Did you wonder what happened to last Thursday’s blog post? Well, it was suspended after five days of hospital gowns, blood tests, alarmed chairs, ultrasounds, doctor rounds and countless interviews. I think I reached to many of you in the last two weeks to let you know that I had been admitted to the hospital for tests to determine if I was a candidate for a heart transplant, a left ventricle assistive device (LVAD), both or neither.
It was an odd time in the hospital. I would go hours without doing much of anything and then all of a sudden, have technicians wheel an ultrasound machine into my room at 11:00 p.m. to conduct a test. You would think that I missed out on a lot of sleep, especially with nocturnal blood draws. But the last few nights I was in the hospital I did get some restful sleep – although not 8 hours worth. Maybe the rest was due to some medication they gave me, but I think it was also due to the fact that I knew my medical health was in good hands. The end result was that last Thursday I was advised that the board at this hospital decided that I have been approved for both a heart transplant and the LVAD. The goal is to go straight to transplant if possible, but the LVAD is out there if we need it.
My theory is that in tough times like we are currently experiencing, you have to keep your humor activated. Otherwise, the Covid chaos will just eat you up.
It isn’t just my theory. I found an article on the Mayo Clinic website entitled “Stress relief from laughter? It's no joke.” The article details short term effects of laughter/humor. One of the short term effects is that it stimulates many organs. Specifically, laughter: “enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.” Hey, my enlarged, under-pumping heart can use all the stimulation it can get, especially in this stressful time!
In the age of Covid, we have all become weary of hearing or reading depressing stories in the news. It’s hard to remain positive and to find joy in life when you are confronted each day with the case and death count. The headlines are so disheartening that I don’t even want to read the details of the stories.
Please don’t misunderstand me. We need to face the fact that this virus is not going away anytime soon and is a real health threat and even a threat to life. We do not need to have this reality sugar-coated for us, nor do we need people to minimize the risks we are facing. But I also think humans are have more motivation to move forward and live in harmony if there is hope in life. Sometimes, but not enough times, I see glimmers of hope in stories in the media. Hope that scientists are discovering therapeutic drugs; hope that there is progress on a vaccine; hope that people are recognizing the need to act selflessly and make sacrifices for the greater good and health of all.
When the Covid shutdown began in March, I did not know if I would ever see a heart doctor or technician in real life again. Other than my brief drive-throughs to pick up my heart study medication, my communications with my heart medical providers were on-line or in e-mails.
But that changed this week when I went in for an echocardiogram. I don’t know how much you know about an echocardiogram, but it’s impossible to do this test on-line. Fortunately for me, the hospital where I go to have this procedure was all set up for visitors and things ran very smoothly.
When you have heart failure, sometimes it feels like you are just running in circles. You find a new heart wrinkle and you adapt your diets and your exercise habits and your coping mechanisms. You think all is working well. Then another heart wrinkle develops and your back to feeling like a dog chasing her tail. Well, once we descended into Covid chaos it seemed like this dog’s tail was winning. I wondered if I would ever gain the lead again.
There was a glimmer of light when the State of Virginia began the process of reopening. At that time, medical and dental offices and other businesses reopened but with lots of precautions in place. I realized that as scary as it was to start going out into public again, I needed to start to catch up on all the necessary appointments and tasks that I had put on hold for four months.
In my post last week on my Covid colonoscopy adventure, I mentioned that I learned something new in the procedure room. The nurse anesthetist and the other nurses were trying to find a magnet for the procedure room. Apparently the one in their room had gone missing in action. I never realized that a magnet was a standard, even sought-after supply in a hospital.
What the nurses told me was that the magnet can disable the defibrillator while they are doing the procedure. If I understand what they were saying, if my heart rhythms started to go a bit off because I was under anesthesia, it might cause my defibrillator to “fire”. Not a good thing – I have been praying for six years that this would never happen. I guess the magnet temporarily disables the defibrillator from firing (medical types – I’m sorry I know I am probably oversimplifying what happens). Someone later asked me if the nurses remembered to check and make sure the device was fully operational after the procedure was over. You know, this is probably the wrong question to ask someone with obsessive compulsive tendencies. I am just going to trust that the nurses restored everything was restored to normal when they were finished with the procedure.
Blog Post Number : Committing to a Covid colonoscopy.
Living in the time of a pandemic has its challenges. But I don’t know – maybe it is the Type A in me, but I apparently did not think it was challenging enough. I decided to enhance the degree of difficulty by going through with a colonoscopy scheduled for the middle of June.
This procedure was scheduled four to five months ago. Then the pandemic happened, and the state shutdown initially included the cessation of outpatient procedures. When the state of Virginia allowed for the resumption of outpatient medical procedures, I wondered if I should go through with the colonoscopy.
When the pandemic came to town, life as we knew it came to a screeching halt. The middle of the month of March 2020 bore some resemblance to the old school yard chant – “No more teachers; no more books; no more teacher’s dirty looks.” Except that instead of saying goodbye to things we desperately sought a vacation from – we were saying goodbye to things we needed to exist or that we craved: No more school camaraderie for children; grocery shopping turned into an extreme sport; no more fitness center or yoga classes; no more haircuts; no more mani-pedis; no more mall shopping spree; no more in-person worship services; and most important for those of us with chronic illness, no more in-person support group meetings.
It was a challenge to do without things we took for granted. People had to become nimble in learning how to adapt and come up with alternative solutions. Parents had to find on-line play dates and other outlets for their children; boxes of hair dye flooded the delivery chain; exercise classes of every description were streaming everywhere; on-line shopping became even more popular; and the use of Zoom for on-line conferences and medical appointments skyrocketed. I think the long-term result will be two things: People will become forever grateful to professionals that heretofore had been taken for granted like schoolteachers, grocery store employees, and health care workers. Telework may become a more acceptable office solution, and on-line conference providers are in demand.
In order to escape the very serious, perhaps deadly consequences of Covid 19, I have been forced to live most of the day like a nun cloistered in a convent. Okay, so it’s a convent with nice furniture, a laptop, tv, music and plenty of food and closets full of clothes. I can’t complain that I’m living a Spartan existence. But I can complain that getting there have been some complications and inconveniences that in times past, I would have addressed by picking up the phone to request service or by driving to a store. In the blink of an eye, the matter would have been resolved.
But in the age of the novel corona virus, it is possible that blinking an eye could create an aerosol transmission of virus germs. Has anyone checked with the CDC, Twitter, Facebook or any other popular source of virus facts, fiction or fantasy? Suffice it to say that at this point in time, I’m hunkering down and avoiding human, animal or extraterrestrial contact to the greatest extent possible. But my life is destined to mirror the oft quoted line of poem by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Roughly translated it is: The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray. Just amend it to say: The best laid plans of Melanie are destined to crash and burn.
I have always found that when it comes to medical matters, the best approach is no panic, no politics, and just the facts. This is exactly what I have come to expect over the years. It is a team approach practiced by all my doctors even though they do not reside in the same practice. It is an approach that I hope this country finds its way to immediately. Because the price – which is too valuable to waste – is your health and your life.
Medical matters, of course, include matters of medicine. When I listen to oral presentations or commercials on drugs – prescription, over the counter or even herbal supplements – I am always focused on hearing what the benefits are and what the side effects are. Because even if the benefit is that you get rid of one condition, if you develop an even more serious condition or God forbid die, well that to me would be an unacceptable risk.
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. Since that time, she has been learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth.