Aside from being run down by a mad woman in a Volkswagen (Baha Bug) when I was sixteen, I have never spent so much time staring at my right foot. Back then is a long story for another time, but my foot had been caught between the bumper and some cinder blocks, just as I was jumping over them. I kept going, but I left some of the top of my foot behind.
For the most part, my foot healed within a couple of years, and I enjoyed many years free of any pain. As I stare at my foot right now, other than my immediate concerns that it is quite swollen, it concerns me that unlike my teen-ankle, “rest” does not necessarily equal any change for the better. Swelling of extremities seems to be a regular part of this experience called “heart failure”: Puffy. It looks like I have an impression from a tight sock on my calf, but I have not been wearing any. The color is slightly purple. These things stand out when I put my feet together, and I can see how “normal” my left foot appears.
Please forgive me if I sound like I am complaining, or if somehow any seeming lack of focus on the positive in life is offensive, but I am having an experience, here. It is a scary one. Two of the three times that my heart stopped, I was not even aware that anything was happening. Each time I thought I was just waking up from sleep, they were trying to save my life.
The one time of the three that I do remember, I felt extraordinarily light-headed, then it was if I was flying backwards and into darkness/sleep. For whatever reason that time, my heart started itself back up, and I regained consciousness just before I was about to go out. I asked the nurse, “What just happened to me?” She was answering my question when someone called her attention to the fact that my blacking out was due to missed beats.
Final. Over. Complete. Instant. In a heart beat.
There is an element of safety that is absent, these days. Sure, there is value in thinking positive thoughts, but I am haunted at the moment by awareness that consciousness is not even guaranteed to me long enough to cross a street without passing out. As far as I know, the battery they buried in my chest is the primary thing keeping that from happening.
My fingers feel fat as I type. Odd as it is to say it, the need to piss a lot the last couple of hours has been reassuring. Having to piss means I am getting rid of extra water. This is a good thing. Yet it seems I am damned if I do/don’t with this. I cannot exercise it away, I cannot rest it away, and I cannot medicate it away. At least not in the short term. Certainly exercise is beneficial in the long run, but other than feeling lousy to begin with, going for a walk just gets gravity pulling on my hands and feet all the more.
And now at risk of sounding really whiny, amid the sensations of retaining water, there is still the numbness and tingling from when my neck was broken. It affects both arms and hands. Knowing which sensation is due to nerve damage versus circulatory issues is difficult. The symptoms of heart failure started during physical therapy after the spinal fusion procedure that saved my life, almost two years ago (exactly two years in only eight more days).
In what seems to be a blessing and a curse, all seems well when I look in the mirror. If I did not tell people what was going on, they would not know. Fifty is headed my way in a little over a year, and I am finally seeing the signs of aging, but for the most part, I have retained youthful qualities that bely anything I am feeling on the inside.
Okay. A bit of the positive…
I got over the hurdle of knowing whether or not I could push myself by going for a long walk in to town, last week. There are few places in this county that are flat, so the trek involved lots of hills. I did it. It wiped me out for a few days, but I did it. Now it is just a matter of adjusting the distance. Anyhow, I know now that I can get my heart rate up, and break a big sweat, without collapsing, on the spot (so far… tbc, right?).
That is a dirty word. I did not think I was so fond of salt and sugar until cutting back on them. It has been challenging. There are a few temptations that I could not resist (mainly sugar). However, I am doing pretty good with the reduced sodium part.
Not eating processed foods/eating fresh ingredients instead has been a priority. Legumes are frequently on the list, because they are affordable, and I can cook them in bulk so that I have salt-free protein, whenever I need it. Instead of tomato sauce, I just use fresh tomatoes – the common sense stuff, really.
One slice of pizza is one slice too much, so some things just have to stay gone, for good. The late-night cravings require some work. Even if it is a fairly healthy snack, it is still too many calories.
Returning to what might be considered a life is something I wish to do. People have been through far worse than I have, and not only bounced back, but beyond where they had been.
Yesterday I was a strong buck, but today I am a cautious chihuahua (that sounds corny, and it made me giggle … my need for silliness is intact).
Thanks for listening.
One day at a time. Tomorrow is another day. Hush, sweet Charlotte. …Wait … what is that last one doing in here?