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.
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.
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.