Feeling Great

22 Oct

I’m a week and a half past the angioplasty and stent placement. Most folks that see me can’t believe that I’m upright and functioning – I think they expect that I have a long period of convelesence, like someone who had a heart attack. They say “rest up and get well!” I want to shout, “I’m WELL! Damn it!” Right now, “resting” is the last thing I want to do. They also didn’t realize – I did NOT have a heart attack. Thankfully!

People ask me how I feel – and in a word, I feel FANTASTIC. I’m sleeping better – for the most part (more below). I have tons more energy than I had before. I keep noticing things that I used to do that, well, I didn’t feel good doing (more below) – now, no issues. Exercise feels fantastic. I want to MOVE!

People ask me about the lifestyle changes. Well, they are what I make them, and I’m planning to make them pretty dramatically (again, more below). When I say that, they are like “aw man, that sucks” – and my answer to them is “actually, it doesn’t.”

And mentally, while I’m probably making a bit bigger deal out of this than I should, I feel like I completely dodged the bullet, avoided the reaper, am in the sunshine vs the root zone, glad to be here, etc. It’s hard to explain. I wasn’t taken to the hospital in an ambulance, with paramedics sweating if I’d make it. I didn’t even have a little grabber like Jack Nicholson did in that movie “Something’s Gotta Give” – go to the ER, take an aspirin, walk around the hospital with your ass hanging out, hilarity ensues. No, I didn’t have that.

I think how I feel mentally about this has to do with two very important people in my life – my Grandfather, “Grandpa Mel” Campbell, and my best friend, Darrell Pollack. Both of them were taken from me much too early. Both from heart attacks. I have somehow dodged that fate for now. My goal is to remove that “for now” from the equation.

I had just turned 11 when Grandpa Mel died in 1973. We had all heard about his heart attack back in the late 1950s, but it was ancient history. He wore a medic alert pendant, occasionally would take a “nitro” pill, he took it easy a bit, I guess, but overall, he was Grandpa Mel. The dude was larger than life. He had climbed mountains and had been a pilot. He was my hero! And then we went on vacation to Northern Minnesota, and on the way back, my dad stopped to call home and check in and found out his dad was in the hospital, having had another heart attack. He seemed to be rallying from it when he had another one and died from it two days later. I still remember that as vividly as yesterday. I felt like the rug had been yanked out from me. I had never experienced death before. He was here when we left for vacation. And then he was gone.

My pal Darrell was also invincible and also one of my heroes. He was a super fit guy – an athlete, yet, he recruited me to play softball and pursue sporting stuff when it would have been the last thing I’d have thought of doing on my own. He was a successful financial planning guy, and ultra smart. He was devoutly Jewish, and helped me when I was really learning about becoming Jewish. He taught me tons. Yet, he and I had an interesting relationship as I was about 4-5 years older than him and he called me his “big brother”. He looked to me for career advice, personal advice and more. He was my confidant and my pal. And one day, he was gone too. Also to a heart attack. Shit, shit, shit.

I feel so lucky that my fate, at least yet, hasn’t followed that path. And that’s why, even if it seems dramatic, I feel so, so, SO lucky. Because I am. And I thank G-d every day now.

That’s the mental thing. There’s not a day that I don’t think about all that, and honestly, I hope I don’t stop thinking of it, because it makes me laser focused on the work I have to do to make sure none of my friends, none of my kids and none of my future grandkids feel the same way about me. Here one day. Gone the next.

So, how do you feel? As I said above, in a word, FANTASTIC. It is definitely one of those things that is “I didn’t know how bad I was feeling until I felt good again.” Little things like just walking to the train at the end of the day – I felt before like my feet were made of lead. I’d collapse into my seat, sweaty and tired. I would occasionally have the back and shoulder pain walking to the train, and only once or twice I remember having it move into chest pain, but still, at the end of the day I’d practically collapse into this train seat this summer, cashed out. I would occasionally get the back/shoulder/chest discomfort thing if I walked vigorously after a meal and a few drinks – not now. Exercise, while I loved it over the summer, it was still work. Run up the stairs, feel lousy. Go to bed, dead tired every day. Many times just feeling tired – it’s all gone now and I feel so much better.

In simple terms, my feet felt heavy and now they feel like they have wings. It’s hard to describe. I’ve gone to the running track at the gym multiple times in the last week and and each time am disappointed when I needed to head home, and feel the entire time like I wanted to run, not powerwalk. I’m going 40-45 minutes at a 14.5 minute/mile pace and barely breaking a sweat and wanting more. I started cardiac rehab today with supervised exercise, and they promise me they will get me to my running goals quickly. I’m excited.

In terms of lifestyle changes, I’ve tracked every bite that has gone into my mouth for the last week now on MyFitnessPal – a killer little app/site that has iPhone/iPad/Android apps plus a great web site. My vegan sister-in-law, Shari has taught me the joy of Kale chips. The idea of tucking into a cheeseburger and fries nauseates me. I’m ordering DRY F’ING TOAST at a restaurant. Wow. Yes, it’s one week, but, I’m dead serious. As I don’t want to be dead. When you have angioplasty and a stent, you are not cured of coronary artery disease. You are kicking off a “rest of your life” effort at managing it. I fully intend to lose more than 50 lbs in the next 12 months. Hopefully all of you will be seeing a lot less of me soon! I am going to cut way back on everything from red meat to saturated fats to alcohol. Fried foods are pretty much done except for rare occasions. I have a whole mess of meds I have to take, and rather than being lax about them, well, I have to take them, period.

The challenge now will be long term – it’s easy in the harsh light of just having a doctor run a tube into my heart and fix a problem in it, to be all serious about it. But I have no choice.

A few details for you about my recovery as most folks find it rather hard to believe: As I said in my last post, they ran a catheter into my brachial artery in my wrist through a wound no larger than if you poked yourself with a pencil. I’d show you a picture but you wouldn’t be able to see it. It’s that small. My orders from my cardiologist are simple – make your lifestyle changes and go to Cardiac Rehab, but most importantly, reenter life. Live it. Exercise. Go back to work. Etc. My doctor friend, Faltese, who was instrumental in getting me to think this was my heart, said it simply – well, you’re better today than you were a week ago. That procedure didn’t involve any trauma. No reason for you to pretend you’re sick.” But there was no “take two weeks off from work”, no “bed rest”, no “stay home”, no “gotta take it easy” admonition from any doctor. My orders are “You’re young. Change your life and then live it.”

Yes Doc.

Onwards.

As you were,

Stew

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2 Responses to “Feeling Great”

  1. maria October 22, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    How timely – we lost a neighbor and friend just a few weeks ago- 44 – died in his sleep – 7 yr old daughter… Glad you are healthy and happy!!

    • Stew's Brew October 23, 2012 at 8:27 am #

      So sorry to hear that! I really consider myself very, very lucky in this situation. That could have easily been me.

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