Sunday, May 23, 2004

Well, here I am! It's been a riveting couple of weeks in Schwingland, that's for sure! I've broken my arm, and had a heart attack, all in the last two weeks. Here's the story, all told in chronological order........

I briefly mentioned my little accident - now just over two weeks ago. Brigitte and I were training for the Diabetes Tour de Cure by riding from the Santa Fe Dam down the San Gabriel River bike trail to Long Beach and back. It's a fifty mile round trip. We were doing great! Averaging about 18 MPH, we were already to Cerritos in just about an hour and twenty minutes.

The trail veers under several streets, and as we were about to follow the trail, I hit my brakes a little too hard and didn't give Brigitte time to react. So, she slammed into my bike and as I was flying through the air - in that slow motion fifteen minutes you have when these sorts of things happen to you - I was thinking, "No! Don't put your arm out, you'll break it!" So I tried to tuck it in and roll, but I obviously didn't get it back soon enough. We were pretty shaken up, Brigitte broke the handlebar right off her bike!

The other part of the handlebar was woven into my spokes - it took us nearly five minutes to get them apart. It was inserted in an instant - but it took forever to separate. My back rim was out of true, but it wasn't so bad that I couldn't ride anyway. Brigitte shoved the brake lever into the now open hole in her handlebar and was able to steer that way. We rode another two miles or so to my parent's house and knocked on their door at 8:30 in the morning! Mom was perfect, she reverted to perfect Mom mode, here was her little boy, all banged up from a fall on his little bicycle at her door needing help. She got us ice and we spent a lovely morning chatting. Later, my dad drove us back up to the dam where we loaded our damaged bikes onto the car and drove home.

Monday I made an appointment to see the doc, and it turned out that the elbow was broken. After two and a half hours in the orthopedist's office, he looks at the x-ray and says, "Yep, it's broken." (Could have told him that!) "We used to cast these things, but not any more." So, I get no cast, no splint. No sympathy either. I've been running around for the last two weeks with an elbow brace I bought at Rite-Aid, mostly just to remind myself that the stupid thing would hurt if I used it.

So, all this as prelude to the *real* adventure! Since I couldn't ride my bike for a little while because of my arm, I finally got on my stationary bike this last Tuesday, a little more than a week after the accident. I rode for about 10 minutes and my chest started to feel a little tight, so I got off my bike thinking I was still pretty sore from the accident. I stretched for few minutes and got back on the bike for another 15 minutes - but it never really felt right. The next day, Wednesday, I got back on the bike and in just under 10 minutes I started to feel uncomfortable again. But just then, our morning carpool situation blew up, and I had to take Will to school. (Why I'm taking my almost 18 year old to school is a whole 'nother story. Suffice it to say, "speeding ticket = suspended license")

I felt uncomfortable enough that I called my cardiologist (I'd been seeing him since October when my blood pressure spiked up a bit. Since then, I've lost almost 30 pounds, shaved 50 points off my cholesteral and 30 points off my blood pressure. Not bad! But it has meant a low-carb, low-fat, low sodium, no red meat diet since then. I'd been exercising before and eating a low-fat diet, but I really "cranked it up a notch") and he suggested that I make an appointment to see him. I hadn't been experiencing any other symptoms, the only thing that concerned me was the chest tightening during exertion. I made an appointment for Monday, but I had a backpack trip planned for the weekend, so I had that in the back of my mind.

That evening, I stayed late at work, not leaving until almost 10 PM. No problems on the drive home, but after parking the car in the garage, as I was walking up the stairs to the house, I started feeling those darned chest pains again. I walked into the house and said, "I don't feel well. I think I should go to the emergency room." Jenny and I got in the car and started to drive to Verdugo Hills Hospital. About half way there, I started to burp a little and the pain subsided. Since I had only had broccoli and fat free Ranch Dressing for dinner that night, I thought that maybe that was it. (Wouldn't that completely suck if the last meal I had was broccoli? If you're gonna go out, it should have been with lobster or something - not broccoli!) Knowing that if I went to the hospital with chest pains that they would be keeping me there for a while, I decided to go back home. I was going to call the cardiologist and get an appointment the next day, not waiting until Monday.

I went to bed about 11:00 PM and just twenty minutes later, I was back up with chest pains again. Only this time, I had all the classic symptoms. My left arm started to go numb, and I was very nauseous. I went outside to throw up while waiting for Jenny to get ready. My legs are rubbery and I'm dizzy. We got in the car and started to drive down the street. Now, Volvo SUV's have very wide doors. It's just about impossible to stick your head *all* the way out the window. So there I am, barfing half in, half out the car. Sorry about the car. We make it down to the emergency room and I bang on the window all the way in, until I get to the counter and tell them I'm having heart attack.

A lot of people have asked me, "What does a heart attack feel like?" First, you should know that the five signs of a heart attack in your Boy Scout Handbook are all true. And they all suck. I always thought that the chest pains would be centered on my heart. But they were much higher than that - about halfway between my heart and my neck. That's one reason I thought my pains the day before were from being out of whack due to the accident, not from a heart problem. Boy do they hurt, too. I didn't feel a lot of pressure or tightness, but I did feel pain. The other symptoms - nausea, weakness, sweating, dizziness and arm numbness or pain are pretty much the way you would expect.

The nurses swooped in and took me into the emergency room and started to work. It took them forever - forever! - to get around to giving me any pain medication. They kept apologizing, "We have to punch in all this information into the computer before it will spit out the morphine. Blame the FDA, not us." Frankly, I don't care. Get a baseball bat and get me drugs!! Finally they get the morphine, but I'm in such pain it takes over 15 minutes before I feel any effects at all. The doctor is doing great until he tells Jenny, "We're trying to rule out a blown aorta - you know, like John Ritter." That didn't go over real well. They start sending me around for various tests - at this point I don't remember them much. Jenny goes out to the waiting room and calls our friend Teri, who is a nurse and has worked in emergency rooms herself. She was up anyway, so she came down and sat with Jenny.

At this point, we see our friends John and Paula - John is complaining of acid reflux, but it turns out that he's having a heart attack too. He's still in the hospital, we're hoping and praying for all good things for him.

They decide to transport me to Glendale Adventist, because they have a 24 hour Cath Lab. That's where they do the angioplasty stuff. They load me in to the ambulance, Jenny and Teri follow. The ambulance driver gets lost on the two minute ride between hospitals! The guy in the back keeps apologizing, telling me his regular partner is out and this guy is new and doesn't know the area. I'm not rude, but not real sympathetic at this point.

They finally get there, and wheel me in. The ambulance guy tells me that I'm only the third guy he's ever seen who went directly in the to Cath Lab. I think he was trying to make me feel impressed with my importance or something. I'm thinking, "What?! I'm only the third guy who is so bad that they wheel me straight in???" They set me up on the table - all I remember is that the room was very white - and start preparing me for the procedure. The doctor starts shaving me so he can insert the catheter thing in my artery near my groin. The nurse starts pulling off the various patches and other hookups they put on my at Verdugo. She just *rips* one patch off with no warning and I flinch pretty hard. At this point I realize that the doctor still has a razor near my groin. Catheter, or castration? Which is it going to be? I really appreciate the fervor with which these people do their job, but I wish they talked a little more to each other as they did it.

The whole procedure took about a half an hour - the difference in the pictures from before the stent was put in to after is only 16 minutes. As they wheel me out of the Cath Lab, I yell out to Jenny and Teri, who were in a waiting room, "Come on girls! Party in my room!"

They look at each other and say, "He's back!"

More on recovery later - my arm is getting tired. Glad to be back.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I've been pretty quiet for a while now, I was riding my bike a week ago and crashed - breaking my elbow! Slows down the typing, dontchaknow! But, seeing this in the news just got me all hot to blog!

Bush Backdrop Turns Sour (

"When President Bush visited a Timken Co. ball-bearing plant in Canton, Ohio, a year ago, he told workers that their optimism about the future of their company inspired his optimism about the future of the economy.
Last week, Timken announced that the folks right there in that room are getting fired. Timken, the world's largest industrial bearings maker, whose chairman is a major donor and fundraiser for the Republican Party, plans to shut down three factories in Canton and eliminate 1,300 jobs."

With the Dow and the Nasdaq down, the war in Iraq going badly and Bush's approval rating at an all time low, all we need is for Kerry not to completely screw it up.........

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

This is what I saw today on my way to work:

It was fun having my camera so handy!