Well, last week it finally rolled around. Yep, for the first time in a long, long time, I set out on the open road and drove east to see my 92-year-old mom in Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie. My last journey to see her was March of 2020, just as the craziness of the COVID mess was getting into gear. And so much in my life happened during that period of time.
To begin, the night after Easter of 2020, I was admitted to the hospital with what I discovered was A-Fib (irregular heartbeat) and knew that I was treading awfully closer to the inevitable aortic heart valve replacement I’d known was in my future. But I really didn’t think that “future” was so close!
Although I was better following a two-day stay in the hospital, I still was not as I should be. My ankles still were swollen and my heart was still in an irregular pattern and always seemed to be working in overdrive, something that is very disconcerting and uncomfortable. Any form of physical exertion sent me into fears that I was going to drop dead, right then and there!
Thus, I tried to avoid walking any sort of distance, which made attending the grandsons’ baseball games a near impossibility most of the time. I returned to the hospital in May for a scheduled cardioversion procedure that was designed to shock my heart back into normal sinus rhythm. For whatever reason, that didn’t seem to hold, in fact, I knew as soon as I tried to sleep back home that night that I was still in A-fib. Talk about being worried and depressed! But I rode things out as best as I could. . .hoping things would miraculously improve without any further attention.
My birthday came and went in June, and I was treated to one of those “drive-by” celebrations as I sat in our driveway. I appreciated everyone’s efforts in making it happen, but I would have loved to have felt better and relish turning 70 the “old fashioned” way. But restrictions, fears, and health issues wouldn’t allow for that.
As the summer rolled along, we managed to get to most of those baseball games, even though I struggled to walk more than fifty yards without feeling on the verge of collapse. I recall one early-June game where I could barely walk the very short distance from the parking lot to the field.
I suppose that since we couldn’t travel or do much of anything else, other than to stay home through those summer months, what came about in August seemed to fit into the grand scheme of things. Leading up to that time in 2020, I had visited my cardiologist to see exactly what my heart status was and to try and figure out what I needed to get done ASAP.
I underwent an angiogram shortly afterwards. In mid-July, most of one morning and afternoon was spent at the Heart Valve Clinic at the hospital where I was treated to an echocardiogram, EKG, CT scan, carotid artery test, X-Ray, etc.
At this point, it was pretty clear that valve replacement had become necessary, so these tests were to determine which type I would undergo: TAVR (Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement) or SAVR (Surgical Aortic Valve Replacement). Of course, I was hoping for the less-invasive TAVR. But that was not to be, mainly because of a discrepancy in valve size that would not work for me. As such, I had to go the open-heart replacement route (SAVR).
And that’s what came about on Monday, August 17, 2020. Fortunately, I had no need of bypass surgery or stents or anything else other than a new valve needed! But I wasn’t looking forward at all to being opened up and put on a heart machine!
After I was prepped and wheeled into the operating room, I don’t remember anything until coming out of anesthesia sometime later that evening and having the greatest thirst I ever recall! I recognized my wife first and then slowly came out of my fog with tubes and wires coming from so many place on my body. I was to experience the best care one could ever hope for, and those nurses will be forever in my debt!
As I soon learned, the open-heart surgery had gone well, but I would need a pacemaker implanted soon, as my heart rate became dangerously low over the next couple of days in the critical care ward. That took place on Thursday, August 20.
I was able to go home on August 23 to begin my recovery. And though everything was strange and uncomfortable for a long time, I had a good “nurse,” my wife, who supported me and encouraged me all the way. I really couldn’t have bounced back so quickly without her help.
On September 21, I began cardiac rehab three mornings a week back at the hospital, and that helped me begin to really turn things around in my life. I wore a heart monitor for each session, but I had slipped back into A-fib and had another cardioversion scheduled for October, this time with the electrophysiologist who had implanted my pacemaker. Unlike the first one, this procedure worked, and with a change in some medications, it has made all the difference in remaining in a regular rhythm.
After I “graduated’ from cardiac rehab, I was ready for the next phase, which was a program called Jump Start Your Heart right there at the hospital’s Health & Wellness Center. Of course, I could go anywhere else that I wanted to, as I had completed everything at the hospital, but after the free three-session tryout there, I was hooked and promptly joined with a discounted membership.
We live about a half-hour’s drive to the Health & Wellness, yet I look forward to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week as I get out of bed at 6 a.m. and leave the house at 7 and make the drive there for my 8:00 exercise class. It’s a program that has made all the difference, and I do, indeed, get out walkin’! I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Until next time…