Congestive heart failure doesn’t mean you are dead

I always thought (thanks TV!) that when they said “congestive heart failure” that was something people died of. Maybe they do but the word ‘failure’ in the title fools you. It means in this case “not working normally”.

We went to the Dominican Republic from August 1th to August 8th. Our plane left 3 hours late to get there and 3 ½ hours late coming back to Toronto. We got into Toronto close to 5:30AM. Oh joy.

It was okay. I always wanted to try an “all-inclusive” so now I’ve tried it and I never have to go again. Shujie liked it because she got to dance with other girls for one to 1 ½ hours every evening after dinner.

The food was eh. We don’t drink a lot. It was hot. We went on some trips (expensive) and I personally should have spent the extra money to go to Alaska or to at least go to New York. Shujie was happy with this place so it’s good she enjoyed it. I shouldn’t always get my way.

The big gift I came back with was “congestive heart failure”. I couldn’t sleep Saturday or Sunday night because I couldn’t lie down. It was too hard to breath. I slept a couple of hours sitting up on the couch. I went to the doctor on Monday and the doctor said, “congestive heart failure” which just means your heart isn’t working up to par. Now I’ve had shortness of breath for over a year but no one seemed to listen. Now they have an x-ray to back me up. As one doctor explained, “if you complain of shortness of breath and then whisk off to Kurdistan to work, how serious can it be”. I explained I don’t moan and groan about the problem. I state the facts and that’s that. It’s easier for the doctor if I come in and say, “woe is me, I’m in pain, I can’t (gasp, gasp) breath. I adjust to what the situation calls for, and muddle my way through. I can’t play dead even if I feel poorly.

I went to my doctor Monday afternoon and she had an x-ray taken and she said, “congestive heart failure”. She would increase my water pill (congestive heart failure can be caused by fluid in the lungs). The water in me builds up and causes problems. I’ve been taking a water pill for years, but it seems this time is was not a good guardian at the gate. She also said if it wasn’t better in the evening I should call 911, get an ambulance and go to the hospital. If I come in by ambulance I go to the front of the line. So I called the ambulance and spend Monday night until Tuesday afternoon in emergency. A cardiologist who spoke a mile a minute came in and basically told me they would bring everything down (I needed oxygen and my BP was extremely high) and then send me home. Hospitals cure the immediate problem but not the overall problem. That’s someone else’s problem. He said I was stuck and he didn’t believe there was any major relief in sight. I would have been happy to go back one week to my regular shortness of breath.

They stuck me in a room in the cardiac ward and they were filling me full of Lasix (reduces water in the body) and oxygen. I lost 10 lbs. between Monday afternoon and Wednesday morning. I got off the oxygen.

The hospital cardiologist comes in Wednesday morning singing a new tune. He believes my mitral valve needs replacement because of damage caused by radiation 32 years ago. Radiation is the gift that keeps on giving. Of course, that’s the cure for Hodgkin’s they were using at the time so I’m not upset about that. They did what they had to do with what they thought was the best method possible. Who knew I would turn out to be a physical mess after that? I believe my attitude (positive in spite of being me) and willing to be aware of my body talking to me has helped me.

I went on Thursday to my regular cardiologist with my hospital notes and now he thinks it could be the mitral valve (tests be damned). It requires looking at the problem, not as something “normal” having an episode, but as a former radiation patient having an episode. If you do that, things change. I was left with him to come back in 2 weeks. He’ll have my lungs checked to rule that out as a problem (it isn’t a problem) and then we’ll talk about what to do.

It sounded to me like my options would be to do nothing except play with medication. My breathing is worse now than it was 2 weeks ago when it was bad. If you want to play around, send me an email and I’ll play around in Kurdistan. I will not sit around here waiting and waiting.   The other option is to throw me in the hospital, do an arterial angiogram (instead of something that can be done in a day it takes 5 to 7 days for me because of one of the medications I take). I think that would just be to show the path to attack by and then have a surgeon come and see me before gutting me like a fish. Of course, I could be wrong. No one wants to do a 2nd heart surgery and we will weigh the risks and the benefits. I don’t really want to live in a world where it’s a killer to walk from the arrival gate in an airport to customs. And in spite of myself I’m an optimist.

So, if they want to take some sort of proactive steps, I’m here for that. If it’s sit and wait, I’m out of here where I can also sit and wait and have a job I kind of enjoy. Some will say, “oh Martin, you’ll be right here in Toronto if there is a problem”. True, but I really don’t care. Sometimes you balance life itself with quality of life. Sitting here with no job and no job prospects (except maybe as a Walmart greeter) doesn’t do anything for me. Besides I was in Walmart when I had my heart attack so Walmart is just a heart attack waiting to happen.

We’ll all talk on the 27th. I told the cardiologist I could see 100 different cardiologists and get 100 different opinions. He didn’t disagree. I have to hang my hat on one and that will be him. I’ll get his opinion and I realize now this is not entirely a science, but it is also an art. That sucks. So wait and see.

Shujie was supposed to go to Kurdistan on the 20th but with their permission we’ve pushed it back a week or so. Therefore if she goes, it means I’m going too. If further work is required on me, she’ll stay. She says she’ll get a job and an apartment if I’m hospitalized, however my fear is the cost of an apartment versus the lousy salary she’ll make as an older immigrant. However, we can’t worry about that today.

It comes down to health being number one and after that you make everything else fall in place. Who knows? We don’t and nobody does. I hate “wait and see”, but sometimes you have no choice.

I wish I were packing to head back to another year’s adventure. Somehow the blog’s title being “Adventures in a Toronto Hospital” doesn’t have the same ring as “Adventures in Erbil”

1 comment
  1. Paul said:

    Hey Martin, Have you arrived in Kurdistan?

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