Saturday, June 30, 2007

A day in the life of a disorganised dag

It's been a pretty busy few months, and this hasn't been helped by my terrible disorganisation. I have diaries and yellow sticky notes all over the place, but still manage to forget things. Luckily I've usually been able to cover (ie: pretend) my way out of problems. Last Monday however I was due to fly to Brisbane for a board meeting, and on the Friday before the meeting I realised that I hadn't booked the plane ticket over! In an absolute panic I looked up plane tickets on the net, fully expecting that I would have to pay a fortune to purchase a ticket, or even worse that there would be no tickets available. Imagine the embarassment of having to explain that to the board! To my amazement, there was a seat available for $100! Snapped it up quickly, sigh of relief. I just hope that when I submit the receipt for reimbursement that the secretary doesn't notice when I purchased the ticket!

Life passing before my eyes........

Well it's amazing, three and a half months have passed since I last updated my blog. It seems like yesterday, and my heart surgery and near-death experience seem like a long forgotten dream.

Things are moving at a terrific pace, there is so much going on. I guess you could say that life has returned to normal, although I have been wondering lately whether this is the "normal" that I really want. But hey I'm rambling......

To update, I saw my cardiologist a few weeks ago and have been given the all clear! HOORAY! I am now free to do absolutely anything, physically and mentally or otherwise. I am taking aspirin daily for the rest of my life, but otherwise no other medication.

I guess in a way, the reason for this blog has now passed on. It certainly helped me to cope with my recovery, but since I'm all better now it's time to move on. However, I feel rather sentimental about my blog - after all it is a history of my experiences after heart surgery etc. So i'll keep it alive, and drop in now and then with the odd story and tidbits, rants and raves.

So thanks to you all for dropping in and saying G'day. Feel free to drop on in and catch a funny story or two. Flick me an email and say hello.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

FuFoo..... FuFoo......

The weather is wet, wet, wet. With not much else to do, I have been entertaining myself with the Nintendo. In particular, I have been playing Nintendogs. Ok, it's a completely girly game! But it's actually quite fun. The basic premise is that you can select a cute puppy and play with it and train it. You can throw toys to it, shampoo and brush it, feed it and walk it. And train it to do tricks. The neat thing is that it has voice recognition due to a built in microphone, so you can give your puppy commands by voice. Fun for me, but very very annoying for everyone else in the house. I think they are getting highly sick of my continual voice commands to my puppy - FuFoo...... (my puppy's name, named after a dear, dear friend of mine), sit down, lie down, rollover, play dead........... I've even been ordered to play in the room, away from everyone else!

My puppy is a little King Charles Cavalier Spanial - and has two spotted pink ribbons on its head - very cute! She's not the most obedient puppy however - doesn't listen to my orders very well!

On puppies - a funny story. Directly across the road from us live a young couple, a blondie and her younger man. Anyways, late one night the young boy turned up at the front door - obviously been out on the town, and his girlfriend wouldn't let him in! He went off (probably to stay at a mate's house) and early the next morning came home and had to beg his girlfriend to let him in. "Puppy. puppy. Please let me in!" So, so funny! So now Yvette and I always refer to the girl across the road as puppy! haha

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Toothbrushing Troubles

Brushing teeth every day is as routine as putting clothes on before going out, covering your mouth when burping, and opening doors for sexy ladies. Me. I like my toothpaste mint flavoured (there isn't any other flavour anyway). There are so many styles - mint, cool mint, freshmint, triple mint etc etc. Colgate is my brand of choice, and they provide minty freshness in white, light blue, darker blue (the gel stuff) and white and blue stripes or even triple stripes (red, white and blue).

This morning I whacked open the tube of toothpaste and put the paste onto my brush and into my mouth as I have for 29 years. But the taste wasn't mint! I pulled out the brush and the toothpaste was yellow! I kid you not! It was bright yellow. I look on the tube, colgate of course. But instead of minty freshness, the flavour is propolis (whatever the hell that is!) written over a picture of a bee on a honeycomb! What the hell is this? No doubt it's from our visitors - but it's just not toothpaste..........

As if to spite me, someone has put out another "not" Colgate toothpaste in the bathroom - it's white with yellow stripes and called Kayu Sugi! I have abolutely no idea what this stuff is - but apparently it is good for teeth! Here are some pics for you all to see.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Heart Health Update

I guess it's been a while since you've all had an update on the health of my heart, so it's time to fill you in. My scar is healing well - it's a lot thinner than I had imagined pre-surgery, about 1mm in thickness. There is a variable amount of pain through my chest, which I think is just the muscles knitting back together after they were cut apart. It hurts most in the morning when I wake up, but is fairly bearable throughout the rest of the day. Paracetamol doesn't seem to put a dent into the discomfort so I don't bother taking it anymore.

Probably the thing that is bothering me more than the pain is the general tiredness and exhaustion that I have been feeling every day. I'm putting it down to the running around and excitement over the visit of our guests. More likely it's payback for my over-enthusiasm earlier in my recovery when I felt so good that I might have overdone it a little bit - and am paying for it now.

The million dollar question is how does my heart feel? Well, dunno cos i can't really feel it. However, I can say quite definitively that it works a hell of a lot better than before surgery! I went for a morning walk with Yvette's mom yesterday morning, for about 35 minutes up and down some rather tough hills. I'm glad to say that I passed with flying colours - in fact I felt tremendous! I'm certainly feeling confident that the recovery is going well, and that my heart is fixed.

The World's Greatest Invention!

My brother bought me a get well gift when he came to visit from london - a Nintendo DS lite. It is freaking awesome! It's a handheld videogame console, which has two screens, one of which is a touchscreen. I am so so addicted to it - I don't think that a day has gone by where I haven't played it! It's really stuffed up my walking and exercise routine - and introduced really bad posture pains from constantly playing day and night.

However, I have not had it all my own way! It turns out that it's not just me, but every member of Yvette's family has also become addicted to the DS! Yvette's mom stayed up until 2.30am playing the Big Brain Academy one night, and Yvette stayed up till 2am playing Elite Beat Agents! And in between, Yvette's sister has been nabbing it to play some crappy game called Meteos! Throughout, Yvette's dad has been looking on - if curiosity killed the cat this one would have been dead from the first day I played the Nintendo! It has been a real battle getting my hands on my own DS!

In absolute dismay over the inability to touch or even at times see my DS (it seems to keep disappearing - I even took to hiding it) I took the only option available to me. In utter desperation, I went out and bought THREE brand new Nintendo DS'sssss!!!!

So now Yvette, Yvette's sister (she needs to learn how to accept presents! :oP ) and Yvette's father (Yvette's sister and I bought it for him as a prez) have their own DS! And I have absolutely no money left.............


Happy New Year Everyone! I wish you all the best, for a safe, succesful 2007!

My apologies for the lack of updates over the last few weeks - I know that I have had some of you worried! I am glad to say that I have survived the visit with the in-laws, just. It's been a lot of fun, and we've had some great adventures that i'll share over the next few days. While Yvette's father and sister left to their respective homes yesterday, Yvette's mom (number 4) will be staying with us for another two weeks. I'm filled with joy! Incidently, we got her drunk last night for new year's eve! haha She even woke up at 11.30am this morning - well after her normal 8am starts!

So it is now back to business as usual. I'm glad to say that I am recovering well, although my chest has been hurting more over the past two weeks than it ever has. I have also had a terrible headache lately (which has cleared up by about 66% in the last 24 hours). My INR, measured by blood tests every three days, is still fluctuating so I am constantly changing my warfarin dosages, which is quite annoying. And as is normal during the festive season, I have put on a few kgs, and have been very lazy and not been doing my twice daily 30 minute walks or exercises. It is going to be painful starting these up again.........

Anyway, a big hello to you all and look forward to talking to you throughout this new year! :o)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Post Hosp Day Twenty-Three Update: Spoke Too Soon

Seems like I spoke too soon! Today was my worst nightmare come true!

Went to the doctors surgery to have my blood test - I'm still having them every three or four days because my warfarin dosage hasn't settled yet. I wait the customary thirty minutes in the waiting room (despite making appointments for a 5 minute blood test, they're always thirty minutes late!). The nurse finally comes to get me, and takes my blood. NOT!

She inserts the needle, and instead of a small prick, it is intense, excruciating pain! It really really %^$&#%^ HURTS! Seems that because my arms have become pin cushions from so many blood tests, the veins have scarred over and she was trying to take blood from a scar area. She tries again in another part of the vein - and again intense, sharp, horrible PAIN!! I feel light headed and dizzy like i'm going to faint again. The nurse gets me to lie down. I feel sick.

After five minutes the nurse tries taking blood from my other arm. She's a bit nervous, and so am I! You can cut the air with a knife. She gets it ok, but it hurts a little bit more than usual. And then i'm running out the door, sweating like crazy! I hate bloodtests!

Footnote: One hour later and the first hole she made in my vein is still bleeding!

Post Hosp Day Twenty-Two Update: Worst Nightmare

One week and counting until my worst nightmare comes true...... Ask any Aussie bloke to list his top three worst nightmares, and i'm sure that they will all have mine in their list! Next week the in-laws arrive!

Now I have to say from the outset that Yvette's family (parents and sister) are the loveliest people! And i'm not just saying that. However, the conceptual barrier that I have had since being born as a boy still exists - hate the in-laws! haha

As little boys we are taught that in-laws are all grotesque monsters who exist to make our lives miserable! It's quite ironic really, since our parents who we love will most likely become in-laws at some stage - and i'm sure they don't change overnight! In an effort to humanise mine in some way, I have adopted a special naming system for them. Instead of calling them mom and dad, or father-in-law and mother-in-law, or aunty and uncle, or by their first names (in case I forget them!), I have borrowed Yvette's familys method of naming. Yvette's mom is one of 9 kids, so they name them by order of birth - so Yvette's mom is number 4. So I call her number 4, her husband 4.0, Yvette's sister 4.1 and Yvette 4.2. I think it's quite funny, I hope they'll think the same!

In preparation for their arrival, we have to spring clean the house. Due to lifting restrictions, I can't do any of this - at last my injury is finally having some benefit! There's things to move, to clean, to tidy, to reorganise and so on and so on. Apparently however, we are not the only ones preparing for the visit. I hear that number 4 has been frantically practising mahjong with her friends - she has visions of playing me and taking all my money! She sees dollar signs in her eyes because she insists I play with Australian dollars and she plays with her currency (1 Aussie dollar = about 3 of hers!!). 4.1 has been busy learning how to use her digital SLR - she wants to show off to me how "good" her photography skills are! And I hope that 4.0 is ready for some male bonding - i'm planning on isolating him from the nagging threesome (imagine the poor man - surrounded by three endlessly babbling women!). I think lots of fishing, eating and drinking are in order!

Post Hosp Day Twenty-One Update: Frustrated Bystander

We've been looking for a bookshelf for our living room for ages now - and we finally found a decent one! Unfortunately, given the rules i'm given regarding lifting and Yvette's womanly strength, we need help to get it from the shop. Dad and Yvette go to get it - it's so frustrating watching them carry it upstairs into the house! And then Yvette gets all the fun of putting it together! It's not fair!

Dad also helps me dig up the vegetable garden so that I can plant some new vegies. This really irks me - I can't even use a fork to dig up the ground! He then proceeds to plant all of my seeds and seedlings! This is so not fair! The garden is looking good, some nice looking cauliflower and broccoli, and some different lettuce plants that we use for salad. I'm looking forward to showing it off to Yvette's mom when she visits in a week. I turn my head for an instant, and when I turn back Dad has uprooted my lettuce plants in one fell swoop! He reckons they're too old! Oh no! He then tells me that the cauliflower and broccoli need to be eaten now, so he cuts them and then digs the plants up! Noooooooooooooo! Now there is no vegie garden to show off to Yvette's mom, just a couple of small seedlings!

I'm really not enjoying watching people doing all the fun things! I think i'm going to write today off and go to bed!

Post Hosp Day Twenty Update: Sunny Weather!

Summertime at last! It's 35C today, and not a cloud in the sky! It's a glorious day, so Yvette and I head down to the open-air market for brunch. As we walk down we come across a group of 40-50 people, all dressed in red! I think they're part of some club - they're doing some sort of run, maybe for charity? Seems to me they're crazy - who would run in a 35C day?? My suspicions are confirmed when we notice three middle aged men wearing dresses and fishnet stockings - an unattractive sight on most days, but even more so in all red!

The market is very quiet - I guess everyone has gone to the beach. We have our brunch, ice coffees and glass of white wine in the shade. The perfect way to relax and unwind. And then we're off to the beach!

We head to our own secret cove, which we are pretty much guaranteed to have to ourselves. When we get there, the wind has swung around from the hot northerly to a cooler southerly. But it's still perfect for swimming. I walk out, but Yvette is a bit reticent - she is such a wuss sometimes! After 5 or 10 minutes I convince her to come out - it's beautiful!

The water here is shallow - we walk out 30 metres and the water is still only above my knees. It's crystal clear, I can see the crabs underwater on the sand! I chase them around in circles - they disappear by burying themselves in sand.

Yvette has a swim - but she won't let me. Something about not getting my scar wet.......

In a flash an hour has passed, and it's time to go home. I hope that this awesome weather lasts!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Post Hosp Day Seventeen Summary: Keeping My Mouth Shut

I've been told many times that I talk too much, today is yet more evidence of this. My forced homestay has reduced me to reading the local newspaper. It's considered complete trash, and usually takes about a minute to read. I read a story last week that particularly irked me, something about the government wasting $150,000 on a stupid project, and before I knew it I had written a letter in to the editor about it.

I've been checking the newspaper daily just in case it got published, and today it was. This is kinda cool, but while reading over the letter I think I may have been a little bit harsh - my letter ends with something like "the government should be ashamed at this clear case of financial mismanagement". While I've probably gotten a bit carried away, I'm not too worried, I can't imagine many people reading my letter, it is the local crappy newspaper after all!

WRONG! Got a call from the local news station, they want to interview me about my letter. Oh dear....... I really need to learn to keep my mouth shut!

Post Hosp Day Sixteen Summary: Heart Remodelling

Met with my cardiologist for the first time since my surgery. We do the routine "how are you feeling?" health test, followed by the more scientifically grounded stethescope to listen to my heart. He's extremely happy with the results of the surgery, and is confident that I will recover to better than normal, although it might take some time (I keep hearing this!).

He does recommend that I stop taking the blood pressure tablets and diuretics (hooray!). He also asks me to go back onto the ACE (acetylcholinesterase) inhibitor that I was taking prior to surgery. His reasoning is that the ACE inhibitor has been used successfully to help the heart remodel and heal itself following stroke or heart attack, and so it should also help my heart to remodel following my surgery. This is the first time anyone has mentioned heart remodelling, I'm gonna have to do some more research on this. Suffice to say, anything that helps my heart heal itself sounds good to me!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Post Hosp Day Fifteen Summary: Health Update

It's now three weeks since my heart surgery, so it seems like a good time for a health check. Out of 10, I would give myself a 7. I feel really good, which surprises me a lot. I expected that I would feel awful, and be quite limited in my movements and mobility. In actual fact, it's the exact opposite. I am very mobile, and can pretty much move as I please. I still have to bear in mind the no lifting, pushing, weight through chest rules and this places some limitations on what I can do. For example, it's kinda funny watching the role reversal with Yvette being the gentleman and opening and shutting the car door for me all the time!

There is no pain per se, although my chest still hurts when I cough or sneeze. What has developed is some muscle aches and pains, but these are bearable. They are most noticeable in the middle of my back, and across my shoulders. This is probably not surprising since the surgeon cut through my chest muscles and stretched my chest open for a number of hours. The neck and shoulder exercises that I am doing daily are probably adding to this too.

On exercises, upon leaving the hospital the physio gave me a sheet of rehabilitation exercises to perform several times a day. These were pretty easy, and subsequently I am doing twice as many exercises twice as often as recommended. I now have a new sheet of upgraded rehabilitation exercises. It consists of 10 warm up exercises, and then 30 exercises that are to be performed for a minute each. I'm supposed to start with the first 10 exercises in one session, and then work my way up to doing all 30 in the one session. The warm up exercises and the first 10 exercises are a breeze, and I am able to do them quite easily. This rehab stuff is no problem at all! But I spoke too early! Today I tried the second set of 10 exercises, and I am seriously hurting. Not sharp pain, but that really good pain that you feel after a session in the gym. That pain that says "yeah, this is good". I've now found another challenge, i'm gonna defeat these exercises!

The other component to my health at the moment is medication. I'm having blood tests every three or four days to monitor the effect of the warfarin (anti-coagulant). My level has been bouncing up and down a little since hospital, and for the last week has been slowly climbing. Today is another blood test day, and the nurse is struggling to find a vein without a scar from previous blood lettings! The doctor calls in the early evening, and my level is twice what it should be! It seems I am very sensitive to the warfarin, so I'm told not to take warfarin for four days. This is no problem to me, but Mom is in a panic. Hopefully she'll calm down soon!

So overall, health is good. Not getting tired so much. As Yvette would say, it's just a matter of developing some patience and not overdoing things........ My answer to her is "easier said than done!" :o)

Post Hosp Day Fourteen Summary: Small Victories

Having loving parents and Yvette to support me is without doubt one of the major reasons for my good recovery from heart surgery. Unfortunately, this support sometimes goes a bit far ie: restrictive diets, wrapping me in cotton wool, keeping watch over me 24/7. However, today represents a breakthrough. Well, sort of anyway.

I have moved back home after spending the last two weeks at mom and dad's. It's so nice to be home, although mom and dad are concerned about how I am going to feed myself properly, so to appease them I am having lunch and dinner at their house. So a small victory, of sorts.

Despite Yvette's protestations, I have started doing some things around the house. Gardening, clothes washing, hanging out the clothes (have to carry only a few clothes to the line at a time, no basket lifting!), and tidying up my stuff scattered around the house. We have an argument because I might have, maybe, kind of did a little bit of vacuuming. But it was a really small amount, and I pushed the vacuum with both hands and didn't lift it. Honest. Gradually I wear her down, and win approval to do "light" jobs around the house. Another victory!

Mom and dad's house is about a 10 minute walk down a rather steep hill from my house. When I raise the idea of walking from my house down to mom's, it is met by a resounding "NO" from all parties. My relentless nagging is unsuccessful. In the late afternoon while Yvette is napping, I walk down to mom's for dinner. As the saying goes, "the proof is in the pudding". I'll now be walking to mom's for lunch every day while Yvette is working. Chalk up another victory!

As funny as it sounds, a game has developed around me trying to push everyone to allow me to do what I want. I am continually scheming of ways to get what I want, and it's becoming quite fun! I'm looking forward to more victories! Oh and yes, there have been some losses, some rather big ones at that too! But I'll save those for another day. :o)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Post Hosp Day Thirteen Summary: Frustration, Depression, Anger, Alone

Well I guess that all good things must eventually come to an end, and in my case, it was probably too good to be true. Leading up to and after my operation, I can honestly say that I have been able to remain positive about the entire experience. But this morning I wake up and I'm hit by a tidal wave of emotion all at once. It's the deadly combination: frustration, depression, anger, alone (FDAA). All of my information booklets warn against these emotions, and i've pretty much ignored them all because I haven't really felt any of them, but today they seem to have finally caught me!

I'm angry and frustrated at not being able to do the things that I would normally take for granted, and for missing out on events that I would love to have attended. Being treated like i'm disabled in some way is also really starting to annoy me, and today i've found myself very snappy and angry over the smallest things. The natural order is for these to lead to depression, and i'm feeling rather depressed about myself today. Despite the support that i'm receiving, all of these feelings are making me feel very cold and alone. It's not a pleasant feeling. Talking to someone might help, but I doubt i'd be able to explain all of these emotions to anyone anyway. Interestingly, blogging seems to help (I wonder if the Australian Health System will support blogging as an alternative medication for FDAA??). I think it's time for some time alone, so that I can sort myself out. I'm sure i'll be able to kick out the FDAA soon, so i'll talk to you all again in a few days......

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Post Hosp Day Eleven Summary: Time Flies!

Time flies! It is hard to believe that 17 days ago I was staring death in the face! While i'd like to be able to say that I grabbed death's balls and told him to go away, it wasn't quite like that. But i'll happily take a victory over death any way that I can! Suffice to say, I'm feeling good and looking forward to getting my life back to normal. In the meantime - to you, my adoring fans and disciples, I wish you all the best of health and happiness!

Post Hosp Day Ten Summary: Chronic Mitral Regurgitation

Prior to my surgery, my cardiologist suggested that I act like a patient,and not look up my condition on the internet or text books, as it would probably cause more stress and worry than good. Despite the constant urge to surf the web, I resisted and with hindsight, this was probably the best thing I could have done. However, now that my surgery has been a success and my heart is all better, it's time to hit Wikipedia!

So basically I had a case of chronic mitral regurgitation. This was caused by Myxomatous degeneration of the mitral valve, which is apparently the most common form of mitral regurgitation, and is more common in males, and in advancing age (very rare at 29!). In my case, it was caused by a genetic abnormality from birth that results in a defect in the collagen that makes up the mitral valve. This causes a stretching out of the leaflets of the valve and the chordae tendineae (the tendons that attach the leaflet to the heart muscles). The elongation of the valve leaflets and the chordae tendineae prevent the valve leaflets from fully coming together when the valve is closed, causing the valve leaflets to prolapse into the left atrium (which re-opens that valve during the phase when it should be shut), thereby causing mitral regurgitation.

Here is a picture showing the position of the mitral valve. The leaflets of the valve (six of them)close together to form the oval valve, while the white tendons (chordae tendineae) attach the leaflets to the heart muscles. In my case, one of the chordae was not pulling down correctly, so the valve wasn't shutting properly. This is most likely the developmental genetic abnormality, and with age it has gradually worsened to the stage that the chordae and attached leaflet were flailing, presumably ruptured due to the constant strain (over a number of years) upon my heart.

The degree of severity of mitral regurgitation can be quantified by echocardiogram, by the percentage of the left ventricular stroke volume (blood volume being pumped through the heart) that regurgitates into the left atrium (the regurgitant fraction). The degree ranges from mild (<20 regurgitant fraction), moderate (20-40), moderately severe (40-60) and severe (>60). I had severe mitral regurgitation! How serious is this? Well basically, this means that for every beat of my heart, only 40% of the blood that is supposed to be pumped to my lungs and my body is actually getting there! The other 60% is flowing back into the wrong chamber of the heart (left atrium).

So what does severe chronic mitral regurgitation do to the heart? Well, initially the heart is able to compensate for less efficient pumping of blood around the body by getting bigger and pumping harder/more. So, the left ventricle develops eccentric hypertrophy (gets bigger, although 300% bigger as in my case is a major concern) in order to better manage the larger than normal stroke volume (the heart tries to pump more blood volume to compensate for the 40% efficiency rate). The eccentric hypertrophy and the increased diastolic volume combine to increase the stroke volume (to levels well above normal) so that the forward stroke volume (forward cardiac output) approaches the normal levels.

In the left atrium, the volume overload causes enlargement of the chamber of the left atrium (again in my case 300% of normal size is not good!), allowing the filling pressure in the left atrium to decrease. This improves the drainage from the pulmonary veins, and signs and symptoms of pulmonary congestion will decrease.

So ok, the heart can compensate, basically by getting bigger. But this can't last forever - so what happens long-term? Well basically, at some stage the heart can no longer compensate for the severe mitral regurgitation. The ventricular myocardium is no longer able to contract adequately to compensate for the volume overload of mitral regurgitation (basically the heart muscle gets worn out), and the stroke volume of the left ventricle will decrease. The decreased stroke volume causes a decreased forward cardiac output and an increase in the end-systolic volume. The increased end-systolic volume translates to increased filling pressures of the ventricular and increased pulmonary venous congestion. The individual will develop symptoms of congestive heart failure. These include shortness of breath, pulmonary edema, orthopnea, paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea, as well as symptoms suggestive of a low cardiac output state (ie: decreased exercise tolerance). Cardiovascular collapse with shock (cardiogenic shock) may be seen in individuals caused by sudden papillary muscle rupture or rupture of a chordae tendineae caused by the chronic strain placed upon the heart (sound familiar? This is probably why I collapsed).

The only treatments for severe mitral regurgitation are urgent mitral valve repair or replacement. Lucky for me, my valve has been repaired! Hooray! No-one is entirely sure how long the repair will last since the first mitral valve repairs were pioneered by a French heart surgeon, Dr. Alain F. Carpentier, in the mid 1980s. But i'm hopeful it will last forever! Here is a picture of how my mitral valve was repaired. I've had an annuloplasty, which is where the damaged part of the valve and chordae has been cut out, the rest of the valve stitched together and a ring used to tighten the valve so that it fits together properly.

When I get the echocardiograms from my cardiologist I'll post them so that you can all see the difference between my severely stuffed and newly repaired mitral valve.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Post Hosp Day Nine Summary: Flowers All Around

Bored with all of the exercises and walking in circles that have become part of my rehabilitation routine, I have gotten Yvette to drop off my digital SLR so that I can add a photographing routine to my rehab program. Luckily mom and dad maintain a fabulous garden around their house, so there are plenty of things to take photos of. There are flowers of all shapes, sizes and colours!

My **** Really is 8 Inches Long!

Ok, it's true. Men really like to compare the size of their ****s. While overexaggeration is rife, and many excuses are given for why on certain days the size of a **** might vary, there is no doubt that a big **** gives a man certain bragging rights. Well I can say with complete certainty that my **** is right up there with the best of them, coming in at 21cm (about 8 inches) as measured by Yvette.

It's also true that men have a fascination with looking at their ****s. I think Yvette is a little bit worried about my obsession with looking at my ****, but I tell her that it's completely normal for a man! Throughout the day, I often find myself with my clothes up and my finger running up and down every bump on my ****, i'm completely fascinated by it!

I've noticed a dramatic improvement in my **** each day since surgery. It was a bit soft straight after surgery, but now it has hardened up quite a bit. I show my **** to Yvette every day, and she has a touch and feel as well. She is also very impressed by it, and has been photographing my **** every day! Suffice to say, there will be some photos of my **** appearing soon, but for now just let me assure you all that my **** is in super good shape right now!

Oh, just to be clear, **** = scar, not any other four letter male object!

Post-Hosp Day Eight Summary: Over Ambitious

Yesterday was a big day - three sets of visitors. Doesn't sound like much, but I was fairly tired by the end of the day. My pharmacist aunty was worried that I looked green and I couldn't keep my eyes open I was so tired. I dunno about the green bit, but being Asian I can't really open my eyes very wide on a good day anyway! As tired as I might have been, I force myself to stay awake so that I can keep Yvette company while she watches Australian Idol (and yes it hurt having to watch it all season, the sacrifices I make for her!). One of the singers, Damien, makes her whole body tingle (supposedly) and leaves her breathless. Apparently, he has to sing at our wedding! Apparently we're getting married one day?! Forcing myself to watch Idol, together with the cavalcade of guests earlier in the day, leaves me exhasuted and I'm off to bed early.

Day Eight begins brightly, it is a gorgeous day outside. Yvette has the day off, so I manage to convince mom to drop me off at home so I can spend the day with her. At last i'm back home, even if only for a few hours! It's so nice to be home. I kick my feet up on the couch, but unsurprisingly it doesn't last. The dragon lady drags me outside to hang the washing out. While i'm out there, I water the garden as well. We then head off to town, so that I can do my walk for the day - i'm to carry shopping bags while Yvette looks for a dress for her work Christmas Party! It's actually nice walking around in the sun. But by the end of the day I'm a bit tired. I think it's gonna be an early night again tonight.

There's a familiar pattern emerging - Rog gets over ambitious and wears himself out. Perhaps I should pay more attention to the rehabilitation booklet (which I still haven't read properly yet!).

Edited by Yvette: Grrr...First of all, its shivers down my back, hair standing up. Not tingling body. Second, I said he will be singing at my wedding, not ours. But then Rog alerted me to the fact that I would actually have to have a wedding for Damien to sing at. So that might be a problem. Maybe my birthday instead then. Third, he's not just one of the singers - he's the new Australian Idol 2006 Damien Leith. *little victory dance*. Fourth, Rog really likes Damien and enjoyed Idol more than I did. But he's secretly envious I think - each time Damien sings, Rog will say that it's unfair that someone with no singing lessons can sing so well. So there! :P

Post-Hosp Day Seven Summary: Rehab Rehab Rehab

The key to recovering from heart surgery is the rehabilitation program. In particular, it is important to exercise regularly and continuously. I've been given a booklet entitled "Let's Get Moving" which provides guidelines for returning to everyday activity following heart surgery. In actual fact, it provides a detailed week by week guide to rehabilitation. For example, week one:
- activity level as in hospital - light activities of short duration (reading, watching tv etc)
- rise, shower, dress, relax, expect to feel fairly tired and rest when required
- no bending over (ie: don't take off socks myself etc)
- stay at home
- make yourself a cup of tea/coffee
- sedentary interests (blogging, light tabletop activities such as jigsaws)
- read newspapers or magazines
- walk up to 10 minutes twice a day on flat ground
- no lifting (2.5kg or more), no bending, no weight through arms

While this is all good, unsurprisingly I have pretty much ignored the booklet and am doing all the week two things (such as photography, writing, computer games, bending to lift things, taking off my own socks etc). Unfortunately mom has read the book and she is a bit of a rule Nazi, so there is a constant battle over what I can and can't do! It's a never ending chorus of "don't do that" or "you shouldn't be doing that". Suffice to say, what mom doesn't see she can't complain about! haha

The booklet also has guidelines for when I can drive again (6 weeks), mow the lawn (not that I do anyway, but 12 weeks), lift more than 2.5kg (6-8 weeks), return to work (8-12 weeks) and resume sexual activity (4 weeks). According to the booklet, the amount of physical effort involved in sex is no greater than climbing two flights of stairs! In my case, they must be 200 step flights of stairs! The booklet does say that if I can manage to do this without shortness of breath or discomfort - go ahead! I'm going out to test myself now - I want to be able to go to my rehab class and let all the old guys know that I'm having sex in week one!

The booklet has some other pearlers regarding returning to sexual activity. While the chestbone is still healing, it is recommended that I don't assume the upper dominant position - alternative positions are fine. Mmmmmm - sounds good to me! Also, a familiar partner(??!!), comfortable surrounds and a comfortable position will help to reduce anxiety - I guess I won't be going clubbing to pick up for a few months!

I'm booked in for the hospital's post-surgery rehabilitation program called "Self Management for Wellbeing". It's a program for "people with long-term health conditions". I'm not sure that I agree with this, since I don't have a long-term health condition - my heart is completely fixed! But then I guess I do have "other" problems that could be considered long-term!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Post-Hosp Day Six Summary: Aches and Pains

I've been noticing it all week, but today my body is really aching. My shoulders and arms are sore, and there is a constant tightness across my chest that is mildly painful. Every now and then when I raise my arm, I hear a boney click. I wonder if this is all noticeable because i'm taking less painkillers. Or maybe it's due to the exercises I'm performing. My list of exercises consists of a number of arm, shoulder and leg movements, which are to be performed five times, and then the entire series of exercises repeated four times a day. Given that this exercise list is designed for men 65 and over, I have modified it so that I perform each exercise 10 times, and I repeat them five or six times a day. Given that this is probably more exercise than my arms have ever seen in my entire life, it's probably no surprise that my upper body is aching!

I'm surprised that I am relatively mobile and pain free - I wonder if this is because of my general level of fitness or because I'm so young. I've been telling everyone that there really isn't much pain, and there isn't. I'm so much tougher than those old men! But then a random sneeze hits me before I have time to put a pillow to my chest - and the PAIN is immense! My entire chest lights up in fire and I want to curl up in a ball on the floor. Ok - now I completely understand all the precautions and why the cotton wool is being wrapped around me.

I had another blood test this morning to monitor my warfarin levels. The nurse, a very nice older lady, asked me why I was on warfarin while she was inserting the needle into my vein. When I let her know, she was so surprised that she missed my vein! She was very apologetic afterwards, the poor lady.

Went for my first real walk outside with Yvette this afternoon. Mom's place is on a pretty steep hill, so we drove down to the beach, and walked along the nice flat path to the dog beach. It's so nice to be outside walking. It's hard to believe that i've only just had major heart surgery. I'm looking forward to coming down here for walks more often.

Post-Hosp Day Five Summary: Terrible Twins

It's uncommon for mom and her twin sister to be together in the same place for their birthday, so Yvette and I have decided to organise a surprise dinner for them. Given Yvette's busy work schedule and my inability to lift anything bigger than a salt and pepper shaker, cooking ourselves seems out of the question. So we organise for our friend, who is a wonderful cook and has his own restaurant to cook for us.

I print out nice colourful birthday dinner invitations to give to everyone. Mom and her sister look at them and laugh. And only after several minutes do they realise that it's mom's home address that is on the invitation. It takes several more minutes for them to realise that the birthday dinner is for the "terrible twins", and this causes them to laugh some more!

Leading up to dinner time, I ask mom to cook some rice. This gets her thinking that we must be having Chinese food. I then tell her not to cook too much, which gets them all talking - they decide we must be having noodles. In danger of being caught out, I tell them that the reason why they shouldn't cook too much rice is because we "might" not need it at all! This really gets them going! They are really confused when I start setting the table, and when they ask if I want chopsticks, I tell them that I want big plates and knife and fork. They're talking amongst each other, and aren't sure what is going on now. Sometimes it's too easy!

Yvette arrives with the food, and it looks absolutely delicious! Sambal squid, chicken and tofu, abalone and chinese broccoli, and the piece de resistance, crayfish noodles!

To top it all off, we have a gorgeous cream custard fruit tart! It really can't get better than this! Until Yvette stabs me in the chest with her pointed finger several times after I fire off another witty joke - it really hurts! "You looked so healthy, I forgot that you were sick!" she tries to defend herself! I milk it for all it's worth, writhing my face in agony, and putting on a good show. Yvette is unhappy, but hey I gotta take advantage of this situation while it lasts! *mischievous grin*

Post-Hosp Day Four Summary: Ashes to Ashes

The monotony of exercises and walking in circles has been broken by the commencement of the Ashes! It's a series of five games of cricket, between Australia and England, to win an urn containing the ashes of the original trophy that was won by Australia in a series between the two countries in 1882. In England, it was declared that the performance of the losing team was "the worst in living memory". And indeed, the most memorable quote of the time from the Sporting Times newspaper helped the legend of the Ashes develop:

In Affectionate Remembrance of English Cricket Which Died At The Oval on
29th August 1882
Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances
NB: The body will be cremated, and the ashes taken to Australia.

The game is played for six hours each day, for five days. It starts in the morning, and I am transfixed to the television. It's riveting stuff! England won the last series in a major shock, so everyone wants to see Australia kick their arse and get the Ashes back!

At night, my mom's younger sister arrives. She is here to visit for a few days. As if two of them wasn't bad enough, now there's three! The volume of talking and laughter in the house has risen accordingly, and in complete and utter desperation I have taken to shutting myself in my room and reading Harry Potter!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Life in Suburbia

Life in suburbia is so quiet. Where I live, there is hardly any traffic, and most people work during the day so they're not home. There is a regular chorus of birds around during the day, but the only other animal one is likely to find around the house is the odd stray cat, or a neighbour's noisy dog.

Contrast with my grandparents who live in South East Asia. Their house is surrounded by three large dams, where they keep fish. They also have lots of chickens and ducks. I called them to let them know that I was ok after my surgery, and my grandmother says that they have a giant python in their backyard! It has been eating chickens for the last few days, and yesterday it ate two and now it's too full to move! It's lying in the backyard, resting peacefully, knowing full well that it's next meal is just a tiny slither away. I think my grandma has taken a photo, so i'll have to try and get hold of it.

In the meantime, Call-A-Python-Hunter has been called and are coming in to remove the python. I wonder if they'll cook it??

Post-Hospital Day Three Summary - Loosening the Cotton Wool

It's been a big day of advances. I managed to convince my mom and aunty that nothing terrible was going to happen to me if they left me alone in the house and went shopping for a while. And it only took 20 minutes of arguing! I've also managed to convince them that I am capable of pouring my own cup of tea, and carrying my food to the table. They even allowed me to leave the house in the care of Yvette for a while, although I think dad helped me win this battle.

My grandmother (who lives nextdoor) was alarmed yesterday when she saw me walking outside on the driveway during my ten minute exercise session. Today she stormed in earlier in the morning and was terrified something was wrong because I hadn't been outside for my morning walk! Given that it was about 10C and windy, there was no way I was going outside. After some discussion, I think she now understands a little bit better that I don't need to be completely wrapped up in cotton wool and protected like an Egyptian mummy!

There's also been a loosening on the ruling of foods that I can eat. It seems that I am now allowed to eat eggs if they are in cakes etc, just not eggs on their own. Mum is still not convinced by this though, and still keeps complaining. I am also allowed to eat abalone (but not other shellfish) so my diet is about to suddenly get very expensive! haha

My friend Juan from Barcelona called me last night. He was distraught when I told him that I was going in for heart surgery, and it was pleasant surprise to hear his voice on the phone. He is the most wonderful guy, and I'm looking forward to advancing our work collaboration further.

I have decided that I am not going to read or reply to any emails pertaining to work for a while, just to that I can truly "rest". I have to admit that I'm not particularly confident that this will last however, because like half of the world's population I live on email. So many times I catch myself with the cursor hovering over a work email, begging me to click it. I must resist!

The pain in, surrounding, on top of, below, on, near, above my chest is subsiding markedly, although I'm not sure if this is because I have overcome my severe aversion to pain (read complete wuss) or whether it's the constant dosage of paracetamol talking. In consultation with Dr Yvette, I have decided to try lowering my dosage of pain killers. It would be nice to reduce the number of damn pills I have to take!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Road to Recovery

It's the start of my third day out of hospital and already I have a routine established for tackling the arduous road to Rogovery. I wake up around 7am, and perform some exercises (neck, arm and leg movements, then some deep breathing and coughing), have a shower and then some breakfast (together with 7 tablets). At mid morning I do my first repeat of the exercises and then go for a 10 minute walk in a loop around the driveway outside mum's house, by which time I'm lightly sweating.

Lunch is around midday (another four tablets), and after a short rest it's my third series of exercises for the day. Early afternoon, and I go for a second 10 minute walk. The cat follow's me around, I think he's confused by how slow and unsteady I am walking - it's quite comical really!

Mid afternoon exercises are followed by a small snack, and then some rest time reading a book. I'm currently reading Harry Potter for the first time, and while the first book was total crap, the third book was kind of interesting.

I do a set of exercises before dinner (five to eight tablets depending on required dosage) and a final set before bed (two tablets).

Adding to the tediousness are the list of things I can't do. No lifting. No pushing with my arms (or elbows - no cheating!). No leaning on arms or elbows (this is a tricky one not to do). No bending over or reaching forwards too far. No crossing my legs when sitting down (haven't figured out why not yet). No driving. No going to public places where people might spread their dirty germs to me. No going outside in extreme hot or cold or windy weather (like today). No sex. The list is endless...........

Having said all of that, I'm glad that I am completely repaired, and if these small sacrifices are all that is required for me to return to full health then I'll gladly take it. Rogovery - here I come!

Black...erm...Male Spherical Things

Rog, Alan and some of his other op-buddies have been improving daily. They've taken to strolling the ward corridors for exercise and visiting each other to exchange recovery progress notes and general gossip. After one such jaunt down the hallway, Rog returns with this to report:

"Alan's balls have turned black!" Rog announces.

"???" I say.

"Yeah, this other old guy said that as well. He told me his balls are black in colour. He even asked if I wanted to look at them."

"So did you?" I squeak.

"No bloody way!!" Rog shuddered.

They figured that having the catheters in would have irritated them. And when their catheters were taken out, it must have bruised their erm... male spherical things to the point of blackness.

"But what about yours?? Are they alright?" I'm nearly too scared to ask but just had to know.

"Nah, mine are fine," Rog answers breezily.

Later, Alan comes knocking on the door, pushing his IV drip hurriedly along, together with his wife, daughter and granddaughter in tow.

"I've got news for you," he exclaims excitedly.

Plonking down on a chair, Alan said:

"You know how I told you about down there," waving his arms in the general vicinity between his knees as he speaks.

"Ya...?" we prompt.

"They're burnt! The black bits are now peeling off, and the nurses have even given us cream for them. You'd think they'd warn us about this beforehand."

Turns out those black bits were iodine burns. When they go into surgery, their skin is doused liberally with antiseptic iodine solutions to kill or prevent the growth of bad bugs. Looks like some of the more sensitive parts of the skin reacted to the iodine and caused irritation and minor burns. (Don't worry, it must've been quite minor, otherwise Alan would not have been running around bragging about it)

Definitely extra info needs to be added to the patient information booklet.

"So are you sure your [male spherical things] are fine? No burns?" I venture timidly, even though I'd asked him earlier.

"Oh there was some dark-ish skin peeling, I thought they were dry skin so I just peeled them off."

"???" I say again.

"What?? I had heart surgery, not balls surgery. That's the last thing I'm worried about at the moment!"

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Tale of Twins

You'd think that if two identical female twins did something together that they'd be ultra efficient, and things would take half the time that they normally would. You'd think, but you'd be wrong!

Yesterday my mom and aunty took more than an hour to chop up a whole pig into large pieces - it takes my grandmother about 10 minutes and she is over 70! Today we went to cut some extra sour Chinese vegies from the garden. I managed to cut the first two in no time (ok, I'm probably not allowed to be doing this at the moment!), and it took them 10 minutes to cut the next five!

Having said all that, it's clear that they are tremendously happy together, their endless nattering to each other is filling the entire house! And it's making my road to recovery all the more pleasant. If only they wouldn't try and feed me so much damn food - I'm gonna become Big Rog soon!