THURSDAY — Double Dang!

I think Nancy feels better today than she has in a couple of months.  A lingering question about the blood loss remains.  If not caused by the bacterial infection, then what?  The heart issues will be treated continually, so, while she is examined, tested, and treated appropriately for her finicky heart over the next few weeks, the anemic aspect will be watched.  Multiple exams ruled out many things, so with respect to this, we are in a period of watchful waiting.

She went to the local hospital for antibiotic infusion via the PICC line today.  The pharmacy folks indicated they were okay with both of the compounds going in at the same time.  That cut the procedure down to about an hour.  They fixed up a nice comfy bed for the duration and when I returned she was ready to go.

I hadn’t stayed.  That’s the “double dang” part.  One of my jobs yesterday was to clear out the hospital room.  Things such as un-opened fruit juice and the plastic pans for holding tape or other incidental items – these things all get sent home with the patient or tossed out. I cleaned up all these things into a couple of small boxes and a plastic bag.  A nurse brought a wheelchair, I went ahead and brought the car to the front door, and minutes later we were on I-82 heading toward home.

Big mistake.  Someone (me?) forgot to unplug two power supplies – one for her cell phone and one for the laptop.  Bummer.  Ensconced in a fluffy bed, Nancy recharged while I boomeranged from Ebrg-to-Yak and back.  Wind gusts today were nearly 50 mph and the passenger side of the car sometimes makes an odd woodwind sound when air begins passing over us at about 100 mph.  I got that a lot today along with the turbulence.  I did see a large column of dust coming from the lower valley south of Yakama and streaming into the area above the clouds over my route. That was very interesting.  On the ground these dust steams make for nasty driving, accidents and closed roads.

Now that Nancy has her computer back I will expect her to write on Saturday.

There is a potluck by and for the Kittitas Valley Fiddlers and Friends tomorrow evening, so, Friday will be an off-day for our communications.

MONDAY — A phone with a cord?

Did he think we were early-adopters at the cutting edge of technology?

As mentioned Sunday, the week turned out busy again, with me, Nancy, still run down, but at least I am keeping down food.  I spent many hours searching records of former grads that were on the alumni list at CWU marking people to email the invitation of the celebration to, that will occur on Oct 2, a Saturday afternoon, meet and greet and eat and drink.  Also went to a music event at the Rehab center where I spent 6 weeks.  They all call me by name when I walk by, or come stick their head in the door and wave.

There was no exercise class and although I didn’t probably have much energy, I stopped by only to find it was cancelled, Monday.  Wednesday and Friday I was not able to go because Wednesday I was still involved with getting the heart event monitor (supposedly for a week) installed.  John will tell about that, inserting it below, but meanwhile, I just read his treatise (and it is worth reading), and see he wants me to describe the second unit.

The first unit meant for a week is what he describes.  It only had two connections to the relatively light unit, but it was for a week, with a button I could push when I felt stress or to generate a recording.  There are only 9 tracks.  It was too sensitive and picking up (without the ability to filter out) something we already know I have, atrial fibrillation.

We changed to a unit that was only for 24 hours, but weighed a LOT more–really heavy hanging in my pocket and connected to me in six places.  The first top place was poorly placed by the installer on top of the worst, deepest part of scar tissue from my original scar down the middle of my chest (at the top).  This guy needs to be told, and I will.  Where it made the difference was taking it off 24 hours later – when I pulled the tape and the connector I had the worst pain I have had in many months.  I screamed and scared John, and probably everyone else on the Naneum Fan.  I got the dogs’ attention and probably the horses as well.  At least John was not out lifting one of their feet when I screamed.  After getting over that removal, the other five were not over scars, and did not hurt coming off.  But I was worn out from the experience.  My next visit to the cardiologist is 2 weeks away and we’ll get results and suggestions then.

Check below for a nice write-up by John explaining the first old technology I was supposed to live with for a week.

Meanwhile, I will insert the nice things that happened Saturday and Sunday, that also were very taxing on my system.  First thing we did was Saturday, drive to a restaurant on the Lake, at Moses Lake to meet our 40 year long friends (from Iowa) who helped us move to Idaho in 1974.  That trip we were quite a rig, with canoe atop and inside a station wagon, my driving and Ann as a passenger, two dogs, theirs and our Brittany, and two cats.  John and Fred drove a large Ryder van with all our belongings, pulling their VW bus with more belongings that wouldn’t fit in the van.  There are stories with that to remain in our memories.  Anyway, each year they come to Spokane to visit family and either drive to Ellensburg, or last year we tried this place, to which we returned.  The visit was wonderful and the food and the trip took about 5 hours total.  It took me a 4 hour nap to recover and then I slept all night as well.

Sunday was another busy afternoon with a potluck with our Trail Riding Club.  There were 43 people there.  I kept down all the food from both occasions, so that hurdle is over till I have to get a refill on the Reglan.

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John says:

It is not easy keeping track of what is happening to you as you go through the labyrinth of modern medical technology and practice.  Consider the simple suggestion of the cardiologist to wear a heart monitor for a week.  Sometimes the expressions used are historic relicts with no connection to modern understanding of the thing being talked about (for example, sinus rhythm – normal beating of a heart). Also, one finds old and new equipment intermixed because the technology of data recording, storage, and transmission has been advancing rapidly.

There is the problem of terminology.  Nancy was fitted with a “King of Hearts” unit. What’s that name mean? Nothing! It is the Instromedix company’s name for a device described as an event monitor.  It is a bit like telling someone you went to the “Golden Arches” for lunch.  Most everyone you know today would understand that you went to McDonald’s and got a cheeseburger or some other fancy fare.  If a person does not associate McDonald’s and Golden Arches that person could only guess, maybe thinking that you went to an expensive Thai restaurant.  Likewise a King of Hearts unit conveys no useful information.

So the idea of and event monitor is that leads attached to your skin pick up electrical signals and when your heart does something rare (key word) that it is not supposed to do, then signals just before, during, and after the event are stored in the unit for analysis at a later time.  The unit may also have a set of beeps to alert the wearer that an event is triggering the recording of the signals.  I should mention that the unit is about the size of a deck of cards but not as heavy.  They do not have a lot of storage, anticipating that the events to be recorded are rare.  With regard to such assumptions, Nancy rarely cooperates.

Nancy’s heart has very frequent episodes of atrial fibrillation, the most common abnormal heart rhythm or cardiac arrhythmia.  [This is partly the reason she feels tired much of the time.]  After being fitted with the unit we headed for the car and to a Costco warehouse store. The unit recorded 2 events before we were into the car and 7 more by the time we were in the check-out line at the store.

Here is why that is important.  First: The unit makes two beeps to let the wearer know it has been triggered but this one recorded silently. When recording is completed, if there is sufficient memory to record another event, the King of Hearts recorder emits a double beep and automatically restarts normal scanning mode on a loop-type scan.  So in the first 40 minutes we heard 18 beeps.  Second: The unit will only record 9 events and then one has to “upload” the data via a telephone.  One has to call a place in New Jersey (they thought), talk to a live person, send the info, talk to the person again, reset the unit, and start again from scratch.

Did you notice the use of the words telephone, person, and data all involved there?  If you are old enough and have had the experience of using an early connection to the internet you know where I am going with this.  That’s right, the unit uses an acoustic coupler of the sort found in the Novation CAT:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novation_CAT

See the picture.  Notice the cord.  We are talking Apple II ® and 1980.

A device that modulates an analog carrier signal to encode digital information, and also demodulates such a carrier signal to decode the transmitted information – thus a modulator-demodulator — is called a modem.  The key idea here is modifying a sound into a digital signal so it can be sent over a copper line.  There is that telephone cord to think about.

Do you still have a phone in your house that is connected with a cord to a line that physically runs from your home to the rest of the world, including New Jersey?  If not, the King of Hearts isn’t for you.  Maybe a neighbor or friend does.  Check to see.

Okay. So once the phone connection is made, one has to lay the telephone  on to the small holes  — see:

http://www.fcminc.com/KOHPatientManual.pdf

Scroll down to see the image of the phone handset on the unit drawing.  Here is an official company site:

http://www.instromedix.com/cardiac_event_recorders.htm

Then sounds are fed into the telephone from the unit’s speaker – such as beep, de-beep beep, beep, de-beep beep, and so on . . . for about 15 minutes per 9 recorded events.  What an extended racket.

[Funny story: one web site has a comment by a person that did the above and freaked out – thought all those high pitched sounds were caused by his heart exploding or some such.  He was too young to have heard an acoustic coupler modem.]

We did the arithmetic.  With 40 minutes wear time for 9 events and 15 minutes of telephone modem noise of upload time and 7 days of monitoring we came up with – who knows?  We called the heart center and went back for an alternative.

The alternative is called a Holter monitor.  I thought the person was tripping over the word holster and was expecting him to give Nancy a leather pouch to wear on a belt.  Not so.  The name comes from a fellow named Jeff Holter who (with others in about 1961) developed a back-pack size unit containing a heavy assortment of radio telemetry and tape recording equipment.  Dr. Holter invented telemetric cardiac monitoring in 1949.  So, the Holter monitor (as well known in the halls of the heart center as McDonald’s is in the halls of your kid’s middle school) was attached to Nancy’s body – she can tell you about that – but only for one day.  It does a continuous recording, makes no noise, and gets mailed back in a padded envelope.  Nice.

Just to pad the story some I’ll direct you to the following sites.  The first shows a horse (last image on the page) with a monitor:

http://www.petcardiology.com/placing-holter-monitor-leads

and the next:

http://www.morgananimalhospital.com/index.php?view=pageView&docid=6345

… has the story of Pico, a Miniature Schnauzer with a heart problem.

The story begins –

“ Pico began to have episodes of weakness and collapse that seemed to worsen over . . .”

and then …

“The monitor revealed that Pico had a heart rate that varied from 28 beats per minute to up to 229 beats per minute.  The normal heart rate for a dog is 70-120 beats per minute.  There were stoppages in the heart rhythm of up to 6.85 seconds long.”

You can read the rest with pictures.  John

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SUNDAY — Dog Days of Summer

Please note that Monday is the 12th of July.  In 1969, the 12th was on a Saturday and we married on that date – 41 years ago.  So,  Happy Anniversary to us!

[from John :    Wikipedia < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_Days > has an interesting write-up of the Dog Days of Summer which references Sirius, the Dog Star, and “a time period or event that is very hot or stagnant, or marked by dull lack of progress.”  As a side note, years ago Nancy named one of our Britts ‘Sirius Sashay’ and the puppies we now have are her great grand children.]

from Nancy:    John reminded me I am supposed to write an update on my health for the blog, as promised last weekend.   I must say sadly I don’t have a lot of good things to write, except that I’m alive and still kicking but I’m not ready for the Rockettes, just yet.  My energy level has not returned, and I find myself only good to gear up for a couple of hours for an event, and then I have to rest.  It could be that sleep during the night being interrupted with puppy care is part of the problem.  They usually have us up at midnight and then 3:00 and finally when it is light, we can put them out in the backyard as early as 5:30 (this morning).  They turn 7 weeks tomorrow.  We transferred a sweet puppy today to her new owners (more on that later).

Back to my health and lack of energy.  At first we wondered if the change in meds might have prompted some of the problems – that may still turn out to be the case, and tomorrow is a doctor’s visit to my family physician in Cle Elum.    I was scheduled last week at the hospital here in town for blood draws for various lab tests.  I had them all done right after playing fiddle with my group for a little over an hour.  I did not drink during the playing time.  I guess I should have and should have been hydrating my system all along (I thought I was doing this).  I drink an awful lot of lemonade that John makes for me from powder.  However, a call from my family physician’s nurse indicated my lab tests showed I was dehydrated and needed to intake more liquids.  That said, I did.  That probably explains why I had a headache and was feeling so lousy.  I missed my Friday afternoon exercise class because I didn’t feel up to getting there and doing it. It’s from 1:30 to 2:30 MWF and in an a/c room with a bunch of supportive ladies (and one man).

The other tests were apparently okay, although one was still being processed.  I do not know if the results will be back before my appointment right after lunch tomorrow.

The new medication affects my potassium balance and that was one of the tests.  I called my pharmacist Saturday morning (who also is my fiddling buddy), and she ran all my medications through the system to alert them/us to any possible drug interactions.  None were found except for the concern with this new medication and the potassium imbalance, and the need to keep an eye on the potassium.  That was my cardiologist’s concern for this doctor’s visit and the labs drawn, 3 weeks after my last visit with him.  He wanted to stay on top of that.

I’m still on a diuretic (Bumex) and that pulls fluids from my system, contributing to dehydration.  It’s to keep the fluids from piling up in my lungs or my legs.  The potassium was cut back because of the interaction with the new drug that actually helps shed sodium (the Na of salt) and retain potassium.  This means I have to be aware of something called hyperkalemia, or “ higher than normal levels of potassium in the blood.”

“The hormone aldosterone regulates kidney removal of sodium and potassium. Lack of aldosterone can result in hyperkalemia with an increase in total body potassium.  Hyperkalemia may be caused by medications, including medications that affect kidney function (potassium sparing diuretics, such as spironolactone, amiloride, or triamterene) and potassium supplements (especially intravenous potassium).” (Taken from a Mayo clinic site)

Spironolactone is the new med I am on.

My pharmacist continued to counsel me from her records and outlined the symptoms.  My cardiologist had also mentioned some of these and said if I had any such signs of severity that I should check myself into ER immediately.  These are the symptoms in her literature:  muscle weakness, cardiac Arrhythmia (which I have anyway), and hypotension (low blood pressure).

The symptoms mentioned in the Mayo Clinic report are as follows, “Hyperkalemia often has no symptoms. Occasionally, people may have the following symptoms:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Slow, weak, or absent pulse

Well, the first I always have; the second I have occasionally too, as today when my body decided over the noon hour that it no longer wanted to keep the strawberries from morning late breakfast, in my system.  I have had a lower heart beat (in the 60s), but not worth worrying about, and certainly no absent pulse.  In recent checks on my trusty measuring device, my blood pressure has been fine and the heartbeat as well, although it will occasionally show the atrial fibrillation we already know I have.

Well, the few sentences John is expecting me to write have gone on into much more, and I will stop now on the health part.  It’s good for me to review this before I visit my doctor tomorrow.  Food for thought and he will be interested in my research and reporting.

I will end on a nice, fun note.  We transferred a white and orange female, Milly, to her forever home today.  We gave her a bath before the meeting, and she slept afterwards while drying.  I also clipped her little toenails (with a human’s toe clipper) while her toes were moistened.  We did that first drying and changed to a different towel.  She laid in John’s lap awhile and then we changed towels and I had her again in my lap.  She went through the bath just fine; John is good with bathing young puppies, and she handled it well, not fighting it at all.  Her new owners already have a Brittany from us and she was along to meet the new entry to the family.  This will be a wonderful home and we are grateful.

Not much else new in our world.  There is the daily horse routine, plus John has been volunteering time to help our elderly neighbor with his haying, and getting the bales to the barn.  Yesterday and today it was more a re-stacking thing from a harobed.   I know most people not in the rural west do not know what a harobed is.  That truly is what it is called, and it was named after the inventor’s daughter, Deborah (spell that backwards).  It is a piece of machinery that goes through a field of baled hay and lifts them up into a carrier that can be stacked as high as 9 bales, 3 across.  Once filled, the load, having been lifted row by row, is ready for the barn.  The harobed comes back to the barn and a lift stands up the stack and pulls away from it (under good smooth and clean conditions, the stack stays standing).  Under a full load, one of these can carry 3.5 tons.  Yesterday was not working well, and the stacks kept collapsing  — the old shed has an uneven floor and the bales are not as uniform as the ought to be.  Today was a better hay day.

What a technical advancement from loading bales of hay by hand onto a truck or wagon and stacking in the barn!  (And before that loose hay was muscled onto a wagon and off again in a barn.)

Thanks for staying tuned in and I hope for a nice week this week with more energy.  Yesterday, a few of our musical group went to Briarwood Commons (a retirement community in Ellensburg, for people over 55).  We go play for them the second Saturday of every month at 2:00 pm. till 3:00 and they serve us a late lunch for our efforts.  They love us and always sing along and sometimes get up and dance.  It is a worthwhile event that pleases us as much as them.

And on another worthwhile event: Wednesday night last week we had a great experience.  We joined a group of square dancers and host families and friends, at the Swauk-Teanaway Grange.  There are six young people (most are in their Junior year in high school) here from July 5 to Aug 10 in a program called the Children of Chernobyl.

See  http://www.cofcusa.org/factsheet.htm .

Most are from the region around current day Minsk, Belarus.  One of our musicians in our group that play at nursing homes, and his wife, are again a host family this year, for 3 of the gals.  The other 3 are guys and are in different households.  We met them and had a great potluck.  Afterwards the Blue Agate Square Dance caller got most of the people on the floor to do some dancing (I sat it out and watched and enjoyed seeing how well the kids did).  We stayed also through one of the gals playing a piece on the piano.  She is quite a musician.  Turns out she also plays the guitar, and she joined us at our Rehab facility play date the next day, Thursday.  Amazing.  She was playing songs she had never heard and sitting where she could watch Charlie’s fingering for chords.. and keeping up with us all.  One we had printed words for and she sang along and one she knew the words.  What talented people exist in our wide world !

Hope you have a nice week as well.

WEDNESDAY — Routine stuff

John tells me I need to update this from the June 21st visit to my cardiologist.

I’m still tired from yesterday and not feeling up to much updating, but I will try.

Good news today is that the puppies got moved tonight to their new digs, and they are happy, but Mama Annie is not yet sure she wants to go in the different place.  She got sort of attached to that back computer room pen.  I did manage to do their toenails (cut them) today before the move.

Best news of the day is that our house roof is finished.  It is beautiful.

Okay– back to yesterday.  I drove myself to Yakima Heart Center for a 10:55 (I originally was planning for 10:15) so I was up way too early and with a lousy night’s sleep Sunday night.  I got there 20 minutes early and then had a 25 minute wait to get in to see the nurse, and then the doctor.  However, once there, he spent a full hour with me, so I felt good about that.  First words out of his mouth; “Where’s your hubby?”  John had always been with me since our first visit last July 2009.  I explained that John was working on the roof, and that I could drive now, so I had driven myself down.  I didn’t tell him I used John’s car and I think the seat is not set for my back, so the driving an hour down and back was actually painful.

The cardiologist had briefly seen me when I was in the hospital June 1 for the defibrillator implant and he just happened to see my name on the ICU floor.  He dropped in to say hi.  That was very cool.  Previously, he hadn’t seen me since April 14th and we both agreed that seemed like ages ago.

We debriefed and he looked at all my recent lab blood draws.  He determined that I need to be back on a statin type drug, which I had gone off of over a month ago, because of joint pain when I exercised.  He wanted me to go on Lipitor, but I told him I doubted my insurance would pay for it, and they wouldn’t (well they wanted me to pay a co-pay of $60/month.  Yikes.  I had asked him if that happened, could I go back on Simvastatin, which I was on last fall.  He said yes.  So, I requested a refill on that, and thankfully, it is only 9.99/month.  A lot better for the pocketbook, eh?

He also looked at some test which made him decide to change me to a medication to help my kidneys balance the sodium/potassium components.  The new pill (Spironolact) is meant to help remove sodium and some water while keeping some of the potassium. Thus I can cut back on the intake of potassium.  I should be able to start that tonight.  I was taken off the huge dose / week of Vitamin D, and just have to have 1000 mg (or mE) each day.

Then he asked a bunch of questions about what I was doing, and what, if any symptoms I was having.  He examined me with a stethoscope and pronounced me in pretty good shape.  He also mentioned again that I was fortunate to be alive and what a challenge I was to the medical community.  Not news – that.

He wanted to know what would tire me and cause my heart rate to increase.  I said, “Well, if I ran up the driveway, which I have not tried to do.”  He says that later this summer he will fit me with a heart monitor for a week to see how my heart is responding to the various things I’m doing.

He also went over the meds and the lab tests he wants me to have before I go to my family physician and to do that in about 3 weeks.  Then come back and see him.  I wish it were not so far to visit Yakima but it does have a Costco store and we do buy things there.  I will have to go every 3 months for checking up on my ICD.  My family physician is only 30 miles away, but the driving time can be similar in the winter (bad roads).  Now it is fine and a pretty drive up the Yakima River Canyon to Cle Elum.

His report will be transcribed and I will get that transcription within a couple of weeks.

Then about 1:00 I was out of the office, and needing to eat lunch.  There was not time to make it up for my exercise class that starts at 1:30, and I also wanted to visit Costco for dog food and such.

I picked up a nice grilled chicken salad and ate it before going to shop.  Yum, and I was hungry.  Off to Costco, where I got a motorized cart and asked for help lifting the heavy dog food.  They were happy to help.  I then motored around to get the rest of my needed things, and then got help to put them into my car.  I filled John’s car with gas (his takes Regular, where mine doesn’t recommend it), and got it there at Costco for 2.85.  Sweet.  Then home.  I didn’t make it back home until 3:30 and I was VERY tired.  I might have slept for 1.5 hours– don’t really remember.

But, that’s the best I can do on updating you to my latest.  Nancy

SATURDAY Nancy’s 2+ week . . .

. . . report since the ICD implant happened

Well, it’s really 19 days since, but who’s counting.  We have been very busy with various chores, besides dealing with the healing process and follow-up doctor visits and lab work.  Will get to that in a minute, but for now I may tell you about something I left out of the device check write-up June 8th.   I did say that I will be part of a research study, but I didn’t mention the fancy name.   It is called GALAXY, and the acronym, (don’t we love those?) comes from this.  I’ll try to highlight BOLD and CAPS the letters in the following phrase about the GALAXY Registry (LonG-term EvALuAtion of the LinoX FamilY ICD Leads Registry).   How long do you suppose it took for someone to figure that out?  It’s really not any different from just going in every 3 months for a device check-up, but I had to agree and to sign paperwork to give them permission to put “my data” in a research study.  The purpose is to work toward improving the device technology for the future.  I guess it is pretty good now, but I figured I would participate.  Why not?  Doesn’t cost me anything and I have to go in for all the checks anyway.  I’m interested in participating in good things for the future of others needing the same help as I did.  I have been grateful for all the comments from so many of you about success stories on friends and family who have had defibrillators.  It’s amazing how many are out there and have reportedly been operative for some time.

I am going to visit my cardiologist this Monday, and will be driving myself down to Yakima.  John is staying behind to care for the mom and the puppies, and to help taking off the last of the shingles (old) on the roof of our house – the front part.   While there I will take a trip to Costco to pick up a few items.

So, there is not much new to report on my progress, except I seem to be a little stronger each day.  I have been doing a lot of music venues, and turns out my fiddle would normally be held and rested on the place where the defibrillator is implanted.  That wound is still there and still has on all its little Band-Aids (it has a fancier strip name, but I don’t know what it is).  They haven’t rolled off yet.  So, I moved over the fiddle to under my chin and lower down so I didn’t have to raise my left arm too high.  I still need to use it to finger and to hold the fiddle, so the past 3 days of fiddling have been tiring.  My right arm is getting more use too, so it aches some.  I’m doing all right with Acetaminophen, just more than twice a day.  People enjoy our music so much, and we enjoy providing it, that it all has a happy ending.

The puppies will be 4 weeks old this Monday, June 21st.  That means they are ready for mushy puppy chow and their own water.  This also means they are outgrowing their pen, so we will be moving them (probably Sunday) to new digs where they have more room.  While I was gone to town to play for a 94th birthday party gig at one of the nursing homes, where they also gave us lunch, John took them out to play in the grass.  One ventured away from the rest and into the raspberries.  Then another went and almost got lost under the Nanking Cherry trees.  Funny, but not so for John.  He gathered them up and put them in a box and brought them back in ASAP.

I have not gone back to Physical Therapy because I’m waiting to hear if my insurance will pick up the rest along with Group Health.  If it is costing me $25 for 45-minutes on a machine, and I’m already paying a couple hundred to have medical insurance each month, plus the cost of Medicare each month, it makes no sense.  I am going to the SAIL class (earlier mentioned in this blog), at the Adult Activity Center 3 times/week for an hour, for only $3 for 3 months.  That’s a fine deal.  We get lots of stretching, strengthening and balance exercises each session.  I cannot do anything with my left arm that causes it to be raised above my shoulder, but I still can do a lot of the exercises.

I have done a little bit of walking around our place.  A couple days ago I walked into the lower pasture with John to retrieve the 3 “new” horses.  They now return to their pen on command from John, off the high grass.  It’s amazing to me to see how responsive they have become to his wishes and commands.  They also had not been fed treats before in their life and it is great to see them coming over to him for a carrot.  The day I went, the youngest (4 years old), Breeze, came up to me for a carrot.  (He has not seen a lot of me, so that was a rewarding experience.)

One of our recent times this past week was having the farrier in to do trimming on some of the horses.  While John rounded up the new ones, I held Myst for her trimming.  That was nice to be back in the thick of things around the “ranch”.

Our roofing project is going well too.  The barn was done in time to load it with hay last Sunday.  Lucky for John our provider came with two large trailer loads and a person to help unload and pack into the barn, and a powered bale elevator/conveyor.  Had John had to do this alone as we have in the past, it would have required at least 10 trips in the truck and trailer, across the valley, and back, and also he would have to do all the lifting and packing into the barn.  This was great.  He had only to supervise, open gates (which he had just built) for access for the big tractor trailer truck, and open windows and doors on the barn, plus build fences and tarps to protect the hay in the runway from having the horses nibble and break into the bales.

Other chores around the yard have kept John busy as well as horse training.  This is a year when we have had more rain than usual and the grass is high everywhere.   He has shifted the horses in and out of the pasture (and our backyard) twice a day.  It also has been very windy.  The temperatures have been down, however, which has made the yard work and roof work bearable.  I have been able to join the two guys each day for lunch outside.

Another thing we’ve been able to do is go to lectures at school and in the community.  There was an interesting 6 lectures given in downtown Ellensburg by one of our former colleagues in the Geology Department.  We missed two unfortunately, when I had this recent procedure, but we made the last one, and that was special.  The topics have all been on Washington State geology.  It is totally fascinating.

I guess you must be tired of hearing all this unrelated to the heart procedures, but to know I’m back to doing some of this stuff is very positive.  I’m happy to be alive to enjoy my retirement.

I’m still attending yard sales when I can and picking up bargains.  I had to get a whole new wardrobe because of my weight loss, and while doing that I also have found a few items for John.  There are pretty nice shirts out there that are almost new and of a quality we probably wouldn’t have bought new.

Thanks for staying tuned, and thanks again for all your prayers and thoughts that got me this far.

Nancy

[from John: I’ll add something medical but unrelated to Nancy’s heart.  In December, while Nancy was in the ICU, I developed a “floater” in my right eye.  This turned out to be something of a false floater called a Weiss Ring and of little consequence, especially for me as I am left-eyed.  My right eye is of little use (sort of a spare) that would wander off until a couple of muscle-relocations brought it into alignment.  However, my brain ignores the image that eye sends and so the “floaters” in it are not noticed. Yesterday the left eye developed its own Weiss Ring and this one is going to take a bit more getting used to.  I’ll have it inspected this coming week because occasionally a small retinal tear occurs during detachment and that could be serious.]

SATURDAY — on the hunt, again

Garage/yard sales are the order of the day.  It is 6:30, the sun is barely up, it is cold out, and the wind is still blowing.  About that wind – for about 3 weeks the sustained velocity has been above 25 mph, often in the low 30s, and gusts up to 50.  Yesterday was the first day in three weeks I didn’t do something outside – I fed and watered the horses.  I’m sure they were thrilled with their day of rest.  Sunday morning the forecast claims the blowing will be down to 10 mph.

I tagged along with Nancy Friday afternoon to a meeting of the Trustees of Central Washington University.  First order of business was to have someone say nice things about recent retirees from across the employment categories.  They don’t give out gold watches.  Maybe the deep thinkers finally realized that someone that is retiring really doesn’t have the need for a watch, gold or otherwise, that might have been useful while they had a job.

The Trustees are empowered to vote on bestowing titles on faculty and in the current situation have voted to name Nancy as an Emeritus Professor of Geography.  She got to say a few words of thanks to and appreciation of CWU and of her joy of working with students.  I took a couple of pictures that are not too bad considering the nasty lighting, and then we (all the various honorees and tag-alongs) hightailed it out of there before the trustees and CWU administrators got back to figuring out how to run the University in a period of declining State revenue.

In addition to the new title, Nancy will be given a continuing parking decal which, truthfully, will be more useful than the gold watch they didn’t give her. In her remarks, Nancy was dignified as is appropriate for one with such a high-falutin ’ phrase in front of one’s name.  She did manage to insert a comment about her under- appreciation of “departmental politics” and that created a moment of hilarity.

MONDAY — just thinking

We are at that time of the year when the daylight hours are increasing and the weather is more conducive to being outside – sort of.  Last week three days of 45 mph wind didn’t help and now it is cool and slightly wet.  I still have 7 Ponderosa Pines to plant and lots of other things to do outside.  I mention this because during the winter (when Nancy was in critical care) there wasn’t much I could do, and so I grasped at all the information about her condition and treatment, and using the internet, tried to figure out what was happening, and then shared it with any that cared to read about it here.  There was a daily immediacy to the events and I began very unaware of all the medical possibilities and it was a steep learning curve.  So, I put lots of details in my winter reports.

There is less now on a daily basis to report and while we are very busy with all sorts of things, many are not exciting, and none are life threatening unless you count driving on narrow roads with right-angled turns every little bit (a consequence of our square survey grid). My (and our) reports now are more abbreviated but I still hope that on the medical issues I provide a good summary and appropriate links and key words that if you want to explore the issues more fully you will find it easy to do so.

I chose not to open this thing up to comments initially knowing it would be difficult for me to deal with personal issues (talking on the phone was an even more wrenching experience).  In one respect allowing comments would have made it easier for us to learn about what has been going on in the lives of others had you wished to share publicly but e-mail does work and we are learning a lot.  We thank you for updating us and we find it somewhat appalling that we have failed to keep up with all the goings on in your lives.  There have been accidents, hip replacements, surgeries, deaths, and new partners, and new grand children and many other things.  Wow!   [ nancyh@ellensburg.com ]

During last Saturday morning’s swing through the garage sale circuit John bought a pair of work shoes and an 18 inch pipe wrench.  Nancy bought a tear-dropped shaped mountain dulcimer (4 strings with C or D fretting).  You can look it up – I have no idea.

Nancy writes:

I want to put this next part in, because in this new exercise class I’m in, is a woman who had BOTH hips replaced less than a year ago.  She is doing really well in the class.  Maybe that will be encouraging to those of you with hip problems or replacements.  There are also people in the class who have knee replacements and they are up on their feet doing well.  We heard yet another family member just had one of those.  I’m still having trouble lifting my own body from a sit to stand without using my hands, but I’m told I will be better and able to do that at the end of three months.  I’m ready for that.

The program I joined is called SAIL—not as Sailing with the wind, but is an acronym for Stay Active & Independent for Life.  I joined a SAIL class, at the Adult Activity Center in Ellensburg.  It is an exercise class, developed by two women in the State of Washington.  It meets 3 days / week MWF from 1:30 to 2:30 and costs $3.00 for 3 months.  It is low impact aerobic stretching, balance, and strengthening exercises sitting or standing behind your chair, or walking around the room of chairs… to music.  We have a certified leader.  Today (Monday)  there were 21 people in attendance.  The oldest is 93 years young, and she “runs” / “walks” circles around most of us.

I’m still sorting through the clothes I bought at an estate sale.  Some low cut blouses (because of my heart surgery scar I don’t want to show) I’m giving to my neighbor.  My older bigger clothes, I’m portioning out to friends who can wear them.  I will never be in 2X again; that I know for sure.  I even had a few 3X blouses.  Now they swallow me.

One night last week we went to an orchestra presentation at the new music building where the acoustics are lovely; almost perfect from every seat in the house, and the Symphonetti from Rexburg, ID gave a great performance for about 1.5 hrs.

While I went to my normal nursing home music venue on Thursday afternoon with the Kittitas Valley Fiddlers and Friends, (I fiddle and sing), John planted trees, and cut off a matted (too bad to separate) tail of one of the new horses (Cheyenne).  I also attended a thesis defense for one of the REM graduate students who was in my class last fall.  So while I have retired, I still can find time to support some of the student activities that are meaningful to them and their families.

John reported I bought a dulcimer that I now have to learn to play.  A year ago I got  mandolin – also used much in old time music.  John says when we win the lottery and build a mansion with a great-stone room with a fireplace we can hang all the musical instruments we don’t play on the wall next to a large window looking out on the horses we don’t ride. Until that day, we plan to both play and ride.

SUNDAY — Many faithful readers

Well, okay, one actually: It’s only been since last Wednesday we (John) wrote, but had a request today from one of you in Blog land, that it was time for an update.

Things have continued going well with Physical Therapy and with getting out to go places.  Nancy went today to an award ceremony (for a prior student) at CWU, and John went on a field trip to Umptanum Falls and to patterned ground up on top of Manastash Ridge just a few miles south of EBRG.  John has continued every afternoon,  until today, to do “ground” work with the horses in the round pen.

We hit a few more yard sales and got me more clothes for the thinner body.  Nice to get them at these prices and not at store prices.  Goodwill is a good source too, but about 4 times as expensive.  I am still excited about the shoe-style boots we found in Yakima Goodwill for John, and the work boots I found for him at a yard sale, for $3.  The strangest coincidence happen with this purchase.  An hour after I returned home with the boots we went out again to watch a young friend play baseball, and behold, there sitting on the end of the bleacher was the previous owner – there to watch his grandson.

We do have to go to a doctor this Wednesday to talk about a possible implant of a device to control my atrial fibrillation but then the next appointment – a follow-up with the cardiologist isn’t for nine weeks.  I’m not sure I wish to go back in the hospital again any time soon, especially with my complications with Heparin, the blood thinner.

Nancy

WEDNESDAY — taking stock

Nancy and I went to Yakima today for a visit with the cardiologist.  He reviewed her history and records from the time she entered Yakima Regional Hospital with an on-going heart attack on the Friday morning after Thanksgiving.  This was interesting – his view – but it was not new material.  He reviewed all the medications and recent tests and suggested some adjustments and a substitution.  He also made a referral to another doctor in the practice, this one is an implantable device specialist.

One med problem is that the desired action of Coumadin (Warfarin) as an anticoagulant isn’t being maintained with the 2.5 unit dose and creeps up with the 5 unit dose.  Thus, until there is a 3 unit dose we are back to taking the larger dose about every third day.

He is recommending stopping the Lisinopril and substituting Telmisartan at its lowest dose.  These meds are to help maintain blood pressure in an appropriate range and one advantage of the new med is that it lasts longer in the body than the other.  Deciphering all the other differences of these types of drugs will involve more reading than I want to do tonight, so no more about them now.

The referral to the implantable device specialist is to get an opinion on whether or not one of the modern gadgets would work for Nancy in controlling heart functions.  There may be benefits with some implanted device but there is also the problem of her reaction to heparin such that any procedure would be more problematic.  That appointment (about 2 weeks off) has yet to be scheduled, so again, there is not much more to be said tonight.

EASTER — Celebrating; now where’s spring

We bought a rib roast and took it over to our neighbor so she could cook it in her new oven, thereby saving us the trouble of cooking, making gravy, and carrying a cumbersome and hot carton of things 300 yards down the road.  Nancy is supposed to take a stomach motivation pill about 30 minutes before she eats.  So we arrived a bit early and engaged in neighborhood news with the extended family members.  After a time Nancy rose out of her chair as though she had been poked with a sharp stick.  We were shocked – shocked, I tell you!  She had forgotten to take that pill and dinner time was fast approaching.  We were shocked that she would be so forgetful and threaten the timely serving of the food, for the rest of us would not have tasted a thing until her recalcitrant stomach was primed for the event.  Shame on her.

We haven’t written in a couple of days, but it’s because we have been busy, visiting doctors, physical therapy, and checking out some horses in the lower valley.  Nancy anticipates riding this summer and needs a calm and responsive horse.  We found a Tennessee Walking Horse mare 10 years old with experience around guns, dogs, people milling about, birds flying from under foot and so on. Namely, a birddog field trial horse.  She has a 6 yr. old half brother.   We will pick them up next weekend.

Nancy drove to town Friday – her first such activity since before Thanksgiving.  And also, except when we know she will want the attached seat, she leaves the 4-wheeled walker in the car.  All signs of progress.

John participated Saturday with our youngest horse in a workshop put on by our horseback trail riders club in the Kittitas Valley.  The weather outside was frightful.  Friday we had 3 to 4 inches of snow, and it snowed here a little Saturday.  I stayed home and was able to speak by phone with my maid of honor at my wedding… 40 years ago.  That was quite special.

Also, Saturday afternoon we went to a friend’s house and watched 4 kids color Easter eggs.  It’s much different from what I remember as a kid.   Then we ate a wonderful dinner and played around afterwards on the piano.

Monday starts another busy week.  One of the companies with Nancy’s retirement money gave us the wrong forms a few weeks ago so new ones have to be completed, signed and stamped by CWU’s benefits administrator, then resubmitted.  We have to turn in campus keys, go to physical therapy, go to the hospital lab for another blood draw for tests—never stops, and threatens to make me anemic again ! (ha ha )… not so funny.  Wednesday evening there is a presentation on the great ice age floods that swept across what is now eastern Washington State carrying blocks of ice, rocks, and all sorts of debris to the Pacific Ocean via the (now named) Columbia River Gorge.  This is a favorite topic of many retired earth science types we have known for years and, as such, we will see a lot of friends last seen months ago.

We know some readers are experiencing lovely spring-like weather.  And from the winter you had, you deserve a few nice days.  Not us.  We had a mild winter.  Here, this past week has been more winter-like than winter was.  With new horses coming, John has preparatory work to do.  Where’s spring?