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Eclipse Watching

The lack of posting is because I was away on vacation. We decided to go camping along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had previously done this trip back in my 20s, but called it quits at Asheville. This time I endeavored to go to the true summit of Mount Mitchell, and finish the entire length through western North Carolina. Brief stop in the Smokeys, then onto Nashville were I watched the eclipse with my Uncle in Gallatin, Tennessee.

Mount Mitchell

Weather was perfect, both for Mount Mitchell and for the eclipse. Totality does make all the difference in the world. It was quite a spectacle. I saw the standing waves in the first minutes of totality’s recession. Approaching totality the light was strange. Shadows were fuzzy and sometimes crescent shaped. It was like the whole earth was being lit by a very white LED light.

Other than that, I was glad to get back into some camping. Things will return to normal around here as soon as I get my bearings back.

AFib Story

The lack of blogging has not been because I’m dead, fortunately. But I was hospitalized for a few days for atrial fibrillation (AFib). I’ll tell the story in case it helps any readers.

We were getting ready to go to the store when I suddenly felt my heart flutter in a very strange feeling way. If it had just been a second of that, I probably would have dismissed it. But it lasted long enough that panic set in. I knew something was wrong, but I was not sure what. I had no chest pain or shortness of breath, but my heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest and run off to New Jersey.

“I think I need to go to the ER,” I told Bitter, as I got to the top of the stairs, “Something isn’t right with my heart rhythm.” Then she starts to panic. In the car I start to calm down and debate whether I’m just having a panic attack. But I was feeling my pulse and felt like it was off.

We got to the hospital, and I told her to pull into a parking spot near the ER so I could get a better sense of how I was really feeling. I took my pulse again now that the car was stationary, and it was all over the place. Strong, weak, weak, strong, and not in a steady rhythm. I start thinking “I wonder if this is AFib? Is this what AFib feels like?”

To me, going to a hospital for treatment is one of my big phobias. It’s probably more acute than Indiana Jones laying in a pit of snakes. But when your pulse has all the rhythm of two nerds dancing at the prom, you tend to think in terms of lesser fears, and dying is the greater fear. Yes, please be sure my bed has extra snakes! I’ll take it.

I told Bitter to pull up to the ER and went up to the check-in desk and very calmly announced “Hi, I’ve never been to an ER before, but I think there’s something very wrong with my heart rhythm. I have a racing and irregular pulse.” They immediately took me back to the EKG and I was on an ER bed in minutes. I later saw on my chart the computer had flagged “Atrial Fibrillation” on the EKG, which I thought was pretty neat.

First they got me IV’d up and started me on Heparin, an anti-coagulant. AFib is not generally a life threatening arrhythmia, but it is a big stroke risk because the irregular rhythm can send clots flying around.

Then they started me on Diltiazem, a calcium channel blocker, to get my pulse rate and blood pressure down, both of which were sky high, the former from the AFib, and the latter from the sheer terror I was experiencing. Later the first blood work came back and showed I had very low potassium, so they started another IV for that. That shit made my hand feel like it was on fire until they dialed back the rate.

My pulse and BP did indeed come down, but I didn’t come out of AFib, so they admitted me for the night so I could consult with a cardiologist in the morning.

The Cardiologist said probably the best thing you could say to a phobic patient, or at least this phobic patient: “This is a pretty common thing. It’s a little less common in someone as young as you, but you have absolutely nothing to worry about. I will fix you. I’m going to start you on an anti-arrythmetic, and I think that’s going to get you back to a normal sinus rhythm probably on the first pill because you’re young and have never had this before. Worse case scenario, I have to do a ‘Cardioversion’ which is a slight electrical shock of the heart to bring you back into normal rhythm. But I’m really confident medication will fix you and you won’t need that.”

And that’s basically what happened. Within 6 or so hours of the first dose of Sotalol the night nurse came by before his shift ended he told me “Your heart is trying. I can see it go normal for a bit, but then go back into AFib. But I’m betting when I come back you’ll be in a normal rhythm,” and I was. Great. Can I go home now?

No! I had to get an “echo” ultrasound of the heart. But the main reason, I think, was that any person starting on Sotalol has to be monitored continuously for three days in a clinical setting because it has a serious but rare side effect of, well, killing people. Yeah, OK… you can keep me for three days then. Though by the second day I was thinking I’d rather take my chances.

Anyway, I’m back to a normal rhythm, though I’m on a blood thinner and the Sotalol at least until I follow up with the cardiologist, but probably longer.

Hospitals suck. The staff were very attentive and caring, but there are always communication issues, and I found it’s very important to keep mentally aware of what’s going on, what they are doing to you, and what they are giving you. Be able and willing to communicate that to staff as shift’s change, etc. You effectively cannot sleep in a hospital. I decided to sleep with earbuds in playing white noise, which helps, but they still come in to take vitals and that wakes you up.

I felt more exhausted and weak walking out with a normal heart beat than I felt going in with an abnormal one, and all I needed was some drugs and observation. I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone like the 88 year old gentlemen I shared a room with. He was also in AFib, but he had so many other problems they couldn’t safely cardiovert him until those problems were death with. I’m half his age and don’t have 1/4 of his problems, and I feel like the process chewed me up and spit me out.

The nursing staff strongly suspect I have obstructive sleep apnea, and since they have me wired up and check on me all night, I believe them. They referred me to a doctor for a sleep study. The Cardiologist said, “The stress you’ve been under, your low potassium level, and the fact that you have sleep apnea, were probably a perfect storm and your heart is now basically just pissed off.” He seemed skeptical of how much diuretic I’m on for blood pressure control. I have a feeling he might change out some of my BP meds during the follow up. Fine by me as long as it works.

Ultimately I’m glad I made the decision to face my fears and anxiety about over being poked and prodded, and the loss of personal control that comes with being in a hospital. Eventually I was telling the numerous phlebotomists I was introduced to, “Use the hand. You won’t get anything out of that arm. If you want to try, that’s fine, but I’ll wager you good money you won’t succeed.” Didn’t get any takers once they started looking at it.

Anyway, that’s my story. I hope someone finds it helpful.

Not Dead

I’m extremely busy. Also had a doctor’s visit yesterday. Because I have pretty serious white coat, I do home monitoring of my BP. Home BP has been good, but then when Doctor time starts creeping up, it starts to head into the high range. For me it’s like taking an exam. When I know it counts, I get nervous about it and it throws the result. I do best when it’s a reading I know I don’t have to write down.

Other than that, LDL is down to slightly elevated. HDL still good. Triglycerides were a little bit elevated, whereas they were normal last time. Since I’ve been busy, my diet has been atrocious, so considering that I’m not unhappy. Statins do work, at least at bettering your lipid profile. I have a theory that in a few years they are going to conclude the lipid theory was all wrong and the reasons statins work is through some currently unknown anti-inflammatory mechanism. I’m not just pulling that out of my butt — recently there have been drugs that have proved very effective at managing your lipid profile, but don’t show any effect on the rate of heart attack and stroke.

The big thing is I need to lose weight. Over the winter I regained everything I lost last summer. If there’s one thing I really wish I could do is go back in time, find my rail thin younger self grabbing that fourth slice of pizza, and smack the shit out of me while screaming: “Do you have any idea how hard it’s going to be to work that shit off when you’re in your 40s?”

Not Dead, Just Too Busy

I am trying to return to our regularly scheduled programming, but it’s not working out. I have been collecting clients over the past year, which is good because it’s how you stay in business in the consulting universe. But at the end of this year they’ve all gotten needy at once, and the blog has to be what pays the price. It’s not so much the writing that takes the time, but following the news. I haven’t been following the news. Bloomberg could be abandoning Everytown and investing in American Outdoor Brands Corporation for all I know.

I think my crazy few weeks is because everyone in the professional world likes to take the last few weeks of the year off, and so deadlines tend to get compressed from Thanksgiving through New Years to accommodate people’s time off. I appreciate everyone’s patience.

Where I’ve Been

Visiting Bitter’s grandmother, who turns 90 this year. When grandma invites you out to Hawaii, and offers you a condo to stay in, and a guest membership at her country club, you go! I’m still jet lagged, so things won’t return to normal until Monday. I hadn’t had a real vacation since, well, we went to Hawaii to visit her grandmother in 2010.

Waikiki

Not Dead

Been quite busy grabbing life by the ……

Shortly we will return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Gettin’ Old

Got back from the doc this morning. I was worried my blood work would come back a hot dumpster fire, but I was happy all my internal organs are functioning normally. BP is down but still too high. I have high LDL (bad cholesterol) but my good (HDL) is also high. She predicts statins in my future, but BP is the immediate priority. Triglycerides were OK. The only real bad news is that I’m pre-diabetic. Liver enzymes were a bit off, but she attributed that to being overweight. I don’t have any problems that can’t be attributed to just getting old.

In short I need to diet, lose weight, exercise, and keep experimenting with anti-hypertensives. So all in all, I feel pretty good about things. It’s all stuff I can manage. Lack of control is a big driver in my fear of medicine, so when I learn it’s stuff I can control  through my own actions, I feel a lot better.

Today I learned

That the Friendly Local Gun Store near me can order 15 round Glock 17 magazines. They had one in their new Gen4 G17, too; I saw the silly thing – dual stack, witness holes labeled to 15, same height as the 10-round magazine in the Gen3 next to it (and they interchanged), and it said 9mm on the top. Now why in the world would someone make such a thing? I can’t imagine the NJ market for Glock 17 magazines is worth that much effort. I just checked, Glock’s website says that 10-round magazines and 33-round magazines are an option. No 15 round. Unless it’s a “secret” option.

I guess I’ll see what Fedex drags in when I get a chance to pick the ones I had them order up. (The receipt says Glock 17 15 round magazines, so they didn’t mis-hear G19 or something)

Bad Migraine

Sorry I have been out of commission today. I have suffered from migraine auras usually without headache for years now, but I’ve never had one this bad. Usually they start out as a dot on my field of vision that sparkles a bit, then expands to kind of a zig zaggy dazzling pattern. In the affected area, I can’t really see.

Usually the process runs through in less than an hour and I’m OK. Today I’ve been getting multiple waves of expanding auras and the dot area it usually starts as has persisted, which interferes with being able to read.

I went to urgent care this afternoon and the doctor (who also suffers from them) checked me out and agreed the symptoms were that of a migraine. Eyes fine, arteries seemed to be moving blood fine, oxygenation fine, pulse and BP pretty high, but I have white coat pretty bad. No symptoms of anything indicating possible stroke. Doctor prescribed Sumatriptan, with the warning that it doesn’t often work. Took the first dose and the dot is still there, though not throwing off expanding auras anymore. Just took the second dose, so we’ll see if that helps, but I’m not optimistic.

I’ve had enough of these auras I usually shrug them off, but this one is terrifying because it’s hung around all day. In the mean time, reading is possible but difficult with that part of my field of vision distorted. Laying down in a dark room helps, but I can only do that so much before going stir crazy. I’m just hoping I don’t have a damned brain tumor or something.

Compared to some of my friends who have them, I have it easy. One can be debilitated with pain and light sensitivity for days at a time. Until now I’ve gotten off easy.

Please Don’t Take Offense if I Don’t Facebook Friend You or if You Were Unfriended

I’m speaking about my personal Facebook, not the blog’s. I’m slowly but surely scaling back my personal social media presence. I think Facebook and other social media like Twitter are ruining the country and harshening discourse. Back when I decided Comcast and Cable News were destroying the country, I cut the cord. That cord cutting wasn’t any cold turkey approach: it came about because I realized I was paying a crappy company like Comcast more than 100 bucks a month for TV that wasn’t worth watching.

Now I’m starting to feel the same way about Social Media. The blog will continue to use social media as its own entity, but I myself am scaling back to friends and family; basically people I know or have known in meatspace. I mostly use Facebook now to share old pictures that my family likes, so you’re really not missing much. At some point I’ll run out of old pictures, and then perhaps Facebook will go the way of Comcast. So please don’t be put off if I don’t friend you. Eventually I want to be free of Facebook and the like.

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