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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Unexpected Hills

Sometimes while traversing the topography of our lives, we find ourselves making an unexpected ascent. Typically, hills and heights are discernible well in advance. The “biggies”; such as weddings, the births of children, graduations, milestone birthdays; are visible on the horizon awaiting our feet to tread their myriad, always new trails
Sometimes, though, while we are moseying along enjoying ourselves in a sun dappled lush glen filled with fragrant blossoms, our feet suddenly find themselves on an up-ward trek.  An un-expected, un-seen rise is smack in our path. There is no going around, no going through; only continue climbing.
Recently, I encountered just such a height.
It began with Charley horse cramps in my legs while working out, then when I was on the bike, then the treadmill or just walking. Finally, after several months of taking extra potassium, drinking more fluids and stretching before working out, all to no avail; I broke down & went to my Doctor.
I have been diagnosed with Peripheral Artery Disease. As seen on TV!!  Wooo-Hooo!
Peripheral Artery Disease is a medical term meaning “Hey! You have a Big-Mac stuck in your artery!”  Therefore, the course of treatment is to get rid of that sucker.
Within the next week and a half, I will undergo an ultrasound to determine the location, size, first name of the blockage.  After having established a relationship with the blockage (for some reason, I can envision it being named “Earl”), I will then take a somewhat passive role in a procedure called “an angiogram”.  Again, for the lay-reader, this is another medical term meaning “we are gonna shove this here little wire thingy in your artery and root around for a bit. Just gonna see what we can turn up.”
Dependent upon the results of the angiogram, the vascular surgeon (WHY does the word “surgeon” always make me think of Weird Al Yankovich?) will determine whether to use an angioplasty (a fancy way of saying “gonna blow up this little balloon gizmo”), insert a stent (“Uh-oh.. gotta use a reinforcing pipe”), or ask my Lovely Bride if she is busy 3 weeks from Saturday, as the funeral should be over by then.
Initially, I was not going to bore you to tears with this rather mundane, developing story. Then it occurred to me, a chunk of kielbasa could break loose and find itself taking up residence in a cerebral blood vessel. I can’t imagine writing very well with a hunk of sausage lodged in a brain vein.
I have shared this bit of news with our children, as I did not want to continue a tradition in my family of not divulging medical issues until a month after the fact. It annoyed me beyond words when my Dad, living in Southwest Florida at the time, would casually mention during a phone conversation about the Cleveland Indians, “Oh… by the way, I had a heart attack last month. They did a couple balloon things in my aorta, I feel pretty good now.”  When queried as to why he didn’t tell us earlier, his answer was always the same “Oh, I didn’t want to worry you kids.” Gee, great call, Dad. Don’t let us know anything; therefore we can worry all the time!
Since Thursday when the PAD was confirmed, I have been giving this a reasonable amount of thought.
My diet, while not a shining example of vegan lifestyle, is not absolutely horrible, either. I don’t have my picture on the Wall of Fame in any restaurants or pizza joints, which is a plus. Six out of seven mornings, I have Cheerios, some fruit, and black coffee to start my day. Typically, I bring my lunch from home, a much healthier and cost effective mid-day repast. We don’t have pop (“soda” to you non Midwesterners), chips, cookies, etc, etc at home.  I was exercising with regularity until I got pneumonia this past spring. 
However, there is a factor over which I have no control: Genetics.  My family history is rife with folks who have cashed in their chips early due to heart attacks or strokes.  There is a long and growing list of survivors of heart attacks, strokes, and as I once had “a cardiac event”. Comparing notes with my sister, who once had a “cardiac incident”, we determined an “event” is a much happier, joyous occurrence than an “incident”. An “event” is short-lived, and everyone goes home happy. An “incident” remains in your Personal Record. Forever.
And the possibility of having a stent inserted really ain’t all bad. 
Consider this; it took 3 score years to get clogged up. I figure I now have 6 decades during which I can have super-sized greasy Fair Fries, fried cheese on a stick, bacon on cheese on bacon sandwiches, all manner of good stuff before I need to worry about this.  Talk about a green light to have a fried culinary festival!
So, I have taken my first dose of cholesterol lowering medication. I had a grilled skinless chicken breast over lettuce, red, yellow, and green pepper salad for dinner. Tomorrow morning, I will awaken in eager anticipation of a bowl-full of blood vessel scouring Cheerios. And, I will be one day closer to having resolve.
Keep me in your prayers.

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