Just how fast my life changed!!


Over the last 45 years I have had and used Kaiser Insurance for my personal health issues.  I have used the insurance a few times with the family over that period of time, never for anything serious, but still used them for health issues, and have been pleased with them.

About 2 years ago I decided after all of the years of ignoring my personal health that I should go have a physical and see what I need to do to keep going strong into my Grandpa years.

Two years ago I started going in for regular checkups and health screenings, and trying to lose the weight I need to lose and take care of the type 2 diabetes  that they found, It is being controlled by diet and one pill per day, and the high blood pressure that I also take 1 pill a day for.   A good cloistral report and my other blood test were pretty much in normal range.

I had an EKG and some other tests, and they all were normal.

In mid-February I received a call from my Primary Care Doctor telling me she was leaving Kaiser, and that she had set up some blood tests and a Dr. Visit with a new doctor that I should go to, and meet the new Doctor.

Friday Feb. 28 I took the blood tests and had an appointment for Monday March 3 for the new Doctor to read them.  I was very happy with the new Doctor, and he informed me that all of my blood work was in normal ranges for the first time in 2 years, that I was dong good on my weight loss, and he felt I need to exercise 30 minutes a day of walking, in 3 10 minute sessions.

I told him a little more information than I had told my previous doctor about a lower back pain that I had for 10 years, often happening while unloading the crates and setting up on Dog show grounds.    I also told him that over the last 2 years the pain has moved more up between the shoulder blades, and that on bad days I get really short of breath, and have to sit down for a few minutes to recover, and then my back is fine for the rest of the day.

We talked about it for a few minutes, and then I threw in the red flag warning, I told him the weekend before the blood draw appointment, while at the San Diego Rottweilers in Del Mar, that after unloading my car, going to park, and walking back to the show site that I had had the worse back pain I had ever head, was shorter of breath, and that it felt like my chest was going to collapse.

The chest part really peaked his interest, and he informed me that not all heart attacks or problems are preceded by pain in the left arm, that lower or upper back pain, or pain in the pit of your stomach were also signs that needed to be checked further.

He scheduled me for an EKG on Tuesday after noon, and told me he would like for me to take a Stress Test on a treadmill.  He would have to schedule that and would let me know when, but to go ahead and get the EKG, I said O.k. and went on my way.

The morning of the EKG I had to take my mom in for her sonogram at a different doctor, and while sitting in the waiting room waiting for her my cell phone rang.  It was my doctors office telling me they had an opening for a Stress Test that afternoon at 1:45 pm if I could make it.  I agreed, and Mary and I drove over to Fontana to take the test.

Little did I know what to expect, or what was going to happen that day.

WE got there a few minutes early, so I did the EKG and while getting hooked up for that they came to get me for the treadmill test. 

They walked us over to the test site, sat Mary down in the waiting room, and took me into the treadmill room, hooked up their 99 or so electrodes, and asked me to get on the treadmill.  The first part was 6 minutes, 1 1/2 MPH at a 10 degree angel, I made it through this part fairly easy, even though the calves of my legs were starting to burn, they said now the would turn it up to 2 1/2 mph and a 12 degree slope.   I made it for 2minutes and 24 seconds at at that pace, before I would swear my legs were going to fall off, and my back burned, not as bad as it did at Del Mar, but it was getting worse.   I quit, and lights started flashing, a lady  cardiologist showed up and started treating me with some drugs, had me lie down, and checked my blood pressure ever minute or so, which ad gotten to over 200, she than paged the head of cardiology at Fontana, and called Mary in from the waiting room, and informed Mary and I that I would not be going home that day, but instead be put in an  ambulance taken to Saint Bernadine's Hospital in San Bernardino for more testing.  "SHOCK #1"

They continued to work on getting my blood pressure down, and got it under control enough that Dr Chin cancelled the Ambulance, and had them bring Mary and I over to his office for consultation.  After talking to him for a few minutes, he decide to schedule an Angioplasty on Friday at 7:15 am, and that in his opinion I had at least a 70 percent blockage of one of my veins in the heart. (SHOCK #2)

Friday morning Mary and I went to Kaiser for the Angioplasty, we got there early, and I drew the first straw and was #1 to be tested on this day.  Great I thought, we can get out early and go to Millie's for Breakfast after the test.  Our biggest reason for going to the Doctor is the good breakfast at Millie's after the visit.

They got me back in the prep room and started getting me prepped for surgery which they said would take 30 minutes for the test part, and 5 hours in recovery on my back with my right leg not moving for 5 hours,  and if they could fix any problem I had they would leave in a shunt, take me to Saint Bernardine's in San Bernardino, and do the stint insertion that would correct the problem and I would be home in 24 hours and as good as new.  After the test they took me into recover, left in the shunt and told me they would get back with me, and that I would be going to San Bernadino, but leaving in the shunt in my mind meant I would only need the stint and be home in the morning, no big deal.

After staying still on the recovery table for 2 hours the doctor came in and told me he was going to remove the shunt and that after he left they were going to have a consultation, and he would get back with me.   Well SHOCK #3 hit about 2 hours later, when the doctor returned to inform me that I had a blockage in the 3 veins that feed blood to my heart, one of 23%, one of 70% and one of 99%, and then, YOU WILL BE HAVING OPEN HEART SURGERY on Monday.. 

After the doctor left the room Mary and I had an hour to understand what we were just old, and how we were going to handle it.  My first decision was to put into practice what I have always said I believe in, and since I believe our days are numbered like the hairs on our head, that I would let God decide what was going to happen, for him to guide the doctors that he chooses for me, and to do what they tell me to do, and be the perfect patient.

What a great decision for me personally because I had just had weight of the world dumped on me, and I passed it on to someone else to take care of, and I felt better instantly.

About an hour after the doctor left the ambulance picked me up to transfer me to Saint Bernardine's is San Bernardino, about a 20 minute ride.  I was checked into the pre-op section the surgeon came in and explained what they were going to do, and how it would be done, and scheduled the surgery for Tuesday am.  He told me I would need to be in the hospital from that point through the surgery, and the recovery until I could get out of bed without help and all my vitals were back to normal. 

The pre-op process included numerous blood draws, numerous times a day, being awakened in the middle of the night to take blood pressure and all, and being weighed to make sure you don't retain fluids.

One typical segment was a 1:15 am wake up for a blood draw, a 1:30 am blood pressure check and get out of bed to be weighed, then a 3 am blood draw, and pressure check, and then up at 5am to get you ready for breakfast and then the rest of the day is listening to alarms going off, someone checking on your IV's or vitals and getting no sleep.

Saint Bernardine's has a wonderful staff of nurses, that were willing and able to get you anything you wanted at a moments notice, and provide me with a number to call the kitchen if I wanted something different from the kitchen.  Much better rooms than many Motel 6's I have stayed in, and for sure better room service.  The food was comparable to Denny's my not so favorite place to eat, where it is filling but not tasty.  And then on an 1800 calorie heart healthy menu.   I got a 2 ounce serving of meat with meals, about the size of my usual bite, and 1/10 the normal serving I often eat.

Good thing about the portions I lost a little weight, and didn't starve, so now I know I can survive on one serving and not starve to death.

I spent Friday night, Saturday and Sunday going through pre-op and worrying about having surgery on Tuesday morning when suddenly things changed.  My surgeon, walked into my room just as I was uncovering my breakfast, He asked if I had drank anything or eaten since midnight, I said no, he asked if I would mind doing my surgery today instead of tomorrow, I said wonderful, 24 less hours to worry, he grabbed my food, told me not to eat and I would be prepared for surgery starting right then.

Sure did change plans around, they had all the pre-op processes scheduled to do on Monday and Tuesday before surgery and they all needed to be done NOW!!

So the process begins with a portable x-ray unit x-raying my chest, getting a pre-op antibacteria bath, getting my hairy body shaved and to be ready for surgery by 12.    Every body did good, including the two, yes two, nurses that shaved my chest, one on each side, made me feel special to have two ladies work on me at the same time.

The finished the parts that were to be done in my room, and I was taken to the pre-op waiting area, where I answered about 9 questions over and over asked by at least 9 different people.  They had someone come in to touch up the shaving on my chest, and then to shave both legs, and shortly it was off to the operating room.

Being a dog person like I am it was a special treat for me to have the anesthesiologist  and his wife be Great Dane breeders, and had just got back from showing at Westminster, so I got to talk dogs instead of worry before the gas took over.

The next thing I remember it was 6:30 am Tuesday and I was in the CCU unit and recovery.  about 8:30 the surgeon came in to tell me that all was well, and I had a successful surgery, now all I need to do was concentrate on going home as soon as possible.

Some time on Tuesday after noon they got me out of bed to walk about 3 feet and to sit up in a chair for a few minutes, It was not to bad, and the pain was nil, but I was very short of breath, and for the first time the drain tubes in my chest really bothered me, they gave me a shot of morphine, I forgot the discomfort, ate some dinner and went to sleep.

Wednesday was a great day, I was able to get up again, had no pain, and took my last pain pill at 11 am, and had no need for anymore, they got me up to go for a walk of about 50 feet and all was well, the only problem was when I got back in bed I disturbed the chest drain tube, which caused some discomfort and a little leaking,  So they called in the doctor to check on it.  He decided that since my fluid retention was about an acceptable level he would remove the tubes about 12 hours earlier than normal, he felt I was doing good enough to handle it.  He decide to give me an extra dose of morphine to help with the pain that accompanies tube removal.  I got the shot out comes the tubes, and then I couldn't breath.  I got the kings treatment the rest of the night, the emergency crew arrived with a special bed, they hooked up monitors and oxygen, and started taking me to ICU, when we got to that floor a person was all ready there waiting to do an EKG, they finished that up and another person was there to do an Echo Cardiogram, as soon as that was done I was down the hall having a Cat Scan done, and then back to ICU, where I spent the night on lasix pumping out excess fluids, and getting to breath comfortable.  All the tests came out negative for serious problems, but I had had a reaction to morphine which sometimes causes breathing problems, sand had this time for sure.  But all is well that ends well, and this did, the only damage is it will probably take a couple extra weeks to get back to normal lung function.

Thursday night was the worst night of my stay.  I was very uncomfortable, very scared from the ordeal the night before, and just plain worried that I made it through surgery but now going down hill because of the breathing thing.   I was on oxygen, having 3 lung treatments per day, and given some more drugs to help me relax, which also caused a different problem, hallucinations, I could see spider webs one minute,  dust blowing around the room the next, the TV screen was freezing over, and water was spewing out of my oxygen tubes, I am sure some  people have paid good money to fell like this, and to see these sights, but it was not a trip I want to take again anytime soon.  Friday morning was miserable, I could hear my wife, my son, and his wife and kids standing outside my door talking, but they wouldn't come in to see me, or as my mind was making me believe that maybe I was a goner, and this is what being dead was about.  I struggled with these thoughts for a couple of hours and Mary finally came in and I was able to touch her, and know I was still around. She informed me also that the grandkids were in school and my son and his wife were at work, not at the hospital earlier when I could swear I could hear their voices.  I had never used morphine before, and you can bet your last dollar I have no plans to ever use it again.

The rest of Friday and Saturday and Sunday were spent doing breathing exercises taking lung treatments, and getting my lung capacity to a level where I could go home, I had daily  chest x-rays, and 3 times a day blood tests to monitor the situation.  Couple all of this with waking around the ward 4 or 6 times a day, eating and napping the time went pretty fast.

On Monday morning the doctor came in making his rounds, and stopped and ask if I would be interested in going home, of course I would.  He said they would do one final x-ray and blood draw, and if everything came out good, I would be out there about noon, it was 8 am then.

About 11 he came in with the news I had been waiting to hear, and as soon as he got my paper work gone I could go home.  I called Mary and told here to be there to pick me up, It took a little longer to get dismissed than I wanted, but about 1:15 I was outside in the sunshine waiting for my son to pull the car up and get me loaded and home.  Made me sorry I had taught him to drive slow and steady instead of speeding, at this point I think speed would of been good.

Getting  home was wonderful.  I still have a long recovery in front of me, I am restricted form driving for 8 weeks, and will have some rib pain for a while, but I can live with that.

Other than being a scary experience it was not bad at all.

Kaiser Hospital and there team of heart surgeons gave me wonderful care, the staff and people connected with the Saint Bernardine's cardiac unit were wonderful, the nurses that cared for me in recovery I could not ask for any better.  Two people that stand out that made my stay comfortable were Julian and Wendy, in recovery..

And the bright spot in CCU was Karen, who had just returned to work after breaking her leg falling off her horse.  She made my stay in CCU memorable, and I appreciate her taking extra time to help Mary find me when they had moved me and I didn't even know where I was.

The hard part is over, the healing is moving along, and this surgery should make the rest of my days more comfortable.  What more can I ask for?

It was also great to hear from my many friends, that took time from there busy life to contact Mary, send cards, letters, e-mails and phone calls to offer their prayers and good wishes.  I appreciate each and everyone of you.

Now a word of wisdom from a former big eatin' fat boy.  Take care of yourself, and don't hide things from your doctor, they can't help if they don't know there is a problem.


UPDATE  May 26, 2009


I have made several trips back to the doctor since my surgery, and everything is going great.  My blood pressure is staying normal, and my breathing is much improved, and I have had no back pain from any exercises I have done.

I went to 6 weeks of rehab at the hospital, walking on the treadmill for 20 minutes, and riding an exercise bike 10 minutes two times a week for 6 weeks.  Starting on the treadmill at 1.5 miles per hour the first day, and ending at 3 miles per hour for 20 minutes with no ill effects after 6 weeks.

Now I work out 30 to 45 minutes a day on the treadmill, and we also bought a Wii, and the Wii fit program which I would highly recommend.  With it I do 30 minutes a day of different aerobic and stretching exercises, that really help with muscle tone, and conditioning.  Plus it helps keep track of my exercise time, and my weight, which by the way is 20 pounds less than before surgery.

So all in all I would consider my surgery a great success, and I feel better than I have for years.

Last weekend we went to a dog show, and I was able to walk the dogs in and out without any problems, and it was probably 1/2 mile walk each way from the car to the show area, so that is a big improvement over before surgery.

All of the pain from the surgery is gone, unless I do something stupid to stretch out the area, like trying to sweep the drive way and shovel dirt like I did last weekend, but I soon learned that will have to wait a while before it gets done again. <G>