Archives For Health

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.

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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?).

“Diet”

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.

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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?

Proof Of My  Walk: The Hills Are Alive With Redbuds

Proof Of My Walk: The Hills Are Alive With Redbuds

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Right now I am two days shy of the heart attack being four weeks behind me. While I knew I was in trouble when I kept coding/blacking out, and after rquiring so many procedures within a short amount of time, I was still in denial about the gravity of my situation. Just minutes before being discharged I was informed, “Your diagnosis is congestive heart failure” (CHF). Whatever denial I had left was shattered. The words landed hard, and in anticipation of this, the nurse tried to play it off by saying that it was a big sounding name that implied my condition is worse than it is. – Not true.

No amount of sugar-coating the diagnosis would have made me forget the intensity of the experience: having a long needle shoved in my groin for 20+ hours, the placement of a stent, having a pacemaker installed, having it fail, and finally being ripped open in the same spot twice within hours in order to correct a broken wire. Even so, there was something about being told my diagnosis that seemed worse than what I had experienced, which was that I kept bouncing back. However, the diagnosis sounded fatal/permanent.

My entire left anterior descending artery is fried. I saw this myself while I was having the stent placed, and again for my first follow-up appointment with my surgeon/cardiologist. It is a given that more invasive procedures will be required. Exactly what and when are mysteries, but it makes sense to me that if they need to do a bypass, the sooner, the better.

It may sound like overstating the obvious, but having my heart stop several times (“coding”) and losing consciousness almost instantly has shifted my outlook on life, my attitude, and my peace at mind.

Working on my attitude and making dietary changes are things that are within my control. After the six-week marker, I can push myself and start getting some exercise to strengthen my heart, and shed a few pounds. I am looking forward to this, because I tend to shed weight quickly when I walk every day.

What challenges me today is looking at the scar. It is deep, ugly, and far from healed. And since it is from the pacemaker, they will have to open it back up again. It is just a matter of time. If I need open-heart surgery, I have no idea where they may cut.

Another big challenge brought itself to my attention right after I drifted off to sleep last night. I am not sure how long I was out. It could have been instant, and it did not seem I had been in a deep sleep. I woke up in a panic, feeling like I had just fallen back into my body – it’s like falling downward until I get to my body, then it feels like an upward fall. Weird.

The scary part was that I had the feeling that my heart had stopped, and I lost consciousness. Considering each time this happened in the past it took other people/interventions to snap me out of it, it is unlikely that my heart stopped in this case. Most likely I had a nightmare about it. Of course, it made my heart race, so it took a moment to calm myself.

When the human heart stops, the brain goes into sleep mode. As I noted elsewhere, it is like being asleep, without remembering the point at which I drifted off. So now I have this imprint of death in my psyche as being like drifting off to sleep. How much is trauma from the condition itself and/or trauma from the invasive procedures, I do not know. Most likely, it is a combination of both. My concern is that it made the thought of going back to sleep quite uncomfortable, as I lay there wondering if I died in my sleep, I could be living what might be my last moments.

This is a sword with a double-edge, for sure. On the one hand, I feel more at peace with being dead, because being unconscious seemed peaceful. My brain activity had not stopped, but at least I know if such a thing happens again, I will not be awake to experience it. On the other hand, associating sleep with dying is not fun.

The dietary changes are difficult, but not insurmountable. I have eliminated all canned goods at this point, and as much of any other processed foods as possible. The main thing I was told to avoid is sodium, and even with products that have small amounts per serving, it does not take long to reach daily maximums. Items promoted as low in fat and calories often have ridiculous amounts of sodium in them. I am also avoiding foods that are high in fat and cholesterol.

To my regret, I was told to reduce my sodium intake, nearly ten years ago. Since I was able to get my blood pressure stabilized, I told myself that I was part of the 2/3 of the population where this did not apply. While it seems I was destined to have heart problems sooner than later, the problem with the sodium is not just blood pressure – it is the retention of water/stress on the heart and kidneys that takes its toll.

All of this to say that CHF is a mind-fuck, and I am going to have to learn how to adjust to it. There are the practical adjustments, like afore mentioned dietary changes, then there are the deeper, sub-conscious challenges of the psyche.

1. Diet

2. Exercise

3. Mental Health

4. More surgery?

Ugh! More surgery does not sound like a good way to adjust, but if my artery is shot, having in repaired, if possible, will feel better. Knowing I have done all I can do is a better place to be in than knowing that more needs to be done.

Cheers!

tbc …  ?

Related: Scars, Immortality, Religion And Hospital Case Management

Cardiac arrest

The Journey / The Quest 1: What Happens To Brain Activity When The Heart Stops? A Personal Take

The first time I lost consciousness was when they placed the stent in my LAD, shortly after I was flown to the hospital, following a delay of about 70 minutes (February 21, 2014). It seemed like I had just drifted off to sleep. I woke up to what I thought was annoying pounding on my chest, when it was CPR. For 20+ hours after the procedure I remained flat in bed, with my right leg immobilized by the catheter in my groin. Inside were the wires of a temporary pacemaker.

The second time I passed out was shortly after they removed the temporary pacemaker. They pulled it out of the catheter like fishing line. This time it felt like a massive, frightening head rush, and I went in and out of it, like a wave. Apparently my heart missed quite a few beats. It was enough to prompt them to put in a permanent pacemaker.

The third time I was out cold, for 45 seconds. It seemed like sleep, and I have no memory of the moment when it came over me. They printed out the data from the heart monitor, indicating I had flatlined, despite the pacemaker (later to be determined to have a faulty wire, but I did not know that until the following day, after a second “install”):

flat·line
ˈflatˌlīn/
verb

informal
past tense: flatlined; past participle: flatlined
  1. 1.
    (of a person) die.
  2. 2.
    fail to increase; remain static.
    “their share of the vote has flatlined at about 3%”

They snapped me awake by yelling my name; the startle restarted my heart. They also yelled at me to spit out the food in my mouth, as I was in the middle of eating lunch when I lost it.

In just under a minute my room was full of professionals. In addition to at least three of the nurses on the floor, there was an amazingly GQ heart technician, who steered the foot of my bed on the way back to ICU. I remember thinking that if I was going to die, I was surrounded by some really cool people, and I got to stare at a gorgeous being on my way out.

Another person in the room when I came to was “Supervisor Troy.” He and the others escorted me to my second stay in ICU: Supervisor Troy, me Troy, and other assorted heroes. When we entered my assigned room, they realized that my nurse for the night was also named Troy. On the way into the room, Sup. Troy said, “Oh, no. It’s a trifecta”! Someone out of my vision said, “It’s a Troy-fecta”! It’s funny now, but at the time I was in shock, and near tears, as I had no idea what was happening, or if it would stop. I knew they had to rip open the wound in my chest to fix the unknown problem, and I was not looking forward to it.

How long does brain activity last after cardiac arrest?

The common medical understanding is that cardiac arrest victims become unconscious within 20 seconds of the loss of blood flow (heart stops). That’s not quite the same thing as losing “all brain activity.” It just means the brain is incapable of keeping you awake.

All brain activity is thought to be over by about 3-4 minutes from the moment the heart stops, which is one reason why we want to start CPR as quickly as possible. Full Article Here

When this happened I was fortunate to have been in the “heart wing” of a renowned hospital that specializes in cardiac care, and I was treated immediately by the heart surgeon and the team at the “Catheter Lab”. Within that context, it seems I had plenty of time to spare without suffering any brain damage.

In this case my blacking out was a consequence of a faulty wire in the pacemaker that they installed after the second time my heart stopped. I spent the night in ICU, and they corrected the problem. I was transfered back to the heart wing the following morning, and was discharged two days later. I felt like the “Ajax Lady” in Cheech and Chong. Her antics after mistakenly snorting ajax at a party are classic, as is Chong’s statement to the police: “Can’t you see she’s been through a lot in a short amount of time?”

Presently, my surgeon stated that he has concerns about the pacemaker doing further damage to my heart. The 70 minutes it took for the helicopter to get me there was not helpful, but I forgot to ask him to clarify exactly how so. I had been distracted by the images from my angiogram that showed my entire LAD is shot, including the valve, and that I am at high risk for future clogs in that artery.

The next step is checking in with the pacemaker nurse, and my surgeon, next month. The bandage has not fallen off of the sutures, but it is starting to itch. It is still quite tender. It is weird to feel something like an MP3 player, sewn into my chest. It seems this may be just a beginning.

Next entry? I have been pondering writing a post about diet changes:”How To Gain And Lose 5 Pounds In 12 Hours With Fiber” …

Cheers!

Just before the police arrive –

Club flatliners journey quest

While I was not really supposed to be out and about last night, I could not resist the urge to stop by the warming center where I had been working, up until the heart attack. They closed this morning at 8:00 AM, for the year. It has been an incredible experience. I will share some of it, later, provided I can do so in an ethical manner. I was greeting with a wall of love: hugs, kisses, tears, and a home made get well card. People who had left a day early to seek shelter came by just to see me. From my FB post:

The incredible compassion, love, respect, care and concern shown to me tonight by the guests of the warming center was a truly awesome experience. They are moving forward with their lives. Some decided to stay the night in a motel, instead. In between hugs and kisses, “L” called her friends who had left early, to come down and see me. *** I mean, who cares if nobody shows up for my funeral, when so many show up when I am so alive? – After I left, I got a sweet mocha-chocolate tincture, courtesy of mother nature. She also gave me some tea to work on my body at a more systemic level. — straight to me heart. Life is good. I am loved, and being celebrated while I am here. Peace

Anyhow, after leaving there, I was taken to a wonderful new place, where Mother Nature blessed me with her bounty. Straight to my heart and my nerves.

This song was playing in the background, and it seemed quite relevant. More later (hey, I am supposed to be in bed for my “recovery”) … I like this, better. I am getting plenty of rest, and since the death of Donna Summer, it is a great feeling when I can find a song that makes me forget where I am, or speaks to where I am… if even for a moment.

Cheers!

I wrote a letter to you

I almost sent it today
Sometimes it really gets through
Hold on, yeah
For a break

‘Cause it’s midnight on the run
Yeah, yeah, midnight on the run

The comet stares you right in the eye
Sunrise is so far away
My ride on the train has begun
Stow away in a boxcar of guns

‘Cause it’s midnight on the run
Yeah it’s midnight on the run
Yeah, yeah, midnight on the run
Yeah it’s midnight on the run

Love is a hell-hound on the loose
Better put ’em on, your dancing shoes
Yeah he’s coming down after you
Better put ’em on, your dancing shoes
Out in the street the whole night through
So he put ’em on, his dancing shoes
Yeah he’s coming down after you
Better put ’em on, your dancing shoes

Love is a hell-hound on the loose
Better put ’em on, your dancing shoes
Yeah he’s coming down after you
Better put ’em on, your dancing shoes
Out in the street the whole night through
Better put ’em on, your dancing shoes
Yeah he’s coming down after you
Better put ’em on, your dancing shoes

Love is a hell-hound on the loose
Better put ’em on, your dancing shoes
Yeah he’s coming down after you
Better put ’em on, your dancing shoes
Out in the street the whole night through
So he put ’em on, his dancing shoes
Yeah he’s coming down after you
Better put ’em on, your dancing shoes

Synchromysticism is a portmanteau of the words “synchronicity” and “mysticism.”  A Synchronicity  is a coincidence with meaning which is usually far less likely to occur naturally than typical coincidences. An observance of synchronicity is often coupled with a recent moment of personal enlightenment or great insight. A shift in consciousness of perceived reality will usually determine ones ability to see an increased number of synchronicities.

The synchromystic world-view is that every-Thing in the universe is connected. All symbols have multiple layers of information, histories, and interpretations. Given enough time and information, eventually all symbols, themes and ideas will be found to contain information about all the others so that each piece of the puzzle becomes holographic in nature; meaning that by focusing on one idea, all others can potentially be expressed. If one is familiar with the Eastern philosophic idea that “all is One,” then synchromysticism allows a person to prove it for themselves through active involvement with synchronicity not only in the media saturated world around them, but also in their personal lives. Synchromysticism can be used to decode meaning in situations where that meaning may not have been implied or even originally intended. It has also been used by some in an attempt to foresee future events.

Quotes on Synchromysticism

lunapic_136329836230135_2

The Impetus

My first venture in to what I experienced at the time as the great-unknown of the blogosphere came about after waking up one morning with most of my right arm paralyzed, due to a broken neck. The lack of any seeming reason for my neck breaking, and the time I was afforded during a lengthy recovery, provided me with the inspiration to begin several blogs.

Exactly one week ago to the day, after having just re-entered the work force only a few months prior, both my world, and my worldview, were shaken to the core, once again: I had a nasty heart attack. I have a history of working with people who find themselves in life-challenging, and/or life-threatening situations, so I was able to identify what was happening, fairly quickly. Despite efforts by the paramedics to assure me that I was not having a heart attack, I knew better.

One of the things the paramedics said to me was that if I was really having a heart attack, I would know, because I would be on a helicopter, being flown to a hospital for treatment. I was asked a lot of questions about my anxiety levels, and, just as when my neck was broken, and my arm had atrophied to the point of it being visible through layers of clothing, I was told to calm down. Still dizzy from the pain, when they asked me if I really wanted to have someone take a look at things at the hospital, I said, “Yes”.

Within the hour, the local hospital informed me that the data was indeed indicating that I was having a heart attack, and that the REACH helicopter was on its way to fly me to a hospital that specialized in heart care. Shortly after, my heart stopped while they were putting in a stent, during an angioplasty procedure. I woke to my surgeon doing chest compressions on me. After the temporary pacemaker they put in was taken out, the next day, I lost consciousness again, as once more, my heart stopped long enough for me to lose consciousness.

They decided to put in a permanent pacemaker, and the painful procedure was completed, within a short amount of time. Not long after, on the same, day, my heart stopped, again. I did not breathe for 45 seconds. I woke to a team of concerned medical professionals, and instinctively continued to chew the food that I was eating before my heart stopped. A nurse yelled, “Spit it out”! By this point, I was fully conscious, and I knew instantly things were not right. It turned out that the pacemaker was defective. An important lead wire was broken, and it had failed to deliver the life-saving shock to my heart, at the moment when it needed it the most.

The Intent

As noted, I have other blogs. However, it is my intention with this blog to focus more on my personal experience, as well as incorporate my broader range of interests in one place. It may have been short, but technically, I just died three times this last week. Surely, I have more to offer, before death is permanent.

Background:

The following is taken from the “about” section of one of my other blogs, Social Work Unplugged. Feel free to stop by that site, but please know that my intention with this blog is to lean more toward the personal, while attempting to nurture my kinder, gentler qualities. No doubt, I am who I am, and trying to hide the less pleasant aspects of my character would just bring them out in dark ways, so I do not seek to repress parts of my self.

Just look at us. Everything is backwards, everything is upside down. Doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, psychiatrists destroy minds, scientists destroy truth, major media destroys information, religions destroy spirituality and governments destroy freedom.
― Michael Ellner

While the name implies looking at the field of social work from an “unplugged from The Matrix perspective, everything is connected. The field of social work certainly is rife with areas to be explored from an awakened point of view, but to attempt to make this the sole focus does not work and my own awakening process has been far too intense to keep out the personal.

As such, there is both an unplugged point of view that can be taken in regard to social work and the universe at large, as well as my own point of view as someone who worked as a “professional” social worker with an emerging, “awakened” perspective.

After growing up with social services as a part of my early years, I developed both a desire to get in to the field of social work and to do it by treating people with as much dignity as possible.

While I feel I was able to do this to the best of my ability with my clients, after more than two decades it became increasingly difficult to maintain a sunny disposition with my coworkers,  supervisors and the incredibly flawed systems that were providing our salaries.

My first and perhaps most profound experience was at the age of eighteen, when I began working for a residential program for eighteen adults living with a range of disabilities from Down Syndrome and autism to “mental health” issues. Most of them had just been exited from State Hospitals. I learned that regardless of the approach, I had a knack for the work. I was able to run programs that the writer was unable to execute and I was promoted to management when I was twenty.

After four years, I moved to another area. After moving around in miserable retail positions, I was able to get a job with a residential home for adults living with autism. I did this for the six-and-a-half years that it took for me to get my AA in Liberal Arts and my BA in Psychology.

While obtaining my Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW), I enjoyed a variety of both paid and volunteer positions assisting adults living with developmental disabilities to obtain community employment, as well as provided case management services to people who were homeless and living with mental health issues. The greatest challenge during this time was working as a Substance Abuse Counselor.

Throughout the years I have worked also as a certified nursing assistant, as well as helped out in the family business with a care home for the elderly, while working as an investigator for Adult Protective Services.

There was a time when I was extremely proud of these accomplishments. While I am not ashamed of them, I am surprised by my lack of awareness at the time in regard to how I had been programmed myself to provide services that would assist with programming others.

I did my best within systems that have failure built in to their mission statements, but there are some nights when I cannot sleep – when the faces of those who crossed my path – however long – remind of shortcomings.

After my last job as a case manager for low-income individuals living with HIV and Hep C, I could not stand the assault to my soul any longer. I walked off of my job.

Due to a serious physical injury I have been afforded the luxury of time to reflect on my life and my passions. This blog is both my attempt to continue to effect positive change in the world and to heal: knowledge IS power and I hope to shed light on some areas of concern for vulnerable populations.

I appreciate your company and I look forward to sharing the journey.

Interestingly, when I came home from the hospital, I discovered that February is “Hear Awareness” month. I will start with posts about signs and symptoms of a heart attack, and go forward from there (is there anywhere else one can go, but forward?). I will use this blog to outline my personal experiences, and journal my progress, as well as explore any/all areas of my life, and the world.

Thanks for stopping by, and being a witness to my evolution, and the evolution of this blog, while going through your own.

Troy M. Burnett, MSW

February 28, 2014