Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Long Day, But an Improvement

I felt that Monday was pretty much the textbook definition of a crummy day.  I got up early and had a cup of coffee, believing I was off to a good start, but as with any recovery, there are good days and bad days.  It was a very long weekend for me, and I felt every bit of it yesterday morning.

Mamasan came over early, and once we gathered all the stuff I needed to haul with me, we were off to Vanderbilt to get my blood tested again.  Yep, it's good and thin and right where it needs to be, but I'm still having to go to the lab twice a week just to make sure.  But they make it easy on to be a patient down there at Vandy.  The Coumadin clinic isn't nearly the headache that I expected once I got discharged from the hospital.  Even though it's right there in the middle of campus and the clusterf*ck that is the Medical Center, they have a special entrance with free valet parking that's right in front of the elevators.  I get out of my truck, somebody parks it for me, I take a few steps to the elevator, and then it's straight up to the fifth floor. 

The lab is right there, and they have electronic check-in kiosks, and while I might have to sit about ten minutes in the waiting room, as soon as I go into the lab room, the procedure takes no time at all.  I guess that since my blood is so thin, I bleed fast, so two vials don't take very long to fill.  Then I'm on my way--somebody else fetches my truck for me, and I found out after my first visit that the guys in the valet aren't allowed to take tips.  It's all totally complementary for patients.  A nice touch. 

But then, after that little chore was done, I had to go to one of the local walk-in clinics (*not* related to Vanderbilt) in order to establish myself with a local primary-care physician who will be working with me on all of my non-surgery related issues and my general health and overall well-being.  Because of my situation, Vanderbilt referred me to one of the subsidized local city clinics.  Yeah, it was a real eye-opener, going from one of the finest medical facilities in the country to a local walk-in clinic on the other side of the tracks.

I can't complain, because I can go in and see the doctor anytime for just a $20 co-pay, but man, it kinda reminded me of that time I had to spend the afternoon at the Fremont Medical Clinic back when I first moved to Las Vegas.  Definitely a colorful clientele, and the questions they asked on the initial check-in forms were interesting--lots of stuff geared towards the local homeless population.  The worst part of it was that I had to sit there for an hour and a half before somebody could see me, and then I was there for another hour and a half after that.  It was a very long day, especially since I hadn't eaten anything that morning.  (And yeah, I got bitched at by my sister, my mom, *and* the doctor for skipping a meal).  Can't recover if you don't eat.

As much as I didn't enjoy being there, it was actually a pretty good facility and they're gonna be taking good care of me.  I go back in three weeks for a full-on physical and follow-up to my normal care that was started when I was in the hospital.

Bottom line, before I got sick, I was relatively healthy, except for the obvious fact that I was a morbidly obese fat-ass.  My blood pressure was good, my heart was strong, and I didn't have any other medical problems at all.  But because of my weight, I was at risk for all kinds of bad stuff, and believe me, they tested me for EVERYTHING when I was got transferred to Vanderbilt.  It's a teaching hospital, after all, so every department wanted to get their hands on me once it was established that I was gonna make it out of the ICU.

The one thing that worried them was diabetes.  They did that test where they can get your blood sugar history, and although I was never technically over the line for being a textbook diabetic, I was close enough that they had to treat me like one to assure that I'd heal properly.  And even though I don't have it, I still have to test my blood sugar and amend my diet.  And while I don't have to take insulin, I'm on a prescription medication to control my blood sugar. 

After a long talk with the endocrinologist, they said they're gonna treat me like a diabetic until I lose 100 lbs, so I'll be on the medication for awhile. 

That seemed like a tough pill to swallow, pardon the pun, but actually, it hasn't been very hard for me thus far. 

This whole episode was a major wake-up call for me, and I have been fairly zealous about changing the whole lifestyle around.  I don't ever want to feel the way I did that day I went to the hospital--it was the worst experience of my life, so I vowed to myself that I'd do whatever it took to improve my health.  That's one side of the coin.  The other side, the emotional weight of knowing that I was thisclose to never seeing my family again, well, that scared me straight.  I found out that I'm not afraid to die, it was actually quite peaceful for those few minutes in question, but I can't handle saying a premature goodbye to my loved ones. 

So what have I done so far?  First of all, I cut out all Coca Cola and other soft drinks, and anything processed with sugar added.  And I'm eating a whole bunch more raw veggies and lots more fresh fruit.  And I've discovered vegetable chips as a great substitute for potato chips.  Y'all know I was never a 'fry' guy anyways, so that's no problem, and I always preferred whole wheat bread and the like--I haven't eaten white bread in decades, so those were easy fixes for me. 

(Yeah, I know I posted pics from the Loveless this weekend, but here's the thing--My nutritionist told me all the stuff I can and can't have, and even a traditional southern breakfast like that is ok once in a while, especially if I only eat about half of it).  And since Amy and Scottie are pretty much hippies, we've had several vegetarian dinners since I've been here.  Not that they have anything against meat (hell, Scottie smokes chickens and pork damn near every weekend out in the back yard), but Amy is going above and beyond the call of duty while I'm here and is making sure that all the groceries we buy are 'approved' by the folks trying to get me fixed up and back to normal.  So yeah, my habits have completely changed.  (Can't forget the unsalted nuts, either--that's one thing I like, because now, almost everything tastes too salty to me). 

Also, I have to do a lot of walking to get my strength back, plus build up my lung capacity.  I can't lift any weights, so I'm all about doing laps around the yard and cul-de-sac.  Tonight, however, we're going down to the park and I'm going to try to walk some real distance, like maybe a half-mile or more.

But it's paying off in spades.  While I was at the walk-in clinic, I found out that my blood sugar was below 100, and I've lost 28 lbs since I first went to the emergency room a few weeks ago.  Obviously a lot of it was fluid, but then, I can tell I'm making progress in all kinds of little ways.  My face is skinnier, and I absolutely can't keep my pants up when I walk.  I wish I could keep up that pace of weight loss, but I know it'll taper off to a normal rate really soon and I'll probably be disappointed.  But just taking away soft drinks and some of the not-so-good things I normally ate, and changing those to more veggies and a whole lot of turkey, man, it's made a hell of a difference.

Now they want me to keep a daily log of everything I eat and drink (which I've already been doing since I got home), plus my daily blood sugar levels and weight.  That'll keep me motivated, plus I've got lots of people willing to walk with me every day.  Well, the truth is, nobody wants to let me do anything alone, much less walk around outside, so I kinda feel like I'm on house arrest.  But in a good way.

So the bottom line is that I've made many positive changes, and I'm doing well with them.  Aside from the gnawing pain in my chest where they cut me open and cracked my sternum, I'm feeling pretty good most of the time.  The painkillers make me tired, but they don't want me to skip them (I tried that once, too, and got in trouble for it), and so it seems that I doze off a lot when I'm sitting around.  And of course just doing normal things still kinda wears me out--I need to rest after getting dressed, or helping with dinner, or just going out and walking around in the back yard.  Everything is an effort.

But several people have asked me about my recovery and what steps I'm taking, and I appreciate the concern.  So I hope that maybe I've answered some questions.  I know some folks may have thought I've not been taking things seriously by trying to be upbeat and trying to keep my posts on the lighter side, but I think I was doing that so as to keep myself in a positive frame of mind.  And like I've said before, what I write is a small percentage of my actual daily experience, so not everything that happens makes it to the blog--it's just a peek into the window of my life, but I hope that those of you who are concerned for my well being kinda know where I'm coming from nowadays.

Like the long-haired freaky person once said, I'm alive and doing fine!


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