Most of us have experienced a glitch in some system whether a computer, a corporate malfunction in production (think recalls), a car or truck, some out of touch bureaucracy, travel, or in our own lives including work, relationships and health.
My point in writing about this experience is not to describe the details of the glitch. You can get those later on if you want. What I want to explore is what we can do when we experience a glitch in the system or an obstacle to our ordinary, everyday life style. The short answer is to get help when we need it and find the resources that will support the changes that are desired. One more time, life is about change and whether or not you have had this particular kind of change or something similar, you can be fairly-well assured that you will at some point in time.
Almost every day our heart beats 103,689 times, our blood travels 168,000,000 miles, our digestive system processes 7.8 pounds of waste, and our lungs take in 438 cubic feet of air. These are just a few of the multitude of functions our bodies perform. And while the least little mishap can cause a glitch in one system or another, amazingly, day in and day out, for most of us, over a lifetime, our bodies operate almost flawlessly.
The respiratory system works together with the circulatory system and because all of our organs require oxygen to function, the respiratory system depends on the circulatory system to transport the oxygen we breathe to all parts of our body. With over 16,000 things that can go wrong with the human body, the likelihood of having a malfunction, especially in later years, is increased dramatically.
I first began to notice a shortness of breath when walking uphill last May or June. I had known for a long time that I lived with Afib (Atrial Fibrillation), irregular heart beats where the two chambers of the heart are out of sync. So, when I told my doc about it, he said, keep exercising and watch for any changes. Since I know a little about change, both planned and unplanned, I kept on walking and watching, taking some meds, and getting shorter of breath with other kinds of exertion as well. I knew something needed to be done if I was to continue anything close to the quality of life I have enjoyed for the past 80 years.
In September, our son-in-law, an outstanding cardiologist with the Integris Southwest Medical Center and Heart Hospital in Oklahoma City said, “I think we should have a look at what’s going on with you.” One of his colleagues administered a cardioversion to see if we could shock my heart back into rhythm. For those of us who have been in Afib for a long time, it often doesn’t work and mine didn’t. No great surprise but worth finding out. We were in the middle of a cross country road trip from CA to Maine and back and we continued on to Maine. On our return trip, we decided to get some more information through a couple of tests, one of which was a TEE, (trans esophageal echo cardiogram). The conclusions were that 1) the culprit was a leaking mitral valve 2) the pictures showed the mitral valve regurgitation and 3) the best treatment would be a mitral clip repair. That procedure is less invasive than open heart surgery and it was scheduled for November 19. If you’re interested in the details, this video will give you a step by step explanation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SuTQ49VmjQ The technology of modern medicine is rather amazing. Long story short, I spent five days in the hospital in OKC and we flew home to CA after a few days of R&R.
I will soon begin a cardiac rehab program which consists of five basic elements: 1) Regular, monitored exercise; 2) good nutrition; 3) stress management; 4) education about cardiac risk; and 5) psycho-social support. Research indicates that those who participate in such a program have better results than those who don’t and that’s sufficient for me to make a commitment. I am fortunate in having excellent care, a loving support system, and an opportunity to continue learning, growing and changing. Even when a change is not what we might have wanted, there are ways of responding creatively and positively to a glitch in the system. Meanwhile, life continues to be fabulously interesting, filled with meaningful activities and adventures, part-time work and enormous gratitude.