This will be kind of a different post for me in that I won’t be talking about DFIR or hunting. As many of you know I’ve had kind of a challenging year both physically and mentally so I want to reflect on some of the things I’ve experienced, learned and overcame during the course of 2017.
In April of 2017 I was sitting at my desk, working, when I began having horrible pains in my chest, down the arteries in my neck as well as my arm. I told my wife to call 911 because I thought I was having a heart attack. When the EMT’s arrived my pain had already subsided, but they went ahead and took me to the hospital where I spent the next several hours waiting for tests to be ran and results to come back. The end result was that they didn’t find any signs of a heart attack, but they admitted me so that they could perform additional tests. The following day I had a stress test which also came back normal. With nothing to go on, the doctors sent me home without a definitive answer as to what had happened. I should have probably pushed harder for an answer, but I think I was just relieved that they didn't find anything serious.
Over the next few days those same pains would come back. I couldn’t associate them with any specific activity or food that I ate, they would just appear and literally put me on the floor a couple of times. I refused to go back to the hospital for them to keep me overnight and eventually tell me that nothing was wrong, but agreed to my wife’s pleading that I call the cardiologist. My cardiologist scheduled me for a heart catheterization, which I had a few days later. The results of that test was a little more bleak, in that they had identified multiple blockages with no option for stents. The pain was attributed to unstable angina and that I needed to have bypass surgery. When I asked why the stress test didn’t find anything I was told that the test tries to identify anomalous blood flow in different portions of the heart. All of the blood flow in my heart was abnormal, so it looked normal on the test. Anomaly detection failed to find what it should have… that’s just crazy!!!
The following morning I was taken in for surgery, which lasted several hours. I remember saying goodby to my wife and being wheeled into the operating room. The next thing I remember was waking up the following day on a breathing machine (not a good feeling) with other tubes and wires going in and out of my chest and abdomen. I eventually spent the next week in the hospital. The first night that I was conscious I was scared to fall asleep because I didn’t think I was going to wake up. I wound up staying awake that entire night. Watching the machines that I was connected to. Watching the nurses walk by. Listening to the sounds of a hospital. It was a long night and I thought a lot about my family. I thought about how, given the chance, things would be different and vowed to make some changes in my life.
Over the next few days I was able to become a little more active and even more so every day that went by. When I was released from the hospital I was able to stand up from a chair and walk a few hundred feet on my own. After I returned home, every day I kept pushing myself physically. I would have my wife take me to the local shopping mall so I could walk. I was a mall walker and probably the slowest one at that, but that was ok. At least was able to get out and start to take control of the things that I was able to. Other things that I needed to take control of were the main contributors to my situation. Smoking, diet and weight.
I felt that if I continued to exercise I would only have to start eating better to get my weight under control. Better diet to me meant cutting out sodium as much as possible and limiting saturated fat intake. This was all a good start and definitely something that I needed to do, but I wasn’t losing the weight that I thought I should be. I then began to count calories and really focus on portion control. This is when the weight really started to come off, but it also had me feeling hungry all of the time. I guess nobody ever said that it was going to be easy and I actually thought that quitting smoking was easier than changing and limiting my diet. But as the pounds started to come off, my motivation to keep going grew stronger. In the long run it was well worth the effort.
Healing seemed slow and very painful. I needed help trying to sit up after laying down or trying to pick up anything with more than a few pounds of weight. I knew that it would take time and that I would eventually get over it, but that feeling of being helpless was very frustrating. There were also side effects of being on the heart lung machine that I don’t think I will every recover from. One being my eyesight which has dramatically changed, another being my ability to concentrate over longer periods of time, and another being forgetfulness, but that’s ok because it’s much better than the alternative.
It's been several months now since my surgery. I’ve lost all of the weight that I needed to or feel like I should have. I continue eating healthy which has the side effect of my family eating much healthier. I spend an hour on cardio as well as lift weights 6 days a week. I feel so much better than I have in a very very long time. This journey has taught me so much about myself and the things that are truly important. For me these things are:
- My health
- My family
- My friends
I’ve also learned that It’s never too late to take control of those things that are holding you back or adversely affecting your life. A little focus, persistence and patience can go a long way when you are trying to reach a goal!
2017 is a year that I am glad is over. I do look forward to 2018 and the things that this year will bring (I just hope they are non life changing 😃)