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.
I have much more free time now that I am not going out to run as many errands, and not reading news stories or watching television as much as I did pre-pandemic. I find that the less exposure to corona virus reporting and speculation seems to have improved my mental well-being dramatically. The anxiety rapidly disappears when I am no longer exposed to stories that may have no basis in fact and no credibility. (I am waiting for one of TV’s commentators to break the news that the virus is able to penetrate walls, sort of like Casper, the Friendly Ghost.)
You might wonder how I have spent this unexpected free time. I’ve done a bit of on-line shopping, searching for things I can’t easily find in grocery stores. I have also helping crafting entrepreneurs by purchasing homemade masks on Etsy. I was well known during my career for allegedly wearing a different outfit every day (not true!). But I am continuing the fashion icon myth by having a variety of colorful masks, my newest accessory.
As you may recall, I have been in a clinical trial since late December 2019 to test a potential heart failure drug known as omecamtiv mecarbil. The trial that I am involved in is known as Meteoric - HF (Multicenter Exercise Tolerance Evaluation of Omecamtiv Mecarbil Related to Increased Contractility in Heart Failure).
As is true I think with all trials, there have been other phases of the trial.
In this case, probably the most notable was GALACTIC-HF (Global Approach to Lowering Adverse Cardiac Outcomes Through Improving Contractility in Heart Failure). This phase 3 study was to evaluate whether treatment with omecamtiv mecarbil, when added to standard of care, reduces the risk of heart failure events (heart failure hospitalization and other urgent treatment for heart failure) and cardiovascular death in patients with heart failure with a reduced ejection fraction. The patients in this country were either hospitalized at the time of enrollment for a primary reason of heart failure or had a hospitalization or admission to an emergency room for heart failure within one year prior to screening. While I do have a very reduced ejection fraction, I was not otherwise qualified to be in the Galactic clinical trial.
This post is not about the chronic condition of heart failure. But it does address how this country is impacted by the pandemic - something which can cause anxiety which is not good for my hear.t So I've been trying to write about positive things because it helps my heart and quells the anxiety. I recently wrote a devotional for my church that quoted something my Mom always used to say to me when I would worry – Oh, ye of little faith. She was taking this straight from the Gospel of Matthew, when Christ rebuked his Disciples for their lack of faith during a violent storm. My sister appreciated the devotional because it brought our Mom to her mind.
I told my sister that I had again thought about something our Mom used to say a lot, and I wanted to tell her about it. Unfortunately, my Mom's words just slipped out of my brain. The next day in an e-mail my sister asked me if I had remembered my thought about Mom, and I said no. But later on in our e-mails, my sister said she had seen stories about milk being dumped, produce left to rot, eggs destroyed and meat dumped. As she pointed out, food banks would love these things if someone could just get the products to them.
When we first learned that the corona virus was attacking the citizens of the United States, I began to experience dreams each night. Not just one dream each night but a series of dreams – and they always had the same cast of characters. It was almost as though my sleep time each night became a series marathon.
Many times the dreams were populated by people I had not seen for many years, or even people who have left this world. Were they trying to send me a message while I was asleep? I’d like to be able to analyze and comment on most of these dreams. But while I would usually wake up with a start from each dream, the next morning I couldn’t even remember the details.
cenAs you know, I have a pacemaker/defibrillator. It is monitored remotely by a Heart Rhythm Center located about 10 miles from where I live. On Tuesday February 25, my iPhone rang. When I looked on the screen, I saw that it was the number for the Heart Rhythm Center. I usually get a call from the center once a quarter to let me know that a doctor has reviewed the data transmitted by my device, that there are no issues, and that the battery level is still good. But it seemed a bit early for me to be getting this call. Intrigued, I answered the phone.
An employee from the center told me that a doctor had noticed an atrial flutter in the reports. They wanted me to come in for an appointment so they could “interrogate” the device in person. This basically means that a doctor or a physician’s assistant will hold a wand over my heart device, and heart data will appear on their computer screen which they can evaluate in real time.
When the social distancing guidelines went into effect on or about March 16, it was clear that the Christian Holy Week would not be the same this year. Would it be possible to create remote services that could replicate a week filled first with excitement and hosanna, then fellowship and covenant, then betrayal, then cruel death, capped off by a miraculous, forever celebrated resurrection?
In any other year, Palm Sunday means a line of children joyfully walking down the aisle and waving palms. The standard procession was not possible in a virtual celebration. Instead the members waved palms or branches on camera at various points of the service. Additionally, over the last few years, Palm Sunday meant that our choir would sing a cantata. But the corona virus and social distancing hindered the ability to rehearse and develop a musical alternative. But we still were able to celebrate with our worship leader and others online singing glorious hymns signaling Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.
As you may recall, I have been participating in the Meteoric – HF study since late December 2019. All was going well till we hit the pandemic detour in the road. I began to wonder if I would even have my April 3 study appointment. The purpose of the appointment was to track my symptoms if any, to track the impact on my heart failure, and to issue new study medications. It seemed like many appointments in a doctor’s office or hospital were being canceled unless they were for emergencies.
But the week before the appointment, the study coordinator called to tell me that I was still on the schedule to have the appointment, but it would be done at the circle of one of the hospital buildings. They did not want me to be inside the hospital environment. The day before, she confirmed that the appointment was still on to see both her and my study doctor, but it would be a drive-through appointment and I would not get out of my car. I thought: "Well this should be interesting." I also couldn’t resist asking the question: "Can I get french fries with that drive-through appointment?" (Hey – if you can’t keep your humor intact during this pandemic, it seems to me like you’re toast!)
Sorry – I know people are overdosing on corona virus coverage. Alas, this post also takes a cue from the virus. But less as a negative and more as something that could have a lasting positive impact on my life. And no – this post is not based on any scientific evidence. It’s just based on my experience and good old common sense.
In my early morning walks, I have started to notice many things that never came to my attention before. When I go out each morning, it is a very peaceful, time. I usually go out right around 6:30 when it is starting to become light and Arlington is just beginning to wake up. But once I get out to the street, there is some activity going on because I live right across from Whole Foods, and the Amazon HQ site.
I am a person who thrives on routines. Alas, my routine has been thrown off balance because of the restrictions that have been put on our lives in response to the COVID019 outbreak. As a country, we all need to pull together in a united effort to defeat the spread of the virus.
I see that many people are referring to life in the COVID-19 era as the new normal. Why am I saying temporary normal rather than the new normal? Well, because the restrictions are evolving as I type this post and some areas with a higher rate of positive COVID-19 tests have stricter restrictions than the rest of the United States. I am not ruling out the possibility that even more restrictions will be imposed on the area where I live. This hopefully explains why I am calling this the temporary normal because we may have to apply even more flexibility and alter our lives again. But hopefully the temporary normal will not become the new normal for the rest of time.
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.