When I first came home, I couldn’t ride my bikes. When I was strong enough to walk, I could at least tinker with them. And as it turned out, I had a good project - a blue and gold Mercian Colorado racing frame had surfaced a while earlier on the iBOB list for the princely sum of $50. So it was stripped of all its Campy Super Record parts and it had a dent in the top tube - it was exactly, precisely my size.
It turns out I'd bought a team-issue bike built in 1982. Unfortunately, my attempts at repairing the top tube dent had mixed results. Instead of one big dent, there were now two smaller ones. I decided I could live with that until I got around to having it repainted, if I ever did, and the project moved to the back burner. The frameset had been sitting on a shelf for months when I had the heart attack.
One of the decisions Ana and I made was that I needed to have a bike set up on a trainer for winter use. There would be no more off-seasons for me. The Mercian got picked to be the trainer bike. I started scouting around online for a cheap set of parts. Building the bike up on the cheap became a quiet little obsession for me.
First I found a damaged 32-spoke front wheel. The rim was trashed, but the Shimano 105 hub was in very good condition, and the spokes appeared to be good. It just so happened I had an almost identical rim kicking around in my parts stash, a grey Wolber with a splash of yellow paint. The paint was the reason it had been given to me by a bike shop manager clearing out old stock. It laced up beautifully. The front wheel, a used set of down tube shifters, and a new-old-stock Shimano 600 headset were as far as I got before the cardiac event.
I was still barely hobbling along when the iBOB list provided the next chunk of bike parts. Someone offered a complete set of Shimano Exage road parts for $15 and shipping. Then I bought a rear wheel that almost matched the front for $20 from a local rider who was upgrading his wife's bike. The creeping upgrades came along - first a set of old Shimano Sante calipers, then a used RX100 crankset.
The old Mercian became a mad-scientist bike. I flirted with a 650B conversion, then built it back up as a light bike with 700C wheels. I commuted on it a few times, but I figured it would make a good trainer bike, whenever I got around to buying a trainer.
Then one day a little more than a year after the surgery, I decided to ride it on a club ride, and old Stripe moved from beater to candidate for hot rodding. The battered old bike just WENT. It wasn't a refined bike like my Rivendell - it was a thug that wanted to go fast, and it pulled me down the road. For the rest of the rainy summer, it was my bike of choice.
Over the next few months, I plan on acquiring a full kit of Campagnolo parts, having the dent fixed and getting a new paint job in its original livery. Hopefully, I'll be strong enough to really make the old bike get up and go about the time I finish bringing it back to its full glory.
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.