Sunday, February 27, 2011


Last week I told you about Dad’s adventure that ended with him getting a pacemaker. This week I’d like to talk about the rehab involved. As a healthy, fit 87 year old, the pacemaker basically solved the problem.

Even as they wheeled him back to his room, his heart was beating a steady, unchanging 60 beats per minute. Even though that might be pretty low for most folks, I can’t remember the time his heart rate was that high.

Pacemaker recipients have to be pretty careful of their arm for awhile. Since they put it on the left side, Dad had to wear a sling to keep his left arm immobilized for 48 hours.

The reason is there are little leads running from the pacemaker to his heart, and they want to be sure that the leads have time to become fully attached. If he should lift his arms over his head, or forcefully contract his chest muscles, the leads could be pulled out which would cause quite a problem.

Since he needs the pacemaker to generate a decent heart rate, it could cause the same problem he had before (extremely low heart rate) that resulted in him blacking out when his heart stopped. Obviously, he’d have to be rushed back into surgery if that happened.

Those were compelling enough reasons to cause Dad to agree to take it easy for awhile. He can’t lift weights for 6 weeks to be on the safe side. He was allowed to start walking right away, but it was about 3 days before he really did any walking of substance.

Since Dad needed 24 hour care, he checked into a nursing home for a week or so to be sure he’d have help around. The first few days he needed help getting his shirts on, which was kind of tricky. By the end of the week, though, he was doing it on his own.

He also didn’t need any support while getting up and moving around, although he still needed some help getting cleaned up. The area around the pacemaker can’t get wet for awhile, so right now, sponge baths are in order.

At 7 days, he was feeling pretty good, but was complaining about a little dizziness when he got up out of bed, or out of a chair. They pulled him off his high blood pressure medication, thinking that now he didn’t need it. They were probably right, because the problem seemed to go away.

He’ll have his first visit with his cardiologist since being discharged from the hospital, later this week, and probably move back home after that. At that point, we’ll check on him from time to time, but all indications are that this heart will allow him to return to a pretty normal lifestyle. He’s amazed.

He told us when he was a teenager, he’d gotten burned and spent time in the hospital. “It was $15/day and no way could they do what they did.” He figures they saved his life and now, he gets to “keep on ticking.”

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I was planning on writing this article over the weekend like I usually do, but something came up. Actually it went down. We got the call from the E.R. nurse at Paris Community Hospital Friday night around 11:00 pm. They said that Dad had passed out and hit the floor at Wal-Mart and now he was out at the E.R.

He’d hit his head, which produced a healthy bump that required 2 staples, so they were doing a CAT scan to make sure there wasn’t any internal bleeding. The real worry though, was the fact that he blacked out, which caused the fall.

Now Dad’s heart rate is exceptionally low, especially for an 87 year old. But that night, it hit a new low. I watched the monitor hover around 45-46 beats per minute, and once it dipped as low as 43 bpm! They kept him overnight for observation and after further testing, transferred him over to Union Hospital in Terre Haute so he could be seen by a cardiologist.

This wasn’t the first time he’d fallen. About three months ago, he fell out of his kitchen chair, cracking three ribs and bruising the side of his head. After getting checked out at the doctor, since everything was O.K., everyone concluded that he’d just fallen asleep.

This had actually happened before, about 14 months ago (without the broken ribs and black eye). Dad takes naps in the chair with his feet up, and everyone figured he’d just fallen out of the chair.

So when it happened again, after making sure he was O.K., we tried to address the problem by having him keep his feet down. We also got a different kitchen chair that had sides for the arms, thinking it would be more secure.

Then in church about 6 weeks ago, he kind of slumped and listed sideways in the pews. Since he’d often take little naps, it didn’t seem that unusual. A nurse was behind us, and he was alert right away so we all concluded that again, he’d simply fallen asleep.

Looking back, we should have taken him in to be checked out then. He’d been treated for lower leg swelling 2 years ago, and his cardiologist put him on a water pill to help reduce the swelling. At the time, they noticed that his resting heart rate was really low and said that if it got any lower, it could be dangerous, and he’d have to be treated for it.

Somehow, all of us missed it—even the health care professionals. But this time, everyone realized that it had gotten serious.

Once he got over to Union, he had several more episodes that night. When his heart stopped again for 6 seconds (and he passed out), they were watching. Then it happened again for 11 seconds.

The final time it happened that night, he was out for 19 seconds without a heart beat. Of course they were monitoring everything and ready to step in if he needed help, but the evidence was conclusive—he needed a pacemaker.

The next morning, he was scheduled to be third in line for surgery, but after those episodes, the cardiologist moved him to the front of the line. In just over an hour and a half, he was out of surgery with a strong heartbeat locked in at 60 bpm!

Dad was a little tired, but feeling pretty good, and in amazing spirits. His doctor said that this should fix the problem. He had a strong heart—it just needed a little help initiating the cycle.

We were grateful for all the great help he had out at Wal-Mart with Edgar County Special Service Ambulance, at Paris Community Hospital and then over at Union Hospital. We were also thankful to God for looking out for him.

For six weeks, he’ll have to be pretty careful moving the arm, so the tiny electric leads have time to become permanently attached to his heart. But in a week, he’ll be able to start walking and riding the exercise bicycle again.

Dad was pretty disappointed when he found out he had to put his weight training on hold for six weeks. We figure we’re going to have to strap him down for the duration. He’s got a lot of heart!

Monday, February 07, 2011


Since Monday was the January 31st, I thought perhaps we could squeeze one more article out of this series before we can’t call it a new year anymore. Technically, we were still in January so it works for me.

Anyway, we’ve talked about how to start the year off right by setting goals, finding things that work for you, and doing things you like. All of these things will help you get what you really want: lasting results.

This is probably even more important than the initial changes themselves. Here’s why. I’ll bet you’ve heard of the yo-yo syndrome. This is where people take the weight off, and then put it right back on.

Going back in forth with your weight is extremely common. Most of us have probably experienced it ourselves. I see it all the time here at the center, and even have to deal with it myself.

What happens is that we get focused so strongly to achieve the goal, that once we get there, we relax just a little bit and maybe even celebrate it. We’ve arrived. It doesn’t even take a big let-down, just a little lowering of our vigilance, and before we know it, we’re sitting there in a cloud of dust, wondering what happened.

Somehow, we tend to think that it won’t happen to us. But it does, and it will. It’s even biblical. There’s a verse I used to quote to friends when they’d say they had it all together. “They that think they stand, beware, lest they fall.”

I wasn’t trying to be a wise guy or high and mighty—I just knew what the verse said, and thought it made sense—for them. That was all well and good until I looked around and found myself in my own cloud of dust, just 7 days from divorce.

What happened is that I’d gotten a little bit too cocky. I guess I thought that it wouldn’t happen to me. But it did. So now I quote the verse to myself.

Once you’ve fallen, you have a decision to make. You can surrender or get back up and start walking again. Sometimes getting knocked around a little bit actually makes you wiser.

Perhaps you can identify why you fell. What things contributed to your fall? What were you thinking? Why did you make those decisions?

Once you’ve figured it out, you can start to put your life back together. You can also use this information to help you keep from doing the same things again that got you there.

For people trying to take off those same 10-20 pounds again, it’s both hard and easy. It’s hard because you have to start over, but it’s easy because you know what to do.

Actually, it applies to people trying to take off the same 50 pounds, or even 100 lbs. I’ve seen people put that much back on again.

What we have to do is maintain our discipline and our vigilance. We need to do the things we know we’re supposed to do—and not do the things we know we’re not supposed to do.

Have reasons why it’s important to you. Stay watchful, especially when you know what your weaknesses were that led to your fall. Christian marriage counselors say we need to build a hedge around things to protect them.

If it’s a marriage you need to protect, you need to build a hedge around yourself to protect you from doing something stupid. Don’t let people in that shouldn’t be there. Don’t have conversations that lead to emotional attachments with somebody else. It’s a slippery slope, and a quick fall.

If it’s your diet that’s at risk, maybe you need to build a hedge around your mouth—or your pantry. Don’t bring things home you know you shouldn’t eat. Don’t stop at places where it’s easy to mess up. Once you’ve started down that path it’s easy to keep indulging. Take smaller portions. Have other, more healthy choices available.

Some people have told me it’s laziness that keeps them from getting the exercise they need. Maybe they need to build a hedge around their time or schedule. Or arrange workouts with others to help keep them interested. Or get stuff they can do at home if it makes it more convenient.

You see, it’s not just reaching the goal and arriving, it’s staying there that really matters. It’s where we are next year that counts, the year after—and the year after that. That’s lasting change.