Friday, March 26, 2010

life after the ambulance comes

During the thirty some odd (some very odd, indeed) years of my first "career", rehab meant working on drug, alcohol and other addiction issues. Drug rehab. For the last few years, it has meant physical rehab, dealing the effects of accidents, strokes, traumatic brain injuries. Today it means repairing the damage done by a heart attack and working to prevent another one.

My heart attack happened on Friday March 5. It will probably stand out like 9/11, the day John Kennedy was shot and my kids' birthdays, my sister's and parents' deaths. I sometimes don't remember the specific dates, but I do remember the particulars, where I was, what I was doing, what all was going on in my life at the time. (Actually, my father not so much. He was killed in a car wreck in Florida and there was no time to have it sink into context, although I do remember the sequellae, the memorial service, the sinking of the ashes in the Gulf of Mexico, Mom back at her house.)

Today, I attended my third day of exercise at Heart Path, the cardiac and pulmonary rehab program run by Mission Hospitals. I have also attended the orientation session and two educations classes covering stress, diet and weight training.

Just as having an "event" -- an accident, an ultimatum from a loved one or employer, an arrest-- is what gets people to examine their lives in drug rehab, so, too did having an event get me to take a better look at what I was doing or not doing to keep myself alive.

When I was told that, indeed, I had experienced a heart attack, that the excruciating pain I had experienced early the morning of the 5th was not merely anxiety but was the real thing-- having been confirmed by a blood test that looks for an increase in a certain enzyme released when the heart is damaged-- and the cardiologist recommended a catheterization to look for blockages in the heart, and a stent or stents inserted if they found any, my response was that I wasn't ready to die, I had things to do and my book hadn't been published yet, so let's go ahead and do it.

The short of the thing is to eat differently, exercise more, and reduce stress. What I intend to do is to chronicle my recovery. (Without putting myself in the position of feeling like, Oh, No, I haven't done the blog today!!) For today, I've eaten well so far (1/2 cup "heart healthy" cereal [more about that later] with skim milk and half a banana, glass of grapefruit juice diluted with equal part water; a stalk of celery with hummus for a snack), and exercised at rehab (20 minute on a treadmill and 15 minutes on a stationary bike) and will take a walk with George this afternoon and plan to eat well the rest of the day. I have committed to listening to more music. (Greg Brown is playing in the background.) I started to think about what it would be like to return to work Monday and stopped myself. Today, Bob! Just live today. Monday will take care of itself.

In subsequent posts I may talk about the spiritual implications of all this.

This is, of course, part of my recovery. To take a good look at all this. See if I've learned anything, as my father would say. (Well, Dad, I've learned for real how transient this whole thing is. I don't know if I want to go out at eighty-seven being smashed by a truck, but I do know that if I live to eighty-seven, I want to be healthy when I get there.)