Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What They DON'T Tell You about Heart Disease

I have congestive heart failure. The congestive heart failure is due to sleep apnea which is caused by me being too fat. All my veins and arteries are fine. They are clear with no blockages. My cholesterol is good even though my "good" cholesterol could be better. My heart was enlarged (very much) but it has gone back down to almost normal size. I'm told that hardly ever happens.

When they told me I had a problem I said, "ok, how do we fix it?" I was surprised to learn that "you don't". It is "managed" with medication, diet and exercise. I was told to lose weight (a constant battle that I keep losing). I was given a c-pap machine and have since graduated to a bi-pap machine. I am on oxygen. It used to be around the clock but now I only need it at night or if there is a problem.

What kept sending me to the hospital is a condition called atrial fibrillation. I still have atrial fibrillation but I stubbornly refuse to go to the hospital anymore. I am sick to death of doctors

Atrial Fibrillation, in simple terms, is that your heart has an upper chamber and a lower chamber. Each chamber works together to pump blood through the heart. In my heart the bottom chamber doesn't pump effectively causing the blood to back up into the upper chamber. When this happens instead of both chambers working together they start pumping independently without any rhythm which causes it to work harder and harder. This causes chest pain and possibly death if it doesn't reverse.

My everyday life is affected by being overwhelmingly tired. I don't mean me saying to myself "God I'm tired, I need a break.". I mean lying in bed being too tired to even raise my arms. I can't even shower standing up anymore. I have a chair that I sit in when I shower. I have to park in handicap spots which gets me lots of dirty looks because I don't really look handicapped. If I have to walk across the parking lot to shop then I just don't shop. When I go in the store I have to have a buggy. Not to carry stuff but to prop myself up as I walk through the store. If I forget something as I make my one round through the store it is just forgotten. I don't backtrack to get it. Same thing when I leave the house. If I forget something in the house or truck then it stays there until I go back again.

My truck is a glorified wheelchair. It is always close by because I can't walk very far from it! I get jealous of the old people in the building walking the block to Rite Aid, I can't do it. If I do then I'm in bed for the rest of the day...sometimes more. If I have to work(usually around 4 hours 2 times a week) then that is all I do that day. They give me every concession they can, so I can continue to work. I cook on my days off. I shop on my days off. For years I only did one thing a day because that is all I could do. Now I am quite pleased with myself because I can manage to keep my apartment reasonably clean even though it is cluttered. Housework is my exercise.

My feet and legs look like tree trunks on good days. On bad days I look like the Michelin Man. Puffed up all over. Salt is my mortal enemy. I dream of salt I want it so bad. I do have some but I always live to regret it. A salty fast food meal can put around 10 lbs. on me in a day. If I'm lucky it will come off in around 5 days but usually it hangs on for a month or so. Then if my sodium levels drop too far I suffer cramping all over my body. Sometimes the pain doubles me over.

I take medicine by the handful. 40 meq of potassium, Diovan 160/12.5, 40 mg. torosemide, 50 mg. spironolactone, 600 mg ranitidine, xyzal on a good day. I also have breathing treatments when I need them and various other meds according to what is going on at the time.

The average heart failure patient lives 5 years. My five years was up last June and I am happy to say I feel better now than at any time since my diagnosis. When I was awarded my disability it was because they expected me to die within 3 years. That deadline was up a year and a half ago. So, I'm beating the odds and that's a good thing.

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