Call Me Dr. Science

I’m embarking on an experiment this month — well, actually, I started yesterday as a test — in which I’m going to try to stick to a restricted number of calories every day. You see, here’s the thing: for the last two years I have been watching my fat and cholesterol, and at this point my cholesterol numbers are better than they’ve ever been. But it has been very difficult and I’ve been taking meds and supplements like niacin all along to help.
But my weight has barely budged. I’ve lost and gained the same 10 pounds over and over and over. After yesterday’s test, I see the flaw in all this: calories.
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So, I read today that Kelsey Grammer has had a mild heart attack.
He was hospitalized for a few days for observation.
When I had my heart attack — which by all accounts was not “mild” and nearly resulted in open-heart surgery — I was in the hospital overnight. I went from the emergency room to another hospital where I waited in a row of beds with a bunch of other fat- and cholesterol-laden couch potatoes were lined up for surgery. The next day I was off to the airport to pick up my parents, who, I’m sure, were expecting to visit me in the hospital.
Is this an indictment of Kaiser Permanente, or a testament to the power of celebrity?

At least I haven’t blown myself up yet

After my heart attack nearly two years ago now, I was given nitroglycerin with the instructions that I was to use one of the tiny pills if I experienced chest pains. The little 0.4mg tablets come in tiny brown vials, each holding 25 pills. I was given four vials, for a total of 100 tablets. I carry a vial around with me in my laptop bag.
It never occurred to me to ask: if I should only use one tablet, and then go to the emergency room immediately after, how pessimistic were my doctors in giving me a hundred tablets?
They expire in August. I’ve never used them. So I guess one of the questions I’ll have at my cardiologist appointment next month is, “should I refill this prescription?”

Still ticking

Had my one-year-later cardiologist appointment this morning, and was relieved to hear that I was still alive. I had suspected as much, but it was nice to have a professional confirm it.
I was surprised to learn that there is a high mortality rate from people my age having heart attacks; I knew that my situation was worse than they let on at the time and I’ve tried not to think about it.
There is new data now on stents since their use has skyrocketed, and that data suggests that there may be trouble with blood platelets sticking to the stents. So, my 1-year course of treatment with Plavix has now been extended by at least another year. Still, I don’t mind because I am finding myself more and more psychologically dependent on the meds, worrying what would happen if I stopped taking them.
But hey, I’m a worrier.

One year since I became old

You may recall, as I do, that fateful evening one year ago today when I innocently began mowing my lawn. A fateful evening that ended with me in the hospital, and the next morning having small wires and mechanisms run up through my arteries and to my heart. The remains of this adventure are lodged there today, three little metal mesh devices.
And in pills.
Which brings us to prescriptions.
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Thinner than water

This entry has some scintillating imagery.
The most annoying and disconcerting thing that I’ve dealt with since the heart attack is coumadin — that insidious blood thinner that doubles as rat poison. It thins the blood to such an extent that the slightest impact causes ugly purple bruises, brushing one’s teeth results in pink bristles, and dry air means nose bleeds.
I hate it with a passion. It is a constant reminder of fragility and makes me feel like I have to constantly worry about medications and milligrams and not eating vitamin K.
I’ve been coughing non-stop since I caught the flu, which just points out my new-found paranoia. Lately in the mornings, when I enjoy that first coughing jag like a heavy smoker, I’ve been coughing up a little more than just the usual phlegm you’d expect from the plague that’s going around. Yes, the one thing you don’t like to see when you cough: blood.
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I got an A

My test results arrived this morning, and I was shocked. Pleasantly shocked.
For the first time ever, all my numbers were in the normal range! Triglycerides down, LDL down, HDL up… incredible!
Still, I put on 5 pounds since the end of October; I may have been eating too much, but at least I wasn’t eating too much cholesterol.
I was actually smiling this morning. Scary.

Cramming for the test

Ah, how sadistic the Multifit program at Kaiser can be: I am scheduled to have a cholesterol test today. Days after New Year and Christmas. A month after Thanksgiving. A period of time that saw me slide right off the rails of my diet — like most people — to partake in parties and drink and cookies and lots of other things that are bound to make my triglycerides and cholesterol shoot through the roof, leading to recriminating calls from the nurse and who knows what new kinds of pills to my daily regimen.
Of course, I could mitigate this a bit by, well, exercising and eating right. Which I will start doing tomorrow.
I swear.

Side effects (or cures)

I have had debilitating migraines since I was in high school. The worst of them sometimes sent me to the emergency room for some kind of relief before I decided to drive an ice pick through my temple to end it once and for all.
In the last five or six years, I have kept Imitrex on hand, the only drug that seemed to help. Unfortunately, after the heart attack I was told to lay off the Imitrex as it doesn’t play nice, what with all the blood thinners and whatnot floating around in my arteries now.
Surprisingly, it doesn’t seem to matter: in the last five months since the heart attack, I have had only one, relatively weak, migraine. I usually average one a month. As if this wasn’t enough to rejoice about, I also have only had two or three regular headaches in that time. I used to average three or four a week.
With my blood pressure, my cholesterol, and my cardiac health all being treated, this is an interesting side effect; the significant decrease in headaches I’m experiencing seems to indicate that they may have had a lot to do with my poor cardiac health all these years. I only wish that the doctors who were quick to prescribe Imitrex and rush me out of the office had been more thorough in finding the cause.

No news is good news, they say

So, yesterday afternoon I laid on a gurney while warm lube was squirted on my legs. As I said before, this is not as enjoyable as it sounds at first.
After a good half hour of ultrasound fact-finding, I got dressed and waited for the inevitable result — an admonition to go to the emergency room.
But it didn’t come.

Goo-covered Friday

Well, tomorrow is another milestone in the whole recovery process. Yes, tomorrow afternoon I’ll find myself laying on a table while a stranger spreads slick, slippery goo on my upper thighs.
Sounds exciting, I know, but it then involves ultrasound machines and listening to the blood rush through my arteries and hoping that they don’t find that the blood clot is still there.
If they don’t, it means that I will shortly be ending my Coumadin therapy, that insidious rat poison that makes me bruise when someone looks at me pointedly, that makes my gums and eye lids bleed, and just generally causes more consternation than the initial heart attack caused.
If the clot is still there? I have no idea. I’m trying not to think about it, because the last time I had an ultrasound, she came back into the room and told me to go to Emergency right away.
I’d better wear clean underwear. (Not that I ever wear anything other than clean underwear. I swear.)

[Make that goo-covered Monday. They cancelled my appointment and moved it to Monday afternoon instead.)

I read the news today, oh boy

Now, as if it weren’t scary enough having a heart attack at a young age and emerging with three drug-eluding stents in my arteries, there’s this news today:

New drug-oozing stents widely used to prop open clogged arteries are associated with an increased risk of blood clots, heart attacks and death for the majority of patients receiving the devices, an expert panel concluded yesterday. Continue Reading →