Internal Detours
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
  a visit to the doctor

My doctor's visit went well today. My resting heart rate was 56 beats per minute, and my blood pressure was 102/58. The doctor was visibly impressed to learn that I had cycled 3,860 miles last year, so much so I saw him write the number down on my paperwork. He was pleased, I was pleased, and we both had reason to be.

In early 2004, I had an acute anterior myocardial infarction, which is a fancy way of saying a massive heart attack. Initially, the doctors believed that 35 percent of my heart muscle was dead. I also had 95 percent blockage in the anterior descending artery, and between 40 and 60 percent blockages in a couple of other places. The blockages were in places that stents wouldn't work.

One physician told my wife I would never fully recover. Fortunately, my cardiologist never gave up. I spent a week in the hospital just quietly resting, while medications were pumped into me. The day we evaluated the work stage of my nuclear treadmill, when it showed no improvement at all, was the roughest day. The next evening the rest phase readouts showed the damaged parts of my heart were stunned and would benefit nicely from a decent blood supply, was the high point.

I am told that the surgeon emerged from the operating room with a grin all the way around his head. He decided to go ahead and turn it into a quadruple bypass, and did it as a "beating heart" procedure. The surgery was on Monday; I went home on Friday. My long-suffering, incredibly patient wife got to take care of me over the next couple of weeks.

They don't tell you all the details of what to expect after bypass surgery. My left leg, which had provided veins for three grafts, was swollen to nearly double its normal diameter. It was also an amazing purplish-black color. I got to wear a support stocking for couple of weeks as well until my leg was normal size once more.

Unlike the leg size, the freak nerve damage is still with me. No matter how careful the surgeons were, they were bound to spay a few nerve endings. It's most noticeable on the inside of my left leg, from about mid-calf to just below my ankle. Sometimes it feels like my lower leg has gone to sleep; other times, it feels like someone else's leg. It's not bad, just a little unsettling. I don't notice it any more.

I'll be writing more about how I got from there to here.
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Location: Greenwood, South Carolina, United States
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