Sunday, August 26, 2007

Week 34 Recovery

Things are going well. The Citrucel recommended by my surgeon some time ago seems to be helping my body regulate its bowel activity. In addition I've learned not to try too hard and have seemed to overcome the pain and feeling like I still had to go right after I'd gone. I am pleased with the progress.

My heart PVCs have calmed down some. I have still some episodes, they come in the morning, pretty calm during the day, then again at night. However the duration seems to becoming less and less and mentally I've made strides in accepting the aggravation as simply that.

The gas attacks I was having seem to have decreased volume and frequency. However, I still have poor control and end up making some noise as I move around my daily routine. Some funny, sometimes it embarrassing. All in all I think I've turned the corner and look forward to more normalcy in my life.

Friday, August 24, 2007

New Conditions

Well something in addition to bowel resection. Recovery from resection is now somewhere around 33 weeks. Things are leveling out. The suggestion by my surgeon to take Citrucel each day seems to be working. I am finding a more regular time of day, and I don't have the discomfort associated with a bowel movement that I experienced in earlier weeks. Something else has attracted my attention now.

I feel fit, I've lost 56 pounds since surgery, I am walking 2 miles every day, my blood pressure has dropped to normal, and I have stopped all diabetes medication. So things should be great, essentially they are. However...

Seven years ago I was diagnosed with Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs) It is an electrical signal from the ventricular side of your heart that triggers a heart beat, but it is premature so the heart cancels it and then initiates a normal beat. However, the normal beat is usually quite a bit stronger than a regular beat. What a person would normally feel if they were checking their pulse is the sensation that the heart skipped a beat. Sometimes it is quite jarring, other times I feel a light fluttering sensation in my esophagus area.

About two months after surgery I had an A-fib (Atrial Fibrillation) episode where the atrial side of the heart beats very rapidly and the blood flow to your body is reduced. You become tired and simply drained of energy. A-fib attacks are often associated with stress, however they can result in a serious problem because the swirling action of the blood in the heart can create a clot that could go to your brain or down to your legs.

Prior to the A-fib attack I had an increase in the PVCs. They are not necessarily linked, but stress can be a common denominator. At least that is my take on the two problems, perhaps a cardiac physician might know, but I have not read any articles that link PVCs and A-Fibs. Anyway, I noticed an increase in the PVC episodes and called my Dr. What was confusing was I was also a little tired when the PVCs would hit. Anyway I ended up in the hospital for two days while a cardiologist straightened out the A-Fib problem. The treatment was a drug called Rythmole, within twelve hours my heart converted to a regular sinus rhythm and I was discharged. I had to take a drug, Warfarin or Cumadin for thirty days, it is a blood thinner that cuts the risk of a clot should another A-Fib attack hits.

Back home I had no more episodes of A-Fib and after thirty days discontinued the blood thinner. In addition the PVCs seem to grow more infrequent and less distinct. I was a happy camper. Then a month ago I started drinking coffee like I was addicted. A pot of coffee with my wife upon rising from sleep, if I worked out of the house a pot of coffee during the afternoon, or if I was at work I drank cup after cup of coffee during the day. Then at night another pot of coffee and to bed. In addition I was drinking diet colas during the day with lunch, dinner, or just to sip on. I did not realize the caffeine intake was so great. After several weeks of this I noticed a change in my PVCs. They seem to increase in frequency and to group.

As I became more aware of the PVC episodes I noticed that they tended to group around three times of the day, morning, mid-afternoon and night just before I went to bed. I also was eating extremely acidic food that one night had my system so upset I had a stomach ache most of the night that kept me awake until around 4 in the morning. I say this because I was overloading my system with caffeine and spicy food.

Pretty soon my PVCs were quite frequent and seem to come in waves of patterns. I would feel my pulse through my throat and could sense beat, beat, pause; beat, beat pause, sometimes it was beat, pause; beat, pause. Those didn't last to long, but they did come in strings. Sometimes these episodes would last ten or fifteen minutes, other times it seemed to go on for a couple of hours. One thing was certain PVCs were occupying a great deal of my consciousness.

Finally I called the cardiologist and he scheduled me to wear a holter monitor for 24 hours. When the technician put the monitor on me she said do you drink caffeine? Yes, a lot. This lady apparently has had episodes associated with too many stimulants. It got me thinking, so I have cut way back on coffee. Three mugs in the morning and I have stopped drinking colas or sodas with caffeine in them. The PVCs have not gone away, but they don't seem as frequent, they seem more random and not as strong.

The results of the holter monitor test was everything was fine. There were some irregularities but nothing to put me at risk. I was stunned. The night I wore the monitor I had a really strong episode and it went on for some time when I went to bed. I was sure they would find all kinds of evidence of irregularity, perhaps they did but they were not of much consequence.

Last Saturday I had a good day, very few episodes, except when I went to bed and it was mild. Sunday, some episodes, but not too bad. Monday started OK, but Monday afternoon I got into a situation where every time is stood up and walked my chest would flutter, if I sat still it was quiet. Tuesday went fairly well, except Tuesday night I was delivering a lecture and about 8:30 PM away they went and finished the lecture at 9:00 with my heart flopping like a fish. I took my rythmole pill and within ten minutes the PVCs stopped and I drove home OK.

I have been taking a 0.5 MG Xanex at night to help me sleep. It seems to calm me down and while I have some PVC episodes when I lay down they haven't been too strong and I rest well. Today I went to an appointment with a new family doctor. Our old guy retired. The clinic is very slow right now and the doctor spent 45 minutes with me. He is going to see if he can get the holter monitor report and check it out. I was so stunned by the monitor report I forgot to ask how many times an irregularity occurred. We are also going to do a blood panel because I have now lost so much weight and am exercising I want to know if I can get off the Tricor pill I take.

The panel will also check out my electrolytes, mineral levels, and thyroid just to see if there is any imbalance anyplace that could contribute to the PVCs. We are at least making some progress.

I talked to my brother-in-law this afternoon. He has a heart condition and he confirmed that he had PVCs and had very similar episodes as I did. In fact, he and my sister set out for the hospital several times just to have the episode stop while they were on the way.

I know this is long, but this is for me. If someone reads it and stays till the end fine, but I'm venting here.

Anyway, more research on PVCs on the internet has yielded me the information that PVCs are not serious, are benign issues. Yet they are conspicuous and attract your attention so you feel like maybe you are going to die. My brother-in-law has lived with PVCs for years. He now has a pace maker, more to keep his heart going as for anything. He suffered a heart attack that leaves him with a heart that has 60% capacity. The pace maker has a defib attachment and that is why it is in place. However it does also help control the PVCs and his occurrence rate has dropped. It has not quit but it is infrequent, plus he has become some what callused and just goes on.

I was relieved to have that conversation with him, it helps me put things in perspective. I shall still try to limit caffeine if not get rid of it. I will continue to exercise and I will continue to live my life, hopefully one day at a time. I'll try to get the incidence rate down and reduce my stress to also reduce frequency. I do not feel so threatened now, but it is hard to be real accepting.

In the meantime the bowel resection goes well, and I feel good. So there!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Gawd its hot!

I came home today about 5 PM. It was 102, my wife said when she came home at 2 PM the thermometer read 105. Cotton fields that are not irrigated are closing down, and bolls starting to open. The yield in those fields will be lower than in irrigated fields, but they will get some cotton. I've gone by some bean field, soy that is, and the ones that were planted after the wheat was harvested are in bad shape. Small plants, many did not make it, the fields look sparse and thin. One field I went by this afternoon the crew was combining Milo. Milo usually looks like 24 inch plants with the seed head stuck in the air above the plant. These plants didn't look much more than 6 to 8 inches. It is a tough summer here in Northeastern Arkansas. No sign of rain, we've not had rain at our house since July 9.

I drive by ramshackle homes in town. I wonder what it was like before air conditioning. It must've been tough trying to sleep at night with no breeze, heat so stifling that it chokes a person. I can't imagine it.

Is this a cycle, man made or God's punishment. I don't think it is God's punishment, but as to man made or earth cycle, I cannot answer. I know there are those who feel man is consuming resources without concern and effecting our long term outlook. I also understand there are scientists that say there is evidence of wide swings in global weather throughout time. The problem is there is one variable in the equation today that did not have the general global impact that variable has now. MAN! A few open fires warming small groups and furnishing protection from prowling predators certainly cannot be compared to the huge gulping of resources that takes place to day.

One of the most observable patterns in the world is the interaction between predator and food source. Wolves on Isle Royale in Lake Superior have long depended on the Moose population. Good browse, good conditions, more Moose, more wolves. Poorer conditions, Moose starve, Wolves don't bear young to compensate. Mother nature will take care of man, when our consumption of resources becomes so great mother nature will shake her booty and readjust the equation to something more in balance.

We may die off as a species, or suffer losses we can barely comprehend, but mother nature will adjust the equation. You can depend on it. What should we do, I don't give a shit! I probably won't be around when the earth makes its correction, and the suffering mankind will go through before that adjustment will be enormous, and I'll probably miss that too. My kids, kids, kids... may not and I feel sorry for them, but the time is not right for the environmental police to take over. Maybe what we should do is encourage wholesale consumption of resources to hasten the equation adjustment. Hmmm, there's a thought.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

30 Weeks After Surgery

My Dr.s recommendation to take Citrucel daily seems to be paying off. I am not regular, however, the evening seems to be the time for a BM. I still go often, sometimes 5+ times a day. I call it a "little a lot." I have not been experiencing the incomplete feeling much, I have relaxed and instead of trying to push if I feel I have to go more I just relax and let my body handle it. If nothing else comes, I get up and go on about my business. I may be back on the commode in half an hour, but I don't have the extreme discomfort of "hang fires."

I still get pain in the rectal area when I go, and then if I have to urinate soon after a BM it will be painful. Other times it is not. I don't attach any great importance to the pain, I just figure it my body is trying to make sense of things. I have not had an accident in some time now, so I figure that is significant. I have also found out that if I'm traveling or in a meeting I can postpone a BM without an accident. There was a time that when my body said it was time to go you had better get seated quickly. Now it seems to accept a delay.

I still get gas, not regularly and I'm not sure what triggers it, but sometimes I get gas like I feel I might be a balloon whose inlet has been release and flies crazily around the room. Most of the time there is no odor, but if there is odor present I will probably have a BM fairly soon. So I'm learning my body's new paradigm.

If a Dr. said this is as good as you're going to get, I could live with this. I still think it will get better. I recall the lady I met who had a bowel resection and had more serious issues than I and after five years she said she doesn't feel like she had surgery. I hope for that day.

I have another issue, heart arrhythmia that is causing some discomfort. I go to the Cardiologist tomorrow to have a Holter Monitor put on. Nothing serious, but my PVC's are grouping. They were random, but now I seem to get a grouping in the early morning, mid-afternoon, and when I go to bed. That also tends to be the time I take a drug called Rythmol to prevent A-Fib. I don't have enough good data to support a link, but the timing seems to be close. I guess we'll learn about that in the next few days.

As far as the bowel resection, I feel good. My anxiety level is down, however I do find myself quite nostalgic. I wish I were closer to my home area in Michigan, I wish I saw my kids more often. My two sisters are growing older, I don't want them to. I guess before surgery I did not see a horizon in my future, now I do. I can make out the tree line in the distance as the end of my days move in and I do not like it. My wife has become very important to me, our time together precious. It might sound like I'm dwelling on a bleak future, I am not. I have always thought time goes too fast. There is so much to enjoy in this world, I guess I am lamenting the passage of time. I do try to get out of each day as much as I can. I am blessed.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Getting stoked!

Getting stoked when I was young meant you were getting very angry. I am very angry. A bridge collapses in Minneapolis. It is fortunate the way the bridge failed, for had it tipped, or some other failure the loss of life may have been higher. As it is the bridge was built back in the 1960's. It is probably representative of our infrastructure here in the U.S. The large semi's are pounding the pavement to pieces in areas, and while it is being repaired how many of us face the challenge of major road work in our areas.

Here we are spending billions of dollars in Iraq. A country we attacked because our leaders said they were the root of all evil. We should have ignored them, built up our security at home and spent all of that money we spend blowing up sand castles on improving the technology and infrastructure of our home front.

Bush has simply lied to us. I'm a Republican, yet I find Bush untrustworthy surrounded by henchmen that are no better than crooks. It infuriates me to no end. I think term limits need to be strongly supported. My suggestion is limit the term of a Senator to one term, Legislator two terms. It is the biggest bunch of crap these legislative crooks foist on us in stating they need to understand the system before they can make laws. The heck they do, look what its got us. There is an old saying, Keep It Simple, Stupid, Congress and our President are masters at complication. They use it against us. I shall not see it in my day, but I would so much like to see the American public rise up, impose term limits, eliminate the bloated pension plan congressmen receive and eliminate soft money, in fact, eliminate all money except an allotment from the federal funds. Should these term limited congressmen and women be paid well, hell yes! $500,000 per year with a $1,000,000 lump sum settlement at the end of their term. That way we might get qualified people who can afford to give up 4 to 6 years of their career to do some good. Throw the rascals out, by God!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

29 Weeks and some changes are evident

Progress is slow. I think I have pretty much healed physically from the effects of surgery. Mentally I am making progress, I do not have the anxious moments as often. I did run into a couple of days last week but the anxiety I encountered early on in recovery has lessened quite a bit.

I also discovered I am regaining my "confidence." I have pointed out before that losing one's confidence is when you go to pass gas but don't because you aren't sure what is going to happen. I haven't had discharge accidents for some time now. I had spoiled some underwear and had a couple of minor accidents at work, but some time has passed and those episodes seem to have ended.

I do encounter gas problems after eating. Not all of the time but often enough to be agitating. I also encounter the feeling that I have to go, but don't. I am taking Citrucel daily as the surgeon recommended. I'm not sure I have any regularity but most bowel movements seem to occur in the evening now. I still go a little a lot. I spent much of last night going from bed to bathroom all hours of the night. However it was OK. I went right back to sleep and did not have to strain to go.

I have been walking forty minutes a day for the past few days and it does not bother me. So I guess my stamina is increasing. All in all I feel pretty good, I just wish my system control would improve and I didn't go so often.