The tears fell

Yesterday I cried. I suffered physically and emotionally. I couldn’t walk up hill. My identity was in tatters as I wrestled with exactly what I was doing bushwacking through thorn forest on a forty five degree slope with ball bearings for footing. Why had I agreed to this? To please Burt? To prove something to myself? Because I wanted to see the birds? All of the above.

When do we give up what we could do and put youthful past times aside forever? I used to climb mountains. I ran marathons. I have a black belt in karate. None of that can be done by this body ever again. Could I even just walk up a hill? The exhaustion I feel as I try to walk up hill is all comsuming. My brain hardly can think. Blood leaves the brain first in endurance sports. I think that’s why we can keep pushing our limits but it also makes it a tightrope walk. Every step I wonder where I am going. My emotions get away from me. Why is Burt going so fast? Where are we? I’m going to hurt myself. I sit. Three times yesterday I sat without looking where my butt was aimed. Only one did I land on a cholla. Burt tried to help but he kept pushing the spines in deeper. I couldn’t see back there. I dealt with it. I rested. I ate. I tried again. It got easier.

But the wondering of when will be the last massive effort? When will I say, “Burt you have to go without me?” It makes me cry.

 

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What’s Missing?

We all like churros.
We all like churros.

I’m on here again. Writing every day takes effort. It would be so easy to skip today. I feel sad and tired. I woke up feeling panicked at 3 AM. Thinking about evil, anonymous poisoners is trying my trust in humans. Elvis is unwell. He’s 11 and in pain. We’re taking him to the vet tomorrow. I suspect cancer and have for about 2 years. He’s a dog of low pain tolerance and high anxiety. For this reason we opted no investigation or treatment for his lumps. So here I am second guessing myself when I don’t even know what is wrong. Olive is wary and weak.

Our assignment is to contemplate what is missing from our lives. I am missing energy and drive. Two years after a heart surgery and many exams and month long studies and this beta blocker I just feel robbed of vitality. I am tired. Yoga is hard work. Walking to yoga takes the same mental effort I used to use to run a marathon. Every week my clothes feel smaller. I can’t stop the weight gain. The double wammy, maybe triple wammy, of menopause, medication, and heart palpitations. I do what ‘they’ say to do and I wonder how much worse would it all be if I worked and didn’t have time to exercise and eat right and avoid stress.

Sometimes trying to hold a simple pose that I used to find easy I wonder if I will ever feel strong again. And I realize what a privilege it was to have had a strong body for so long. Boy do I miss it.

Churro maker of Todos Santos.
Churro maker of Todos Santos.
Moving the plow mules
Moving the plow mules
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LifeWatch Event Monitor

The LifeWatch King of Hearts event monitor and me.
The LifeWatch King of Hearts event monitor and me.

I have a new appreciation for the annoyance of wearing a medical device. I am almost three weeks into my month long stint wearing a LifeWatch King of Hearts cardiac event monitor. I can be grateful this thing exists and might spare me from a permanent subcutaneous monitor but I can still hate every second of wearing it. Well, not every second but most of the night and half the day.

If you haven’t been following along you might wonder what is going on? A year ago this week I underwent a 6 hour procedure (operation) called a cardiac ablation. The goal was to eliminate atrial fibrillation. It doesn’t always work and in my case it appears that I came out on the wrong side of the odds. Some twenty to forty percent of these procedures fail. I don’t know who’s keeping records. My own surgeon has no idea that I am suffering complication or failure or whatever we’re going to call this. He’s in Montana and he pretty much stopped returning my call in month one so I have a new doctor here in Arizona. So I suspect that actual success rates are lower than advertised. But I am not at all bitter about this. I took this path willingly and knew that it wasn’t guaranteed to fix my situation. here I am a year out and my heart is still prone to intermittent episodes of random beating. Palpitations doesn’t quite cover it. About a month ago I suffered three events so debilitating I could not stand up and my chest hurt and my breathing was erratic. These events lasted long enough that bystanders could take my pulse and freak out. My pulse was doing a poorly timed Mambo. All three events occurred in one week. So despite the super duper results of my stress test there is still some kind of electrical problem in my heart.

My new doctor decided on this 30 day event monitor. The goal is to try and figure out what is happening. Here’s how it works. I wear this pack of cards sized thing around my neck for 30 days. Two electrodes are attached to me, one on the upper right, the other on the lower left. An electrical signal is sent between the two electrodes and the monitor is making a continuous loop recording of the heart. The recording constantly overwrites itself until an event is saved. The monitor or I can record an event. If the monitor senses a disturbance it makes a recording. If I sense a disturbance I make the recording by pressing the big record button. three recordings can be saved on the device. When I have two or three recordings I call the company and send them in over the phone. The downloading of the data sounds like a fax machine. Burt says my heart sounds like an alien.

Sounds pretty straightforward. Hah. The first monitor expired in 3 days but not before waking me up on night one sounding the alarm. It said something happened in my sleep. At 1 AM Burt and I walked to the client’s house and phoned in the event. The new monitor arrived a few days later. It’s pretty humid here. I don’t sweat much but the electrodes kept falling off. I taped them on. I developed an allergic reaction to the tape. Blisters, itching. I called the company and asked for the athletic person’s electrodes. I had avoided these because I knew I was sensitive to some adhesives but I figured I might as well try. These active person’s electrodes stick and only cause a minor skin irritation. Every three days or less I move the electrode site. Sleep is problematic. First off, Mimi walks all over me and tries to make recordings. I have to keep the monitor button down so she doesn’t trigger it. Secondly, I accidentally press the button while moving around. Thirdly, the electrodes disengage from the electrode stickers and send an alarm. Fourth, its no fun trying to sleep with wires and straps flopping all around.

Yesterday my replacement monitor failed. I called the company. I replaced the batteries. I turned it on and off. Nothing. I was primed for an event. I had worked two days of hard labor. It was hot. I was caffeinated. Tennis on the agenda. Sure enough big event during tennis. No monitor. Insert your preferred expletives here. Burt was so upset he could hardly hit the ball. I have yet to capture a significant event (that I am aware of) since I’ve been wearing this thing. It’s a classic problem and has happened to many people. The nature of this condition is very unpredictable. I swear the King of Hearts is some kind of biofeedback device. It’s sending waves into my heart telling it to be cool. Burt’s theory that I am cured went out the window with yesterday’s unmonitored event. Meanwhile, The King of Hearts reset itself while it was resting on the table unattached to me and now it is working. Insert more expletives here.

Here I sit with 9 more days to try and capture the big event. If it doesn’t work and we can’t get a diagnosis it looks like I’m a candidate for an internal monitor. Meanwhile I can commiserate with how wonderful and awful a diabetic pump and other external devices must be for the people that wear them. The thing I find most irritating is wearing the device puts the problem front and center and I can’t get away from thinking about every beat of my heart. I also am grateful because it could be much worse and I am getting fitter every day as I try and trigger an event by overdoing it.

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Hiking Overdose

Thunderstorm moving in the Chiricahua Mountains
Thunderstorm moving in the Chiricahua Mountains. From the McCord Trail.

After nearly 10 years together we’ve finally inflicted ourselves with similar wounds. Both Burt and I are nursing very sore right quadriceps muscles after hiking a steep route up to a ridge above the gNash parking spot. Our attempts to trigger a large cardiac event continue to be met mostly with failure. I’ve hiked to the point of nearly not being able to walk and I’ve only had two events of substance. Tennis, the reliable trigger, is out of the question for a few days at least, too. I will not despair. I have twenty more days yoked to these wires and the monitor. I did not imagine the three massive events in one week just a month ago but perhaps, as Burt hopes, I am finally cured. Time will tell.

Tuesday we took the McCord trail to a rock outcrop above the town of Portal. It was nearly 2 hours up and a little over an hour down. The down is what kills the quads. The view was spectacular and we saw lots of bear sign. The great oso negro of our neighborhood is also dining on Emory acorns. It has been a very productive year for the oak trees.

yesterday I joined the hiking club for a more sedate and flat walk through Horseshoe Canyon. I got to catch up with loyal blog follower, Pat. We did 6 or 7 miles depending on which GPS you believe. The plan was to get good and tired before teh afternoon tennis match but we were rained out. Then today my leg hurt too much to play. Maybe Sunday I’ll get back on the court. Meanwhile I’ll enjoy the scenery from down here.

A peephole window.
A peephole window. McCord Trail.
The gNash is nestled on the valley floor among the Portal house.
The gNash is nestled on the valley floor among the Portal house. From the McCord Trail.
Burt waters the Olvis.
Burt waters the Olvis.
Carol at rest.
Carol at rest. Horseshoe canyon.
Rolf flushes a Montezuma Quail.
Rolf flushes a Montezuma Quail. Horseshoe Canyon.
Horseshoe Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains
Horseshoe Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains
Tiny grasshopper on blue morning glory.
Tiny grasshopper on blue morning glory. Horseshoe Canyon.
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Mother-in-law Cottage

The gable for the back bedroom.
The gable for the back bedroom.

I’m struggling to keep up these days as a carpenter’s assistant. I’m not strong enough, quick enough, or smart enough. I feel like I might be retiring soon.

After three weeks of convoluted emails and phone calls I was hooked up to a 30 day cardiac event monitor on Saturday. I am to wear this beeper sized device with two electrodes for a month. We hope to see what is making me collapse on the tennis court. It can record irregular rhythms that it detects or that I detect and tell it to record.

The thing recorded an event in the wee hours of Sunday morning and woke me from a very vivid dream. I was in the process of doing the bird-of-paradise yoga pose in front of an audience. This was at the behest of a medical technician trying to make my heart do the funny thing it does. The heart monitor alarm went off just as my arms were bound behind my back and I was shifting my weight to my left foot and preparing to stand up. BEEP BEEP BEEP. But here’s the weird thing. I’m not sure if I was having a cardiac event or only dreaming I was having a cardiac event. It took several rounds of beeping for me to rouse myself from sleep. Eventually I discovered one of the wires had become disconnected. Did this trigger the alarm? Better go download the data.

Burt and I trudged to the house and I called the hotline. It was 1:30 AM. We downloaded the data. There was data so that means there might have been an event. The woman with the slight German accent reminded me if the monitor goes off from a monitor detected event the alarm will sound until I call them and download the data. If I trigger a recording manually no alarm will sound. So much for sleep.

Then Sunday came. I recorded an event manually. As evening drew I saw that the machine indicated two events for the day but I had only intentionally recorded one. I decided to download the data since the machine can only hold three recordings. Long story short, it was malfunctioning. The recorder would not download the data. A new machine is on it’s way. Yesterday I had another massive event (while playing tennis). Alas, it went unrecorded. I should have my new machine today.

All of this to say wearing a heart monitor is enough to make a person meltdown or have a cardiac event. All activities and clothing must take the device into account. My mind is filled with recurring thoughts. Thoughts that do not make for an easy demeanor. Is it working? was that a blip? Am I still attached? Is it going to jam? No wonder I want to retire.

On the positive side I am practicing fiddle and mandolin regularly.

Me doing what I can do.
Me doing what I can do.
Flatish roofs are fun to work on.
Flatish roofs are fun to work on.
Measure and cut.
Measure and cut.
The window and door out the back bedroom.
The window and door out the back bedroom.
Back bedroom and its tiny covered porch.
Back bedroom and its tiny covered porch.
Side view of front room and original construction.
Side view of front room and original construction.
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