Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Heartbreaker or Stroke Me (you pick I'm tired)

I had just come off the hardest week off exercise I had ever done. Ten thousand yards in the pool, and a little over a hundred miles on my mountain bike, all in five days. I felt great. I was down twelve pounds in eight weeks. For the first time in years, I felt like I was on a mission.

Saturday morning was great. I had slept in for the first time that week. It was awesome not to be up at five A.M. I needed twenty miles and a couple hours on the bike to make my goal. I struggled through the big east loop and eased up the last two hills to my house. I needed to take my car to Darien, so he could check out my front end, so I just got under the hose, toweled off and threw some clothes on to get out the door as soon as possible. My wife and I have been shopping for a new car for her and had pretty much decided on a new Subaru Forrester. The IMBA discount made the deal really good and we just needed to see if they could get her a car with the options she wanted. I raced across town, to meet her at the dealership. We drove a car, made a deal and I was going to take LWB to the music store, to get some drum stuff for school.

I was hot, hungry and really thirsty. I was thinking I should get a Gator Aid, as I opened the car to get in. My phone rang and it was my brother Chris. Our entire gaggle of siblings was coming to town to celebrate the opening of his new restaurant downtown called "The Avenue". As we were talking my tongue began to feel like it was on Novocaine and then my lip felt funny. I told my son something was wrong and that my lip felt swollen. He thought I was having an allergic reaction, so he started looking for my inhaler. As I looked down at my console, my right arm checked out and my hand dropped the phone. My face began to droop and as I told my son to "call Momma" the words came out all garbled. Luckily Michelle had not made it out of the dealership parking lot due to traffic, and was there within seconds. When she arrived and looked in the car, I told her I was having a stroke and to call an ambulance. I can't explain it, but I just knew it was a stroke. I figured it was triggered by dehydration, but I knew it was a stroke.

The fire truck and ambulance came and I was getting really embarrassed. A couple of the Subaru guys are cyclists and all I could think about was that everyone would find out. The EMT's tested my reflexes and my concerns became focused on my son, who now looked a little frantic. They were asking him questions about what happened and I could hear him, my wife and the EMT all talking in a swirl of words and confusion. I was really afraid that when I got out of the car, I would fall down and I couldn't bear the thought of my son seeing that, so I grabbed the EMT's arm and whispered to him:

"Please, no matter what happens, don't let me fall in front of my boy."

I guess I had that intensity (that people accuse me of) because for some reason the guy looked a little scared and said:

"Okay, okay, don't worry we'll get ya."

They loaded me up into the meat wagon and started the EKG and an IV, and did some more reflex tests.

You can always tell when you are in deep shit at the emergency room, because they take you right in. They wheeled me in to an ER nurse, and with in a couple seconds a doctor appeared and ordered a CT scan. The next few hours were a blur of tests: MRI, sonograms of my carotid arteries, another MRI, of my neck and head, sonogram of my femoral arteries, and numerous visits from nurses, doctors and something called a "Hospitalist" which near as I can figure, is a man or woman that has an Indian accent so thick, they aren't aloud to do real doctoring, and to prove they are incapable, they don't really seem to be familiar with your case. They just stop by like a retail sales manager to make sure your "Stroke Experience" was all you hoped it would be. I fully expected one of them to give me a survey card. It never happened.

The first night they put some inflatable stockings on me to keep me from having another stroke, but I was pretty sure they just didn't want me walking around and asking questions any more. I also had a portable vital signs thing that I had to carry around. All this makes sleeping a real endurance sport. That's what the Xanax is for I guess, that's good stuff.

All my tests were negative, my cholesterol was 147, and all my other blood chemistry was perfect. My arteries, heart, and pulmonary system were all fine. Everyone was baffled. When my Neurologist found the stroke damage on my MRI, I was really disappointed. I was really hoping that another disc in my neck was screwed up. No suck luck.

Sunday, they did a procedure where they numb your throat, give you some happy juice and stick some echo thing down your gullet. I gotta say; of all the thrill rides I went on this weekend this one, had the highest pucker factor. It turns out that I have a heart defect called: Patent Foramen Ovale Defect. When I was born the two sides of my heart did not heal, so blood sometimes leaks into the wrong side of my heart. This allowed a small clot (that normally would have been filtered by my lungs) to get past security and go straight to my brain. The little BASTARD! then did damage in three separate areas before it went (Deity of choice) knows where. They are going to go up though my thigh and repair the defect (much like they do to install stints). That little joy ride will happen soon.

I had another CT with a dye solution (I don't recommend it) to make sure my lungs weren't showing any signs of clotting and then we waited for the neurologist to read them for a few hours. He came in to see us (on his day off) and got in my face a little, because he didn't feel like I had a realistic grasp on my situation. He sort of backed up the hearse and let me smell the roses until he was sure I would do what he told me, and then at 9:30 they let me come home.

I have some issues with my middle, ring, and pinkie finger on my right hand. They work but feel like the messages are getting delayed from my brain. My right arm works but has some delay issues as well. No one seems to notice it but me, but my speech takes a little more concentration than before. It is usually worse when I first wake up or when I am tired. The experts tell me both are normal.

Good stuff: I never lost consciousness or any memory. I didn't lose any vision. I have way more movement in my hands than most after a stroke. I can play drums a little (this was a big worry). I can hold handlebars and work shifters and brakes. I can also do a wheelie (though I will NEVER admit how I found this out).

I am determined not to take myself and my family to that dark place I went after my neck issues. I am hopeful and positive about recovery, even if it does not go the way I want it to. For now I just want to make it through my heart procedure with out complications and do what the Doc's tell me (within reason). The staff at TCH was very good to me as well as the Fire rescue guys (if anyone knows the guys in the pics please let me know who they are). The guys at the Subaru dealership could not have been better. If you know any of them, please thank them for me. I am very thankful to be alive and alert. Everything else will reveal itself in the future. My wife was an absolute rock through this whole ordeal as was my boy LWB (for calling Mom and alerting the Subaru guys). My oldest boy, future hopeful med student, diagnosed me well before the doctors. He watches "House" and "Mystery Diagnosis" and he was never worried. Smart like his Mom that one.

Thanks to all, for the love and positive thoughts. I promise I will be pissing you all off again in no time.



Wednesday, August 4, 2010

C'mon C'mon

I am always a little amused when people make declarations of love. Some people need to "declare" love for spouses and children, or to proclaim their need to "spend time" with a spouse, or family member. I find the behavior odd, like saying you need to breath or eat. It always seemed to me that it was a given and the people that made the least of these declarations, had the most stable lives and relationships. I find it equally odd when people pretend that their families or friends don't annoy them, or that they don't need breaks from said folks. My point is, relationships are weird. We love people that drive us nuts. We need to be around our family and sometimes it is healthy for us to be alone.

I have been riding with my son quite a bit over the last few months. It is a little tougher being a bike Dad. It is twice as hard to get ready. There are twice as many mechanical issues, it is twice as expensive. Instead of only having to motivate yourself, you must now be a host to a little person that (most of the time) doesn't know what he is feeling, why he is feeling it, or how to deal with all the residual energy those feelings cause. Like most things I have been passionate about, the perfect days are few, but they occur just enough to keep you to keep you on the hook. When they do happen, there is nothing better.

The downside to this is; I don't get to ride with my friends as much. It wasn't bad in the beginning because LWB could only ride a couple days week, and most days, those rides were short. I could do an easy ride with him, then set out on my own, or catch the group ride later. LWB is getting pretty fit and he has grown (literally) a lot this year. He has become a stronger more experienced rider and he is able to do longer tougher rides than ever before. This has stretched the time between crew rides more and more. It was always the goal for him to be a rider capable of being on the crew rides. When he rides with us, I feel bad inflicting my language and subject filters on the crew. They did not decide to have a kid and it is not their fault he isn't old enough to talk about the various attributes of female runners body parts, or how drunk someone got the night before, or any other adult, politically incorrect subjects that make rides with the boys such great escapes from real life. I live in constant fear that they will recount some tale of my past exploits that my boy is not ready to process. When you factor in that the crew is filled with mythical people he has been hearing stories about for years, and that he so badly wants to be around the riders he idolizes, the balancing act is delicate.

The rare rides I get to be on with (adult only) crew have created another weird side affect: I am way too stoked and I want all those rides to be perfect. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and completely unrealistic. Given enough time (and Irish heritage) allows me to completely edit out all the bad footage and only run the highlight reel, over and over. I show up on adult only rides thinking they are all going to be technically great, super funny and that everyone is as stoked as me. This usually leads to disappointment. I forget that they ride together all the time, they are in bad moods, and that they don't want to recant every detail from all the time since we last rode together. I am also slower, from adjusting my riding style for the grommet and the large number of beginner/junior rides we attend. So on top of getting my feelings hurt, I usually get a good ass kicking to go with my reality check.

When I ride with my son a little part of me is pissed I am not riding harder or with the crew. When I ride with the crew, I miss my boy and I am reminded of slow I am. All in all, I am a lucky dude. I am lucky to have friends. I am lucky to have a kid that rides well. I have even enjoyed riding with some new folks I have met on the Mingo group rides. As with all things, these issues will stabilize without any input from me. Change is hard, and constant.

I'll see you on the trails (eventually).