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.
One week down. It’s been a journey for sure, and not one I would recommend. I joke and say as an experience on Trip Advisor, open heart surgery rates no stars.
After my surgery last Friday I spent 4 nights in ICU. A very humbling experience. I was in bay one for two nights then the isolation room for the next two.
ICU has a series of open bays separated by curtains with a central area for medical and nursing staff where they have a clear view of all, except the isolation room. Sounds like the name for one of those group games where you try and escape, the panic room?
I was placed in the isolation room because one of my surgical team tested positive for covid. No visitors allowed whilst they awaited my pcr results, which seemed very slow for something tagged urgent.
The room was quiet. ICU is a noisy place with an array of monitors bleeping and lots chatter. The room gave me peace. No extra sleep though! Solid sleep evaded me. Getting comfortable a seemingly impossible art.
Once my negative covid test came back my door could be opened, and I took this photo carefully as just to the right is a fully intubated older lady. I watch the staff working on her and caring for her. She can’t move as she is on a ventilator. I realise that the same dedication they are showing her, was given to me just a few days before. I became emotional with gratitude. It is very humbling to watch their care, dedication, professionalism and empathy.
I’ve been quite emotional. Ups and downs. Feeling a bit better, then miserable over anything and everything. I gather that is quite normal for this stage. Cardiac blues.
I am eating again although appetite wanes from day to day. I am drinking heaps in particular coconut water, per my surgeons request ( potassium for the heart). I’ve lost a few kg.
I am walking. I have seen the physiotherapist daily and my exercises have increased. I can now do 5 x 100 m plus walks with a few of those having some stairs.
It is hard work and I huff and puff and have a heart rate far higher than pre surgery for the same exercise. Maybe 35 bpm difference, but that will improve.
I still blow into the ball contraption and can keep up higher for longer. The third ball has started to move a tad.
I have had some sleep the last two nights. Drug induced but at least I’ve slept. I could feel my body relaxing whereas before it was a constant battle.
My temperature has abated after many days and night sweats.
Perhaps my funniest experience (Only funny thing? Not the kind of place you come looking for comedy), was my final night in ICU
I thought I’d try my solo endeavours out . Midnight and I needed to pee. I was attached to the dvt machine that pumps air around your legs. I was also attached to a blood pressure machine and cuff.
I unwrapped the dvt leggings as they were velcros and easier than disconnecting the cables as I cannot use my arm strength. I disconnected the blood pressure cable and removed the cuff. I did my thing.
I came back to bed and all three items had inflated to their max and I could not put them back on. Dang, cuss, curse….what to do? Only option was to press the buzzer and fess up. Yes, I got the lecture I knew was coming and I sat there and nodded….but 🙈😳🤣
Stubborn Sharron was a good sign though that I was on my way back.
In addition to the wonderful medical, nursing, ancillary and support staff including the lovely orderlies and catering staff, I’ve regularly face timed Tony and Hannah, visits from Joshua and Kimberley, messages from two sons in Europe plus heaps of texts and pm’s. Thankyou all.
Covid issues have meant minimal visitations plus when in isolation none. It’s not easy.
Correspondence has taken time and I’m a bit slow as I get tired easily and quickly.
I received a surprise bunch of flowers, card and home made soup from Sam from Bendigo ( a Zwift friend) who had her Hobart based son drop it off (and he had made the soup himself). I was very touched.
Home time is tomorrow. I’ve passed my various tests ( blood, X-ray) and the pharmacist has a pack of drugs ready for me. My iron levels are low and I need to work on them. The word prunes was mentioned 😳
I will not miss the heparin injections into my bruised pin cushion tummy, or the rubber mattress and pillows. I look forward to being in my own home and moving around it, having a warm shower in a warm bathroom.
The home bound trip will take a while. 330 km but to be back home with Tony and Khaleesi will be a delight as I continue on my rehab recovery journey.
Reality check here though readers. My aim in telling my story is to have you avoid what I’m going through. This is the vivid, harsh reality. One can deny it all they like or try and turn a blind eye but….every picture tells a story.
I understand the chest scar may confront some. But this is the way they get into your heart for coronary artery bypass grafts. They cut through your sternum bones, pull the bones all back and do their thing! No escaping it.
Get that check!!
To finish with a brighter photo, this is me 530 am Saturday, Day 8. I think Sharron 2.0 is starting to come back to life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😊
Three wise men have entered my life. Dr B, Dr P and Dr A. I owe them big time!
They have come bearing gifts – they are wise, well trained, professional, caring, empathetic and possess great diagnostic, communication, interventional and surgical skills. Their gifts? Giving me the opportunity to potentially live a lot longer.
So what went down on Friday?
I have written this blog a few times and tackled it in different ways – the outcome is the same. I am getting so many messages asking what happened, so here it is.
Friday was angiogram day – brought forward by a fortnight from the original appointment.
I was nervous – not so much the procedure as I have had a lot of medical ‘stuff’ happen over the years – but more the possible range of outcomes. Fear of the unknown.
There were five ahead of me on the list – and I got to hear the two way conversations between Dr P and each patient as he did his pre angio rounds. I got to hear his post angio findings too. Certainly there is no privacy in the pre theatre room. They all got good results – it all started off with “I’ve got good news…”
The nursing staff in preparing you do an ecg and insert a canula. Waiting, waiting, waiting. I found it hard to concentrate on my book. I tried word puzzles too but again my concentration was poor.
My turn was some 5.5 hours after being admitted, and by then I was extremely thirsty not having had any fluid for nearly 17 hours.
I walked into the theatre and popped myself up onto a very slender, long metal table. It was quite cold in there.
The senior nurse takes over with a series of instructions. Arms by your side – do not move them! Head looking up – do not move it! Do not talk! You can watch the screen but only by moving your eyes! Ok – noted – loud and clear!
Both arms are by your side as one staff members fiddles with the canula and nice, I could feel the midazolam hit my system. That takes the edge off the anxiety. They also injected fentanyl and a bit later contrast dye upon Dr P request.
The right arm is for the cardiologist – liberal use of iodine to cleanse the skin, then I could feel a wet, cold sponge like product. Dr P walks in, all clad in his lead suit (I gather they weigh over 7 kg). He feels my arm and injects local anaesthetic and the sheath and catheter are inserted into the artery on the wrist – and quick as lightening the catheter is checking out the heart.
There are four screens he is watching – two with data, two with images, and there is a very square and boxy xray head swivelling around at various angles taking the images. The xray head at time obscured my vision, and I dare not move my head to look.
The angiogram does not take that long – Dr P tells me he has finished it and that he will do a stress test on my heart – how that works I am not sure, but he is making my heart work out whilst I lay there – and I could feel my heart rate increase.
Dr P disappears for maybe 5 minutes and comes back telling me he wants to show me what he found (eek – this is not in line with the first five patients – I am sure they all want to know too….). He told me that I am one very lucky girl, sitting on a huge ticking time bomb.
He should probably have waited to do that stress test as I reckon my heart rate popped right up there and then. He told me that one day I would have just dropped dead without warning. Very sobering.
I think about the 3 000 km that we have recently cycled in Europe and think about what could have happened as I climbed up some of those 20 000 metres worth of hills and mountains. Thankfully we had a brilliant holiday.
He pointed out the issue on the screen – and it was pretty damn obvious to even my untrained eye.
I have an 80% blockage to the LAD – and it is in an awkward spot at the T junction. It is not possible to stent with a lesion in that particular position. Therefore I need open heart surgery and coronary artery bypass grafts.
The LAD is commonly referred to as the widow maker artery – it supplies blood to the larger, frontal part of the heart and is regarded as the most important artery. Survival from cardiac arrest cause by a LAD blockage outside of a hospital is around 6%.
In the few minutes that Dr P had disappeared from theatre, he had already rung Dr A and shared my imaging with him and jointly decided the surgery will be in the next week or so – when they can coordinate the hospital and other issues including current Covid impacts.
He leaves again- and I burst into tears. The senior nurse hits me around the head with a wet fish (metaphorically speaking!) and I needed it – she told me to invert my thinking (she read one of my earlier blogs?) and to remember what he said – that I am a lucky girl!! Others are not as fortunate and just drop dead. Salient!
Post the angiogram you need to stay in bed for a few hours and the catheter site has a pressurised wrist band that they regularly remove a little bit of air from – as it is an artery it is more prone to opening up and bleeding.
After two hours I was allowed to go to the loo (as they like you to drink 2 litres of water post procedure to flush out your kidneys) and what goes in….
It was whilst I was in the loo that I forgot about that hand and used it to assist me – and when I went to wash my hands saw the blood everywhere.
So the pressure bandage had more air go back into it and I needed to stay a bit longer.
Upon leaving I was met not only by Tony, but my eldest son Joshua, his wife Kimberley and my two darling grand kids. They had travelled up from Hobart for the day to be with Tony, hoping to see me when I left before driving back home again.
If ever I needed a salient reminder about all the good things in life, this was it – as my young granddaughter called out “Granny” and had a few flowers in her hand that she had picked from the hospital gardens.
This is worth living for.
Saturday 23rd July, 2022
Dr A rang me in the morning and had a chat – and arranged to do a Zoom meeting in the evening. Amazing on a Saturday that he is willing to put this time into me.
He tells me not to call him Dr – he is “Ash” – an extraordinarily unpretentious surgeon. I warm to him immediately.
To cut a long story short, I am to have surgery either late this week (Fri), or early the week after (Tue). The final date will be confirmed tomorrow by his assistant.
There are more tests to be done including a doppler on my carotid artery. Dr P and Dr A have said my risk factors are nearly all genetic based, and that there is a corresponding link to blockages in the carotid artery. If they find something, that will be an issue subsequent to the heart surgery for resolution.
He gives sobering data too – like there is a 6% chance of a heart attack during the surgery – but let’s wack that fish around a bit more and invert that – there is a 94% chance that it will be fine! Let’s stick to 94%.
In addition to this week, I will be off work for at least 8 weeks post surgery and not allowed on the bike for 2-3 months (that will be another conversation as I presume he is thinking bike riding on roads – and yes with the sternum repairing I totally understand why). I will be in hospital for maybe 8-9 days (bit longer than I was thinking) but he did counteract that with a “until you are sick of the hospital food”.
He has given me a number of websites to checkout – and one was on You Tube – so I digressed and watched an open heart coronary graft bypass procedure – ooh!!! Not for the squeamish and I certainly hope after they stop my heart that they can kick start it again ok!!!
I am very thankful for the three wise men. Huge thanks to Dr B, the radiologist who after seeing the results contacted Dr P immediately – and rang me that night to talk me through his findings.
Dr P who got me in a month earlier than planned to schedule the next step – and then upon diagnosis contacted Dr A who is getting me in earlier too.
I will be on the rehab road (hopefully) by the date of my first review appointment with Dr P ( originally Aug 5) such is the speed of this journey progress.
Now I need to do my bit and be that couch potato and chill and get ready for the next big hurdle.
I have faced hurdles before. In 1999 I had an undiagnosed (40 hours) ruptured appendix, gangrene and peritonitis – and I got through that after being told another 24 hours and I would have been dead.
This will be big – but I use my father in law as a wonderful example of exemplary recovery. At his first post surgery cardiac rehab session they were all asked to walk two laps of the oval. He very proudly lapped everyone!
I have the right attitude, and I will succeed. Watch me!
It rang – and it was my cardiologist’s rooms – and yes I have been brought forward by a fortnight to this Friday.
Nervous but pleased – let’s get this show on the road!
I just need to keep Covid free and hope that the hospital team do too as Covid has impacted the state’s public hospitals. My angiogram will be in a private hospital but nonetheless, same factors in play if the medical team catch that little dictator of a germ.
This may offend some, but too good not to share – a work colleague Jackie H posted this recently.
A few salient reminders hit home this week re regular medical checkups.
As a teenager I had a close knit group within my athletic group. We had a lot of fun as teenagers and to this day now have a regular chat group and ‘annual’ dinner when we can. One of those friends is today having bypass surgery after a medical incident (no prior warnings), and another is starting chemotherapy in a week or so (cancer can just F off!), then the third is me with unclear cardiac outcomes, and the fourth is off for a medical checkup – taking no chances!.
Time is going by slowly – I have an extra 4 hours a day to do stuff other than cycle. So what do I do? I have started work earlier, I am still working on my jigsaw puzzle, I am upcycling a set of bedside tables that I purchased for one of the spare bedrooms, I have bought heaps of books (some arrived, some still to arrive), answering personal messages received, chatting with family, working on my ancestry family tree (another hobby, over 10,000 direct relatives identified), walking twice a day with Tony and Khaleesi and yesterday we went and watched Tony’s son run in the local Ironman race (25 km?).
I love books and built a library in our home just for them – I do prefer the tactile touch of a book when reading and I’ve not got into e-books.
Suzanne P responded to my last post regarding perception. I have known Suzanne since I was a teenager, attending the same church youth group. It was a wonderful fun group and I have great memories including a play that we did around the song “My boomerang wont come back”, and another time all piled into the back of a panel van driven by our group leader (?) maybe going to a progressive dinner (?).
Suzanne reached out to me to share a beautiful article she had read recently. The following extract is all about perception.
In his book, The Vision and The Vow, Pete Greig tells of how a distinguished art critic was studying an exquisite painting by the Italian Renaissance master Filippino Lippi. He stood in London’s National Gallery gazing at the fifteenth-century depiction of Mary holding the infant Jesus on her lap, with Saints Dominic and Jerome kneeling nearby. But the painting troubled him. There could be no doubting Lippi’s skill, his use of colour or composition, But the proportions of the picture seemed slightly wrong. The hills in the background seemed exaggerated, as if they might topple out of the frame at any minute onto the gallery’s polished floor.
The two kneeling saints looked awkward and uncomfortable.
Art critic Robert Cumming was not the first to criticise Lippi’s work for its poor perspective, but he may well be the last to do so, because at that moment he had a revelation. It suddenly occurred to him that the the problem might be his. The painting had never been intended to come anywhere near a gallery. Lippi’s painting had been commissioned to hang in a place of prayer.
The dignified critic dropped to his knees in the public gallery before the painting. He suddenly saw what generations of art critics had missed.
From his new vantage point, Robert Cumming found himself gazing up at a perfectly proportioned piece. The foreground had moved naturally to the background, while the saints seemed settled – their awkwardness, like the painting itself, having turned to grace.
Mary now looked intently and kindly directly at him as he knelt at her feet between saints Dominic and Jerome.
It was not the perspective of the painting that had been wrong all these years, it was the perspective of people looking at it.
Robert Cumming, on bended knee, found a beauty that Robert Cumming the proud art critic could not. The painting only came alive to those on their knees in prayer. The right perspective was the position of worship for this particular painting.
Salient message there. Try viewing life from alternate perspectives.
Doing my jigsaw I thought about this extract more – as I turned the dark pieces around trying to find just where they fitted – and the fit was not always where you thought it might go either. I spun the jigsaw around.
As my favourite orthopedic surgeon, Dr Gary Fettke stated – he wrote a book (One Man’s Answer) about it – invert your thinking! “Inversion is turning a familiar image upside down and seeing it from a new perspective. The answer is often right in front of us.”
Anyone who rides with me knows for sure one thing I do not like. Kale, I joke is a naughty four lettered word, and I type it as *ale.
With my recent diagnosis, and knowing I have some hospital visits ahead for remediation works, I cannot afford to get covid. Apart from being higher risk, it would bump me from my scheduled date.
Tony is also being proactive in this regard as he is my greatest risk given he is out and about more. To mitigate one impact, we are now getting groceries delivered.
I ordered a range of fruit and vegetables including bokchoy. Coles in their wisdom has determined kale is a substitute for bok choy!!
What the kale? No and never. The best way to cook kale is with coconut oil as it makes it easier to scrape into the bin!
I have made kale chips before but right now I do not need additional oil and salt!
What to do with it…??
The beta blockers are kicking in big time. I put my heart monitor on yesterday for some gentle exercise and was shocked when it said 48! I have fairly low HR but that is the lowest number I’ve ever seen for me!
I purchased a Fitbit watch last night so I can wear it walking. My Garmin arm band is a pain, synched to my mobile. I need my reading glasses to check it whilst I walk. I am sure to trip over something.
The beta blockers are making me tired too and I am glad I have Tony here to walk with me. Only short walks but great for the head. This is our beach yesterday afternoon. Beautiful day. Today is bleak and dull but still nice on the beach.
I’ve pottered around. I have a jigsaw on the go. It’s quite hard actually so will be challenging. I’ve been to Rome, and you can see the Palatine Gardens in the jigsaw. Tony has not been there, so I am adding it to my goal list.
My eldest son Joshua proposed to his now wife Kimberley in the olive grove in the Palatine Gardens.
We headed out for brunch yesterday at our local Berry Patch. Out the back gate, over the railway line, through the scrub. All of maybe 200 metres and we are there.
This was our meal for Tony’s birthday on Thursday night. Wanting to avoid indoor settings, we sat outside, rugged up.
I made sushi for lunch today, and also dehydrated 6 organic Granny Smith apples. I made Greek yoghurt yesterday. Tony takes it to work with fruit.
Finally, I am now thinking that I may have had a pre warning…something I did not recognise at the time.
Hannah and Roey visited a few weeks ago to celebrate my 60 th with me. We went for a bush walk in the Dial Range up Mt Gnomon. It starts with 1 km steep uphill. I found it hard. I stopped numerous times huffing and puffing and told Tony the climb was harder than I remembered. Yes it was a steep hill but I needed a lot more rest than before. I do think that my heart was not getting enough blood now.
So sometimes the clues might be there but we do not recognise them, and put such clues down to other things…like I’m not climbing fit….or my lungs do not like this cooler damp air….or they are younger and faster…when in fact it may have been ….my heart is not getting enough blood pumping around!
Be alert, without being paranoid!
There have been over 2900 views of the first four blogs. Over 1600 for the very first one, Taking life for granted. Incredible support and I think that for many it has hit home the need to be more proactive in understanding their own health.
It’s been an informative few days and I have had so many pm’s asking for an update.
Tuesday afternoon we drove to Launceston to meet the cardiologist who has replaced Dr Z ( whom I consulted back in March and reluctantly signed the CT angiogram form).
The Charles Climic is located in the former Launceston General Hospital, up a hill with minimal parking. The hairdresser in the building seems to have more allocated parking spots.
I feel sorry for the incapacitated trying to get a spot for their car.
Once inside it is all very clinically pleasant. We were not kept waiting long and we met Dr Pal, the man whom I hope is to be my hero.
He has an impeccable educational background at Oxford where he has won lots of awards for a variety of academia and research. He finished his training at Flinders University hospital.
I immediately warm to him as he speaks in a sincere, kind, warm and empathetic manner. He tells me what he needs me to know with simple words, models and sketches. He points out the concerning aspects of the scan.
The three major arteries all have disease. One is severely calcified and stenosis (blockage) one is moderate to severe and the third moderate. Crap crap crap.
They cannot remain like that as I’ll likely suffer a catastrophic event…I always thought catastrophic events were earthquakes, floods, fires but with your heart it means heart attack or cardiac arrest.
Dr Pal explains that the scans are one dimensional and he needs to look inside my arteries via the catheters used in an angiogram.
He explains that the reason I have advanced coronary artery disease and no apparent symptoms is due to the level of my fitness. A less fit person would have had angina pain, but my heart compensated by making stronger heart muscle and learning to do more with less available blood to the heart. I have a higher exercise threshold tolerance.
He said that is why sometimes you hear of fit sports people dropping dead with heart issues. It is only upon autopsy that the underlying conditions are then revealed.
That is scary. So the ‘ordinary’ person with less fitness gets warning signs, but fitter people do not necessarily. Think about that fit people…..
The next steps involve patience on my behalf as I want to get cracking on getting better. Cracking probably not a great choice of word if it ends up open heart surgery.
I am booked in for an angiogram but his first available spot (he operates one day per week in Launceston) is Fri Aug 5th….but….he has put me onto his wait list for the first cancellation. I would likely find out the day before.
It is Thursday now, the phone has not rung…..🥲
Secondly, he has tentatively booked me into his next operating list in Hobart in August at the Hobart Private.
When he does the first angiogram there are three possibilities it seems.
The first is that he can place stents and I can start recovery.
The second is a look and see to check the percent of blockages and then schedule me into his Hobart session where he would drill out the crap from the arteries and then place stents.
The third possibility is a look and see to check the percent of blockages and then refer me to Dr Ash Handikar, cardiac surgeon in Hobart, for open heart surgery (by passes). That could be a 2-4 week wait upon referral as the only cardiac theatre is at the Royal Hobart and more catastrophic cases can bump yours.
I’m nervous about needing wait my turn as I want to live.
I did ask about walking and has said I can a few times per day for 20-30 minutes but my heart rate must stay under 90 bpm.
He has put me on the usual cocktail of drugs. Doubled the statins as I’ve tolerated the lower dose from March. Despite not having high blood pressure or heart rate, a beta blocker to depress both and aspirin to thin the blood. My pharmacist son Luke explained to me why.
In case he gets a cancellation I have already completed the pre angiogram bloods and paperwork for admission into Calvary.
The journey has started and now it is a waiting game.
I am very thankful for all the support I have received. So many messages and athletes asking me about the test as they want to push their doctor to refer them to check.
That is great and my aim to increase awareness for all my fit friends. This disease is so prevalent and hides within the fit. If you have a family history of cardiac disease please start the discussions.
I do feel let down in many ways by my cardiologist of over 10 years as all he ever did was the stress test and ecg. If he looked in the file notes the family history was there, but even he judged me by my fitness.
Empower yourself with knowledge, ask the questions and maybe avoid being in the position I find myself.
Big hugs to Sue M for her regular phone calls. We have reminisced about our fun times together and maybe that’s a blog in itself. She told me she loved me, as did Pauline B. I love them back 💕
I’ve had conversations with each of the kids, and I need their loving support and encouragement.
My rock, that’s Tony and today is his 61st birthday. A quiet night at home as I cannot risk Covid. That could stuff things right up. He is having to be careful as he is the one out and about. We are planning to head over to our Berry Patch and sit outside for a meal on Saturday, rugged up!
The beta blockers do help anxiety. They make you tireder but I’m not sleeping any better. I am practising deep breathing as I lay awake thinking….
With the slow down of metabolism with the beta blockers I’ve reduced food portions as weight gain is common. So many potential side effects.
After being told to get off my bike and not ride, at all, that freaked me. I asked could I walk? They said, ‘if it feels safe’. Seriously, what does that mean? I felt ‘safe’ riding 100 km. I felt safe riding 3000 km ( well except that day on the French National truck highway). Remember I have had zero symptoms. Zero.
Shaun P and Paul the zwifting cardiologist both told me to walk. For your mind if nothing else. This has been reinforced by Sue Mc and Di O, both wonderful nurses.
So twice a day I am now walking with Tony and Khaleesi. Not long walks as Khaleesi needs frequent but shorter works due to her bilateral hip dysplasia diagnosis. Bit slower to not get my heart rate up.
I would usually walk her at lunchtime when working from home, but I’m not currently as she is a very strong dog that I need to exert effort into at times to obey. That I am sure raises my blood pressure, so for now, we all go together with the second walk when Tony gets home from work.
I am getting up at 4.45 am still. All three of us are awake anyhow. We walk early. I am amazed how many wallaby there are in our area grazing in peoples gardens. Khaleesi sees most and her prey or maybe play instinct is strong and Tony has to reign her in.
Back home and I make my new world coffee….cappuccino using almond milk. Ordinarily I would have a double shot black at this hour before I started riding but now I am ‘treating’ myself.
Almond milk is taking some getting used to but I am enjoying it more each day. Thankyou to all the almond farmers who get up early to fastidiously milk their almond herd.
I started working at 6 am yesterday. My managers have been very kind and generous with their flexibility. I have patches of super productivity then I lapse…and need to refocus.
I have multiple grant programs on the go and they all need tweaking and there is a bureaucratic process that must be followed, so nothing happens as quickly as you want. So plenty to occupy me.
I found this at the weekend as I sorted through old files. Very cute. I left it on my little table next to my recliner. Nice to remind myself that my kids love me. I love them so much.
I turned 60 a few weeks back. It was nice to be with Ben as it was his birthday too. We enjoyed brunch together courtesy of my daughter in law Sharon. Then we wandered around Basel, a beautiful city.
I remind myself of the day here as I look at the beautiful present Ben gave me. It makes me remember our wonderful cycling trip as those three mountains are the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau that featured heavily in my posts from Wilderswil.
The knife in front he gave me for Mothers Day, it is a panorama cheese knife with a cut out section in the shape of numerous Swiss peaks, including those three.
It is a goal to get back there I have decided.
I have been overwhelmed by the support in this journey. Many of you have told me stories re yourself or a loved one. A few have told me sad stories too but overall the positive stories are in the majority.
I have been accepted into a support group page for cardiac athletes in rehab and it is truly incredible what many of these are doing and achieving.
My girlfriend Sue has had a few long conversations with me and we have reminisced about our adventures together. Laughed lots. She has made me promise to ring her and I will today.
Pauline B has messaged regularly and made me promise I will stick around.
Di O has given me sage advice along with Shaun P, both experienced nurses.
Then there are literally hundreds of other comments of support on both Facebook, messenger, mobile and my blog page. A huge thankyou.
This is the stats on my web page. Very telling that the support and interest and perhaps curiosity and care factor is high.
The Deputy Secretary of our Department rang me last night. It humanises bureaucracy when you have higher level executives contact you and offer whatever support there is. He said you are part of the family….whatever you need it’s there.
I did one of those silly Facebook quizzes that was on Julie B Facebook page today. This is what it came up with. I know that they are bullshit, as accurate as the horoscope or weather report but still…
But….I am not facing this alone. Many are concerned and worry if it could happen to them too. No symptoms.
I don’t think I have ever been accused of sugar coating anything lol, bluntness and directness is me, and has led to some misunderstanding me. I hate fake people and have a huge bullshit radar. I tend to be very efficient and organised, and that intimidates some but that says more about them too.
Yes and the last line is true. But it tends to take me getting burned a few times as I do forgive and give second chances. I believe in second chances. Third and fourth I start to take the hint and then look after me.
Today is the day I see the cardiologist to find out when the next step happens. I want it to be sooner than later as I cannot avoid it and want to do it before I have a significant event, that would either kill me or leave me with damaged heart muscle. Optimal recovery if I can go into as healthy as I am ( bar the diseased arteries)
Tony did not know what to buy me for my 60th. I’ll admit that deep down I wanted to make something of this 60th as I just had this niggling doubt in me. Based on what? I cannot explain it.
Anyhow I have been flitting around undecided. I was thinking of a ring and been getting prices etc, but I think I have decided on this. Made in Denmark, available in Hobart and it’s named….life.
Since 2018 I have worn a black band I bought at the Vatican. I’ll add this to my strength.
I can’t sleep. I shiver and shake in bed. I get up. It’s only midnight and my body says do a number two…at midnight! Whatever
I get up. I turn the heating up. I wrap a blanket around me. I make a hot cup of T2 peppermint tea.
I read all the lovely messages of hope and encouragement. Others share their stories. Some I’d forgotten about. Others are new stories.
I get a message saying membership declined for a cardiac rehab page. I had not applied so I answer the questions. Declined. Figure it’s because I’ve not been cleared to resume sport.
Sport….that activity that helps me sleep.
Will jigsaws cut it? I get one out but just can’t concentrate. I did most of my jigsaws last year. It sits opened on the dining table.
Tour de France has started but I do need figure sleep out as my body needs it and so must my heart.
I have a good heart in the non physical sense. A life time of volunteering in various ways. Mainly sports related. Currently I am also on a hospital advisory committee. One of two inaugural members still there from over six years ago. I volunteer leads for cyclists each week, around 7 hours worth as lead and/or backup.
I think about my first volunteering. It was with my dad. City of Launceston Lions Club did Meals on Wheels. Helping Dad on his roster was the only thing we really did together. He worked hard six days a week with his business. Sunday was his only day off.
I’d dish out the soup. He used to let me leave a small amount at the bottom of the thermos after all homes visited. That was for me.
I liked that time together.
It was clearly directly and very clearly indicated that my genetic disposition to heart disease was very strong and likely given the direct, close blood relatives who have a significant history.
He said you can control many factors that contribute – such as lifestyle choices (alcohol, smoking, diet, exercise) by what you do, and with the assistance of medications. The one thing you cannot change is genetic disposition. Bummer.
Saturday 5.10 am
Up and awake, still cannot sleep but I did get a few patches here and there. I practised deep breathing in and out. But my heart just seems to be banging hard. I feel like a ticking time bomb.
I’ve finished reading heaps of personal messages and responses to the blog. I’m teary and thankful to those kind people.
I am redoing my will. We had some changes we’ve talked about so typing it up. Might seem negative, but I want these changes in place. In case.
What does a 60 year old cardiac patient look like with minimal sleep under stress? That’s me. Not over weight and pretty fit and healthy most would presume.
My fitness is a facade that fooled specialists for years it seems. Here is a stressed looking Sharron, pre shower. I do not think I look like what many would typify as a standard cardiac patient. My physique fooled doctors.
I went for a walk yesterday afternoon with Tony and Khaleesi dog. Shaun P told me to! A nursing friend from Launceston, he has promised to boss me around. I’m happy for that. This was reinforced by a cardiologist who rang me who,said a walk should be fine.
Through Zwift I know Paul who is a cardiologist at the Royal in Hobart. My good friend Sue M had rung me despite her covid, and arranged it. She said she’d trust him with her life.
Great to talk to him and he explained more to me, and discussed his thoughts as to where the angio should be done. Agreeing with Sue his preference is Hobart and my cardiologist does have a list there (not sure how often). Reason is, Hobart has the only cardio thoracic unit in the state so if something goes amiss, I need be there vs Launceston.
The emergency air transfer service via helicopter struggling currently with one of the retrieval specialists and other staff out with Covid.
He told me if I needed more than three stents then it would be a look and see and no more and scheduled for open heart surgery. That is only done at the Royal. He described it as really nice surgery… the surgeons perspective versus the patient I guess. Normal day at the office for them vs life changing for the patient.
So the walk. Cold day. Only 10 c but clear sky and sunny. It felt good to have fresh sea air…..the heart goes tick, tick, tick….it was high tide so no beach to walk on but Khaleesi likes to sniff around in the rocks and logs. I found some shells for the garden. I filled up an unused doggy poo bag and carry them back.
I’ve tried to answer all the private messages sent to me via email and pm. So many and quite a few with their own cardiac story to tell. Many of the messages are very moving and I’ve shed many tears reading. The support is amazing. Thx kindly to all xxx
It is clear to me that many others have their own misdiagnosed stories. Fitness is a facade for many medical professionals it seems. My cardiologist was so reluctant to request this test and I feel he signed it to more get me out of his office…but I’m glad he did despite his reluctance. I wonder if he saw the results before he finished up on Friday?
We need to take more ownership of our health! Tony and I have decided once I am through this journey and on the road to recovery, he will push for this test.
I will push the issue with our local Federal member as it is ridiculous Medicare will only rebate with exhibited chest pain. I’ve had no symptoms yet the test revealed advanced coronary artery disease.
My daughter Hannah tagged me in this post on Instagram. I’m finishing this blog post with it. It’s 7.13 am, Sunday 3 July, 2022.