In just two more weeks I will be done Cardiac rehab. It probably sounds like no big deal but it certainly was to me. I’ve never belonged to a gym. Even the thought of working out at a gym left me feeling intimidated and inadequate.
I always considered myself one of those healthy fat people. Just before my surgery I was on an extended trip in Italy. We walked all day long and I never even struggled. I was always at the front of the group leading the way. I never thought I would need open heart surgery just 30 days later. I had no idea my life is about to change.
Although the surgery was not completely successful, they were able to do two bypasses on the left side of my heart. The left side is pumps blood out to your body. The right side pumps blood to your lungs. This is the side they could not fix. The blood vessels were too diseased to bypass.
The doctors told me overtime my body may grow new cardiac arteries. They told me that Cardiac rehab may encourage this process. I knew it was especially important for me to participate in rehab but I just didn’t want to do it.
But I was so weak and everything hurt. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to walk. My chest hurt where they took my mammary artery. My leg hurts where they took my vein. Almost any exertion caused shortness of breath. I didn’t know how much exercise I could do with one side of my heart having in adequate perfusion. Let’s just say I really really didn’t want to go.
I hated the program that I signed up for. The facility had us all crammed into a very small space. I could reach out and touch the person next to me. The music was too loud and the Equipment was too noisy. The nurses seem to call across the room constantly. I was the youngest in the class but I seem to be the weakest.
The old ladies chatted while they exercised. Since I was by far the youngest in the class, they seemed to stalk me, trying to get me to tell my story. I wanted to be left alone. They all seemed so happy and grateful. I was feeling mad and ripped off. The supervising nurse told me I had just a few days left to be mad and then she wanted to see a smile on my face. She said I should be grateful And not angry. This made me even more ungrateful and more angry.
After two weeks I just could not bear to go anymore. After the class I would sit in my car and cry. How the hell did my life turn into this? If one more person tells me that I should be grateful that I don’t have cancer or some other terrible condition, If they tell me that I have a new lease on life, a heart that was as good as new.. I will scream!
I told my friends and family I needed to quit Cardiac rehab. I just couldn’t do it. I hate being wired up to that EKG. I hate being a patient. I hate feeling weak. I hate that my rheumatoid just continues to get worse. They told me that quitting was not an option. They told me I had to do it. I’m not very good at being told what to do. I have a bad case of “you are not the boss of me”. I was just miserable.
Eventually I realized what I needed was a fresh start. A do over. I called another branch of the hospital where I was getting Rehab. I told my story and ask them if my insurance approval will transfer to their facility since they were the same institution. They said it would and I arranged for a tour.
It had floor to ceiling windows. It was bright and open. The equipment was arranged so you could look out the window while to worked. They were playing Run Around Sue in the background instead of pounding club music. Patients seemed to keep to themselves. Maybe I could do this.
I transferred to this other program. It meant I had to drive about 40 minutes in each direction but I knew it would be worth it if it kept me from quitting. I’ve been at that program for a most three months now. Every other day. 45 minutes of continuous activity.
During those 45 minutes I’ve been working really hard. I want to be able to go on vacations again. I want to be able to walk around the countryside in Italy again. I want to be in the middle of nowhere and not be afraid that I have chest pain and not be able to get to a hospital. I want to wander around and Sicily or Greece for my next vacation. I want to be able to go to Disney and I don’t want to use the scooter. I want my life back. And I guess this and some other things are the tools I need to get there.
My doctors do not want me to return to work. They feel I’ve used my get out of jail free card and if I need surgery in the future they will have less to work with. They tell me it’s essential that I better manage my chronic pain and reduce my stress. They say these are two of the biggest causes of inflammation and inflammation is what got me in this mess to begin with.
So it’s a very big deal that I’m almost done Cardiac rehab. The doctors want me to work out in a similar manner five times a week. I think that’s a little crazy. I’m struggling with if I will be able to even continue the three times a week on my own. If I don’t go back to work I have no excuse for not working out. The whole point of not going back would be to get healthier not weaker. So it’s really important that I do this. I just hope I can.
I signed up for a new meditation class at the alternative therapy center at Jefferson Hospital in Philly. This is an easy one for me because I love meditating in a group. I love the positive uplifting classes they offer. I love the interesting people that attend the classes and getting to know them. This is the easiest of all my chores.
Recovery has not been easy. So my next phase is exercise, stress reduction (meditation), rest and increasing fresh plant based food in my diet. I am still going to acupuncture. I try to find an act of kindness whenever I can. I’m thinking of volunteering someplace a few hours a week once I get stronger.
Somedays just getting out of bed is a chore. My joints are hot and swollen and stiff. My incision burns and my chest bone aches. I think I’ll start with a long hot shower.
Then I’ll start again.
-You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. – Mae West