You gotta have heart

We didn’t recognize the signs. I was cutting down the length of my daily walks because I’d get winded; and while on vacation, the short walk across the sand, using walking sticks, did me in.  And when my legs swelled, despite my low-salt diet, I asked my nurse daughter, Michelle, if my heart could be the cause. She said it could.

We returned home from our Texas vacation on October 16th.  That night I had difficulty going to sleep because I was short of breath.  I considered waking Michelle, but decided to power through.  The next night I again had breathing difficulties.  This time I panicked, so I woke Michelle.  She asked if I wanted her to call 911.  That seemed to be a bit extreme for such a minor problem, but when I became more frightened, I said she should call.

When the paramedics arrived, they put me on a heart monitor, revealing that I was in atrial fibrillation with a heart rate of 160. Atrial fibrillation was a new heart rhythm for me, and Michelle breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that they could easily get my heart rate under control, relieving the cause of my distress.  As soon as I got into the ambulance,  was given oxygen, and a sedative and heart rate medication were administered via IV, I began to feel better. I was admitted to the hospital. 

The next day, I was seen by a visiting cardiologist, Dr. Rowe, who lives in Utah.  I feel so fortunate to have been under his care.  He started me on Eliquis, a blood thinner that doesn’t have all the requirements associated with Warfarin; and a great drug for ventricular arrhythmias, Amiodarone.  Dr. Rowe performed an angiogram and inserted a stent close to one that I had received about fifteen years ago. Instead of going through the groin, Dr.Rowe went through my wrist.  

A cardiac echo revealed that I had an ejection fraction of 10-15%.  I was told by my cardiologist that 50-70% is normal; 30% is dangerous; and 10-15% is extremely unusual in a conscious person.

After a week, I was released from the hospital.  It was great to be home until it was time for bed. I had difficulty getting to sleep because my breathing was labored – nothing like it had been before I went to the hospital, but it was scary for me.  My daughter Jeannette was visiting from California, and she volunteered to sleep with me if that would relax me, and this was a great help. I hadn’t had this problem in the hospital because I was on oxygen.  When I saw my GP, Dr. Meyers, he prescribed Trazodone for sleep.  He said that I should take melatonin until my prescription was filled.  I found that melatonin works for me, and not wanting to begin another medication with possible side effects, I never took the Trazodone.  I continue to take a melatonin each night.

Being relatively new to Oregon, I needed to find a local cardiologist.  Dr. Virgilio was highly recommended, and she was available.  I’m very pleased with Dr.Virgilio.  She explains everything in great detail, sometimes making drawings.  She emphasized the need to never miss taking my Eliquis, and she explained the value of the anti-dysrythmic drug I’ve been taking, Amiodarone. 

On November 17, Dr. Virgilio performed cardioversion, an outpatiet procedure to stop the atrial fibrillation I’d been experiencing since my first symptoms. The procedure was successful, but I had a bad side effect from the Propofol, an anesthetic I’d had   previously without incident.  While lying in recovery, I began having a feeling of pin pricks on my arms and legs, followed by a feeling of burning on my skin, followed by extreme pain all over my body, some of the worst pain I’ve ever endured.  I couldn’t stand to be touched, and when the nurse removed the electrodes that had been stuck to my chest, I felt as though she was tearing out pieces of flesh.  Fortunately, the symptoms gradually subsided and were gone in an hour or two.

During a conversation with the anesthesiologist when we had time to kill prior to the cardioversion, I mentioned that my sister was a doctor.  He asked if she was living, and was incredulous that someone my age had a living older sister.  He said we obviously have good genes.  I told him that our parents died at 47 and 52 – but I added that they both smoked.  Then the anesthesiologist asked what kind of doctor my sister was.  I responded, “She’s an anesthesiologist.”

As I write this, I’m feeling good.  I’m back to exercising and taking daily walks.  I get stronger every day.

I’ve been fortunate in receiving good medical care throughout this ordeal.  Even though I would rather have been at home, my hospital stay was pleasant.  Also, I received nice ego boosts when several doctors and nurses told me that they had told hospital staff members who were coming to see me to not turn around and leave – “You’re in the right room.  She really is 91.”

Lois McKinney, December 6, 2021

When the Cat’s Away

“When the cat’s away, the mice will play.”  Bob and I had an opportunity to check out this maxim, as Michelle – the sheriff, the mayor, the boss, the superintendent, or, in this instance, the cat – went to Yosemite National Park with friends for a week, and we were on our own.  Michelle and Bob are my daughter and son-in-law, and I live with them.

When Michelle is in charge of our food, it is delicious, but, more important, it’s nutritious.  You don’t see very much junk food in our house – until now.

The first evening, Bob said he likes to support local businesses, so it seemed fitting that we have pizza.  In truth, we sometimes indulge in pizza when Michelle is home.  The two pizzas provided one dinner and two lunches.   Bob, no stranger to the kitchen, prepared dinner the next two evenings.

The following day was my turn in the kitchen.  I baked cookies, and for dinner I prepared meatloaf and twice-baked potatoes.  Bob steamed vegetables to complete the meal.  The meatloaf and potatoes provided two dinners and two lunches. 

Foodwise, we weren’t being terribly naughty, but that was about to change.  Our traditional Sunday brunch is usually omelets, salmon patties, turkey bacon, oven-fried potatoes, and the like.  This Sunday I suggested that brunch consist of donuts.  Bob was quick to agree and bought a half dozen assorted donuts plus some donut holes, which we managed to polish off in one day.  A few days later, Bob produced a recipe he wanted to try:  Watergate Salad, which is a misnomer.  It should be called Watergate Dessert.  The Watergate name is appropriate, though, as this dessert is criminal, the main ingredients being Cool Whip and pistachio instant pudding.  Bob didn’t agree that this wasn’t a healthful dish, pointing out that we used “Lite Cool Whip” and the dessert contained fruit:  pineapple and Mandarin oranges.  We managed to finish this treat before the boss returned.  Whether we’ll confess to her that we indulged in this sinful conglomeration remains to be seen.

Later Bob decided to support another local business, and he wanted to verify the new Oregon statute that allows take-out alcoholic beverages, so he ordered from a Mexican restaurant.  The marguerita was definitely to Bob’s liking, and the food supplied our last dinner and lunch before la policia returned.

The first two days, I didn’t take my daily walk.  Bob walks often, but I hadn’t realized that all I had to do was suggest we walk, and he and Banjo happily obliged.  So on the plus side, while Michelle was gone, I walked every day except two.

My grandson, Jacob, recommended a movie he thought we would enjoy:  Mitchells vs the Machines.  I shouldn’t have been surprised that a movie recommended by the father of a four-year-old would be animated.  Although I’m not crazy about animation, and am definitely not a sci-fy enthusiast, I agreed that we should follow through on Jake’s suggestion.   I rather enjoyed the film.  It had many funny moments.

In the past I have watched Dancing with the Stars, which is where I became acquainted with Nev Schulman, who hosts a TV show called Catfish.  I was aware that this show certainly isn’t for everyone, so I decided the best time to binge-watch it would be in Michelle’s absence, so that’s what I did.  Bob, being a normal human being, wasn’t a fan; however, he’d be in the living room from time to time during my watching marathon and would see bits and pieces, which led to some discussions between the two of us about the stupidity of people falling for these cons and the unconscionable actions of those implementing the cons.  These aren’t the scams performed by people in India, who fleece victims to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Money seldom changes hands in this TV show, the main things stolen being affection and time.  As with all so-called “reality” shows, this one is obviously scripted, which is a good thing because that makes the show move along.  I haven’t quite finished the season of Catfish, so Michelle will need to indulge me.

To say that Bob, Banjo, and I missed Michelle would be an understatement.  We missed her like crazy.  At the same time, we were happy that she got to spend time with her good friends who worked with her in Arizona, and whom she hadn’t seen for over a year.  And we knew that we could text Michelle any time we had questions – she was just a click away.  We did take advantage of that option – maybe too often, but Michelle didn’t seem to mind.  She also kept photos of beautiful Yosemite coming to us regularly.

Bob wasn’t home when Michelle walked in the door on her return.  I got a big hug and then said, “I wonder if Banjo remembers you.”  Stupid question – Banjo ran in circles, bumping into Michelle again and again, while whimpering his message:  “I missed you soooo much.  Don’t leave me again.”  I feel the same way, Banjo.

All in all, Bob and I did a pretty fine job of fending for ourselves.  We didn’t starve   (actually, we each may have gained a few pounds); we’re still good friends; and neither of us got injured.  This was a great experience for us.  We had an adventurous week, which I think can be summed up in one word:  donuts.

Lois McKinney, May 6, 2021 

Just the Kind I Wanted

When our boy Lynn was four years old,
His Dad and I said, “Son,
We know that you love babies
And we’re going to soon have one.”

Lynn’s baby sis came on the scene
After a little while.
Lynn took one look at her and said,
With the biggest, happiest smile,

“She’s just the kind I wanted,”
As he patted her little head.
“She’s just the kind I wanted.”
That’s exactly what he said.

Lynn grew up to be successful;
He played ball and practiced law.
His physical appearance was
Almost without a flaw.

Then cancer ravaged his body,
With odds he couldn’t defy.
His family’s hearts were broken
As Lynn said his last good-bye.

The Lord looked down and all around,
And said “I need someone
To talk sports and play ball with me
When my busy day is done.”

“I need someone to make me laugh
And give me inspiration.
I need someone to steer the boat
When I go on vacation.”

Lynn said “I’m here for you, Lord,
But the big C did me in.”
The Lord said “Here with me
You’re absolutely perfect, Lynn.”

That’s how they got together
And became the best of friends.
Before too long, Lynn even learned
The way to make amends.

Lynn’s hearing what the Lord says
And his heart is filled with joy.
He tells about his memories
Of when he was a boy.

The Lord politely listens as
Lynn has a lot to say,
And, of course, the two of them find time
To play ball every day.

The other day Lynn tossed the ball,
And as the good Lord bunted,
He turned to Lynn and said, “You know,
You’re just the kind I wanted.”

Lois McKinney

April 2020