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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Not-so-best-of-times

Tuesday was the best of times… and it was the not-so-best-of-times. I shared the joyous news of my Lovely Bride’s victory.
Tuesday was also the day I had my ultrasound on my legs. If you read “Unexpected Hills”, you are familiar with an unexpected hill I am climbing. The bugger just got a bit steeper.
We arrived at the vascular surgeon’s office a few minutes early. In order to hide our anxiousness, we flipped through the usual collection of magazines.
Finally, my name was called. The assistant led us to the ultrasound room.  The array of machines, computer monitors, and such was intimidating. The door swung open, and a pleasant woman came sweeping in, holding my chart.
“Hi, I am Anne. I will be performing the ultrasound today. Why do you think you have PAD?” after a brief exchange, verifying that I was indeed there for a reason, and not just the thrill of having an ultrasound, the test proceeded.
Frankly, I am glad Lovely Bride was there. Taking off one’s pants in the presence of another woman is a bit un-nerving. I climbed upon the examination table, covering myself with a huge paper blanket, and tried to relax.
After attaching the blood-pressure cuffs to my arms, thighs, calves and ankles, Anne proceeded to plug in all the little air lines, and pressed the button which inflated each one as was desired.  From the expression on her face, I could see all was not as it should be. 
Upon my asking, she told us (I am so grateful for an honest, open medical technologist) while at rest, my leg has 66% blood flow. The other leg, by comparison, has 100% flow. Cheerfully she added, “It is good you came in early. Many people put it off, and by the time they get to me, there isn’t much the surgeon can do.”  I was not encouraged.
From this warm-up act, we proceeded to the main event. The ultrasound itself; I asked for a print of the blockage to post on my Facebook page. She regretted to inform me they no longer print images, the senior physician removed the printers in order to save on expenses.
The upshot was, I have not one, not twins, but more than likely triplets! Three blockages! Their names are Earl, Eunice, and Archibald. Anne was not satisfied that I did indeed have some blockages. She needed to confirm it. This entailed walking up and down the office building hallway (yes, I had my jeans on) at a fairly good clip. After 3 minutes and 10 seconds, the cramping got to the “gotta take a break” point.  We hustled back to the blood pressure cuffs for a re-test. This time, after exercising, my right leg had a blood flow of 32%! My left leg was a happy 100 %. While being somewhat of a show-off, I was grateful that side was good.
OH… for some added fun; she also scanned my carotid arteries. My left is less than 20% blocked, but my right….that is 50% blocked. “Oh, don’t be concerned about that. The doctors don’t even become interested until it is 80% or more.”, she declared. Yahoo.
We met with a surgeon, reviewing everything with him. A very nice man, he informed me the blockages are called claudation, a Greek word meaning “to limp”. I thought “Horse poop, pal. It is a word meaning ‘Man, this hurts like crazy! I can hardly walk!”
I think he is a frustrated comic, who couldn’t make it doing standup, so he decided to fall back on vascular surgery. He said the funniest thing! With a perfectly straight face, he stated:”The best thing you can do to help this blockage, and prevent further blockages is walk a half-hour a day.” 
My expression must have betrayed my incredulity. Then he said, “How are you going to do that, when you walked a little over three minutes before having to stop?”
“No kidding, Sherlock.” I thought. This guy is crazy as a loon! Did he introduce himself as Dr. DeSade?
“What you are going to do is take a lawn chair or folding stool with you. Use the stopwatch on your wrist watch or phone. When you start walking, start the watch. Walk until it is burning with pain. When you have to stop, stop the watch. Sit and recover. Get up, start the watch and walking again. Do that as many times as you need until you have walked a half hour.”
He then went into the medical reasons about collateral blood vessels, blah, blah. How they tell all their PAD patients to walk, and probably less than 10% do.  Hark! The sound of a gauntlet being thrown down was deafening. This person, whom I had only met 5 minutes ago, was challenging me to do this! Who does he think he is!? I will show him, by golly!
I was pretty depressed the remainder of Tuesday. A well meaning friend at work made the statement about the difficulty of facing our mortality. I could not care less about Death; I know I win at that time. What really, really bothered me was the thought that I may be getting old. THAT is what bothered me.  I am not about to become one of those elderly people who can’t do anything.
So… tonight, I undertook my walk. I downloaded a nifty stopwatch ap to my phone. Off to the park I went. I set off at a lively pace, the gravel of the path crunching under my feet. I looked at the watch; I had surpassed the 3 minute mark. Ha! Then, at 4 minutes I hobbled up to a park bench, plopping down.
My leg was unbelievably painful. I gazed at the numerals…4:04.  I had a long way to go. I set off, again. This time, about six minutes passed until I had to rest. I may be able to do this, I was thinking. My longest stint was over ten minutes. I was motivated to press on by the prospect of using a bench between wooded ponds, laden with mosquitoes.  I would rather have a sore leg, than become a target for skeeters.
I concluded my walk with a total of thirty-five minutes and fifteen seconds of actual walking time. It took about fifty minutes to walk for half an hour.
But… I did it! I will do this tomorrow, the next day, and the day after.
I have no other choice.

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