I’m putting that on the scale of the worst pain I ever had. No, not the kidney stones I had ten years ago. It’s when your kneecap discovers the sharp corner on the table leg. Yeah, that’s a ten.

 

A day later I’m walking the halls with the pacemaker, drain bags and I don’t remember how many other gadgets in tow. It didn’t take long for me to appropriate a second “johnny” to cover my backside while cruising. (Put it on backwards then put the other on right) A week later I’ll walk at the lake again. Before the heart attack I was walking 4 miles at a 15 minute per mile pace. My first outing I walked a whopping quarter mile at 36+ minutes per mile.  I was moving so slowly my watch didn’t recognize it as a workout (thanks, Apple, I love you too). I’ll claw my way back to 21 mi/min, then 20, then 17 and now 15 again with occasional runs of 1-2 miles mixed in. Something funny with the meds too. My heart-rate would start to rise then suddenly drop and hold a lower rate. Like some sort of a governor kicked in.

 

Before the heart attack I also had started working out at the gym. This was primarily to get my cholesterol numbers down. Four months after the heart attack and surgery I was as skinny as when I was 18. My arms look like they did when I was twelve. Hard work, determination and persistence are my weapons of choice. Recently I was getting really winded during my workout. As I rested between sets another member came over to chat. We had a great conversation and we exchanged chest pain stories. I learned that he was a state trooper. Cool, huh? It didn’t hit me until later that he was probably trying to decide if I needed an ambulance. Anyway, I’m winning this battle too. I look better now than I ever did before. Later today I’ll head to the gym to do a workout with barbells and dumbbells lifting a cumulative 12,000 pounds. Over the course of an hour or so I’ll do overhead presses, curls, rows, lateral raises, tricep extensions and more. Then I’ll walk four miles at the lake. I work out every other day alternating weights and machines to try to round out the muscles getting exercised. On the days I don’t work out I’ll walk 6 miles.

 

Formerly a cyclist with over 25,000 ride miles I now have to take it easy. It was on the air bike at cardiac rehab that I had an episode of ventricular tachycardia. The nurses saw that I was having trouble breathing and came over to assist. The head nurse pulled up my chart and packed me off to the ER next door. Shortly after that I joined the zipper club. I can still overdo it way too easily. The other day I rode 12 miles on the “roller coaster boulevard” to my gym. This road has a total of 400 feet of climbing. It used to be easy for me but I wore my self out so bad that I stopped my workout halfway through. I walked over to a coffee shop where a very concerned barista asked me at least twice if I was okay. “Yeah, I’m fine” I knew that I’d get through this. I looked worse than I felt.

 

Did I lose something? Not only did my arms, chest and legs shrink down but at some point I left my glutes behind. I used to have a big butt and I wished it was smaller. Be careful what you wish for. Now I have to be careful to not lose my britches. I’m grateful for TSA Pre but, for those few times that I have to go through regular security, I have to roll the waistband on my pants a few times and stand “Oppa Gangnam Style”.

 

Going back to work happened a little too early for me. Four weeks after surgery I was back in the office full time. This lasted only a month or so before I had to split 50-50 between office and telecommuting. 11 months later, realizing the stress was too much, I hired my replacement and retired early at the age of 60. Fortunately our family business has grown to the point that we can live on mostly passive income. I had wanted to wait until we reached a certain goal before retiring but I was ready when my body said it was time. I want to have some fun before I’m no longer able to.

 

The battle rages on as I encounter near daily chest pain and shortness of breath. Nothing alarming there, it has become the new norm. Often the pain is just like what I had the day of the heart attack. Often it can be explained as gas or indigestion.

 

It’s already been quite an adventure but the battle is hardly over. Sometimes it feels like it’s just begun but I can honestly say I’m at 95% back to normal.

 

 

Second day after surgery

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Twelve days later

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Progress Two years later

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