As I have discussed in past blogs, patients with heart failure or other serious heart issues might do well to avoid a lot of drinking. Sure, I know that there is a theory out there that consumption of wine is good for the heart. But I think if you read a little about the studies that support the theory, the people they are talking about who can engage in the “moderate” consumption of wine are generally in good health. My good health hit a speed bump and crashed about 7 years ago.
That means in my case, while I can have alcohol, it is never at the moderate level of wine or alcohol consumption. First, I’m just not a wine connoisseur. It is not my drink of choice, regardless of the health claims I have read about red wine for about 30 years. I do like liquor, but I have learned that especially with heart failure, I need to avoid having alcohol become more than a once in a while thing. Or maybe having a drink each night on the cruise, but then returning to just drinks on special occasions when I get home. I can’t speak for other heart failure patients, but this works for me. and my doctors.
I know you are wondering what the Grinch has to do with heart failure. If you stick with me, I’ll make my case! By way of background (a phrase lawyers love to use!), I have now been on Milrinone since July 23rd of this year. What does Milrinone do for the heart? The definition I found for Milrinone on many websites, to include the drugs.com website, is this:
My heart failure doctor and a heart transplant coordinator have told me that Milrinone acts as a whip to keep the heart pumping. They have stressed many times that milrinone does not cure heart failure. It just keeps the heart going while another method of treatment is pending.
It seems to me when we confront a crisis in our life, it helps to think back on our life like a novel. We look at the chapters and we see patterns and themes we never noticed before. As we recall these chapters, we come to appreciate the treasures in our lives that we often take for granted. We pledge to write additional chapters revealing new treasures.
It may be things that are parents said to us or did that when we were teenagers sounded or seemed lame, but now resonate like the wisdom of Solomon. It may be things that occurred in our life that at the time seem like a coincidence, but now we realize were blessings God created just as we faced adversity, or as we needed strength to overcome a challenge that had blocked our path forward.
Finding out that you have been placed on the heart transplant waiting list is a major life change. It injects a great deal of uncertainty in your life because you never know when you are going to get the call that a heart is available. In my experience, the anticipation is always more intimidating than the actual event.
When it comes to a transplant, you are not only dealing with anticipating the surgery itself and how you will feel during your recovery. You are also anticipating what it will be like when you get the call. Even though I have already packed a bag and set aside an outfit to wear, I suspect chaos will descend upon me as I quickly get dressed, arrange for transportation to the hospital and grab my bag and purse.
I have been thinking about how my life changed with the onset of Covid and my milrinone treatments. I think I am turning into several cartoon characters from my youth. I thought I would share with you some humorous takes on how my life now resembles Looney and other tunes.
The first time I felt like I was on a Saturday morning cartoon show was when I began to wear a mask every time I left my condo unit. I had an assortment of disposable and cloth masks. It didn’t seem to matter which type of mask I wore. The mask would begin to creep up into my eyes and obscure my vision. It wasn’t long before I was my one of my favorite cartoon characters – Mr. Magoo!
Believe it or not, after a month I am still tracking down friends I worked with over the years to update them on my condition. Even though I have not seen or heard from some of these people for five years or more, I knew they would be interested.
Sometimes, the last e-mail addresses I had for them went were no longer valid. I have found LinkedIn to be a valuable source to find old friends. I used LinkedIn to locate a former colleague, friend, and boss I worked for circa 2010. He got back to me within 15 minutes. While he knew I had retired because of a heart issue, like most of my friends he did not know that my heart had entered the danger zone and would require a transplant. His first comment was about how much I had been through recently. He noted my positive attitude and then said something that appealed to my spiritual needs.
If you are a Tom Petty fan, you are familiar with a song that he wrote that seems applicable to my current point in life. It’s called, “The Waiting is the Hardest Part.” One iteration of the chorus says:
The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you get one more yard
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part.
In countless blog posts I have complained about all the arcane rules related to living with heart failure, but after being briefed on the aftermath of a heart transplant, I realize that I was in the minor leagues. It was good training for someone who would eventually get a heart transplant. Once I get a new heart, I will graduate from the minor leagues to the major leagues in terms of and need to adjust to an even more structured life.
All I can say is that it is a good thing that all my personality tests show that I thrive on rules and regulations. Discipline and routine are my nicknames. People sometimes make fun of how rule oriented I can be, but it looks like I will have the last laugh. This is because discipline will become my best friend, and the thing that will keep me alive and well and laughing for a long time to come.
In last week’s blog post, I explained that I now have an accessory known as a PICC line inserted into my arm. With the help of the Mayo clinic, I explained that a PICC line is also known as a peripherally inserted catheter (also known as a long thin tube). It is inserted through a vein in my right arm and passed through the larger vein into my heart. The PICC line infuses the drug Milrinone to my heart.
I have to admit that over the years when I was searching for just that right accessory to complement my outfits, a PICC line was never high on the list – or even on the list. I reluctantly added it to the list of acceptable adornments because without it, I would probably be chained to a hospital bed until a new heart was available. This is because the Milrinone, while not a long-term cure, is keeping me up and about and in an exercise mode so I can be at peak strength when a heart becomes available. So maybe I should think of it as fitness equipment and not a fashion accessory?
When I went in for my cardiac catheterization on July 22, I knew that there was a good possibility I could be admitted to the hospital. I knew that an admission would mean that my heart had really tanked, and that the doctors needed to evaluate me for some aggressive interventions – like a heart transplant and/or a left ventricle assistive device (LVAD). I also knew that the doctor would want to experiment with a drug called milrinone.
This had not come as a complete surprise. I had known for a number of years that a heart transplant might be in my future and I had read about transplants and LVADs for quite a while. Accordingly, I was not freaking out when the doctor mentioned on July 22 that a possible outcome of the cardiac cath would be to evaluate me for a transplant. But reading up on transplants does not begin to do justice to what will have to happen to get a person on the waiting list. The process of everything I went through in that five days really brought home how serious this intervention would be – plus what a miracle it would be. It is a good thing that I did not realize the full ramifications on the night before the cardiac cath because sleep would probably have been impossible. Lord knows I needed my rest for the process that was about to unfold and the decisions I would have to make.
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.