I would have liked to have had some posts and some pictures for you. But alas, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry…” So the Laredo Birding Festival was cancelled as was any thought of the Whooping Crane Festival, or time putt-putting around the lake on a mild day during Christmas Week.
So what happened? Where went winter?
It started to go away on a sunny Thursday back in mid-December when Linda and I decided to go to the Zoo and visit with the animals. It had been a while since we had been there, and we were looking forward to the outing. Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!
It was a beautiful day at the zoo, sunny and mild, and just right for getting in some face time with nature’s wondrous beasts. Unfortunately, it turned out to be not-such a great time for me. Not long after we arrived, I began to experience shortness of breath, tiredness, and "dead" legs. I ended up stopping at every park bench I could find with Linda right behind me urging me to be “up and at ‘em.” Sit on another bench. Oh my!
Eventually we finished our zoo visit, but did we go home? We did not! No, we finished our day downtown at a little Tex-Mex restaurant that Linda had read about in the newspaper. It was pretty good, but not memorable.
Apparently what was happening during our visit to the zoo was that I was experiencing an “event.” Event seems to be the new way of saying heart attack. It would be several weeks before anyone medical used that phrase with me.
THE E.R. AND BEYOND
Things did not improve much over the weekend, so on Monday Linda drove me to the Emergency Room. The folks there, seeing a 74 year old with Medicare, immediately admitted me into the hospital and began to run all manner of tests. MRIs, C-T Scans, X-rays. Think of a letter combination and it will be the name of a test and they will have put me through it. This went on for four days during which I learned that I had a problem or two. Finally, with nothing really resolved, they sent me home on Christmas Eve - they really don't want sick people in the hospital around the holiday time. Merry Christmas!
The result of all the visits and tests was just about what was expected - I had a couple of serious problems. I needed stents for two arteries - a 95% blockage and a 90% blockage - and there was some cancer that would require part of my right lung to be removed. But I should note the cancer was caught very early and diagnosed as stage one with a low probability of additional treatment. So. Happy New Year!
GETTING ON WITH IT
With everything figured out and understood, the next step was to plan the attack. Since I have insurance, I had already crossed the most critical of medical hurdles and was ready for their procedures. I'm a tough guy, so I told everyone, "Let's just get this done. I have things to do." They all said, “Okay,” and things were put into motion. Tough guy.
Step one was to put in the stents. No problems. Two blocked arteries and three stents. The procedure went smoothly, the cardiologist was pleased, and Phase One of rebuilding Don was complete. Phase Two promised to be a bit more complicated - they weren't going to be adding stuff, they were going to be removing stuff.
After about ten days to allow my body to adjust to the stents and, of course, to do a few more tests, it was time to head to the hospital and have the lung surgery. The plan was simple. The surgeon would cut me open and remove one of the three lobes from my right lung; I would spend a few days in the hospital, and then off I would go to the house where Linda would wait on me hand and foot. Good plan.
Everything (sorta) worked as planned. A few days in the hospital was really ten days, with seven of them in the ICU. When the prize trip on Wheel of Fortune is all-inclusive, it means things like use of the pool and maybe free use of a bicycle. At Methodist Sugar Land Hospital the amenitities include daily (at 3:30 am) X-rays, pills, IVs, monitoring, and tubes and wires too numerous to count.
SO WHAT IS NEXT?
Oh yes. There is a next. We do have another plan in the works. It seems that the day after Christmas, in a mad dash to answer a FaceTime call from our grandchildren, Linda fell and severely tore some muscles in her shoulder and back. Her surgery will require a period of limited mobility and some physical therapy. So as soon as I am functional, it will be her turn with surgeon. Spring promises to be as fun and exciting as winter has been.
I wrote this post in a light and not-very-serious vein, but this was all pretty serious business. I came to the hospital with what I thought was one minor issue. I left with two major problems solved.
With arteries that were 90 and 95 percent occluded, I was a time bomb at any time I was behind the wheel of a car. And compare the sore ribs of removing a Stage I cancer today to the treatment Linda and I might have gone through if it had a couple more years to grow.
In other words, the alertness, vigilance and dedication of the staff at Methodist meant some some pretty bad things that could have happened won’t.
Linda and I want everyone to know how thankful we are to all of the folks at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital for helping us with these issues. The professionalism and care shown by the nurses, technicians, and doctors was marvelous. We were constantly aware of everything they were doing to figure out exactly what was wrong with me.