Drawing strength – week 2

I have been home a week now. Nice to be home and thankful for the support some neighbours have given Tony given I cannot cook and pretty useless with my arms not able to be weight bearing.

Soup, quiche and banana cake have been greatly appreciated as it take some pressure off Tony who has now had 4 weeks off work supporting me. Tony helps me dress, undress and put on the dvt socks and is doing all the housework and laundering etc.

My day starts off around 4.30 am ish as I wake in pain (broad chest pain from the sternotomy) and I plod out of bed to my recliner in the lounge and snuggle under blankets.

I am walking twice a day, strictly per the guidelines provided. Today was 2 x 13 minutes. I am being strict as I have been warned as to the consequences of getting ahead of yourself. There are no heroes here with rehab.

I have a morning and afternoon nap in my recliner. One of my morning tablets causes drowsiness and I’m hoping it’s not a long term one as it foggies my brain.

I have received beautiful flowers during the week including Pauline and Craig and Craig and Ellie.

23 work colleagues got together and provided a goodies basket including a plant, candle, chocolates, face creams, and other carefully chosen products. It was a lovely treat to arrive home to.

The biggest surprise came from an anonymous parcel with a card addressed to the mink. You can read the message below. Lisa is a fellow Aussie endurance rider and we’ve not met but I was very touched.

Day 11 I set up a Zwift support group for cardiac patients named Heartz. 30 or so members already and I am thinking more and more about the Tasmanian group Heals and how I would like to be an advocate for cardiac athletes. Not sure what that could look like but it follows a conversation with my surgeon.

Ash came to see me last Saturday and I want to leave you with two photos. Ash asked me if he could take a selfie with me. Of course!

He then sent me the photo to my mobile with the following words. I will forever treasure the photo and words, from the man who literally is the only one to have ever touched my heart. He stopped my heart for around an hour and he restarted it. I’m in awe and forever thankful for his surgical skills and human niceness.

I intend to frame the photo with the words, as a motivational reminder when I need it.

Start me up

Short and sweet.

The motor turned over and the story continues.

Lots of wires and drainage tubes removed. Think I lose more today.

Zwifters… I’d rather eat a bucket of kale and do radio tower intervals. Bucket!

The zipper club not one I’d line up to join, but here I am.

The anaesthetist zwifts. The guy in charge of the heart lung bypass machine zwifts. Nurse Aaron has found me on strava. Great to have like minded people around. Katja ( the anaesthetist) wants to join me on Zwift for my very first ride. 😊

I was taken to theatre around 12 noon Friday, and the two anaesthetists knocked me out within minutes. No time to get overawed.

Next thing I’m vaguely conscious as they bring me out and being given instructions as I’m still intubated. That was not pleasant and they ask you to give thumbs up. I let it rain thumbs! Finally the tubes that had been doing my breathing are removed. Relief..

Once extubated they tell me it’s just after 8 am Saturday. Wow.

My chest feels like I’ve had a run in with a Mack truck.

My left arm where they harvested an artery. The other artery was mammary, so my chest.

Dr Ash did this drawing for me showing his handy work. He’s a life saver and I told him my next cycle tour I’m dedicating to him.

I’ve been out of bed on day one and two. Yesterday I did a little walk with a walker. I get dizzy and nauseous.

Not interested in food yet. No appetite and I poke around with my banana. Dr Ash wants me to eat two bananas, one avocado and coconut water to help my potassium levels.

The nursing and medical staff here in icu are brilliant and very caring.

Only issue today is that the assistant surgeon has tested positive for covid so now I’m in isolation from others. Results due back today.

I have X-rays taken a few times a day to check lungs. Bloods regularly. I do have a bit of a temperature and they are doing cultures. I am told I’m doing well although if I’m honest, I feel like shit.

Sleep is evading me. 10 minutes here and there. Painkillers are oral now and I take whatever is offered, plus something to sleep.

New exercise is this contraption. I can get two balls up.

They are hoping to release me from icu today and send me to the surgical ward.

Tony is heading home today for a few days. Visiting hours are limited to 30 min and we can face time instead.

Thanks for your love, support and encouragement . Tony and Joshua have received in excess of 600 messages, comments and likes.


Friday on my mind

Beautiful bear and card Sienna, my granddaughter gave me. Granny bear is watching over me. I will treasure the bear forever.

I am now in hospital in Hobart, having been admitted early afternoon (Thursday)

I have had additional radiology tests. I had a chest X-ray and a carotid artery doppler. The sonographer asked what I was doing there as he said I was too young and the wrong build for coronary artery disease. ‘Genetics’ I said.

The good news is that he told me my carotid arteries are as good as the day I was born. Big relief.

The anaesthetist is a lovely lady, Dr B. The conversation started by her asking me questions about Zwift and she obviously knew a bit about me. I asked how she knew these things, and her response was very honest…”I googled you”. We both had a good laugh and I felt very relaxed with her.

She spelled out in considerable detail her role and the amount of cables and tubes I will have inserted or attached to my body. Mind boggling.

I will be taken to theatre one hour before surgery at around noon. It takes an hour to prepare me with all those cables and lines and anaesthetise me. The cardio thoracic surgeon walks in at 1 pm…ish.

Usa cycling friend Jeff sent me this today. He faces his own journey this week as well.

Dr Ash will work on harvesting my donor vessels first (mammary and arm currently planned), then he accesses my heart (cutting through the sternum and clamping it back), stops my heart (they use potassium), places me on the bypass machine to keep me alive, graft the new vessels, restart my heart (hopefully the warm blood does the trick, otherwise they have jumper leads), wire my sternum, stitch me up and send me to ICU.

Dr B loves her job, and she loves the cardiac team she works with. She reminded me that they do these surgeries nearly every day and it is bread and butter for them. Most traumatic day of my life is their bread and butter.

Then starts the recovery road and rehabilitation. Day 1 of Part 2 of the rest of my life. Mink 2.0.

My kiwi friend Andrew, skiing in Queenstown 14 weeks after his cardiac arrest and bypass. He was my motivation in pushing my tests. I’m playing it forward.

I am a lucky girl. They found it despite being asymptomatic. I know there will be challenges, good and bad days, but I have faith in my personal tenacity and resilience.

Finishing off with a beautiful message from my granddaughter, shared with her parents blessing. Enjoy 😊

The Shane Warne effect

Shane (Warnie) was a legend in Australia – a true Aussie legend. A brilliant cricketer, strategic, incisive and sometimes controversial. I did not agree with all of his public statements or his lifestyle choices- but – that was his opinion – his truth – his perceptions – his life!

I grew up watching cricket. The television was often on during the summer holidays with predominantly Test matches in those days (late 70’s to early 80’s).

As a teenager I remember heading to the NTCA ground on my own and watching the English team play in Launceston. I got the autographs of greats such as Ian Botham, Derek Randall, Geoff Boycott, David Gower – a star studded team.

I would wake up around 3 am to watch the final session of Ashes when being played in England on a little black and white portable tv perched on a stool in my bedroom.

I had my small portable transistor radio tucked away in my blazer pocket during the final few hours of the Centenary Test in 1977 – in my English class. What a match and result. My cricketing heroes back then were Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. I loved hearing the chant of the crowd when they bowled.

In 2005, I recall a trip I took with my then 14 year old son Luke to Melbourne. It was a mother/son trip. We were watching a one day match at Etihad stadium – Australia vs the World XI . Warnie was not playing, but he just happened to be within metres of where we were sitting, fiddling with his mobile phone.

There was a glass screen between where he was and where we were. An attractive female stood on our side of the screen with her mobile, making it look like she was texting (Warnie for the sake of the photo I presume). She had a friend standing maybe 5 metres back taking a photo of her, with Warnie in the backdrop also texting – hence suggesting that perhaps they were texting each other.

I felt really sorry for Warnie and viewed him in a different way thereafter – it was not that long after all the furor regarding his mobile phone and women. How easily perceptions can be distorted! Two totally different stories playing out – but ‘perceptions’ can vary depending upon whom is looking, with explicit and unconscious bias playing their part when one ultimately viewed the resulting photograph.

Tony told me of a story this week that was shared to him by Dave, a work colleague. It concerns a former member of the Victorian Labor Party – someone I have never heard of, Philip Dalidakis.

Following the sudden and untimely death of Warnie, he arranged to get a cardio check up, the result of which was an unclear scan, subsequently resulting in an angiogram.

During the angiogram it was revealed that he had a severely blocked artery that could have easily brought on a stroke or other catastrophic heart failure.

They found a 95% blocked artery – this guy had ZERO symptoms.

Quote: “I only got checked because of Warnie”.

Now I am certainly no Warnie – but I continue to be overwhelmed by the personal support and messages as I have shared my own, very personal and emotional journey. I’ve been hit for six – and right now I am scoring a few singles where I can.

I acknowledge that I have a profile higher than some others courtesy of Zwift and the 200,000 km I have ridden resulting in me being a Trek Ambassador. I have over 11,000 followers (Zwift, social media, strava etc – notwithstanding there would be numerous duplicates within that data).

I have always tried to use that following responsibly, and overwhelmingly, most agree that I do. I wear my heart of my sleeve for sure, and I know that a few have found my forthrightness and openness unpalatable and unacceptable. I am but human and have many quirks and foibles and scars. For that I apologise. The first two posts were highly emotionally charged given my highly distressed state at that time and in hindsight, if I was more stable, would have tackled them differently. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I will continue to use my profile to raise awareness of issues and right now to encourage you to get your checkups (heart health, mammograms, prostate, bowel, blood screenings and so on).

I am me. The sum of my life experiences. I am proud of me and what I have achieved.

A very sweet 8 year old girl made my day earlier this week. Evie is the grand daughter of a neighbour and is wise beyond her years. Her hand written note speaks volumes.

Stay yourself….wise words by Evie, aged 8
Yes that is a kale plant……what a conundrum, now I need to care for it. They do have a pretty flower I will admit. What a lovely drawing Evie did too.

Many readers of my blogs are also facebook friends, noting that is where most commentary happens following the release of a new blog. The chat following the last post re *ale was truly hilarious – 87 comments on that post when I last checked, and the best laughs I have had for a few weeks. Thanks for making me laugh!

I have had many people share with me their journeys, fears, genetic background and that they have already made/will be making those medical appointments. TICK!!

Thanks again for your support,

Hugs xxx

Shane changed for no one – be like Warnie! As Evie says – stay yourself!