Friday, 23 June 2017

A few reflections on being full of holes



The thing that hit me is called an NSTEMI. I had to look that up and I bet most of you will too. For several months previous to this collision I had been complaining of severe back and gastric pain and fatigue. And I had been convinced that my back was the problem to the point of snarling “It’s my BACK!” at the wonderful NP who was looking after me when he wanted to do heart tests. Duh. The poor guy relented and sent me for a back x-ray and it, surprise, showed a very large aortic aneurism. Had to be fixed! I was sent to the vascular surgery at the Ottawa Hospital and one day, I think, ahead of my pre-op tests the NSTEMI hit me, at home, in the evening and JG said, as he had been saying for a month, “Shall I call an ambulance?” and I finally agreed.

The next while is a blur in my mind but, when I finally was aware again, I found myself in the OHI (Ottawa Heart Institute) scheduled for bypass surgery. Also, I was hooked to oxygen, hooked to two separate bags that had to be rolled around on a pole and was entertained by a succession of smiling nurses and technicians who all wanted to stick a needle into some portion of my anatomy. A hospital is a strange place. The food was terrible. The noise is incredible. I lost a lot of weight and a lot of sleep, but did not lose my mind because of my wonderful daughters who distracted my mind with ideas for bathroom renos and because of their wonderful friends who smuggled in doughnuts and drinkable coffee.

It is disconcerting to go from a person who thinks she is healthy except for her back to a patient in a hospital with two Very Serious problems. These dismal diagnoses made me very angry. At first, I was mostly angry because I was not dead and felt completely lousy. It would, I mused, have been much easier all-round if one of the VS problems had killed me on the spot. However, as my brain came back on line and I got a little more observant, I could see the worry in my daughters’ eyes beyond the cheer and smiles; I could see the panic in my husband. Friends dropped by to visit, some to cheer me up and some because they said they needed to see me. I stuck a notice on line and was overwhelmed by how many people there were who wished me well.

And not just people. The grandkid came in for a visit and left behind, on the white board on the wall a love note from her house’s menagerie. She is fourteen and very funny.
The message cheered me up a lot. Pluto is a fish from the huge salt water tank that is kept (terrifyingly) on their mezzanine floor. Miso is the cat I once hurled across the bedroom. Peanut is the grandkid’s mini hamster that lives in her bedroom. Quejo is a Brazilian tortoise that arrived in Canada in someone’s pocket as an illegal immigrant and is now the size of a large serving bowl. Charmy, the gecko, belongs to a step grandson who left home without him, and ‘and etc.’ which is all the other fish, some of whom have been known to escape the tank. How could I let them down? Miss G looked frightened by my appearance. How could I let her down?
  
It was not easy, but I stopped being angry and started to think. The decision was that I had to do this. I could not let everyone (including myself) down.  Although I was not very enthused about major heart surgery and a life sentence of prescribed exercise and diet, no smoking and a lot of hassle, I could imagine these things and, except for the smoking, live with them. What I did not expect was to be punched full of holes. Even while I was still stowed in a hallway, nurses were coming at me with needles, some of them trailing student nurses and encouraging them to make their first try at establishing a cannula. At 3:00 AM.

The holes? Blood for test taken every morning, fasting, by a lovely woman in a sari whom I started to call the Butterfly Vampire. New cannula positions every couple of days. After the bypass surgery, one massive hole in my chest and four more where veins were extracted from my leg. After the vascular stent four weeks later, two more in the lower abdomen and several in my back from spinal anaesthetic, plus a few others here and there, where drugs were injected.

Other delights included being forbidden to use my arms and upper back for six to eight weeks while my breastbone, which had been sawed in half, knitted back up again. I am now trying to get the muscle back, at a snail’s pace. Restricted fluids, a heart-healthy low-calorie diet, daily weight monitoring and lots of post op tests to check on the surgery results. After I was allowed to go home, this meant trips back to the city, driven by my poor husband. And even the car trips hurt, as the various procedures had wrenched my neck and back and the muscles kept locking up. This last problem made the rehab walking and exercise a lot (not) of fun. I think I was on at least a dozen medications when I left the hospital and I only kept track of them thanks to the ED who numbered all the pill bottles and correlated them to a list and time of day.

I made it through all this. Cranky, depressed, and with a tendency to fall asleep every time I sat down, but improving anyway. I can now drive again and iron clothes and walk for over half an hour at a slow pace. I have weights to lift that JG bought for me and an assortment of wildly-coloured elastic bands to pull. Since it is local strawberry season, I am cheating like mad on my low-calorie diet but managing to do without a lot of salt, to eat plain yogurt and to (mostly) eat my fruit and vegetables. It is a life sentence alright, but it is life. It almost wasn’t.

And I have a lovely renovated bathroom. 


Tuesday, 3 January 2017

A Somewhat Late Year End Post

I Have been out of order quite a bit this fall. Did you know, just in passing, that the name ‘Fall’ for the season of falling leaves has fallen quite out of use in England in favour of ‘Autumn’? I just read that in Bryson’s The Mother Tongue as I am rereading it just now. Although written in the late ‘80s, it is still fun and amazingly current in some spots. Anyway, between various back and knee ailments and a sort of flue-like sickness that keeps hanging on, I seem to have been spending far too much time wrapped in a blanket with a hot pad on the sorest spots and falling asleep for hours sometimes with my face on the keyboard. Annoying

 However, I am now back to being good for about half a day of activity. Christmas was made wonderful by the YD booking us into a Hotel for the two days of the Festivity and both daughters cooking amazing meals. Otherwise everything else around here is way behind. I am lucky to have a fine woman who comes in and cleans biweekly or the Board of Health would long ago have shut me down.

After the dry, dry summer that we had, we expected the leaves to turn brown and flop sadly onto the ground. In fact, though, we had gorgeous colour that lasted well and made driving anywhere a real treat. And as of now we have had enough rain and snow to bring the water level up almost to where it should be, much to the delight of migrant geese, ducks and tundra swans.

We are not so delighted with the snow though, as poor JG has had to clear it three times already, growling, and is now preparing to cope with a two day ice storm. His fall this autumn was a literal one, cracking two ribs, and while he is now mostly healed, things were painful for a while.

So much for the gloomy news. The Hall where I volunteer had a most popular fundraising dinner (and their very reluctant treasurer is still sorting out all the bills in the hopes of making sense of what was spent and what the net will be).

Our Refugee Committee has successfully settled two families and is awaiting its third. The school age kids of the first family that arrived had a successful school year and the family is adapting beautifully. Mother is now confident to zoom around the town all on her own and Father’s English is coming close enough to adequate for him to work full time. He is translating for second family, in fact. The Committee has worked its collective head off and we are apparently a model for other groups to copy. I should add that I am responsible for neither the name nor the logo!

It is fascinating to watch my grandkid turn into a teenager, grow like a weed and despite the growth spurt continue to do well with her gymnastics. Unfortunately she cracked an arm bone just before Christmas, but it is healing well and not getting in her way too much. It is difficult for gymnasts at her age if they grow quickly as their centre of balance changes and they need to revise a lot of techniques. Miss G is coping and has placed on vault at ever meet so far. Awesome.  She is in Grade 8, whatever the French for that is. 






Early last winter the YD and I and a friend had a lovely vacation on an island called Bequia, part of St Vincent and the Grenadines. The house that we rented looked like this 
 and we spent a lot of time lazing and swimming and eating.
The ships in the harbour were beautiful.






Other than that trip, we did not travel this year. JG has been beavering away in the bush (with a chainsaw, not his teeth). Here is one of his projects, now all turned into firewood and stacked by the daughters.


Do you mind if I skip over the American election? Incroyable! It has generated a lot of marvellous cartoons, though.

JG’s poor mother finally managed to die this fall. She was 99 and her last years were not good ones for her, physically or mentally. She is now at rest, thankfully, and we are not slogging back and forth to Fort Erie any more.

We have seen a lot of the YD’s cat and dog. In fact, they are here now for a week’s stay. Callie the cat was her usual grumpy winter self as she cannot understand why her lovely screened porch is not surrounded by leaves and warm breezes but is instead covered with this stupid COLD white stuff. She kept demanding to go out there and almost immediately demanding to come back in and warm up on the dog’s bed. Shammy, on the other hand, loves snow even when it involves Mary wiping her face and picking snowballs out from between her toes after every carouse. Lots of deer to chase, too. The hunters do not seem to have reduced our population of does at all. And we have seen a gorgeous 12 point buck since the close of the season.

After a day and night of snow and freezing rain, Jim is getting into his abominable snowman outfit to go out and start clearing, once he gets the snow shield on the tractor, that is. He bought himself a new auger last year that throws the snow an amazing distance and so I am staying here until he is done working around the house. Next he will be shovelling the roof. Where are the damn reindeer with a plough instead of a sleigh, I ask.

Have a wonderful 2017!