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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Part 6: Section A: Follow-Up, The Lessons

Part 6:   Follow-Up, The Lessons, Section A.

"If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry.  If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying.  There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever."  Dalai Lama XIV

"One should not increase beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything."  Occam's Razor, often interpreted modernly as 'the simplest solution is usually the best' or that 'the simplest answer is usually correct'.

I followed up with my doctor at early Sick Bay first thing Monday morning.  I was informed by the nurse taking my vitals that they don't usually do hospital stay follow-ups in Sick Bay (ok, what is up with these medical people?  Are they TRYING to make us feel bad???), to which I replied as kindly as I possibly could that I had spoken with my doc on the phone and that it had been HER suggestion that I come in Monday a.m.  (I refrained from sticking out my tongue at her and saying 'so there!', reminding myself that I'm not a 9 year old...).

Doc comes in, I bring her up to speed about E.R. trip number 2, and about the return of my hives and how I am grasping at straws about this development.  She says that some people will get hives when they get nervous.  Wha????   I quickly dismiss this and go back to being allergic to something in the E.R., but this lodges stiffly in my cerebral cortex or wherever it is that I keep stuff that will come back to haunt me.

She puts me on a short course of prednisone saying that if there is anything left in my body that I'm allergic to, that'll take care of's a step-down program of two days of 4 pills, two days of 3 pills, two days of 2, two days of 1; you can't just stop taking that stuff abruptly.  I bristle at the thought of more meds, but figure my liver can handle it since I don't drink or do meds of any kind, and anything is better than those hives.  At this point, I'm pretty much walking around jumping at every little twinge on my skin, going 'is that a hive?', 'is that one?'.

We discuss my esophagus/gastric issue and she confides that she has a reflux issue and that the only way she feels it is in the center of her back---this to my concern over how the pain started at my sternum and went straight back to my back.  The place she is touching on her back is the precise area where my pain radiated to.  So I'm thinking, ok, that sounds similar.  She confirms that this type of pain, if esopageal or hiatal hernial, can be extremely painful.  We talk about causes and I don't have the main two which is smoking and drinking or obesity and diet; the third is a bacteria, H. Pylori and she had ordered that test when I was in the hospital.  At the time of my visit to her office, we still didn't have the results of that and I'll need to call and follow up on that (I did call, test was negative, back to square one).  I'm to schedule a follow up appt. with her in 6 weeks.

She has me on double doses of Prevacid for those 6 weeks to eliminate acid the logic being that this will give my body time to heal whatever it is in my esophagus or wherever.  Since I feel better at this point, and really it was just a matter of days before nearly all symptoms were gone, I really want to stop taking this, but I fear divorce court in my future as my husband says I need to give my body more time to ensure complete healing.  He's been such a hero for me through all of this trauma, that I quickly agreed to comply.


About mid-way through writing up all of this ordeal, I got the feeling that perhaps I shouldn't be airing the totality of these events on the world-wide-web-ernet, but then I realized that there just are too many lessons here, too many caveats and precautionary aspects to not share.  Probably much of this experience has been a fluke, but already I have found a couple of other people who had similar experiences.  One eerily similar account only with a different category of symptoms; if protocol one in the E. R. is CHEST PAIN = HEART ATTACK, then protocol two is HEADACHE=STROKE.  A dear friend had to endure endless testing culminating in a painful spinal tap, all the while saying she had had an allergic reaction to Dawn soap.....which is what it did end up being, but no one would listen to her.  Another friend went through a similar situation to mine at another hospital; again CHEST PAIN = HEART ATTACK, endless testing down the cardiac route; hers was acid reflux.

{Which reminds me.....speaking of Heart Attack....does anyone else think that's a really crazy term?  I know there are other technical descriptions for it, but Heart Attack is the prevailing term--attack???  Just hits me weird.}

Ok Lessons.

Some of the great surprises I had during my E.R. visits and hospital stay were the blood pressure readings I was putting out.  I have seen these high numbers before, when I have been in the E.R. following a horse-back riding accident, but I have been working alot on relaxation techniques and various other Zen-ish type applications as I am aware that I tend to be a bit high-strung/type A-ish (one too many 'ish's' in that sentence, but I am digress-ish).  I truly felt I was making vast improvements in these areas and many times I would glance over at the B.P. monitor and just KNOW that it was going to be 117/80 as I truly felt relaxed and had been doing deep breathing, etc. only to be stunned at the extraordinarily high numbers showing.

Clearly, my body has its own agenda and its own 'score card' on how relaxed I am.

If the body is an interface with which I, as a spiritual being, can interact with the physical universe, then it needs to run its own systems and does an amazing job of doing so.  I can't seriously be bothered with all the intricate and myriad inner workings of my body and the design is pretty darn good, but I know that our mental, emotion and, I believe, spiritual state directly influences the body and its systems.

What I realized is that, for myself, I have only viewed that spirit-mind-body-connection from the POSITIVE side of things...i.e. how I can use my positive thinking to heal myself.  I haven't allowed myself to explore the dark side of all of this, viewing it as a personal weakness if I am causing some of this....i.e. 'it's all in your head'.

Facing the reality of those high b.p. readings and the gentle suggestion from my doc that hives could be a result of nerves, I now have to look at these possibilities.

We are hard-wired, like all animals, with a fight/flight response and in times of stress our body wants to mobilize its defenses and be ready to ensure survival.  I think that is what some of those high numbers reflect, but in such a situation, calm on a cellular level is a preferrable state....and worry, does come into play, even though I completely agree with His Holiness the Dalai Lama about the lack of productiveness of worry:  Worry only produces worry as its outcome (or maybe high blood pressure readings).

I have instituted some practices to help me develop in these areas, chief among them the healing art of Qi Gong as well as yoga.  (For more about Qi Gong, see: Interlaced with these practices, I have upped my breathing education and development, finally making time to delve into a book that I've had for some time, that I had acquired for the purpose of relaxing my breath to improve my horsemanship.  We spend so much time breathing shallowly and tend to get more and more shallow as time goes on, thereby mimicking that short-breathed fight/flight response (think when a little thing makes you do that quick intack of air and gasp).  Sometimes, what we really need is more air.  (See:  The Breathing Book, by Donna Farhi   You can pick up a used copy for under $7.  I highly recommend it.)

Which brings me to number one on my 'Survive List':

What do we need to survive and to THRIVE? Oxygen, Water, Rest, that order (more or less, I believe we can go longer without nutrients than rest, but without the nutrients, your body is going to shut down anyway.).

The number one element our bodies need, oxygen, and we spend about zero time studying the breath, improving it, or incorporating the betterment of it into our health programs.

We aren't taught to stay in the natural breathing state that we come into this world possessing and even if we do stop and take a few deep breaths, most of us immediately go back to our habitual breathing.  Farhi explains the added benefits of breath besides the obvious and also explains why we can't just decide to breathe more deeply and have that be that.  I'm now devoting at least 15 mins a day to the study of how to improve my breathing to reap all the benefits and to provide my body with this essential element that every cell in the body needs. (15 minutes doesn't sound like much, but some days it is harder to find that time than others and it is a commitment I know I can keep). Without proper oxygenation, the cells cannot create energy and cannot do their work.

Number two on my 'Survive List':

Water.  How much water do we truly need?  Of course this amount would vary from individual to individual and even with any one person as a reflection of any combination of factors....including temperature, workload, fatigue, stress and so on.  But I was never so keenly aware of the vitalness of simple hydration until collapsing from the lack of it.  My hospital stay didn't supply me with the 2nd most important component of survival and this even though I had an I.V. hub in my arm at all times.  I wasn't allowed to drink; why then weren't fluids administered through the I.V.?  I'll tell you why and this is the number one most important lesson I learned:  BECAUSE I DIDN'T DEMAND IT.  Because I didn't advocate for myself, because I was in a medical facility and turned my care over to the professionals.  Why would I do that?  The basics HAVE to be provided for and one canNOT assume that they will be.  I will not be over-looking these simple requirements for life again and my husband and I have had conversations about this, how we need to advocate for each other and NOT assume the obvious is taken care of.

I have since come to realize that even with the large amount of water I drink, I am probably still far short of what is actually needed by my body.  When you consider that the body is anywhere from 55-75% water depending on the reference you use, the rightful status of water on our priority list becomes clear.

How much water do we really need? The broad strokes are about 64 oz./day with more if we are exercising and in conditions that dehydrate us, i.e. sun/heat. But our individual bodies are the true judge of what we need. We can use a number of indicators including just pinching the skin on the back of our hands and observing elasticity.

It was so ironic that I would become dehydrated to the point of collapse as the big joke in our house is that I don't go get the mail without a bottle of water. I seriously almost always have water with me, but clearly, I had abandoned my body's second most basic need, trumped in importance only by oxygen, and this during a time of extreme stress. I deferred to the 'experts' around me, when clearly they didn't even understand my basic need of water!

I am more aware now of my body's symptoms of needing water and have noticed a drastic reduction in things like the number of times I feel like I need to reach for the chapstick, also an improvement in my skin's overall condition, etc.  The slight ache that precipitates a headache can be a signal to me that I need water.  I'm still playing with this to find what my optimum water consumption is.

{I know there are a couple of conditions that can result from over-consumption of water, but these situations are pretty rare.  In addition to paying attention to the 'bounce-back' elasticity of skin, and other indicators, the color of urine excreted can be should be colorless or light yellow.  (TMI here, but I noticed how dark mine was in the hospital and the nurses/staff were supposed to be monitoring this.  Again, another instance of me dismissing my own observations and turning my care over to the professionals).}.

Oftentimes the simplest solution IS the correct one, but good luck convincing medical staff that there may be a simple explanation for a given condition.  Still, one MUST be vigilant in their own health.  I think about how I interrogate restaurant staff about food preparation methods and ingredients in what I am the rice prepared in chicken broth?  Is there lard in the beans?  Do you add oil when frying veggies on the grill?  I am amazed at instances where even though I have made it clear "NO DAIRY", that when pressing further the waiter will say something like, well there IS butter on the veggies that we grill, but none on the plate.  (Insert hand slap to the forehead here).  So, I think we have to be at LEAST as vigilant, diligent and whatever other kind of -ant/-ent need be when we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of being at the mercy of health care professionals as we are in our day-to-day food screening.  Can I have water?  If no then, how are you going to ensure I am adequately hydrated? many years of education these people have and we have to tell them we need water???  Yes.....yes we do.

To be continued......


Healthy Food 

What does it take for us to eat healthily? I thought I knew these answers and I still believe that I know quite a bit about it, but I am more concerned now with what I do NOT know. We are limited by research done by experts and by the cumulative observations of others as well as anecdotal evidence we run across. It can be a confusing labyrinth to negotiate as we try to plot the healthiest course for ourselves.

But the greatest teacher is right in front of us and in fact is with us 24 hours a day: our body.

Having learned the hard way that it is not a good thing to ignore the subtle (and not so subtle) communications of the body, I am tuning into its wisdom more and more.  I am taking note of things like cramping in the feet or lower extremities, paying attention to early pangs of hunger and thinking more about the freshness of the food I eat and ensuring a variety of nutrients DAILY.

One of the best ways to control the QUALITY of food ingested is the most obvious:  grow it yourself.  Almost everyone has room for at least a patio container garden of sorts, or even a simple herb garden on a kitchen countertop. 

I am fortunate to have space and also a handy husband who has added raised beds for me.  It is a real joy to go out and harvest one's own food.  Other benefits: 
I know exactly what I am, non-GMO seeds. (Check
I know what it is growing in... mostly composted manure from horses that I feed organic hay to and that eat on organic grass pastures.
I control what goes on these added pesticides or anything other than our own water supply and rainfall (which granted I can't control what is in that, but still).
And it is fresh....I can cut it in the morning and have it for wasn't handled by anyone else, didn't go on a truck for days, sit on a shelf in a store, etc. 

I think we have to start thinking deeply about our food sources.  We can't always provide our own in this way, but a focus on what we CAN do is worthwhile.

Butterhead and Red Fire lettuce from my garden

Pest control

Gardening Assistant

Sue, Ohio

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Part 5: E.R. Trip #2 - How I earned my title of "Patient"

Part 5:  E.R. Trip # 2 - A Second Glimpse into the Abyss

"Personally, I am grateful for a crisis.  The crisis will give us the possibility to learn something if we are willing....if the heart opens up enough to tell the mind something", Gunther Hauk, Biodynamic Beekeeper featured in "Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us".

"Crisis", from 'krisis':  turning point in a disease, as used by Hippocrates.

I had returned home (early Friday evening) and was reasonably comfortable, and VERY happy to be out of the hospital but still quite perplexed by my whole ordeal.  I was trying to get some food down, but was very tentative about putting anything down my esophagus as I could feel discomfort upon swallowing, although nothing like the massive chest pains I had had initially on Thursday.

Into the evening I noticed the worsening of my hives, with a huge swelling on the bottom of one of my feet, so large that I couldn't walk correctly.  Rashes, welts and lumps were erupting all over.

At my husband's urging (insistence), I called my doctor's office and had the good fortune of finding out that my own doctor was on call that evening.  She returned my call quickly and we discussed how much Benadryl (double doses) I could take and I followed her recommendations.  She noted she would be there for "Sick Bay" (early office hours) on Monday morning and I could slip in to see her then, that she might need to run me through a course of steroids.  Ok, all good.

Things seem to be ok into the next day and I am beginning to rest although I know I am stressing about the ordeal and still not knowing exactly what is wrong with me.  I am taking it very easy though and trying to eat a bit here and there.  My hives are nearly all gone.

In the evening, I decide to have a sweet potato (this would end up being really ironic), and put one in the microwave and go back to sit down.  As I get up to go and get it from the microwave, I start breathing rapidly and shallowly and am this shortness of breath?  I catch myself on the kitchen counter as my ears start plugging and ringing, my head feels like it is swollen up and my hands start tingling.

I make it back to the couch and look at my husband and say 'I'm in trouble'.  I barely hit the couch before I am passing out, in and out of consciousness, and hear my husband yell for my son, as he is dialing 9-1-1.  He slaps me on the face (he told me he did, I have no memory of it) and tells me to stay with him and I remember looking at him and saying 'ok'....and then mouthing "I Love You".  (Once again I get this feeling that maybe, just maybe this is the end of this life-time for me.  I decide that is b.s. and feel my "Pennsylvania Dutch" stubborn streak kick in....thank you, Grandma).

My husband has the foresight to send my son down to the end of the driveway to flag the squad---we live out in the country and have a very long drive----and by now my hands are nearly completely numb and the tingling is moving up my arms, which I am trying to tell him saying "hands", "hands". 

The EMTs come into the house and I hear him telling them about our trip to the hospital already and bringing them up to speed.  They put a B.P. cuff on my right arm and just about then I completely lose the use of my arms and my hands cramp up claws. (My husband tried to pry my right hand open a bit and could not even budge it).  I am saying 'oh my gawd, my hands, my hands, look at my hands!!'. 

The BP cuff is just killing my right arm and I beg them to take it off.  They switch it to the left arm and I am horrified as I read the monitor which notes my BP as 70 over 30!!!

I hear one of the EMTs say something about dehydration and I have water sitting there on the table and ask for it and can now use my left hand enough with his help to down the few ounces that are in there.  Almost immediately, my hands begin to uncramp and the tingling begins to subside.  They also took my blood sugar as my husband said I hadn't had much to eat for the last couple of days and we were all surprised to see it was over 130. 

They decide to transport me and bring the gurney into our family room.

Once I am loaded into the back of the ambulance, the EMT to my left starts an I.V. port as they are taking down my name and information.  I'll always remember this guy, 'Cunningham' read the name on his shirt, as when they were taking my age down, he said "you are, uh, forty-what?".  Now later on, I thought that maybe I had given them the year of my birth and that this was a reflection on his poor math skills, but I am choosing to remember it as his guess at my age....  :-)

Cunningham starts to hook up the saline solution and another EMT, the driver, comes into the vehicle from the side and behind me to cut through the center console.  Why he came in that way and not the driver's door, I do not know, but when he did, he tripped over the I.V. line which ripped the hub out of my arm and my blood was strafing the inside of the ambulance and Cunningham, straight out of a B-horror movie.  I turned to the general direction of my husband who was by now seated in the passenger side of the front and said 'Honey, I don't want to go'.

He was having none of it, and said quickly, 'we are going'.

When we arrived at the hospital, the EMTs had already had several printouts of my heart rate (all normal), and I was feeling weak, but ok.  No I.V. had been hooked up....they gave up on that. 

I was taken to a different room in the E.R this with a view....a view of the central hub, or nurses'/doctors' station.  Kelly was not on this night (it's not a good thing when you start learning these folks' names), and we were assigned another nurse who instantly pissed off my husband when he asked the tech to have my family wait in the waiting room while they got a gown on me.  (I refrained from pointing out to him that really, my husband has seen me naked before, but that he ---the male nurse---has NOT, maybe HE should go wait in the waiting room).  I could see the look on my husband's I strive not to elicit and I sent up a silent prayer that nobody else gets in his way between here and the waiting room.  (Later I found out from my son that my husband had been growling at the aide who offered to escort them to the waiting room, and that my son had worked to calm him down a bit.)

For way longer than it took to get a gown on me, they kept my husband and son out of the room and finally the nurse said they could come back in.  Basic info and vitals were taken.  I was glad to see a much higher B.P.

I asked them not to put any tape on me or even their sheets/blankets as I wasn't sure what my issue had been with the hives before.  Even as I said this, I looked down at my wrists and could see hives, literally, before my very eyes rising up on my inner arms.  I pointed it out to the nurse.

This nurse had the bed-side manner of a dried piece of cardboard, but we actually ended up doing ok with him, after a time; he did eventually lighten up a bit.

The E.R. doc came in to see me....the very same doc that had seen me less than 48 hours prior.  He proceeded to ask me the very same questions about my medical  history that he had asked me before....but hey, I do know they have their system. 

We explain what happened and proceed to go into detail about the symptoms and that one of the EMTs had said something about dehydration.  He steps out of the room (and see now I can see everything the nurses and aides and docs are doing when they leave the room as I have a straight view of the hub area) and goes to a computer, so I presume he is pulling up info about my stay in the hospital, which I have summarized for him.

A tech comes in to draw blood (my vampire friend from Africa); I call him by name and we chat and I realize as he is drawing blood that he isn't so happy about my veins.  I was all the rage with the vampires when I was in the hospital.....they kept saying how great my veins are and how they wished all their patients had such good he can hardly find one that is up enough to meet his standards.  Hmmm.....

After a time, a tech comes in and says she is here to take me for.........wait for it..... A CHEST X-RAY!!!!   I look over at my husband who has the 'huh?' look on his face too and I say, "uh, why am I getting a chest x-ray?"  She says, "oh, you don't want one?".  I said, "well, could I just find out why I need one?" 

So she goes to chat with the doc, remember I can watch all this, and I observe the dialog between them...she comes back with a sheet of paper and says, "here, sign off here that you refused the chest x-ray".  Okay at this point, I think I am tripping and in some crazy-ass movie with a playwright that needs to be fired.  You just canNOT make this sh*t up....medics tripping over I.V. lines and so on.

I say, "well, I DIDN'T refuse it; I just want to know WHY I need it".  She goes over and gets the doc who comes in and explains to me that he wants to run all the cardiac protocol again so they can rule out heart attack.  WHAT???  I said, ok, I just had a stress test, passed it per the cardiologist, all heart blood enzymes were good, EKG is good, right?  Yes, right.  Ok then, I don't think it's my heart, do you?  He refuses to answer no matter how many times I ask him for his professional opinion, merely repeated the 'party line' of, well, we have protocols.  I again saw, it isn't my heart and I don't wish to repeat the cardiac tests.

He comes back a bit later to say that the heart enzymes were slightly elevated on the blood test they just took, but he'll take another blood sample and retest.  He does also note that my potassium was very low, so orders a drink for me to correct that and says that could affect the original blood test.

Ok, so we are in a holding pattern here. 

Meanwhile, another patient has been brought in next to me....our room is just divided by a curtain and we can hear everything going on over there.  He has chest pains and our nurse would end up being pretty much completely focused on him for the remaining 5 hours that we would be well he should have been.

Our nurse did come back in and check my vitals again and I showed him again, my hives, which were now all over the backs of my legs, my torso, erupting on my face, just about everywhere.  I asked him if he had ever seen anything like that before and he said, yes, that he has seen it on himself and that he is deadly allergic to aspirin and had had such a bad reaction to it that the E.R. staff was ready to intubate him and told him that if he ever has an aspirin product again, he likely would not survive that....Captain Cardboard shows a glimmer of personality at this point.

Okay, I am glad to know I have someone that understands I am having a reaction, but also now am a bit freaked out.  I work on my deep breathing and relaxation visualization as I peek at my b.p. numbers and see they are at stroke levels:  155/98.  (In my summary of all of my adventures, I'm going to get more into b.p. and the body's agenda.....I really became aware of some surprising things).

Captain Cardboard gets me on some antihistamines after checking with the doc and hurries back to attend to the chest pain patient.

My 2nd blood test ends up being ok, cardiac enzyme-wise, the doc comes back in (we've now been there over 4 hours), and says that it may well have been dehydration so decides to then start a saline drip, which they set up to go very, very slowly.  I ask if I can have some water, which they do give me and I'm getting that down, but it's ice water and I'm freezing as I don't want any of their blankets on my son takes off his hoodie and gallantly lets me cover my hive-ridden (and unshaven....see 2nd post in this series about personal hygiene/grooming) legs with it.  I have my tee-shirt draped over my arms (it's the nastiest shirt I own...stained with holes in it....see above mentioned's since been turned into cleaning rags).

So, as we are waiting for the slowest drip I.V. in the world to get into my body, we can't help but hear what is happening next to us and to focus on it.  In my philosophical moments, I wonder if exposure to this patient is part of why I have gone through this ordeal, because it was quite sobering.

This man, complaining of chest pains, was scheduled to have a double-bypass at a major university teaching hospital in about two weeks---his medical record ran the gamut of so much that we fear:  high blood pressure, diabetes, a bout with prostate cancer, surgery on his testicles (so much for privacy laws....we heard it all), high cholesterol, he had been a smoker, but quit two weeks was a mess.

They could NOT manage his chest pain.  They would go in and have him rate his pain (most times between 5-8 on a scale of 10), give him pain meds and then check with him in a bit.  It would cycle down to a 2 or 3 and then in about 20 minutes we'd hear him tell his wife, 'chest pain is back'.  She'd call the nurse and it would start all over again.

They decided they would transport him to the hospital where he was going to receive the surgery (approximately an hour away), and presumably set about making those arrangements.

Except time just went on, and on, and on.

At one point, I heard the pain come back to him yet again and the call light was put on, which an aide answered.  I heard her tell him that she would go check and see what the doctor wanted him to have.

Not only could I SEE what was going on in the hub, I could also HEAR most of the conversations in there and I heard the aide talk to the nurse in the station who said "well do they know that he is going to be transported to another hospital?!?!".  Oh......My......God.    I wanted to scream "......" at them, well, I will spare you what I wanted to scream---where is Shirley MacClaine from Terms of Endearment when you need her!?... but I mostly just wanted them to take care of this poor guy and not kill him before they could get him to a more competent facility.

I thought happy thoughts about him.....intently.

I decided my situation was not bad.....not bad at all.  If I had to wait another 8 hours for the I.V. bag, I still would be going home.  If I had hives, they could be controlled with Benadryl or steroids.  If I had to do unnecessary testing and learn some lessons the hard way, well then still, I would live to fight another day.  The best case scenario for this guy was a trip to a cardiac surgical unit where a massively invasive procedure awaited him and a long, long road of recovery.

I had at least learned most of my lifestyle lessons before ending up at the mercy of painkillers on a gurney in a small town E.R.  I quit smoking & alcohol consumption over 20 years ago, remained active, had logged nearly two years on a plant-based diet, total cholesterol 140, average B.P. (when not faced with extreme stress) 112/78 and so on.  I was over-whelmed with gratitude for my good fortune and for my inquisitive mind that had sent me on my current path.

Since it became apparent that I was going to be there for awhile (the liquid in my I.V. bag had only decreased by about an inch), my husband opted to run my son home, so he could get some sleep.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, patient 'Zero' has been admitted.  He ended up being taken to my old room....a lovely room, with a nice happy mural of a pastoral setting hand-painted on the walls and no view of the nurses' hub....I missed that room.  Anyway, I hear this guy being brought in and basic information taken.  He's so loud, I can hear the intimate details.  Our nurse has been assigned to him as well (guess they figured I'm just in for a drink of water, since I've 'refused' all the good tests, so he can handle it). 

This guy is very crass and LOUD, did I mention loud?,  and announces that he 'can't take a piss'.  Nothing comes out and it hurts and can they put a catheter in him or something and if they do will all the piss drain out of him.  I'm shaking my head thinking that my husband has left before the best part of the movie came on.  The nurse leaves his room briefly after telling him that yes, they are going to take care of it and he's going to get some meds ordered for him. 

About 20 seconds goes by and I hear this huge CRASH and banging and yelling and I know it is coming from Zero.  (Zero as in zero patience, zero tolerance for pain and zero class whatsoever).

A nurse goes scurrying down the hall and I hear her say, 'did you just kick something?'.  Zero says 'no'.  She says, 'are you sure because I heard some clanging in here?'.  "Nope, I didn't kick anything, I can't piss", Zero eloquently replies.

I can hear the nurse uprighting something in the room and she again says,  "are you certain you didn't throw something or kick something?".  Zero finally fesses up and says, "yeah, I kicked that table over there".  The nurse asks him to please not kick anything, this is their property and they don't want it damaged and tells him that medication is on the way.

About 10 or 15 minutes later after I finally flag a nurse's aide down (I realize after my husband has left that I don't have a call button in my room) to unhook my various leads so I can go accomplish on my own what Zero is unable to, I pass by his room and can't help myself and sneak a peak in Zero's room ....he is OUT COLD.  I'm thinking they gave him the upper end dosage of something....or maybe Captain Cardboard has nailed him with a tranquilizer dart to the neck....can't say I blame them.

Time slowly passes, husband returns, doc checks back in the room and is satisfied with something on his chart that he is reading and says that I can go home, I don't even need to finish the I.V. bag.  A nurse is with him to go over my after-care instructions and to sign off saying I've been instructed on several things that I am not being given including the management and use of an epi pen.  I have the deer-in-the-headlights look and she realizes about half way through that they have the wrong print-out for me....goes back and tells the doc, who prints out something else and we start again.

Seems there isn't really a dismissal sheet for:  Patient needs FOOD and WATER.  Which is about what all this boils down to. 

I was also advised upon leaving to be sure and think about anything different at home that I might have, like new soap or new shampoo, new detergent....told that I needed to go through everything at home that might be new and really think about that. Of course, color me crazy, but I'm thinking the fact that I didn't have any hives until AFTER I came into the hospital should go into that analysis.

I'll summarize in my next entry where I'm also going to attempt to delineate the many lessons learned, but we may never know exactly what caused my original pain.  My husband and I have a working theory though.....probably it was the acidic lemon juice in the bottom of my bottle that I had just chugged and immediately bent over to hook up the farm implement to the tractor.  Possibly there had been a tear or some damage in the esophagus from either bushhogging over rough terrain or maybe I had something already damaged, who knows.  We think the acid from the lemon may have simply eaten through some soft tissues there causing the excruciating pain I experienced.

My hesitation to ingest anything and the hospital not ensuring I had adequate fluid intact contributed to the event leading to my 2nd transport.  At this point, both my husband and I were on edge and not understanding what might be wrong, hit the panic switch.  Err on the side of safety I guess, although one could certainly make the argument that the hospital and the E.R. are not necessarily safe places to be.

Interestingly and ironically enough, as I researched a few things during my recovery period, I discovered that sweet potatoes (which I was craving and was the ONLY thing I wanted, followed by bananas, which both I and the hospital were out of), are some of the best sources of potassium!  My dangerously low levels of potassium can cause tingling and the cramping I experienced in my hands/arms.

As for the hives, I am still working on that mystery, which I do have some ideas about and will cover in more detail in the next post.  My father, an oral surgeon, mentioned angioedema which I wasn't familiar with and told me he has had that before and that there may be a genetic component; he never did figure out triggers for his.

It's all rather anti-climatic in the end, but frankly, I'm very thankful for a lack of drama at this point....boring and simple can be quite good.

To be Wrapped Up: Next:  Recovery, Follow-Up and Lessons....oh, the Lessons.
Healthy Snack 

Scott Jurek, Ultramarathoner, vegan and now author "Eat and Run", can't wait to read it, has an interesting recipe for some snack bars.  He calls them "Chocolate and Adzuki Bean Bars" and you can read a great interview with Scott and find the recipe here:,7120,s6-242-303--14320-F,00.html

I am dissecting nutrition and what it takes to be truly fueled and turning to what the successful vegan athletes do, seems to be a good idea.  I decided to give Scott's recipe a try.

I started low-tech with a potato masher to blend up the beans and banana  I used three different kinds of beans, not just the adzuki as that is what I happened to have handy.  I did move up to a mixer, but an immersion hand-held model did the job fine.

When I first tried these, I didn't think I liked them much, but they are really growing on me...I mean seriously growing on me.  I have some ideas on playing with Scott's recipe.  I would like to power them up even more by replacing some of the flour with hemp powder.  Raw sunflower seeds could be added as well and would give it a little crunch.  I think a 'blonde' version of them would be good too and instead of the cacao powder I will try some cinnamon and other spices and maybe add some apples for part of the beans.  The possibilities are endless.  I especially love that there are beans in the recipe as I am determined to get those into my diet daily.  It's a great snack and one that I will be making quite frequently. 

It would be nice to slice these bars up and have at the ready in the case you have to go to the hospital where they may or may not feed you.  ;-)

NOTE:  I didn't have the dried fruit that Scott uses in his recipe, but that would give it a bit more sweetness.  I also didn't use the maple syrup, but did use a bit of agave.  I'd like to replace that with dates.

Sue, feeling pretty damn good these days, in Ohio

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Part 4: A day at the Hospital

Part 4:  The hospital in daylight....still scary...

.....Going to the doctor for an illness is like digging a well when you are thirsty.  That is not to say that it won't do some good, but.....  Ancient Chinese Proverb paraphrased.

I was startled awake (is there any other way in the hospital?)  as my new nurse "Lola" came in to meet me and to quickly tell me that the cardiologist was in on early rounds today and will be in to see me in a moment.  Before she finishes that sentence, he is in the room and extending his hand in introduction.

I'm blinking myself awake as he asks me a few questions about my symptoms, runs through the lab work already performed and says that, they can't 100% rule out a cardiac event, and given my age (57) and that I've never had a stress test, he'd like me to take one, do I think I'll have any problem moving on a treadmill.

I explain that I lead a very active life, have 5 horses, live on a farm,, I don't anticipate any problems.  He quickly vanishes saying he will check with me post-stress-test to go over my results.

Lola soon comes back in and with her is a wonderful aide by the name of Vi.  Vi looks a little bit street-wise and is sporting a doorag of sorts on her head....(I found out she had lost her hair due to stress.  We shared an intimate conversation about that later on).  I would grow to love the vernacular...'good people'.

I expressed my concerns about my esophagus to Lola early in our conversations, even as everyone involved with my care continued to plummet head-first into post-cardiac-event care.  You know, I do understand that it really doesn't matter much what your stomach is doing if you have heart failure, but up to this point, DESPITE all the trauma, lack of food, sleep-deprivation, lack of fluids and exposure to a pretty constant river of stress, ALL of my cardiac indicators were 100% healthy.

Hello?  Anyone home???

I asked about food.  Nope....better not eat any food, because the docs would have a fit down there at the stress test lab and my nurse advised me to only have a very few sips of water, and to do that when she wasn't looking.   I was told that my personal doc would be by to see me, but that she doesn't do rounds until later and not to expect her any time soon, giggle.  (I didn't think that was all that funny, but was glad my doc was coming in).  {It's about 7 a.m. at this point, a full 6 hours before I would finally get my stress test}.

Vi came in to help me clean up a bit.  This woman needs to be immediately nominated for saint-hood.  Where is the form? I will personally sign off on it.  She brought some warmed cloths that are like over-sized wipes and proceeded to loosen the back of my gown and wipe down my back, on which she then sprinkled some powder.  Heaven and without a doubt the highlight of my stay.

I truly think if they flipped the hierarchy in the hospital and put the aides at the top, followed by nurses, then let the doctors and administrators dook it out for the next slot, we might see a change in health care...FOR THE GOOD.  The aides are the front line, followed closely by the nurses and know more about what is going on with the patient than the ivory-tower inhabitants.  Vi is the only one who seemed to understand that I needed something to eat and drink.

I had slept in my coveted work-out knickers and I tell you, of all the things I was so glad I had with me, 2nd only to my cell phone and maybe my chap-stick, were those shorts.  A tech from the stress lab had come down to go over some things with me on how the procedure with the stress test would go and had said I could slip into my jeans or just do the test in my gown.  I WAS SO GLAD I HAD THOSE SHORTS ON!!!

Now in between times here, several staff had come in and out and there was a huge mix-up over the type of stress test I was going to get.  Some staff members had told me I would be getting just a stationary echo right there in the room, in fact at one point, a staff member came in (she was trying to get me food, bless her), because my test was listed as done!  When I told her the tech from the Stress Lab had been in to tell me the test wouldn't be until at least noon, she just couldn't figure that out at all and asked me then why was it listed as already done!!!???  Uh....I don't know...could it be because you all clearly have a communication problem?!?!?!  My first guess.

This went on back and forth several times until finally I called my nurse and said, look, my constitution is such that if I don't get something to eat, I will likely pass out on that treadmill; can I PLEASE have something light, especially since you guys don't seem to be in complete agreement about what test I am going to get anyway.

So I had a little bit of fruit (honestly, the serving sizes were just positively Lilliputian!) and some cardboard-esque oatmeal along with a few precious sips of water.   I was on a 'cardiac-diet' so I would be allowed, at some point to order from the menu any of the items with a heart next to them.  A quick glance had me in complete disagreement with the creator of the menu on what constitutes 'heart-healthy', but I did see a few possibilities---I'd need to ask some questions.

Finally, I get wheeled down to the stress-test lab.

The procedure is explained to me in detail with emphasis on the fact that following the attainment of the target heart-rate on the treadmill, I would have to QUICKLY zip over to the gurney and follow closely the instructions of the tech...we only have seconds to get this done, so we can get an adequate picture of how the heart is functioning at high stress.

I was instructed on how I would have to lie on the gurney and told that I would have to blow out all the air in my lungs so they could get a good view of the heart. 

As I was being fitted with more leads and monitors, I saw the skin on my torso and pointed out to the tech the welts that were coming up on me and how itchy they were.  She noted them as well, but we had a job to do, so we focused on that.

The treadmill part was pretty straight forward....a fairly high incline that was gradually increased with escalating speed as well.  We could all monitor my heart-rate and see how far I had to go to reach my target rate: 138. 

We kept going and going and going and every minute or so the speed and incline would ramp up and we couldn't get my heart-rate up high enough.  Finally, another tech came into the room to see what was taking so long and the two of them started betting on how many more levels they were going to have to up it.  They kept asking me to rate the exertion level I was experiencing as noted by a scale on the wall, wanting it to be 'fairly difficult' which we hadn't reached yet. 

The one tech to my left made the comment "this is how fit she is".  I will always treasure that moment, because in the midst of all this craziness, I really wanted something to hang onto about my health!  Two or three more levels and we finally hit the mark, which then has to maintained for a minute or so.   I moved quickly to the gurney and this was the hardest part....having to blow out ALL the air in my lungs and hold that state of emptiness for a moment while the tech snapped pictures on the echo machine.  I had to do that several times, and the lungs are screaming for air, so it was tough.

Back to the room and my doctor had already been there and was looking for me, so she quickly comes in.  I bring her up to speed and THANK GOD, SOMEONE FINALLY HEARS ME THAT I THINK THIS IS MY ESOPHAGUS, not my freaking heart!!!

She wants to wait on test results from the stress test to be sure, but thinks, yes, probably something esophageal or maybe gall bladder, which she thinks about for a second, remembers I am vegan and quickly rules out as 'highly unlikely'.  (We share a brief discussion about vegan diets and I tell her that I had tried to get the E.R. staff NOT to tell her I had been admitted with chest pains because I knew she wasn't all that impressed with my vegan diet, and it would just be awful to have a heart attack on this which she responded "well, it's just a really hard diet".)

While we are talking, my symptoms return, although not as severe and she is able to see them first hand.  She orders a 'cocktail',  to numb the esophagus to see if that will turn off my symptoms which it should do if it is esophageal (it didn't), so at this point, we're still a bit perplexed.  We end up deciding to go on a course of anti-acid meds at high strength for 6 weeks to see if the condition heals.  If there is no improvement in a week, I'm to call her, otherwise she'll see me in 6 weeks.  An option is to do a scope, but she says most conditions will heal on their own with the anti-acid meds and that would likely be the course we would take after the scope anyway, so, I pick door number 2:  no scope.

I note the itching on my skin, which is now worse and she offers me a Benadryl, which I decline.  At this point, I want as far away from any medication or medical personnel as I can get.....not really thinking clearly.

I still have to wait for the cardiologist, so I call food services to order some food.  I tell the very nice food service person that I am vegan and ask if they have some fresh fruits and vegetables.  Yes, they do.  What kinds do you have?  We have all of them.  I had to press to finally get her to tell me what they have....hell, they didn't even have a banana, so no they don't have all of them, but I am trying to be good.  I ask if any of her bagels don't have egg in them and she says she thinks they all have egg in them.  I ask if she can check on that, and she says, she thinks they all have egg in them.  I ask, can she please check the label for me?    She says she will and later calls me to tell me that the Honey-Whole Wheat ones don't and the Blueberry ones don't---I decide not to go into the honey aspect and instead just thank her and ask for a blueberry one.  This arrives quickly, a decent platter of mostly cherry tomatoes (which at this point, I don't want anything even remotely acidic, so pass on), some broccoli florets and some grapes.  I tentatively nibble. 

The head of the food service department comes in my room to tell me about some veggie burgers they have (which I thought was really great of her to do).  She can't remember what they are called and I offer:  Morningstar?  YES!  That's it.  Now, I've never had a pre-packed veggie burger, but I tell her I think there are probably some ingredients in there I shouldn't have.  She's raving about them and runs off to check the label...atta-girl.  I've got her onto the labels now.  She calls later to tell me they have egg whites in them and I again thank her profusely for checking.

I so badly want to launch into something about wouldn't you think there would be a VEGAN food section for patients in the CARDIAC wing, but I really don't have the strength at this point.

My husband arrives in time for the cardiologist to zip into the room and inform me that my cardiac stress test is perfectly normal and that he thinks it is probably an esophageal problem.  I thank him and tell him that I hope I never see him again, to which he emits what I am sure is a rare laugh.

We start packing......and then I look at my foot....and see a welt the size (and relative shape) of Nebraska on it, I look in the mirror, my lips look like Angelina Jolie's, my eyes are swollen and I am breaking out in hives all over.

Lola arrives with a wheelchair for my grand exit and I show her my many welts and she says I should take Benadryl when I get home, do I have some?  By now, I'm really just very concerned, as I have never swollen up like this and am wondering, what is next.  My husband decides to leave me there while the nurse gets me a Benadryl and to go pick up my anti-acid meds and more Benadryl.  They both comment that I 'seem a little nervous'.  I'm thinking, yeah, you'd be nervous too.  She does say that my doctor has been made aware of the increase in this allergic reaction and for me to call her office on Monday.

We are looking at latex rubber that might have been on the bottom of the footies they put on me and I'm thinking maybe the tape used to hold I.V.'s and cotton balls from blood being drawn, etc. as potential sources of an allergic reaction....just trying to figure it out.  I'm wondering if it was the vast amounts of nitro or maybe just the detergent on the sheets....what is causing all of this?

As I am examining the huge lumps on the tops of my feet, I happen to press on the fatty part of my big toe...the skin stays positively flat.  I press again and say, "look at that....I might be a bit dehydrated".  I reach for the cup to take a few sips of water, but I'm afraid maybe there is latex in the straw or something in the straw....just turning positively hive-paranoid at this point.
The hives start to go down a bit and we decide to get outta Dodge.   I walk out with my husband on my own power passing on the wheel-chair.

All is well, right?

Not really.

To be continued:  E.R. Trip #2....Are you freaking kidding me?

Healthy Lunch

I've noticed that I tend to get into habits about what I eat.  This, of course, can be a very good thing as it helps ensure I'm going to intake greens every day, fruits and so on, but as I continue to learn more about MICROnutrition, I realize the importance of adding a variety of grains, legumes and veggies to sort of 'cover our nutritional bases'. 

So, normally, in the lunch below, I might have say one kind of rice, short-grained brown is my favorite and one type of bean, black beans usually.  I'm expanding this healthy rut to encompass more.

Multi-Faceted Salad
On top of field greens, I have a combination of brown rice, black rice and red quinoa, as well as a mix of beans.  Quinoa is a power-house of a food:  providing protein, iron, B1, B2, folate, and other minerals.  I'll be adding it into my diet more regularly now.

Add a dash of tamari and a few chopped scallions and you have a nice little lunch.  In my efforts to add savory to my sweet and sweet to my savory, I chopped up a medjool date and added it as well.  A sprinkle of nutritional yeast (Bob's Red Mill, B-12 added) takes care of that important nutrient.

Multi-Faceted Salad
Sue, on the healing path, in Ohio

Monday, June 11, 2012

Part 3: My "Sleep"over at the Hospital---Sleep? Fuggedaboudit.

Part 3- Overnight at the the "Little Shop of Sleep Deprivation", aka. Cardiac Wing.

{"Health is not something the doctor can apply to you like calamine lotion.  Health is something you do on a daily basis, and making wise decisions at the dinner table is one of the best things you can do to assure your good health", Dr. Michael Klaper,}

I had still been following the 'cardiac protocol' up to this point, having been given nitro a few times and nearly as soon as I was taken into my room in the cardiac wing and met my first nurse "Eva", this was continued by a nitro paste being placed on my back.  I would later come to detest nitro;  it is some nasty stuff and gave me severe headaches.  However, I reasoned, headache trumps heart failure any day.

I had also begun to notice, really, back in the E.R., that the places under the tapes and adhesives that were holding various I.V. ports, monitors, etc. in place were itching.  I was trying not to scratch them, but they were getting red and bothersome.  This is another thing that would come back to bite me in the butt.

Nurse Eva, who seemed very sweet, filled me in on procedures, pointing out first and foremost when I mentioned that I was going to be getting a stress test in the a.m.....that she needed to clear that up right now; the CARDIOLOGIST will or will not order that.....not the E.R. doc.  Thus began my first glimpse into the power struggle, miscommunication and general control-freak issues of the inner-workings of the hospital.

She went through many informational aspects of my stay at the hospital and when my husband spoke up at one point saying I hadn't eaten and that I really need to eat frequently because I am vegan, she jumped at me: "I asked you if you were on a special diet and you didn't say anything!!!".  There is no way in hell she asked me that.  I was waiting and waiting for a chance to tell her of my diet needs as this was foremost on my mind.  She said she would try to see what she could get me, but it was about 10:00 p.m. by now, kitchen closed.  Later, I begged for a bananas in the hospital--they were out.  After a time, she did scrounge up a packet of instant oatmeal (very small maybe an ounce or two), and a small dish of grapes.  Later she brought me a very tiny serving of fruit that I know had sugared syrup on this time, I just had to get something in my stomach, so I ate.

{Another side note:  Eva told us that her boss, was essentially on a vegan diet.  Turns out she does CHIP  ---Complete Health Improvement Program--- that I had learned about at the Appalachian Summit in Athens, Ohio last September.  I thought this really was a grand coincidence, since Caldwell Esselstyn really champions this program.  Also it was good to know she had some fore-knowledge of what a vegan is.

Learn more about CHIP here:

I tried not to look at my husband's face as Eva went on to explain the reasons why her boss had gone on that program, and they included to reduce cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and she finally got around to mentioning that her boss wanted to lose a few pounds.
This was the classical 'elephant-in-the-room' scenario as Eva really needs to lose I'm guessing at least 100 pounds.}

I was sipping some water that Eva had brought, but there was discomfort with every swallow and I kept telling the various nurses and techs that I could feel where the place was in my esophagus that was hurt, torn, damaged or whatever.  This discomfort, and not being sure what was causing it, also made me very cautious about putting ANYthing down my throat, so I know I was becoming dehydrated at this point even.  This would also later come back to bite me in the butt, big time.

My husband left and I finally got settled in and was having 'a moment'....true loneliness and probably the shock of the day wafting over me; I tried texting a dear friend, but she wasn't available, so pulled up the picture file on my cell phone, noting how little juice I had left on my cell phone.  Lesson learned there too.

I was never so glad to have all of those little candid shots stored on that phone....the ones that I never thought were all that good to begin with taken with my phone's less-than-optimal camera, but they are just there. 

As I scanned through them, I had all the great loves of my life on there....both my boys that I am so incredibly proud of, not for any particular 'accomplishment', but just by Who They Are.  My many good pictures of him on there, and then all the crazy farm pictures I have that probably only I would understand....half of a barn swallow as I tried to get a shot of those fascinating birds, just the corner of my mare's beautiful face....undoubtedly she had broken her 'pose' and had come up to sniff me mid-picture.  I scanned through pictures of my grand-daughter, my two best friends, my precious brother and other family members and felt the sense of their love.

Feeling somewhat calmer, I snuggled down in the sheets and pulled out my current book and began to read.

Just a very few pages into that, I heard what sounded like a thundering herd flying down the hall and thought to myself:  'wow, sounds like a bunch of kids running up and down the hall'.  In a moment, the 'herd' flew into my room and my nurse Eva (who as I mentioned, is about 80-100 pounds overweight, so buddy when she hits the ground, you can hear her coming) and another fairly large nurse appeared bolting into my room and tried to compose themselves, regain their breath and be non-chalant. 

Eva quickly came to my bedside and said, "you ok?".  I hesitantly answered "uh, yeah, I think so".  She pressed on:  "you didn't just feel anything?".  "Uh, no....feel something?"  Eva:  "You didn't feel something in your heart?".  Me: "Nope, don't think so". 

Ok, so by now, I'm getting on red-alert and the cardiac swat team has come into the room, they are taking vitals and printing out EKG's and I'm trying to just stay calm---(as I glance at the portable monitor and see a readout of about 151/95 bp!)

They continue taking my bp until it comes down a bit and they confirm that my EKG is ok, just normal, I tentatively thank them for keeping an eye on me and they depart.

I settle back to the book when AGAIN the thunder!!  I'm alert now and I hear the herd pass by my room and continue on down the hall.

I decide, ok, screw this....I'm going to try to actually just fall asleep--close the book, lights out...deep breathing, good god, get me out of here, I want to go home.  I finally begin to doze and Eva comes into the room which I hear and wake up to and she says "well, good news.  I didn't know whether to tell you or not.  You never had anything go off on your EKG alarm-wise".  She proceeds to explain to me that upon her return to the nurses' station after their visit in my room she sees that the number to my room she is reading as "3" is showing a pulse rate of 150.  She says, wait a minute, I just left her room and her pulse was 60....this isn't my patient.  That prompted the 2nd run down the hall to the patient who actually had the arrhythmia (she ended up being ok...I asked).

Turns out the room I was in used to be a double room and there were two numerical designations for it, and then a new numbering system was instituted but there was still this unknown problem with the number 3 on their monitors at the station.  Ok then, doesn't instill confidence, but still, I figure that it is a good thing...I am ok.

The next few hours are spent by being awakened by various vampires (met a lovely man from Africa that continued the vampire joke with me when I would go on to donate to his blood-collection on E.R. Trip #2), and techs taking vitals every two hours.  After dozing off following one of these tech visits, I heard the speaker system go off LOUDLY proclaiming "CODE BLUE, CODE BLUE, CODE BLUE...all staff report to wherever it was...."  This repeated a couple of times in case the relatives of the vampire that are still in Africa didn't hear it the first time.

No one likes to hear the words "code" and "blue" in quick succession and I had trouble settling after that.  Actually when I first heard them I put my hand to my own heart to make sure it wasn't me!  Finally when I did re-settle, Eva came in to check me again.  (Honestly, are these people trained in sleep deprivation techniques???).  We chatted a bit about her history, and I confessed to her that I was terrified that someone was going to come into the room and tell me I am dying.  She tried to reassure me that all my vitals looked good and scurried off to see if she could find blood enzyme test results.

I chose then to mention the massive headache I had been steadily developing...she said it was the nitro, got me some Tylenol, which didn't help and finally a bit later agreed to take off the nitro as I tried to tell her, look, I really don't think this is my heart!   She had obtained the next in the series of cardiac enzyme test results which confirmed my far, so good on that front.

As she ripped off the tape holding the nitro paste in place, she said ok, but that if my bp goes back up, it's going back on.  (More on bp starting to understand more about that vital statistic).

I inquired about the Code Blue case and she confirmed that that person was fine....she had collapsed while on the commode (a little too much information, but still, a welcome relief--by now, I'm feeling and invisible connection and kinship to the other inmates....I mean patients). 

Dawn was peaking through the blinds and I got up to close those and noticed that some other places of my body were beginning to itch.  I was simply too tired to think more about it at that point and opted to try, once again, to get a bit of rest.

I dozed fitfully until the shift change just an hour or so later.

To be continued:  Next:  A day at the hospital--get out before they make you worse.


Healing Breakfast

Again, nothing fancy here and a continuation of my healing theme.  I've been craving berries for some reason and I'm not about to argue with my body at this point.  Having come to a better understanding of how the body has its own agenda, I am LISTENING!

This is pretty much my regular oatmeal, with cinnamon & some golden flax seeds ground up on top.  To my berries, I also sprinkled some chia and hemp seeds.  I've gone heavy on the berries and found some real beauties at our local store:  raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and a few black raspberries. 
Berries, grapes, chia and hemp seeds
Wanting to add some savory, I rough-chopped some kale and tossed it in with the oatmeal.  It is late-season kale and a bit on the bitter side, but I've heard many times about the importance of stimulating all of the taste sensations.  Any chance I get to toss in some more nutrients, I will definitely take advantage of.

I have to say I was very surprised that the kale did not taste bad at all and blended in with the taste of the oatmeal very well.  I will continue to use this early morning opportunity to get some more nutrients into my body.  I am realizing that I need to be more pro-active on both the macro and micro levels of nutrition for my body.

Oatmeal with kale, cinnamon and ground golden flax seeds

Sue, on the healing path, in Ohio

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Part 2: E.R. Trip #1 - Nitro, EKGs and "Protocols" + Vegan Medical Staff!

My "Reboot" and Health Scare
Part 2 -  Continued from part 1 here.

Wow, I got a real surge in hits on my blog on the last post.  Probably from the provocative 'lose 3 pounds in 2 days' phrase.  It just shows how much the idea of losing weight is at the forefront in our well it should be.  It'll be back in the forefront of mine too, when I am back at 100%.

I've been jotting down a list of 'practical' lessons I've learned over the past week, in addition to the 'bigger picture' lessons.  You know, the type of thing where your mom told you to always have on clean underwear in case you ever get in a car accident?  Well....I gotta say....that's some good solid advice there.

For trip #1 to the E.R.  I found that I was very glad that I had:
  *washed my hair the night before (you know how sometimes you just don't feel like it?  I believe I'll be doing this anyway in the future.)
  *shaved the night before (see above parenthetical comment).
  *didn't have on my grottiest t-shirt that I've had for 15 years with stains all over it (thought I'd wear that for trip #2) .

And then this one that I'm still working on.  I had fairly recently come back from an over-night camping trip with a dear friend and had a travel satchel of sorts that I take on day-trips/equine seminars, etc.  It's got various and sundry things in it, dental floss, kleenex, extra chapstick, pens, notepad, bandana, some hand-sanitizer, a few dollars....this type of thing.  As I grabbed my shoes to drive myself to the fire station, I spied that bag and realized I hadn't completely cleaned it out since my return (note to self:  procrastination is NOT ALWAYS a BAD thing!).  I grabbed my current reading book and my mp3 player on the counter and shoved them in the bag as I headed out the door.

 My Keen bag.  Made from recycled materials.  Keen is a pretty cool company...some of their footwear is vegan-friendly--- I have two pairs of Keen shoes I really like.  You can find out more about them here: and find their products on sale periodically here:  I absolutely LOVE this bag.

Turns out there was also a clean pair of undies in there and some work-out/lounge shorts which would come in SOOOO handy later.

I'm now thinking that it might not be a bad idea to have such an over-nite bag laying in the bottom of one's closet.  It may seem a bit fatalistic to have such a thing "in case", but I thought later, what if even a family member was ill or you needed to rush off to someone else's emergency.  I have been through that before as well.  I'll be thinking more about what I might want to add to such a bag.

It would have been great to have a baggie of frozen oatmeal bars or something that I could have grabbed to stick in there although I'm not sure I would have thought to grab it.

To my 'practical list' I am also adding these two things:  keep gas in the car, at least half a tank (mine was ok this time, but I tend to run it low and was grateful I did NOT have that worry on top of everything else), and keep a charge on the cell-phone.  I was down to about nothing on mine.  Not good.


So I find myself wheeled into the E.R. and am quickly met by nurses and admittance staff.  I had been there before about a year ago almost to the day (eerie....) due to a horse-back-riding accident, so my records were fairly current. 

The nurse I had, Kelly, ended up being just wonderful---(I would miss her dearly for trip #2).  As in most things that are subject to the wide range of humanity, I suppose it is natural to allow for differences in treatment....but my husband and I were both surprised at how much variance there is in health care, even in the scope of just a couple of days, to the same facility.

Because I had chest pains, and even though my risk factors were very low (a fact that was brought up many times- i.e. 'normal' weight ---even though I believe I am still a bit heavy--about 10 lbs. and let me tell you after all this, that weight WILL be coming off!----, very little family history of cardiac issues, low total cholesterol, vegan diet, active lifestyle, non-smoker, non-drinker, no drug use, etc.), the E.R. had a 'protocol' to run me through, so we proceeded through the maize of cardiac tests, starting with some blood work to monitor cardiac enzymes.

Since my EKGs had all been normal starting with those printed out in the squad to the constant digital reading in the E.R., (I was now on multiple monitors), the next thing was to check for enzymes and proteins like troponin which can indicate damage to heart muscle.  We had some understanding of this process due to my husband's heart attack several years ago, as this was the only way we knew he had suffered a cardiac event.  He did have chest pain, but later told me it was nowhere near the level of my pain. It was only the elevation of enzymes that confirmed his diagnosis, and he went on to receive a stent, did have significant blockage, etc.

These blood tests are taken every 3 hours as often the damage may not show up til later.

The E.R. doc also ordered chest x-rays and there is a pretty cool side story here....the x-ray tech that came to get me was vegan!  For 16 years!  It was great having a kindred spirit there and her story was an interesting one.  Her motives for going vegan started at about the age of 10 when some family members had hunted and killed a deer.  She recalled vividly the deer carcass hanging up at their property to bleed out and how negatively that had impacted her.  She had begun to think about not eating meat at that point and then several weeks later, she was having dinner with her family--- burgers--- and one of her uncles asked how she liked the burger.  She said 'fine' and he told her that it was the deer that had been hanging up.  That was it for her....the last of any animal food products.

I truly enjoyed having that connection with her and thought it does say something about how many of us really may be 'out there'.

Chest x-rays were fine, continued blood work was fine; I was still having some esophageal pain, but it had settled down and no longer felt like a rod being rammed from my sternum clear through to my back.  Still, the E.R. doc opted to admit me to the hospital and said that the cardiologist would likely want to run a stress-test on me in the morning, they could monitor me all night, that sort of thing.  I didn't want to hear this, of course, but with no definitive diagnosis, acquiesed to the medical authorities.

The very sweet nurses and techs that had been caring for me wished me well and I was wheeled over to the cardiac ward.....that's when the fun really began.

To be continued:   Over-night in the Cardiac Wing....not for the faint of heart.

The Healing Salad  (sorry no pictures).

This is just a salad, like any salad any one can make, but I am calling it the Healing Salad.  Why?  Because I am looking at ALL my food as healing nutrients at this point in time.  If figure if modern medicine can pump chemicals into me and tell me that's going to heal me, then I may as well start calling food what it truly is....the basic building blocks for us to heal our bodies with.

I started with some lettuce fresh-picked from my garden.  Such perfect timing.  I had baby red fire and butterhead, also some kale that I am still harvesting, plus some organic romaine hearts from the store.  I added red peppers, cucumbers, some mushrooms (even though I don't like them), garbanzo beans,  blueberries, some raspberries (seriously CRAVING berries right now) and topped it all with some tofu-based ranch dressing (L. Nixon's Ranch Dip from Everyday Happy Herbivore ).  On top I sprinkled some ground flax seed.

I normally don't put fruit in these types of salad, preferring to separate my sweet from my savory for the most part, but I'm trying to 'blur the lines' a bit in my diet, as well as expand the variety of foods I am eating and will be adding savory to my morning oatmeal as well.

Sue, definitely healing, in Ohio

Friday, June 8, 2012

Part 1: How I Lost 3 pounds in 2 days and got a complete reboot on my life

Kids, don't try this at home. 

If you think there will be some 'health-tip' here on how to actually lose 3 pounds in 2 days, just skip ahead to the soup recipe.  I am sorry to disappoint, but this isn't a weight-loss tip; it's a foray into my recent health crisis and lessons learned from it, but if you might like a glimpse into what's turned into a life-changing event for me, read on.

(I'll break this into parts for blog brevity and reader sanity....)

Part one:

Last Thursday, I was happily bush-hogging away our two pastures that had gone weedy.  It was a gorgeous day and I had a nice Rush mix (my favorite band) on my mp3 player, our back-for-the-summer dive-bombing barn swallows for company and was content as could be.  Several hours later when I put that tractor away and went to hook up another implement to our smaller tractor that I use for tasks like dragging our arena, as I bent over, I was struck with incredible chest pain.  I momentarily considered going ahead and getting my task done, but then thought, no, better go in the house and get some water, see if this is just bad indigestion or what.  As I turned to go to the house, the pain radiated up into my jaw, twice and became more severe.

Now, I'll confess to you that my very first thought was how absolutely unfair it would be for a strict nearly two-year vegan to have a heart attack, but the pain quickly dissolved that concern and commanded center-stage.

I was sitting in the house trying to decide just what the deal was, whether this could be indigestion, how serious to take the matter, as my son briefly asked if I was ok, and promptly left for work.  As I watched him leave, I thought, hmm....maybe I should ask him to stay.  Too late.

Being a stubborn person by nature, I figured I'd work it all out.  I called my husband and he wanted me to call the squad.  I finally decided (pain now worsening) to drive myself to the fire-station, several miles into our small town (I know, I know...don't say it), reasoning that they would somehow put me on an EKG, tell me it was heart-burn and send me home---what can I say---it made sense at the time.

That was the longest drive I think I have ever made...seemed like 25 miles into town and I was in excruciating pain and constantly thinking about how I should pull over if I thought I might collapse as for sure I was not going to take anyone else off the road.  I made it to the fire-house, but couldn't find any of the EMTs for a minute or one out by the one in the office area....I was calling "hello?"  "hello?"...finally found them in the t.v. lounge area..." are going to think I am crazy, but I'm having chest pains". 

Thus began what turned into a 3-day ordeal of TWO E.R. runs, by squad, an overnight hospital stay and a battery of tests that I am not looking forward to receiving the bills for.

EMT's got me loaded on the gurney in the back of a squad, started EKG readings, which were normal, started me on nitro and baby aspirin and decided to transport me.  I sent a quick text to my husband who had already left work (50 miles away) and was meeting me at the hospital.

The two EMTs that flanked me in the back of the squad as they transported me the some 20 minutes away to our nearest larger town were as kind as they could be.  Gus, the older EMT, later told me of his ordeal not long ago, when at age 51, he had to be life-flighted to Columbus for a heart-attack, partially induced by rapid and heavy consumption of wings that had been donated as a 'thank-you' to the county fire-stations by a local restaurant.  Hmmm...interesting, eh?  He had a stent put in and is now eating a much different diet.

He was reassuring me that I made the right choice to take chest pain seriously.

The younger EMT, to my left had started a saline drip I.V. and even though he looked to me to be about 12 years old and barely qualified to color inside the lines much less start an I.V.,  proved quite capable, and compassionate beyond his years.

As we were getting closer to town, and my pains were increasing with regularity (but would also turn off completely, leading Gus to speculate "sounds like an esophageal spasm almost"), I was struck with the possibility that I might not be going back home.  With pain that intense (I have NEVER had pain like this) and of unknown origin, well, thoughts come to mind. 

It was in the midst of one such thought (that I considered might actually be my LAST thought), that I paused for a moment, and took it all, the universe, my purpose...all hovered in front of me. 

I was struck with the irrefutable condensement of life's basic truth:  turns out, John Lennon was right....Love is all you need.

Or at least, it's all you care about when you think you only have a minute to care about anything at all.

I don't know how to write this without the words just sounding cliche, and I myself have been over these concepts so many times before, but I tell you, when it is smack dag IN-YOUR-FACE, well, it takes on a deeper meaning.

I truly FELT all the love of my life....could nearly touch it.  Radiating particularly from my devoted husband, who has given me more love than any one person could possibly absorb.  Also my children & family, my animals, oh-my-precious-beloved-animals, and my extraordinary dear wonderful friends....especially two of you who most certainly know who you are and what you mean to me.  I love you so very much.  It was all there...and for an instant, even in the midst of double-me-over-up-on-the-gurney-clutching-my chest, all-I-could-do-to-not-scream-pain, I felt the calm and beauty of it.

How do you write that without sounding airy and fairy and positively flower-child-esque?

We pulled into the E.R. unloading bay and my pains were even worse....even the 12-yr old EMT who was behind me....Gus had hopped out to unload but was having trouble releasing the supports on the gurney... said 'anytime now, Gus'.  Oh boy...that scared me. 

To be installment....E.R. Adventure, Number 1.


The Healing Soup

This is very close to my hearty-veggie soup and any number of other good soup recipes, but I fortified this one to help me heal.  I wanted nutrients and a lot of them.  I started with the best stock I could make...what ended up being a wonderful blend of asparagus stalk ends, onion peels, carrot butts and mushroom stems.  I will remember that combination as it was lovely.

I added about 2 C of tomato sauce that I had made from tomatoes left-over in the freezer from last year's harvest, and then just piled in the veggies.  Sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, onion, a bit of garlic, celery.  I started with the onions & garlic in a bit of the stock, let them get cooked through and then added more stock, and the veggies in order of time to cook.  After pretty well tender, I added the tomato sauce and left the soup to simmer for about 20 more mins.  Just 5 mins before eating, I added TONS of chopped kale and spinach which I thankfully had harvested from my garden early in the day before I went to the hospital. I wanted to just infuse my body with those powerful greens.  I let those wilt a bit in the heating soup before serving.  Probably, I would add to this some beans for more minerals and nutrients.  Kidney beans would be nice, but I've grown fond of the large butter beans and the northern beans as well. 

The Healing Soup, extra, ready to go in the freezer

Sue, healing, in Ohio