Monthly Archives: August 2013

Mr Grumpy

People keep asking me:

“Are you alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine.  Why?”
“You just look unhappy.”

As any amateur psychologist knows, being told you look miserable is not great for morale!

Mr Grumpy… smiling inside!

It’s got me thinking… am I less happy now than I used to be?  Am I indeed miserable?

Having reflected on these important questions, I’ve concluded that no, I’m not unhappy.  Neither am I less happy than I was before my Heart Attack.  So what’s causing the perception of misery?

I can only conclude that the default expression on my face must have changed…  Perhaps my additional chins used to force my mouth upwards into a fake smile.  Maybe the unhealthy me gave off an unnaturally positive glow.  Who knows!

Under normal circumstances, I’d prescribe happy pills to cheer me up (or a stiff gin perhaps!), but I’ll have to focus on happy thoughts and make an extra special effort to be Mr Happy!

Check Up #2 (FD +61)

Another beautiful morning in sunny Aberdeen… the summer just keeps on coming!

imagesCAZ3SE22This morning saw my first visit to the Doctor since 27th June.  It seems slightly strange to be so conscious of all aspects of my health but to have limited direct, regular medical oversight.

I’m not sure what I would have expected, but somehow taking the “let us know if anything changes” approach somehow seems a little “light”.

Is it this type of thinking that creates an unnecessarily high demand on the NHS, I wonder?

On arrival at the surgery, I was slightly surprised to discover that the entertainment was BBC London News.  I can understand the News aspect, catching up on the breakfast news seems like a reasonable thing to do.

What I couldn’t fathom was why we should be interested in the traffic around the M25 (London Orbital), or how smoothly the various London Underground lines were running (the Northern was experiencing minor delays, incidentally).  I can only assume that someone in the Surgery has a cheeky weekend in London planned and is trying to get into the mood a little early.  If that’s you, the game’s up!  (But have a great weekend anyway!)

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London Underground Map… particularly useful if you’re planning on spending the day in Aberdeen!

The Doctor’s consultation itself was an uneventfully positive affair:

  • My BP (medical speak for “Blood Pressure”) is fine – artificially kept low to reduce the workload on my heart.
  • My liver and kidney function is “normal” – good news, as a potential side effect of the drugs is that they “break” something else that was working fine before, in particular my liver or kidneys.
  • My cholesterol is “abnormal”… abnormally low I guess.  My total cholesterol reading was 2.9 mmol/L (Good if less than 5 mmol/L) and my “bad” cholesterol is 1.6 mmol/L (Good if less than 3 mmol/L).

Follow the link for more information on High Cholesterol: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cholesterol/Pages/Introduction.aspx

So, it’s all good!  The drugs continue to work!

I was just left with a not so subtle reminder not to rush things or push too hard!

OK… I hear you!

My heart is not allowed to do this… yet!

A Lifetime First

1989… a classic!

1989 was a year that changed the world… the end of the Berlin Wall, Tiananmen Square, The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Hillsborough disaster, “The Simpsons” started, the Madchester music scene… I finished school, went on my first lads holiday and started at University, while my family emigrated to Wales… temporarily, as it turns out.

I think 1989 also marks the year in which I last owned a bicycle.  I can remember borrowing other people’s bikes at University, but I have no recollection of transporting my own back and forth each term.  I definitely haven’t owned one since, so I conclude that 1989 was the year!

I was always a little bit jealous… until now!

As children. all my bikes were second hand, sourced from the ads in local paper, the Maidenhead Advertiser… eagerly awaited each Friday evening.

On one occasion, I remember my brother getting a new bike… a Raleigh Grifter XL.  Why the situation warranted a brand new bike, I can’t remember, but I do remember it being a big deal!

I have never owned a brand new bike… until now!

The cycling has been going well.  I still haven’t moved out of the garage, but my sessions are getting longer, and I’m getting stronger.  I realised yesterday, that I’m now working as hard during my rest periods as I did at the peak of my early bike sessions.

Up to now, I’ve been using a borrowed bike which is slightly too small for me.  To exacerbate the problem, and having tried “everything” (including WD-40, heat treatment, and a large hammer), I’ve been unable to raise the seat.  As a result, I’m restricted when I ride.  Given I’m getting ready to venture outside on a bike, we decided it was time to invest in a bike I can call my own.

I decided to go for something a little more conventional than this!

I say a bike, but it turns out buying a bike isn’t quite as simple as that!  It turns out that there are too many choices;  Where will you ride it? How long will you ride it for? How often?  Do you want a Road Bike, a Mountain Bike or a Hybrid?  What brand?  How big?  Too confusing!

In the end, I made my decision…

I decided to buy two bikes.  One for the road.  One for the dirt.

 

All I need to do now is wait until Saturday for them to be built!

It’ll be like Christmas!

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Developments

Stress, noun
1.  Pressure or tension exerted on a material object:
2.  A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances:
3.  particular emphasis or importance

A typical Cardiac Rehabilitation Relaxation session

At the end of each Cardiac Rehabilitation session, we have 30 minutes of “relaxation”; gentle music, overlaid with softly spoken instructions to focus on eliminating tension from different parts of the body (“now we’ll focus on our thighs…”), breathing deeply and generally chilling out.

It feels good, indulgent.  It rounds off the Rehab session before heading out into the big wide world.

According to Wikipedia; “the body’s way to respond to stress is by sympathetic nervous system activation which results in the fight-or-flight response”

I’m not entirely sure where lying down with your eyes closed, chillaxing fits in to this evolutionary response – I’m sure it will become clear in time, but we haven’t done our “Stress Management” education session yet!  (It was actually supposed to be last week, but it got switched with “Medication” at the last minute!)

I guess that we are made to deal with our challenges face on, or to turn tail and run away!  Biologically, we’re not made to dwell some things too much.  Relaxation is a good way of re-establishing a sense of calm and stability after doing what you need to do.

The bottom line is, we all face stressful situations of differing degrees every day.  They cannot be avoided.  Even locking yourself away can be stressful for most of us (“What’s going on outside?”)

untitled (20)Which brings me to my stress of the week…

We recently received a Planning Permission notice for a house to be built at the top of our garden.  Seven houses in total, in two plots, but it’s the one that will overlook our house, replacing a nice wooded area that I’m concerned about.

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution that will allow the development to proceed without giving us too much cause for concern.

Unfortunately, the people that have applied for the Planning permission seem to think it’s OK to ignore us, and have been doing so for several years!

It’s very frustrating!

I find I need to think relaxed, warm, calming thoughts each time the potential development enters my mind…  slow, deep breaths…  “You are feeling relaxed”.

We will fight.  There is a course of action we can follow.

I will practice my relaxation, and hope they have a section on “responding to unwanted planning applications” as part of the “Stress Management” session when it’s eventually held!

Not enough hours in the day

It’s 20:50, and I’ve just eaten, sat down and put my feet up for the first time today.  I appreciate lots of people don’t get a chance to relax at all… caring for others, working late, second job, studying, etc.  I’m lucky to get a few minutes to myself, watch the golf, and chill out before I turn in for the day.

Apparently he’s often mistaken for me!

On “normal” days, I’ve got into a routine where exercise is the number one priority for me when I get home from work.  A good routine to get into given my recent medical history, but one that is increasingly eating into my day.  As I get stronger, I am able to do more exercise.

Today I did a cycle session that took just over an hour.  I wasn’t cycling constantly, and I never went over my maximum Heart Rate, but it took time.

I think that during my recuperation I got used to having almost endless amounts of time.  A little exercise, a little TV, a little read, a little snooze… and all before lunch.  Fantastic!

My gradual return to work similarly gave me a feeling of extra time… strict 8 hour days, working from home after Cardiac Rehab, regular rest… long relaxed evenings incorporating moderate exercise.  Just what I needed to help get back on track.

Over the past week or so, things have felt like they’re returning to “normal” at work.  I’m working with a couple of clients, not being asked to do too much or pushed too hard (in fact, they’re being incredibly understanding), but I’m working on some interesting stuff.  The kind of work I want.  The kind that I find difficult to “put down”.

imagesCA1KXOM9As a result, my work days have extended a little.  Not by a huge amount, but back towards a “normal” work day.  In combination with an extended work-out, my days are feeling shorter.

(I suspect this is mentally exacerbated by the ever shortening days).

From where I’m sitting, I can’t see a huge number of options to create more time:

  1. Sleep less – Not a particularly viable option for me.  I need at least 8 hours sleep a day, ideally more.
  2. Work less – The only thing I can commit to is to be aware of time, and what I’m spending it on.  I need to earn money.  I also enjoy what I do.  There are plenty of people watching out for me to help ensure I don’t go mad!
  3. Do less – Having just rediscovered it, and needing it to help prevent future health issues, I’m not about to start cutting back on exercise.  What I do need to do is build up a selection of options that provide a mix of intensities / duration.  In time I’ll finish Cardiac Rehab too which will give me some extra time, but I do need to make sure this doesn’t result in every day feeling the same… I’m enjoying the variety the morning sessions gives to my days.
  4. Suck it up and get used to it!

Any other ideas?  Suggestions appreciated!

Ch… Ch… Ch… Changes (FD +50)

Doesn’t time fly!

It’s the big Five-Zero!  Fifty days since I had my Heart Attack.  Seven weeks and a day.  Forever, and no time at all.

Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun!  🙂

To say a lot has changed would be an understatement.  Some changes have been forced on me.  Some have been voluntary*.  Others have been a consequence of circumstances.

Scary?

“It must have been scary!”…  No, not really.  At no point over the past 51 days have I felt like my life was in imminent danger.  However, it doesn’t take much imagination to see that things could have gone that way.  In the UK, one in three people who have a Heart Attack don’t make it to hospital.

The next time you’re in a lift with two other people, imagine one of you not making it to your floor.  I was in that lift.  I was lucky.  I didn’t realise how much danger I was potentially in until afterwards.  By that stage, the immediate danger was over and the ball was in my court (more or less).

A new Dad (in reverse)

In some ways, it feels like part of me died when I had the Heart Attack.  Not in a bad way.  In a way that created space for new parts of me to grow in their place.  In fact, its probably more correct to say “dormant” rather than “new”, many aspects of the “new” me have been there before.  A very long time ago!  So long ago that only close family members and very old friends might recognise them.  As far as the girls are concerned, I am a new, thinner, slightly bizarre, “active” Dad.

Even knowing what I know now, I’m not sure if there is anything that would have convinced me to make some of the changes I have done in advance of something “happening”.  It still all seems slightly surreal.  Perhaps if someone I knew well, who I could easily relate to, had been through the same thing as I have, it might have been enough for me to take action.  Perhaps.

The bottom line is, if you want to, it’s not that difficult to convince yourself that it won’t happen to you.  That you’re low risk.  Different from people like me.

Awareness isn’t enough!

You need to take action to make a difference.

It doesn’t surprise me that prevention of Heart Disease is such a challenge.  For many (me included) it requires big changes to make a difference.  I guess the key is to keep any changes small, to recognise when you’re veering of course and make minor corrections to keep you on track.  So many people are so far off course that small changes just aren’t enough.

For me, my broken heart has been fixed, the course has been corrected and I’m looking to the future.

Catching up

I have some catching up to do – a holiday with the family (although Florida must wait!), recognising the patience of my colleagues, repaying the goodwill of our clients, and sustaining the lifestyle I’ve adopted since leaving hospital so none of us have to go through this again!

Here’s to the next 50 days… and making it count!

***

*Voluntary is probably a bit strong.  I’m not sure I had a huge amount of choice in any of the changes, but I guess even the perception of choice makes them more palatable.

Another minor milestone (FD +47)

I feel like I’m making real progress on the exercise front.  Some of it is down to exercising.  Some of it is down to understanding the kit and exercising better.

Although I’m still a complete novice, I feel like I’m in a position to provide some advice on cycling (at least cycling in my garage):

Cycling Lesson 1:  It hurts less if you have the right kit!

The shorts, gloves and shoes all made a substantial difference to last nights “ride”.  Why didn’t I think of it earlier!

Yesterday saw the introduction of another training aid too…

I got a tip from a guy at work to try out a Sufferfest video.  Specialising in Cycling Training Videos, they have the motto:

“I will beat my ass today to kick yours tomorrow”  (IWBMATTKYT for short)

They have a range of “entertaining” videos targeted at the stationary cyclist market.  They create training sessions where you follow / copy / compete with professional cyclists performing in competitions (World Championships, Tour De France, etc., listening to fast music, and following instructions “shouted” out via text on the computer screen.

It might sound strange, but the videos provide some useful pointers for the novice cyclist and also create a major distraction from the clock.  In my limited experience, the biggest challenge with inside cycling is clock watching.  Every minute seems to last forever!

For me the intention is clearly not to have a Sufferfest, in fact not to suffer at all!  That’s not really what my exercise is about right now.  For me I’m treating it more as a Recoverfest (Trade Mark pending!).

Irrespective of what the on-screen cyclist does, or the instructions I’m given, the Heart Monitor is the most critical piece of equipment for me.  Keeping below my 118 bpm threshold is essential.

In time, I’m looking forward to testing / pushing the boundaries, but I have to keep reminding myself that I’m still only in week 3 of Cardiac Rehabilitation. Much as it would be nice to kick Bradley Wiggins’ ass in a Time Trial (albeit virtual), my goal has to be to put in the miles, to get myself fit and strong, to lay the foundation for the future.

Anyway, the video worked for me.  I would highly recommend checking out The Sufferfest if you’ve not discovered them already.

Breaking news…

All the exercise and hard work has resulted in another minor milestone for me at Cardiac Rehabilitation today…

drum roll…

wait for it…

I was allowed to jog on the treadmill!!!

I’ve got another 5 weeks of Rehab to go.  I’m hoping I might be able to fly by the end of it!

Man-flying-over-sleepers5

Someone’s going to get hurt!