Monday, March 29, 2010

I walked the mall today. I joined the club of advanced middle age and senior walkers that do the mall. I have seen them before. They wear “track gear” but not the Solomon, the Saucony, or the Pearl Izumi. Adidas and Nike are okay, as long as the colours are pre 2005. But jeans are fine as well and erring on the sign of safety is evidenced by those that wore both belts and suspenders.

I decided to join the mall gang today at the suggestion of my wife as the day dawned blustery and almost snowy. The doctor’s orders are still in effect, and I am not supposed to walk in foul weather. Today I was happy to comply.

So I showed up, feeling a bit like it was the first day at school. Mistake one was that we showed up late – we got there at 9:45 and were informed by the lady at the coffee shop that most of the walkers, the serious walkers are done already. My wife today took the role of the lap counter in Ben Hur during the chariot race. ( Judah Ben Hur and his nemesis Massala go round and round and some guy flips horsies on a rod to keep track of the laps). Anyway, my wife felt that since she had to walk The Beagle in snow and rain mix, that she should be exempt from Mall Walking.

I entered the stream and walked the Mall. Starting from the coffee place (just across from the camera place) I walked past the Sears, past the Dollar Store, did a sharp 90 at the Metro, walked to the end doors, then back tracked to the coffee place and then carried on past the Hair Place, past the new dental office, then to the doors, back to the main pathway, then all the way to the Mark’s Work Warehouse, then turning back at the Pizza Pizza and heading back to the coffee place and past my wife where she clicked a horse. (or at least kept track)

I learned a few things: Saying hello to a walker the first time is okay, doing it a second time makes you look like a dweeb. Cutting corners makes you look like a malingerer. Do not get uptight if a small child races past you. Minimal window shopping and browsing is okay.

The Mall Walkers are the worst nightmare of Sports Marketers and the Regulatory Authorities. The Sports Marketer depends on people wanting the latest stretchable, breathing, environmentally gracious, material in the latest fashion colour. The typical Mall Walker does not care, which of course is horrible for the economy.

Even worse, the Mall Walker is not enthused by government sanctioned and approved wellness programmes. A bored and disinterested government functionary armed with flip charts, brochures, Power Point Presentations, and a script created by professional motivational thinkers is not going to do well here. Nothing disturbs the regulators more than a person that wants to help themselves.

But have no fear – I am not going to fall into this trap. I am already looking forward to getting the okay to drive so that I can go to Mountain Co-Op in Ottawa and stock up on the pesticide free cotton in the newest colours. And I am biting at the bit to meet my trainers and motivators at the Carlton Place and District Memorial Hospital. Maybe one day I will have the courage and resolve to be a Mall Walker. Until that day I will just continue to be the consumer that I love to be. (but I still hope that they don’t give me the boot from the Mall)

Friday, March 26, 2010

It is Friday evening. For a man of leisure like myself, the pleasure of the Friday evening loses a bit of its allure, compared to the days of being the Working Man. Of course if the Rita McNeil song “Working Man” is the litmus test for work, I have done nothing like that ever. My work has been for must of my career the meeting, the talk, the report, the plan, the presentation, the justification. But I am glad to be away from that as well for a while.

But, it is Friday evening. If this were a winter’s eve it would be stellar: Clear skies and a low of only minus ten Celsius and barely a wisp of wind. But is officially already spring and we have been spoiled by sunny blue skies and highs in the low teens during the day. This morning the Madawaska had hundreds of headless geese in it, swimming in unison. Well the geese appeared headless, I think in fact they had tucked their heads under their wings; they were as unimpressed with the Arctic air mass as the rest of us.

So what are we doing this chilly evening? Well the fireplace is on in it full faux wood propane glory. It does look a little phony, but the warmth is real. We snacked on Moroccan Clementine, some light cheese, and some dark chocolate. (in full disclosure it was one small square of Lindt Dark Chocolate and one small Babybel Light). Despite hovering cats and Academy Award Acting Mutts (Best Beagle in the “I Have Never Been Fed” Role) it was quite lovely and romantic. Elina Garanca is singing in the background with a backup chorus during the very quiet parts of the geese glee club from the river.

The above is why I got my surgery. I don’t want to live to a hundred and who knows the future? But just being able to have a gentle Friday Night makes life worth while. I think of those without water, food, shelter, warmth, clothing, security, medicine, and worst of all no hope and no love. I sit here warm and content with a full belly and no thought to dangers that could lurk outside. I am surrounded by love and hope and gratitude.
When I lay in bed at night it seems like my heart is pumping with a new vigour. This Sunday the University of Ottawa Heart Institute has its annual telethon on CTV Ottawa (aka CJOH) . I have already donated and will be watching and donating again. It is hard not to be grateful for a Friday Night

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I went to another one of the Contemplative Masses at a local retreat centre on Saturday. One of the readings was from the East, perhaps from Hare Krishna, but I am not sure. The theme was about the danger of ownership and possession. I am going to badly paraphrase, but the idea was that the words “My” or “Mine” are very dangerous. I like that – I cannot say this is My House. That implies that I have now and always will have full say over what happens here. It further implies that I have full and legitimate possession of it. If I think about any of those things in depth, I am troubled. There is a great deal of comfort in being a renter or temporary holder of something.

But having said that, I have to admit that I'm a hypocrite . I like to possess things and hang on to them. My brain tells me that the possession is transient in nature, but something else in me shouts MINE MINE MINE.

So a little challenge was handed to us during the service. It was the gift of a small stone, which we were challenged to assign a quality or name to, and then decide if we want to give it up. I already had a stone called Fear, that I still had at home but, had left it there either accidentally or maybe on purpose. I am not ready to let go of Fear.

But what attribute should I give to this stone in my hand? It was made all the more complex by the thought that ownership was bad. Then I heard the reading about the woman who allegedly was caught fooling around on her husband and was frog marched to Jesus Christ himself. Jesus, if you have forgotten the story, knelt down and wrote something in the sand ( no one knows what he wrote, but I imagine it was something like this: “How long do I have to deal with these idiots?”). He then gave the famous line “Let the one who is without sin throw the first stone.”

I suddenly knew what was in my hand – the stone of wrath and judgment, the stone of my righteousness, the stone of my self. How I love that stone! I love to judge. I love to be right. I love to be superior. How many times have I made snide comments about the Woman Who Claims to be Our Member of Parliament because of her dislike of gay rights and love of weapon owners' rights? I love gripping that stone and tossing it with all my might!

But yesterday, I got up and put that stone at the base of the cross. I can comment on a person’s actions or statements, but I have to learn to give that stone up. I have no right to it, it does not belong to me, and I have no idea how to use it.

But, I must say, that I did feel sad leaving that stone behind. And I have not started to look in my pockets yet.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dependence -
the condition or fact of being dependent; specifically.,
a being contingent upon or influenced, controlled, or determined by something else
reliance (on another) for support or aid

Wow! Dependence seems like a very bad word and a very bad condition. In fact if you Google dependency it gets even worse, and all kinds of horrible medical and psychological attributes are given to the dependent one. The adult incontinence product that seems most popular is called Depends, and all of us of a certain age giggle nervously about its use, and the day it will perhaps enter our lives.

Somehow being dependent, depending on others, and anything to do with that word has become a sign of weakness, and something to be under the harsh spotlight of shame. I think that is a lot of bunk – being dependent can be one of the most wonderful and empowering things in your life.

First of all no one is independent. We all depend on police, firefighters, ambulance drivers, coffee servers, banana pickers, airplane cabin crew, snow plow operators, hydro lines people, solidiers, pharmacists, hotel clerks, farmers, farmers, farmers, furniture delivery people, lawyers, conservation officers and about 30 million others in this country alone to keep things moving and to keep the other 29,999,999 safe.

I have been quite dependent on others the last while. Obviously there was the time in the hospital where that dependence is pretty darn clear. But then you get home. I discover that I am dependent on my wife (well more dependent than before) on tasks around the house. I am dependent on her for car rides. If I have to get somewhere and she is not available I will prevail upon a friend. I go to events and I cannot help put chairs away – someone else does it. At my book club meeting the other day someone even got me tea. Nurses came and changed my dressings.

Being dependent is good for me. It shows me my true place in the universe (powerless) but it shows the solution to that is dependence and that gives me power. It is only when I take help from others with a truly grateful heart and a truly open mind that I can help others.

I think the dictionary should change the definition of dependency:
Dependence - The condition of being fully open to the love of others so that you can train your brain and soul to be truly grateful. This will give you full power to make the world a better place one action at a time.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It is 24 days since my quintuple bypass and I think that I trudge the road of happy recovery pretty well. Fatigue is still the main culprit in doing the victory lap. I had a full and good night’s sleep last night. Yet , this morning, after my walk, I took a 60 minute nap. I think it was in part because I had a busy day yesterday: I went to a St. Patrick’s Day Lunch at the Galilee Centre and then that night went to my Book Club. I am glad that I went to both (especially the lunch!) but they did tire me out. That does remind me of the power of the surgery. Fatigue is your friend – it tells you when to sit down or lie down and take a rest.

I go for two official walks a day of about 22 minutes each if I follow my chart. I don’t want to stray too far off the path but the cardiac surgeon did say the more the better so I usually sneak in a third walk. The weather is so gorgeous. The ice is out of the river for the most part and I an looking forward for the okay to go out in the kayak. There is little green anywhere (Mother Nature is wise) but the pussy willows are in full fur in some ditches. The chipmunks have woken up from their torpor and are given the red squirrels a bit of competition. The red winged blackbirds have returned but I have yet to see a robin. Yesterday there was a massive Pileated Woodpecker in the Valley trying to destroy a tree. It seems like all of nature has been directed to entertain me as I recover.

I was having a nap yesterday when the beagle, in full enthusiasm mode decided to jump on the bed via my chest. I took counter measures and he did not impact the sternum but I ended up having a bit of soreness that has luckily proved to be transient in nature. I still have to sit in the back seat during car rides. If the beagle travels, he gets the front seat. Once I get the okay to ride in the front it is going to be an interesting battle of the wills.

I am happy and content and full of gratitude and look forward to each dawn. That is how I feel 24 days into the rest of my life.

Friday, March 12, 2010

One sort of strange thing that has stood out in my little journey is the shower. Shower has more than one definition so just to be clear - I am talking about the good old North American “stand naked under a perforated water outlet and let litres of water spill over you” sort of shower.

Before the surgery I took a series of five cleansing showers with special soap. These were always preceded by a regular soap and water sort of shower; so talk about being clean! Then I had my surgery on the 23rd of February and for reasons already documented elsewhere in excruciatingly boring detail, there were some problems with air bubbles and incisions. This resulted in no showers for me from the morning of February 23rd to the afternoon of Monday, March 8th.

Most of the world would say; “What in the name of anything that is holy are you droning on about?” Don’t you know, care, or understand that:

1- Over a billion people in the world don’t have access to even clean drinking water
2- A person living in sub-Saharan Africa is lucky to get access to 10 or 20 litres of water a day – in Canada you routinely consume 325 litres a day
3- At even given time 50% of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people who got sick because of the water

So what if I had to take almost two weeks of cleaning up by standing next to the wash basin. I am sure that is done routinely in much of Asia and Europe every day. I am such a whiner. But I will say that first shower felt so nice. It was so wonderful to wash my hair and to see icky stuff disappear between my toes down the drain.
A hot, five minute shower – Yet another thing to be grateful for

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Today is Thursday, March 11, 2010 and it is 16 days since my surgery. I cannot believe how good I feel. There are a few minor negatives. The incisions in both the chest and the arm seem to make unilateral decisions once on a while to either itch or mildly be sore. These are transient in nature and are more nuisance than substance. The sternum will mildly throb or ache, especially first thing in the morning or in the evening, and I am not above or beneath popping a couple of Tylenol for that. It does hurt to cough, laugh, or sneeze. I do have a slightly annoying latent cough that seems to be new (new as I did not have it prior to the surgery). As for the laughing, well, at least the saying “it only hurts when I laugh” has meaning. The best advice with respect to sneezing: “don’t”. One thing that seems to work for me is to rub the roof of your mouth just about the gum line beneath your nose. That seems to stop the sneeze. It is important, to make sure that whether you cough, laugh, or sneeze that you either hold your chest, or better yet, use your pillow or teddy to make sure that you displace nothing in your still fragile sternum.

I do have to be careful, very careful, of how I move or lift or open. The magic number is 10 pounds, just over 4.5 kilograms: If I pull, push, lift, drag, catch, or anything I can mess things up and I have to be continually cognizant of that.

The final nuisance factor is the fatigue or reduced energy. The bad news here is that I am a little frustrated that I tire out easily. But the good news is that I can take a nap at the drop of a hat and am just following doctor’s orders.

I have been waking up at 6:30 or 6:45 in the morning. Today I was proud of myself for making coffee and breakfast for my wife and me. That is followed by a bit of sitting down and then I get to go for walk number one of the day. I think today I am allowed to do two 15 minutes strolls and the one I did in the morning was on the topside of a still frozen meadow. No doubt beneath the crusty snow all kinds of things are happening: The DNA of plants for the billionth generation in a row is getting the perennial grasses to wake up, seeds are starting to divide cells, voles are putting on sunglasses to protect against the increasing light that comes with melting snow, and the chipmunks were hitting the torpor snooze alarm. But my wife, the beagle, and I were taking advantage of the hard surface just to get in my delicious morning stroll.

We went home too quickly (but my wife is a diligent guardian angel) and I took a short rest followed by my daily stretches and breathing under the supervision of my wife (who at this point becomes a bit of a drill sergeant guardian angel).

My wife went off to work and I read and surfed and napped and listened to the iPod and dillied and daddled. I took a shower which is a bit of an exercise that I will describe in a separate post.

I am proud to say that I made my first dinner. Whole wheat pasta with olive oil, mushrooms, lemon rind, lemon juice, a bit of parmesan cheese, and some leftovers from part of some East Side Mario seafood pasta. My wife and I thought it tasty, but the beagle went insane over it.

My wife is cleaning up the kitchen (hey! I am supposed to rest) and making a cake for a friend’s 35th birthday. We are going over for a bit of a party tonight.

Day 16 and I am still counting blessings! Time for the second walk of the day.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring is in the air and I can’t open a window! That is definitely in the whine category but it is like this: Our windows are good and airtight and less than 10 years old, but they do require a bit of “ommppphh” to move them and the required “ommppphh” is the sort of “ommppphh” that I should not do.

I did bake bread today.

No Knead Bread (from Chef Michael Smith) –

For 1 normal loaf
2 cups of all-purpose or bread flour
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of any multi-grain mix
1/4 teaspoon of dry yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons of salt
1 5/8 cups of warm water

1. Whisk the dry ingredients together thoroughly. Add the water and stir until a wet dough forms. Continue stirring until the dough incorporates all the loose flour in the bowl, about 60 seconds in total.
2. Cover the bowl with a towel and rest in a warm place for 12 to 18 hours. It will double in size, bubble and long gluten strands will form.
3. Knock the dough down, oil it slightly and form it into a baking pan.
4. Rest the dough a second time. In 2 to 3 hours it will rise again and double in size once more.
5. Bake 45 minutes in a preheated 425 degree oven.

I love to bake bread but the kneading, or even lugging the Cusinart out, is not in my cards for a few more weeks at least. But the above can be made by anyone with no kneading and the bread is very tasty (plus I can score a point for contributing to domestic operations without having to clean out cat litter boxes yet) .

Today my wife took me on a field trip to Galilee Centre in Arnprior, where we stuck our collective noses into an Icon Painting Class and then sat in on a Mass by Father Jack, where I was able to participate in a more formal thanks to my healers and caregivers. It is a bit strange as a non Roman Catholic and a person weak in spirit and understanding to do so, but it very much feels right to do so.

I really like Father Jack. He complicates religion, he makes your stretch for faith, he questions more than answers. If you want God as a mouthful of mushy Pablum stay away from him. But if you think that any understanding of a Power Greater Than Yourself as being at least as amazing as a mid summer thunder storm then Jack is your man. Wear spiked metal shoes and bring a long , tall, conductive pole.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I stated the other day that the stay in the hospital was one of the best weeks in my life. I hesitated to say those words. Did I really mean it? What if a benevolent Higher Power suddenly grants me the privilege of month after month in the hospital? Was I just being cute? Even worse, was I being clever? No, I really mean it, it was one of the best weeks of my life.

If I had to sum it up in one word, that word would be vision. Vision is a very powerful word. It is what the man who crawls up the mountain on bloodied hands and knees asks of the guru at the top. Jesus Christ speaks of it many times; in fact, it is something that is sought in many faiths. So what did I see? I saw a lot.

I saw life. I am a 54 year old middle aged man. I am not a criminal, but I am not a great contributor to society. I am a consumer. I possess no skill that society critically needs, I have no ideas that will make a difference in the world, and in fact I am more taker than giver. I would be first off the lifeboat. Yet I wanted to live. Life is the most powerful force and I did not want to lose it. If my life is valuable, then all lives are valuable and we all must do what we can to protect life. That raises so many questions. What is my responsibility to take care of my own life? How about the life of my neighbour? More awkwardly, how about the life of my enemy? How about the life of someone who has something that I or my society wants? How about the life of the unborn? Or how about the quality of life of the yet to be born? More awkwardly still, how about the life of those who want to end it themselves? Who does life belong to? Who makes the choice? But I did see life!

I saw competence and skill. A quintuple bypass is pretty heavy duty and I think that I had platinum card treatment from nine in the morning on February 23rd when I walked into the Pre Admission Unit (PAU) at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. I was trying to do a mental tabulation of individuals I personally encountered, and I came up with the number 20, and that does not include the surgical team. I am guessing that with the surgical team the number gets closer to 30 and that does not include the unseen techs and administrators. I think of the collective years of training and education that were required to provide this, not to mention the money and the support of loved ones. When you drive by a hospital you just see a building, stay there for a few days and you see a bit of a glimpse of what is really there.

I saw what it is like to be weak. When you are somewhat immobilized by frailty, discomfort, and a few wires and tubes, it is not fun. I was able to measure my confinement time in days, really in hours, but it really made me think about those that are restrained by physical and mental handicaps, age, disease, weakness and other things.

I saw the best of the medical system. Criticism of the Canadian / Ontario system is rampant , apoplectic, seething, and unremitting and that is from the fans. All I can say is this: I cannot imagine or visualize better treatment. Right from the ease of the administrative paper work at the PAU, to my prep by the nurses there, to the ride down to the OR, to greeting there, to wake up in the ICU, the work they do there, the ride down to your room, the nurses, the docs, the techs, the orderlies, the housekeepers, the food service workers, the exercise therapists, the educators, the volunteers - they were all fantastic. The same for my home medical clinic and the same for the Home Care Nurse from the County of Renfrew. I give everybody 5 stars out of 5. Again, that is my view. My heart goes out to those who fall between the cracks. My sympathy goes out to people that feel the system performs beneath their expecations. But my message to the Premier is this: I am one very satisfied and grateful customer.

I saw myself at the top of the top of the resources of the earth. I thought that likely for 99% of the earth’s peoples my week of vision would have been a week of the impossible. Why was I chosen? Why am so blessed? What am I going to do with this?

I said at the start that the week in the hospital was one best of my life. Never has the state of my body been improved more. And never have I learned more. And never have I had more questions. What am I going to do with my new power of vision?

Monday, March 8, 2010

So, how was that hospital stay? In a word – amazing …. But I can’t do things in a word.

My first night in the regular semi-private room was somewhat restless. The anesthetic from the surgery was no doubt still working its way though my body. I was given the Tylenol, with a bit of narcotic, plus a sleeping pill (they call it sleeping aid). I would have thought that this would have put me off into a “Wizard of Oz in the Poppy Fields” sleep (or is that supposed to be the Permanent Sleep….)

Anyway, the sleep was sporadic with still these dazzling monuments of insight that are forgotten as quickly as they came. My room mate needed some enhanced medical attention but that is a blur. I am upset at the constant gurgling sound – it sounds just like a running toilet – why can’t they fix that? (it is not until the next morning that I figure out that it is my chest aquarium pump thing) . Because this is the first night in a normal room I am told that I will be having my temperature and blood pressure checked every two hours. (there is constant telemetry of your heart). The catheter means that you don’t have to pee although the bladder at times feels full. There is nothing in your body to demand a bowel movement. The night is interesting.

Reveille is at 0500 on Thursday morning. Lights on, sit up in bed (with lots of help from orderly and nurse) , back rub, alcohol gel body wash, change of gown, chance to sit in chair). I think it is at this point I loose my IV bottle. I also get the catheter out, which, again does not hurt. Having something pulled out of your bladder through the inside of your penis does feel strange, but no pain.

So I am back in bed. Portable urinal close at hand, my only constraint that has to plug into the wall is the chest aquarium pump thing. I doze off to my first morning weigh in and I have gained about 3 kg of liquid in the surgery. I am given a pill to make me pee, as the nurse puts it. Pee and peeing by the way, is what they call it. Bowel movements are called bowel movements. Let’s just say the pee pill works.

I also get my first sit down meal this Thursday morning. The last time I had a meal was Monday evening but I am not very hungry. Eat a little bit of everything Nurse Linda tells me: a bit of toast, a bit of orange juice, a bit of bran cereal, a bit of coffee. Food that most of the planet would kill for. As I had posted previously, the food here would prove to be quite decent. Today’s lunch started with a very low (perhaps no) salt mushroom soup and that tasted a bit bland. Either that, or a lifetime of eating canned Mushroom Soup has made my taste buds think that a mushroom should taste like salt. But the chicken curry for lunch was quite nice. As I stated previously I think that the staff of the Food Services does a pretty good job.

The one thing that I did not look forward to was the shot, in the tummy, of the blood thinner heparin. It felt like a deer fly biting you on the stomach. The way to get out of that was to walk a benchmark (I think 120 m) so I did that as soon as I could.

The nurses work on a 12 hour shifts. I got to meet five or six of them during my stay. Nurses work hard. They are professional. They are compassionate. They are funny. They are helpful. They know what they are doing. They are street smart. If they have complaints they hold those to themselves. I love nurses.

Hospitals like routine. I was sleeping sporadically, so I would be up certainly by seven when the new shift started. Sometime before eight the day nurse would come by, make an introduction, give you your meds that you would take with breakfast. Your BP and body temperature are recorded. Breakfast is served at a bit after eight and but you are encouraged to be sitting to eat it. In the early days you have help to get there but the last mornings you do that yourself. After breakfast naps are encouraged and I started thinking of the place as a 5 star resort where the staff is encouraging you to relax. The same sort of routine happens at lunch and dinner.

This blog is a record and sometimes that makes for unpalatable reading and this is one of those times. The idea of each day's activities is to ultimately "graduate" and go home; there are certain bench marks and I would like to record those. You have to pee and poo. Lets just say that I graduated. I also graduated the walking. I had to attend two courses; one on Cardio Physio and one on Cardio Discharge. My wife was gracious enough to attend both courses with me.

Another benchmark for graduation was “taking a shower” and I was really looking forward to that one. Unfortunately, I still had this chest aquarium pump thing attached until Friday (it should have come out Wednesday morning) so I already was behind the shower eight ball. Also, the chest incision was oozing a bit so they decided to keep the dressings on and exempt me from the shower. In fact, my first shower day was today, Monday, March 08, 2010. Up until today I had been cleaning up at the basin. Many times I thought that this basin clean-up is still better than what most of the planet has.

I have already recounted getting out of the hospital on Sunday February 28th. I really must say that the five days there were truly among the most amazing, most liberating, most spiritual, most educational, most gratifying, most strengthening days of my life. My next challenge is to explain that.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It has been one week since I have been out of the hospital. Here is how I feel: I feel like I did an inappropriate amount of exercise yesterday;I took my first bike ride of the season and rode 20 km; I went out and paddled 6 km. Today I am fatigued and at times a bit sore in my chest, but it is not worse than that.

Last night I went to bed at about 11:00 p.m. I took some Tylenol with some added antihistamine / decongestant (I get those things mixed up) before I went to lay down. The painkiller part is just to put a bit of a lid on the chest discomfort that seems to get a bit worse at the end of the day due to all the movements during the day. The pain is modest, even without the Tylenol, but I kept being told at the Heart Institute not to let the pain get away on me. I would be a little more worried if I were on a narcotic pain killer, but I have been assured that there are minimal addictive properties to plain old Tylenol. I have had a bit of a nasal drip that translates into a cough, so my family doctor thought that using this mix would make for better sleep at nights. It worked.

My morning routine so far has been that of a lazy king. I get up and sit down. My wife will then bring to me (or I will go the table) a coffee and a banana and some toast or English Muffins, or cereal, and one morning a one egg omlette with more veggies than egg. Breakfast tuckers me out, so I go and sit and rest or lay down and rest. The three areas of planned daily activity for me are the morning stretches and breathing exercises, as well as two brief walks. The starting benchmark for me was six minutes on Tuesday per walk and I get to increase that by a minute a day. By this time next year I will be walking over 12 hours a day!!!!

I am restricted to not lifting anything over 10 pounds or 4.5 kilos. That is not that heavy and does not allow me to haul one of our cats around. He is used to being carried as soon as I come in the door and is not pleased about this hiatus. Our beagle is not one of those dogs that is the proper sort of “at the side of the master” they show on OLN and his pulling (or at least potential of pulling) would cause havoc on the sternum.

I am thinking of making a line of t-shirts for those just out of cardiac surgery; Be Serious – Please Do Not Make Me Laugh . It hurts to laugh, it hurts to cough, and it especially hurts to sneeze. If you have the time, and you have not left it too far away, you can grab your official University of Ottawa Teddy - more rectangular piece of foam than theodorus ursus and hug it. It sort of dissipates the pain. Two or three good coughs in a row certainly get your attention.

But I have no pain complaints. The actual chest incision and left arm incision look funky in a Mel Brooks / Tim Burton sort of way and once in a while remind you they are there but that is it. The sternum pain is more than manageable with the acetaminophen. The most bother seems to be the little cramps and aches that seem to result from sleeping a lot on your back

The biggest short horizon fear I have is doing something to that healing sternum by either falling, or doing something dumb like a mega sneeze, or trying to grab a door in the wind, or picking something up that is heavier than you thought. I am not sure if it is that easy to open up the bone, but they kept telling you to be careful at the Heart Institute.

I am surprised at the low level of discomfort. What does surprise me is my low level of energy that I possess. It should not really be a surprise, I had lots of warning but it is still amazing. The nurses and therapists warn your about it but it's a bit surprising. My wife and I went to Neat Coffee in Burnstown this afternoon. They were having a busy day and the parking lot was Ottawa Valley nueva primavera. So it was a bit of a struggle to get to the café, and then a bit of standing in line, and then a bit a wait for our order. It also happened that there were at least three people that we knew there so that resulted in a bit of chit chat. It was a very pleasant visit but when I got home I had to lay down for about half an hour.

My brain power is not at full capacity. If my brain were not at such a low ebb I would not , for example, open a paragraph with such a lob ball. This would be an ideal time to, for example, read stuff by Tim Hudak yet I am , for some reason , not on his mailing list. I am on the mailing list of the Woman Who Claims to Be Our Member of Parliament and I was pleased to catch up on a plot by a rich Toronto Lawyer to target her for her liberal ideas on gun ownership. But my plan to read and read and read is proving at this point not to be ultra attractive. I am reading a book at the moment by Lisa Moore called February that is about a fictional personal family aftermath to the sinking of the Ocean Ranger. There is nothing wrong with the book, yet reading at this instant seems to be tiring. I now channel surf (!!!) for an hour or two a day and have become fond of Food Network.

This languid / indolent / lazy brain and bit of fatigue has slowed down the blogging. I blog for no one but myself and friends but I still have to get my hospital notes in for my record.

All in all – my first week at home has been fantastic and has taught me a lot. I am one lucky guy. .

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wednesday February 24th(part 2)

So I am zoning in and zoning out …..
The nausea is now much, much, reduced and I am still having moments of forgotten brilliance. I ask if I have a catheter and Nurse Kevin tells me that I do. “We think of everything” I recall him saying . I knew that my sternum was to be split and that arteries were to be removed but the breathing tube and the catheter were what really worried me (an interesting commentary on myself). So much for fears – the breathing tube I barely remember and the catheter was not noticeable. Mind you I would have only taken a size small catheter.

Somewhere along the line, say around eight or so, my Cardiac Surgeon comes by and asks how I am doing. I tell him the truth – I feel pretty okay and very grateful . He told me that he wanted to make an extra mortgage payment so I had a quintuple bypass. Wow – just like David Letterman, I think.

The next benchmark is the removal of my four chest drainage tubes. I am looking towards that of course, but not having been down the path before, I am having a bit of trepidation. I get a special pill, Kevin says breathe in, hold your breath. I do and he yanks and I feel a bit of a twitch and that’s it. The only glitch that only three of four can come out – an air bubble is floating between my body and the little vacuum cleaner / bubbling machine in the one line and that is not good. The bubble has to disappear and that takes time. So I am attached to this gizmo. It is sort of like being next to a bubbling aquarium pump. Also I am on nose oxygen as opposed to the mask.

While this work on the tubes go on, a volunteer had come in and was asking if my wife could come in and of course the answer was that there was bit of a delay while they dealt with the tubes. But then I see her and it is an emotional wave. It's so wonderful to see her. She comes up to me, gives me a peck on the cheek and shows the pictures that she had taken when she had visited early Wednesday evening. I looked sort of funky. Then she places the Red Olympic Gloves on me and snaps a picture. I am grinning like an idiot and that is the way I feel – a big contented happy idiot. I am also still drifting in an out and my wife goes for lunch. I sort remember being moved to a wheel chair, bubbler pump thing, oxygen, urine outflow thing, and IV in two down to X Ray and then off to my room on the third floor.

My wife finds me and all I really remember is drifting in and out, but also going for a 60 meter assisted walk with all my goodies in tow yet again. The rest of the day / evening is spent in bed doing not much, but getting checked in detail every two hours. I worry about my wife driving home in the snow. I have a nice semi- private room with a window view.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I was going to continue journaling the rest of my hospital stay but that is going to have to wait – I am too tired.

I did not sleep well last night. While the aches are minimal (and Tylenol certainly helps) I have this very irritating occasional cough, that does not help matters. I am also still trying to learn the “approved” sleep conditions. I an not to be left alone for the first week of my recovery. My wife has not only to take the week off work but she has to put up with me. But, I must say I enjoy the attention.

But she did have to hit the office for an hour today and then do some errands so our friend Marilyn babysat me for a couple of hours. Then this evening my wife was holding a choir rehearsal so she did the “take your kid to work” thing.

So, in between being babysat, being the work kid, my breathing and flex exercises, being visited by Nurse Nathan (still oozing inappropriately from my chest but “no need for alarm”) , two 8 minute walks, doing a very little bit of work e-mail checking, I am tired.
Yet again …………

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Today I am going to try hobble together my memories of how things were.

Tuesday February 23rd, 2010

I take my last fancy hospital soap shower at our friend’s house over in Westboro and then we are off to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. The waiting area in front of the Pre Admission Unit is full but I get to bypass (get it …… bypass) all the folks in for sissy stuff and, just like American Express, get to the Front of the Line. After signing the paperwork, I was into the routine that I now knew: undress, put on hospital gown, get shaved, shower, put on new gown, and hop back into your bed. “Boy oh boy” I thought, "I am sure getting sick of these showers". That sickness would soon be solved.

I was chitchatting with my wife while the nurses waited for the call from below that they were coming to get me, so the nurses could give me my little multipill cocktail for calming purposes. The quiet is broken by a gurney being rolled in …. What’s that? Oh, it’s for me?!?!? I am given my happy pills, go for a quick pee and I am wheeled down. My wife leans over at the Rubicon to kiss my cheek but the orderly lifts off my oxygen mask so we can kiss on the lips. It is about 12:10 pm

I am wheeled into the duck pond that is just outside the OR doors but this time things go bang, bang, bang: meet an OR Nurse, meet one of the surgeons, meet the anesthetist again ( we had briefly spoken upstairs) and then into the Operation Room herself.

Then I am wheeled next to the table, slid onto it and yes it is hard and cool, but I don’t really notice. What I notice are the very funky lights that shine on us – mainly white but a few reds and blues and greens thrown in. I am making light (another pun?) of everything to make the staff relaxed. I ask about the lights, I ask about the wicked looking spreader things, I ask about the head covers people are wearing. I notice that the anesthetist is working particularly quickly.

There must have been evening and there must have been morning but it certainly was the first day.

Wednesday February 24th
(part 1)

I hear my name being called and I open my eyes. I know instantly exactly where I am – I am in the Intensive Care Recovery Unit of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. The day before this past Valentine’s Day Richard Rohr published a reflection on being Aware and Alive
(for those really interested

In my drug filled mind that came to me in its simplest version – I was aware and alive. Two kids in medical garb were looking at me: Carly and Kevin. Of course calling them kids is pretty juvenile on my part; they were in reality highly trained and gatekeepers of my life. Kevin told me that they were about to remove my breathing tube so that I could talk. I felt a bit groggy, a bit nauseous, but very secure and surprisingly pain free. The breathing tube comes out and I tell the nurses about my nausea. It is not that bad, but there are places and times not to puke and this is one of them. They suspect that I may be allergic to the cheap morphine but I will be upgraded to the better stuff. Kevin gives me a couple of Tylenol to swallow. I start rambling about generic acetaminophen versus the product from McNeil and Johnson and Johnson and would they want the pills called Tylenol if in fact they were generic but how I was sure the hospital would get good deal on the real thing because it would be to the advantage of McNeil , which by the way is only a division of Johnson and Johnson, and whether or not Johnson and Johnson really is a family opened company. They mess with the intravenous and I seem to nod off again.

I am partially lucid in thought – I figure out the connection between the world economy, the coming oil shortage, and climate change. It is so simple, so doable and will earn me Noble Prizes in economics, peace, and possibly physics. My brain swells with elation endorphins but within moments I forget it all. If only I had brought a tape recorder.

There is more to tell but the fatigue is creeping in for today..

Monday, March 1, 2010

Full Day I at Home: The previous night I did not sleep that well, mainly due to a bit of a racing brain and some racing pains in my right leg and thigh - self diagnosed as being related to my sleeping positions . But after tossing and turning, changing pillows and even beds I sleep through to eight a.m.

I am tired and have a real lazy man’s day. My wife makes the coffee and some of that nice Castlegarth bread with a bit of brie, banana, and a few walnuts. While she cleans the litter boxes and walks the dog I rest. It is amazing how fatiguing this all is. Then my wife does with me the Day 1 of my exercises: breathing, stretching, standing, sitting, a week ago I would have laughed (well part of me would have laughed) , today …… what a workout! And with a coach! Then time for a sit-down rest.

At ten thirty in the morning or so the doorbell rings. It is the pharmacy in Renfrew dropping of supplies for my visit from my home nurse. You see yesterday, when they took off one of my chest incision dressings the nurse saw a bit of discharge that she did not like. So Budda Boom , Budda Ching, a swab is sent to the lab, and I am signed up for six home care nurse visits. The Health System can work pretty good at times. The Nurse Shows up on time and he does a pretty good job. So far so good on my discharge and incision discharge.

I have so much to say but my energy is sapping. I am off to the getting ready for bed routine.