Thursday, April 23, 2009

CABG Update

Well for those of you who were wondering, I thought I would give you an update on my condition. Attached are the diagrams of my cath and the bypasses. For those of you who are astute, you will see only five. He left one of them off on the diagram, but you still get the picture - my heart looks like an old piece of equipment put back together with duct tape and hoses.

I am now a little over three weeks out and am feeling well. I am walking 30 minutes twice a day and really have no pain, except if I cough or sneeze. My appetite is good but I lost about 9 pounds and have not yet been able to gain any back.

Some may ask what I do all day and it is a little embarrassing. First you must realize that everything goes in slow motion after a surgery like this , so what I could do in two hours normally, takes me all day. A lot of the time is spent eating, then going for my walks and then taking a mid morning and mid afternoon nap. I never used to take naps. I have done some reading and thanks to those who have sent books, and done a lot of correspondence on the computer (and blogs). We have been doing some financial counselling through our church. I am trying to keep the garden going (though I can't do much). All in all it sounds pretty weak and pathetic - I agree.

I am planning on going back to work next Monday, starting with half days and see how I do. I have been doing some paperwork throughout this time to try to keep up and help out. I have been so humbled by the amazing outpouring of love and support during this time. So many have brought food, books, flowers, driven me places, prayed for us, called to check up and so much more. It is so hard to keep receiving all the time and not be able to do anything in return. But God is showing me the importance of being able to receive graciously, and what it is like to be needy. I have always been so self reliant, but this has really pulled the rug out from under me, and allowed me to see where my true reliance needs to be. Pray that God continues to teach me during and through this trial.

The City of Love - Venezia

We arrived in Venice by train in the morning and took the waterbus to our hotel, The Antico Doge, which was a converted 16th century palace. It was very nice and elegant and the people very friendly. We then got our map and headed down to St. Marks square. It is always impressive to see the massive Basilica, and going inside we enjoyed the unique differences from the others we had seen as this was more gothic. The inside was filled with golden mosaics and multiple other works of art. Unfortunately you cannot take pictures which was hard for me. We then toured the square and toyed with the idea of going to the top of the bell tower but did not have time. There was of course the traditional pigeons and sidewalk cafes. From there we found a little place to eat dinner, grabbed some gellato and made it a night.

The next day we got up and headed to the Accademia which was a beautiful museum full of more art than we could digest. We then strolled around the remainder of the city, down rivas along the canals, across bridges over the canals, through narrow streets with shops and restaurants. There were some neat piazzas and various churches. One of the best was a Friari, known as Santa maria de Gloriosa. There was a plethora of art and sculpture inside and lots of history. We ate lunch (and more gellato) and then found this little shop with monogramed aprons which we got for all of our girls. We then went through some of the neighborhoods, including the Jewish getto. by this time we were tired and made it back to the hotel. But I, always wanting to get the great shot, went down to St. Marks to take a picture of this other church across the Grand canal at sunset. We ended the day with a nice dinner and more gellato.

It was sad but our time in Italy was coming to a close. The next day we took the train to Milan and had a hotel there. The next morning we flew out and fortunately I was by the window and got some great shots as we flew over the Italian Alps. On to the good ole USA. Cialo.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Cinque Terre

While we were in Florence, I really wanted to go to the Cinque Terre. I had heard so many good things about it and though it was going to press our time in Florence , we decided to go for it. We took the train on Sunday afternoon, and after a few wrong connections we finally made it to our first stop, Riomaggiore. The hotel closed at 8:00 and we did not get there till 8:15 but after a few phone calls they were gracious and let us in. We ate dinner at this restaurant and wanting to be cultural, I ordered some little fish. Well what they brought out was really little fish - acually semi fried minnows, head in all. I actually ate most of it but definitely will not order that again.

The next morning we set out on our hike. The Cinque Terre is actually five cities on the west coast of Italy, all within a mile to a mile and a half from each other and connected by a concrete coastal path. But it is also a national park with miles of trails going up into the mountains which rise 2000 - 2500 feet above the coast. They all interconnect and one could spend days travelling them all. We started up into the mountains and got about 1500 - 1800 feet up before moving on to the next town, Manarola. The hiking was pretty strenuous, especially for Luana, and thankfully I had no problems considering what I know now. In Manarola we ate lunch and enjoyed the beautiful views over the seas. We also found out that the coastal road was closed due to landslides, so we had to go back up into the mountains, though not as high and had a beautiful walk to the next town of Corniglia. By this time we were running out of time and had to take the train to the next two towns, Vernazza and Monterosso. We ate dinner there and had some gellatoand had to get back on the train to Florence.

It is really a spectacular place with multiple levels of beauty. First of course is the seas with their pure and gorgeous blue waters. Then there are the towns which have such a quaint beauty with their multicolored houses, winding and hilly streets, shops and great views. Looking the other way is the mountains and the views they afford. Then there are the forrests up in the mountains, broken up by the terraced hills planted with vineyards, olive trees, lemon and orange trees. Top all of that with a plethora of wildflowers as well as cultured flowers. And as if that wasn't enough, to be able to enjoy all of that with my lovely wife and beautiful daughter was nothing short of paradise. Lastly we will move on to Venice.

Friday, April 10, 2009

On to Firenze

Well, after we departed Rome. we took the Eurostar train to Firenze (Florence). It was a beautiful ride through the Italian countryside and we were bubbling with excitement as we knew we were getting close to seeing Mary Beth. We took a taxi to our hotel and then went walking to her apartment which was only 5-10 minutes away. We found the street but did not know the exact # so we finally had to find a phone booth (and figure out how to work it) and called her. It was thrilling to see her running down the narrow street toward us. On a side note, since she has been there she has gotten more beautiful, more confident and glowing. After seeing her apartment and meeting her roommates, we got some K-Bob's for lunch and then walked over the Arno to the Medici gardens. They were large and beautiful and we also went into the old palace (now a museum) and we got to catch up on things. That afternoon we boarded a train and headed out to the Cinque Terre (more on that later).

We got back from Cinque Terre late the next evening and went to bed. Mary Beth had class all the next day, so Luana and I went to the Accademia and once again got to be awed by Michaelangelo's David. Unfortunately you can no longer take pictures but we stood there for a long time taking it all in. Then we walked over to the magnificent Duomo and walked through that beautiful Basilica.Then I let Luana do some shopping while I took the 430 steps up to the top of the Duomo which offered a 360 degree view of Florence and the weather was perfect.

We then got some lunch and opted for a relaxing afternoon of lounging on the grass by the Arno River and reading. Then Mary Beth met up with us and she took us up to the Piazza de Michaelangelo for another overlook of the city and an amzing sunset. We capped off the evening with a wonderful dinner with her good friend Meg. We then said our goodbyes and headed off the next morning to Venezia.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ahh Roma

After being grossed out by the last blog, and since I have a little unexpected time, I thought I would give you a glimpse of our time in Italy where we were Mar.12-21 seeing our daughter, Mary Beth who is studying abroad there in Florence. Our plane landed in Roma (that's Rome for all you Yankees) at 7:00 AM after an all night flight. We were tired but were able to check into our hotel and after a short 1 hour nap, we headed out from our hotel over the Tevere (Tiber) river and into the old city. It is amazing just to stroll through the area with all of the narrow streets which go in all directions changing names every block, old buildings, sidewalk cafes and piazzas with fountains and statues everywhere. We were able to catch the Pantheon (which to me is one of the most remarkable buildings in old Roma), the Trevi Fountain and then the Coloseum. We took a tour there and spent a lot of time taking in the magesty of the building and what it must have been like in its days of glory. From there we passed the Arc de Triumph of Constantine and over to the ruins of the old Forum and the Imperial Forum. It was awesome to wander around the ruins of the rulers of most of the known world. It is also sobering to realize that that is what becomes of all of our worldly possessions and power. Then we made our way to the Spanish Steps and lastly to the Piazza del Popolo and across the Tiber, a quick meal and early bed.

The next day we had booked a tour of the Vatican Museum and St. Peter's. It was a good tour and way too much to really take in but really breathtaking works of art. Then there was the Cistene Chapel. There are not words to describe the scene. The only thing I can say was AWE. It was as if the true creator's hand there working through the hands of Michelangelo. Then if that doesn't do you in, you walk into the Basilica of St. Peter and your mouth drops once again. Where do you start to describe it all? There is the enormity of the structure, the paintings, the sculptures, the columns and much more. We did not have time to go up to the top (which in retrospect with my heart disease was probably a blessing). Then after a leasurely lunch at a sidewalk cafe, we decided the afternoon would be relaxing as we strolled through the neighborhoods of the Trastevere. Two things were of note. One was a little church, Santa Maria de Trastevere, where we went inside and it was beautiful - so much so that as we sat down to pray and meditate, Luana was reduced to tears. The other was a park that we walked through and were actually able to get a overview look at the old city - spectacular view.

Our time in Roma was at an end but we felt blessed to have seen so much and still been leisurely. The weather was perfect and we were in good spirits for the next day we would get to see Mary Beth.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Initial thoughts on Bypass Surgery

It has been a while since I have blogged and my plan was to talk on our trip to Italy. But that ( as well as many other things) will have to wait. As most of you already know, I just had heart bypass surgery on March 31st. Most of you were like me asking how in the world could I have coronary artery disease, not to mention six blockages. Well let me address this first. There is really no reason in the natural that I should have. I have none of the major risk factors (family history, diabetes, hypertension, smoking, elevated cholesteral) and I exercise regularly and am not overweight. The only minor glitch is a low HDL or good cholesteral. Mine was 31 (normal over 40) but my total cholesteral was only 129. But be that as it may, I do have CAD, despite my best efforts to deny it and I had a CABG and so I will have to deal with it. Hopefully I will be able to learn from it, draw near to God and learn what God wants to teach me through this.

Next is the nitty griddy. I am thankful that God has given people the knowledge and ability to do these surgeries but trust me, it is not something you want to do unless you have to. My cardiologist, thoracic surgeon and the nursing personal were all great, but you can't hide the fact that you rip the chest open and abuse every orifice. First of all they remove all modesty as they shave all of your body hair. Then you lose all sense of control over anything that goes on. When you wake up, you have 1-3 chest tubes which for those who have had them know what pain means. Medevil torturers could not have invented a better torture - thank goodness for Morphine. Every single breath hurts for 24/7 and then when you are moved the pain is excruciating. Fortunately they were removed after two days and remarkably the rest of the surgery is not very painful. And after the first two to three days when you can get up and move the recovery is pretty quick.

Lastly, tonight I just want to interject a few things but over time I hope to have more deep inspirational thoughts. First is that God was very gracious to me and my family that I did not die one of the times on a long run when I would get chest pain or on the tennis court. Secondly, I feel that God has something specific left for me to do. I know that He has a plan and purpose for all of us, but I think this is something more. And lastly let me say how humbled I am for the outpouring of love that has been shown to me and my family this past week. It is incredible to see the love of God manifested through the lives of His people. And for that I am thankful.