01 December 2014

Finding Acceptance and Peace

This was part of the December 2014 newsletter

Hello everybody. Been writing this newsletter in my mind for over a month and now as the year enters its final month, it is time to put thoughts into words.

It has been an amazing year for me. It started where I have started my last four years and that was in England. And like every other year, it was an amazing time. The highlight, for me, was being on a plane together with my girlfriend Karen. I have gone to England to visit her. She has flown to Nebraska to see me, but we have never been on a plane together. Those trips are always in large planes where everyone is cramped together. Our flight together was on a small plane... a plane that had more empty seats then passengers. To top it off, it was a propeller plane. For our first trip together, besides being enjoyable was also nerve wrecking. I haven't flown on a propeller plane in over 35 years. It was quite the experience.

The year began to fly by and for the first time in my life with being debt free I was able to save a fair amount of money. I was getting comfortable with everything when things took a turn. One morning in early August, I woke up and my hands were killing me. Both of them. From the wrists to the ends of my fingers there was extreme pain. I then looked at them and they were both swollen. For two weeks, I tried different herbs and home remedies and nothing worked. In fact my hands hurt more. I'd wake up two hours before going to work and soak my hands in very hot water, first in the shower and then in the sink. It was the only way I could get my fingers to bend and for a little bit it would take away the pain.

I finally couldn't handle it anymore and went and saw the family doctor. It was a doctor who I hadn't seen in close to four years and maybe two times in ten years. He looked at my hands, took some blood and urine and started doing tests. That night, back in my apartment I got a call from his office, telling me to come in the next day for more tests. They wouldn't tell me anything on the phone... so I had a restless sleep wondering what was going on.

The next day I had an EKG and a chest x-ray. My fear was that it was cancer. No where in my mind did I think it was my heart. It turned out to be an ascending aortic aneurysm. More tests were done and an operation was set. By the time the surgery date came, more problems with the heart appeared. I had a hole in my heart and the aortic valve was no good.

That money that I saved? Well, it flew out to doctors and hospitals. And while I paid out a good amount of money, I am extremely grateful for having health insurance, without it I don't know what would have happened.

On September 15th, a four and a half hour surgery took place... a surgery where for two hours I lived through a ventilator. After 15 hours of being kept asleep, I woke up in a panic because I couldn't breathe, I couldn't swallow. A tube was in my mouth and down my throat. It was a horrible way to start my new life. When this tube was removed is when I realized how much pain I was in. A 16” incision went down the middle of my chest and at this time I still had three drainage tubes just below that cut.

Amazingly, within five days I was going home. I was going back to an apartment that was ready for me. It was clean... no dirty dishes, no laundry, clean bed sheets, a freezer full of convenience meals, and a fridge full of drinks and some snacks. All bills were paid. All I had to do was get back to my apartment and rest. I treated it like a military operation. The one thing I wasn't prepared for was what happened after the plan was done. That first day, I cried a lot. It finally hit me what all was done and now how fragile I was.

Comfort was hard to come by. I could only sleep on my back and just laying down was painful. The first few nights I slept in the bed. I had two pillows on the left, two on the right, and four for my head and back. My thought was to lay down and not be able to move. This worked for a few days, then I moved to the couch where I could elevate my head and also my feet. Wherever I slept I could only sleep for an hour and a half and never more then two hours. The pain was just to much. I had pain pills that I could take two at a time for four hours.

Even doing that I would wake up in two hours and then lay there in pain for the next two hours. I change taking the pills to one every two hours. I still woke up but now I could take a pain pill and fall back asleep without breaking taking two pills every four hours.

After a week at home, I had my first check-up. The doctors were concerned because I was so white. I ended up back in the hospital with internal bleeding. After four days, I had a colonoscopy, which found a dozen polyps and a mass about the size of a golf ball located in the same general area. It was the mass that ruptured and where I was losing blood. Later that same day, I had emergency surgery and two feet of my colon was removed.

Another week passed and I was sent home again. At first I was in more pain then before and a lot weaker. There were nights that in my fear, I would leave on the living room light and the bathroom light and left the door to the apartment unlocked. I figured if I needed to call for help people could get in right away. Slowly, things started to come back together and my confidence was returning but things weren't the same. I still felt weak. The apartment looked dirty and the dishes mounted.

Then on the third weekend of being home, I got extremely nauseous and I quit urinating. Also my heart was in Afib – beating 148 beats per minute. And my white color was back again. In my heart, I knew I was going back in the hospital. And I began packing an overnight bag and even managed to wash the dishes. I also sat down and paid my light bill on-line and wrote out my rent check. I didn't want to worry about any of this while I was once again trying to get better. I got in my car and drove the five miles to the local community hospital. As I got there I looked down the highway and knew the hospitals that have treated me to this point were 40 miles down the road. So I decided to go there instead. Yes, in my condition I drove 45 miles to an emergency room.

Things there deteriorated rapidly. I began vomiting and the things my body was doing were things I never saw before. I began to think that this was the end. I had a test on my liver and on my gall bladder. Neither of those were the problem. As these tests progressed, the cardiologist began to think it was the heart that was causing all my problems. So, I was transported by ambulance from one hospital to the heart hospital. Two days later, I had fluid drained from around my heart. It was like night and day after that procedure was done. My appetite returned instantly. I was able to urinate and after a transfusion my color started to come back.

This last procedure was done three weeks ago. The second day of being back home, I had an appointment with my cardiologist and asked if I could return to work. He thought it was a good idea. Right now it is only four hour days but it has helped me regain some strength. After that last experience I just felt I wanted to be doing things, not out of boredom, but rather not wanting to die in a hospital.

The video below is from The Heart Hospital.  In it is my cardiologist as well as the surgeon.  An amazing hospital...

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