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Archive for August, 2006

Small heart

I checked into the hospital at 9:00 am on Friday for the heart surgery. At 10:00 am, I was retrieved, completed paperwork, put in a flimsy gown (are any of them substantial?), hooked up to an IV, and hurried up to wait some more. I hadn’t had any food or drink since the night before and had to be given sugar water through the IV. Finally, at 1:30 or 2:00 pm, I was wheeled into the operating room. I scooted to the table and apparently needed to do an abdominal workout before it was to begin – I sat up for some ‘pads’ to be stuck to my back, and laid down so that an X-ray machine could see if they were placed properly. Nope, had to sit up and lay back down three times before it was all done.

I declared that I was ready for the good drugs and I don’t remember a dang thing until I woke up in a cardiac recovery room after 3 1/2 hours of surgery via catheters run through 1 artery and 2 veins (one through the artery near my right clavicle and the other two through a vein in each leg) to cauterize the problematic nerve bundles. I thought that the catheters, and thus the entry points, would be small, like getting an IV needle put in. Boy was I wrong!

The sites were covered with enough gauze and tape that it made walking harder and looked like I needed another cup in my bra. My first look at the sites were this (Sunday) morning and I passed out from the shock of it. We debated going to the hospital since I convulsed slightly when I fainted and decided against it since I probably just needed food. After breakfast and resting quite a bit more, I was good to go. Since I drive a manual transmission, I will be driving Bob’s nice automatic Toyota Highlander once I am released to do so (Tuesday).

Although the big packages of bandages are gone, the soreness remains. Most difficult are transitioning from standing to sitting or laying down. I look pretty funny like I have a corn cob shoved somewhere .

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

I got a call this morning that the doctor that will be performing the heart surgery will be out of town the week of Aug 25th (my original appointment) so the appointment had to be moved. She informed me that she rescheduled it to Aug 18th…NEXT WEEK!!

So – less time to freak out *but* moving freak-out anxiety sooner too.

I am nervous, worried (one possible risk is stroke – argh, I don’t want another one), scared, mad that I have to do it at all and regret that I didn’t take care of this 2 stinking years ago.

Anyway, in other news – Bob & I both went to the walk/run program last night. I actually walked/ran for 1 1/2 miles I alternate pretty evenly so I probably ran for 3/4 mile and walked for 3/4 mile. I can’t believe how out of shape I got in only 9 months of being more sedentary than not. whew!

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New Superpower?

Bob has decided that it is time for us to get some regular exercise (apparently I have plumped up too much for his taste). We used to belong to a running group that met every Tues & Thurs and we averaged about 10 miles a week. Since I am unable to run fully just yet, we have signed up with a new group for beginners, incorporating walking into running/jogging. Last night was the first night.

Bob couldn’t make it because he was “working” (pshaw dry.gif ) so I was going solo which always makes me a little nervous – would I find it? am I going to be the only ‘problematic’ one? will people stare? etc. – well, I found it and addressed the whole stroke thing upfront so that questions aren’t (hopefully) necessary. After a few introductions, we were sent on our way around Lake Eola (.8-.9 of a mile).

I walked for quite a ways and decided to try a jog. That is when I saw him. I knew him!! I had never seen him before but I knew him! I saw him ahead of me, walking my way and was just drawn to him. To make sure there were no assumptions, I went up to him and said “May I ask, did you have a stroke?” He nodded. I was right! He was one of my kind. “Me too” I related. I told him that it was my left side and I asked him when his stroke occurred. He hesitated and I realized that this was my first encounter with someone from Planet Aphasia. I was patient and let him speak. “3 years” he said. He indicated that he wanted to say something else and then said “Yours” Although I don’t have a decoder ring, it wasn’t necessary for our little conversation. “9 months ago” I told him. And then I felt guilty. He was using a cane and dragging his foot along while I was trying to learn to run. I know all strokes are different, I just couldn’t help but feel guilty for being more mobile. He then said “3 times” and motioned a circle with his unaffected hand. I got it – 3 times around Lake Eola – I was very impressed as I wasn’t sure I was going to make it once. I let him know that I was impressed. I touched his arm, let him know that he was doing great and hobbled along with blurry vision.

I was tearing up because I got off relatively easy and I struggle so much that I can’t imagine how he must feel. Tearing because I now have a superpower that I never would have had BS (before stroke) – a stroke-dar (stroke radar). Tearing up for all of us stroke survivors. I was glad that I was last, no one was around me to witness this and ask or talk to me about it. It took halfway around Lake Eola before I composed myself. I did make it around once and that was all I could do. My affected ankle was angry for this unexpected adventure and it needed a rest. It was a good time to go home and reflect on it all.

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Evil Necessities

After taking my meds regularly once again (mostly thanks to Bob’s huge reminder note on the door), I feel able, willing, almost okay (no, not content & certainly not happy) enough to deal with life once again. Better living through chemistry, huh?

I’m hoping these antidepressants regulate the necessary neurotransmitters so that I can get off them ASAP. I don’t like to take pills in the first place (although I always made an exception for birth control!) but I need to feel good about life. I’m sure it doesn’t help to have a rollercoaster effect of on meds – off meds. My advisor claims that antidepressants should be in the city water I’m sure he is just saying that to be nice.

Good news – the plans are in gear for me to graduate this semester!

Explanation for those who care/want to know:

For a Ph.D., I need to take all of the necessary coursework (finished that 2 1/2 years ago), take the doctoral candidacy exam (passed that 2 years – to the day – prior to my stroke, weird!), and complete the dissertation. To break that last part down, I needed to come up with an idea that significantly contributes to the field of Human Factors science, write the background literature, theory, and method of the experiment. Then I present this idea to a committee in a grueling 1-2 hour meeting in which I was questioned, grilled, and tested. The committee members then meet without me to decide if I passed the ‘proposal defense’ to begin the actual study. I did that in Oct 2005. Then I stroked in Nov 2005. I returned to work in a limited capacity and, thankfully, had research assistants to collect the data (91 participants). Now, I need to code the data, analyze the results with inferential statistics, interpret the statistics and write the theoretical and applied implications of the study in particular and how it impacts the field in general. Then, once my advisor deems it fit to defend as my final study, I again present it to the committee. They will meet to determine if I am a good choice as a Doctor of Philosophy.

It is so easy to procrastinate because the whole thing is larger than life and hangs over my head threateningly. So I try to ignore it until I am overcome with guilt and anxiety. I work on it then get frustrated and try to ignore it once again – vicious cycle, I tell ya!

Well, the pressure is on now. I have invited family and friends to the December graduation and I have provided my intent to graduate to the department. I have to get it done this semester. THIS SEMESTER!!!

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