AT THE HEART OF THE MATTER

Re-springing Your Step – Tell us about the last experience you had that left you feeling fresh, energized, and rejuvenated. What was it that had such a positive effect on you?


It was just about a year ago when I discovered the heart murmur I’d had since early childhood was not just noise. It was a badly damaged mitral valve, and the aortic valve was in trouble, too. The heart muscle, trying to compensate for the inefficient mitral valve, had grown huge, trying to push blood through the ventricle. The muscle was so oversized, it was blocking the valve. I wasn’t getting oxygen.

72-pacemaker_2I was having trouble breathing. I was pale, weak. And I didn’t think much of it. Heart problems don’t manifest dramatically. They creep up on you. You are tired. You do less. You avoid stairs, limit activity.

I believed my heart was the one organ I didn’t need to worry about. I ascribed all my symptoms to other conditions. Asthma. After-effects of cancer. Arthritis. Bursitis. Other stuff.

When one has many overlapping medical conditions, it’s easy to assume whatever is going on, is probably one of them. It will pass, I told myself.

The local “doctor” colluded with me in pretending everything was hunky dory. I’d been getting an EKG every year. Every year, they told me “you’re FINE.” I took it at face value, a gift horse. I wasn’t about to examine its teeth.

My supposed cardiologist showed no interest and even less alarm, at my situation. He didn’t have time to see me personally. Dr. Brownstein — a very busy man I was assured and my so-called cardiologist of record — never actually saw me. He sent me to his young nurse practitioner to pass along messages, omitting to mention the cardio myopathy in the left ventricle. At that point, no one suspected I also needed a bypass for a clogged artery. No one ran any tests.

Dr Brownstein when I finally saw him — 6 months after it was determined my mitral valve was failing —  said I should wait until my heart completely failed, then deal with it. He said — this is a quote — “You can manage with a bad valve for years.” Big happy smile. The asshole.

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I was coming out of my self-induced fugue state. I went online and searched for surgeons specializing in minimally invasive repair of mitral valves. I knew, from reading about it, that the best course was always to repair ones own “original equipment.” Not always possible, but always worth trying. If it didn’t work, the surgeon would use a replacement valve — fashioned from the tissue of a pig or cow — or a mechanical valve.

I didn’t want a mechanical valve because they require a lifetime of blood thinners. Also, my first husband died of complications following implantation of a mechanical mitral valve. Bad history.

I found a doctor. An excellent cardiac surgeon. He ran tests, including an expanded EKG. It showed the mitral valve to be in very poor shape, but he though there was a slight chance he could save it. As for the aortic valve and the big muscle blocking it, he’d carve that out. He was sure he could save the aortic valve.

Heart surgeons cover emergencies and Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston is a premier cardiac facility, so patients come from everywhere. I was rescheduled four times before my number came up. Finally, I was in the hospital. More tests. Intrusive nasty tests. They didn’t give me nearly enough drugs. There are things I’d rather not remember.

Finally, D-Day. They opened me up. It was evident the tests hadn’t told the whole story. The mitral valve was not working at all and there was almost no blood passing through the aortic valve, either. How I was managing to survive was an interesting question. And I needed a bypass. And some other stuff.

The surgery lasted almost 8 hours and they kept me in a medical coma for 48 hours afterwards. If you think you can’t feel pain when you are in a medically induced coma, you’re wrong. You can feel pain just fine. You just can’t do anything about it. I was hurting. But it was a very fine hospital and at no point did I feel anything but safe and protected. These people had me. Never was there a moment when I felt in danger, even if I was. After determining my heart would not beat on its own, I had one final surgery to implant the pacemaker.

I got home at the beginning of April. I was a physical and emotional mess. Over the weeks and months, I sorted it out. Pain eased off slowly. The the 6-month mark passed and my breast bone was not healed. Now, at almost a year …. it’s close. It doesn’t grind as much.

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More important, the spring is coming back. It’s a tiny spring. I’ve had cortisone shots in my hips and walk better. My back is the same. It can’t get better, but applications of heat and gentle exercise might keep it from getting worse.  I’m beginning to feel like someone I know.

So, what put the spring back in my step? Heart surgery and lots of it. A mitral valve replacement. Cardiomyectomy and aortic valve repair. Cardiac bypass. A pacemaker. Two big shots of cortisone in my hips and a year of healing.

Everything isn’t perfect. I’ve got so many replacement parts, it’s funny. Two breast implants, a pacemaker, something else in there that works with the pacemaker, and of course, a replacement mitral valve. And each piece has a serial number. I carry a wallet full of cards with all the serial numbers.

That’s what brought a semblance of spring to my step. Not quite like the spring of youth, but I can walk, climb a few stairs. That’s something. That’s a lot of something.

STUFF IN THE GARDEN — CEE’S ODD BALL PHOTO CHALLENGE

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: 2015 Week #3

A different challenge got me thinking about benches. Lawn furniture in general and that got me wondering what I’ve done with all the pictures I’ve taken of our tables, chairs, frogs, and whatever else lives in the garden. Today, the oddballs are garden stuff. Benches, chairs, table, and more.

IT MUST BE TRUE … I SAW IT ON THE NEWS

INTRODUCTION BY GARRY ARMSTRONG:

I remember discussions about news coverage more than 50 years ago.  My college radio colleagues and I thought the mainstream media outlets were sellouts, ignoring the real stories and covering their collective butts with government propaganda. Some of us vowed to seek employment with the CBC, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation where we would have a greater chance to tell the truth.

skydivingLuck intervened and I landed a job with ABC Network News as a 20 something. ABC, coincidentally, was revamping its national and international news format. They wanted new blood. We were encouraged to be fresh and innovative. Newbie newsies like me leapfrogged over veterans from the advent of radio and TV news.

The late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were the new “golden era” for broadcast news. We had access to newsmakers in the highest places. We were emboldened to take chances even when threatened by power brokers. I always worked in the moment, never fearing the consequences of political windmills I might tilt.

It was a Camelot period for those of us who sought to report the truth. Then everything began to change.

Fast forward ahead to today and the proliferation of 24 hour cable news and social media. Camelot is dead. News — local and network — is controlled by corporate entertainment divisions.

Newbie newsies today don’t have the support or access I did half a century ago, but they still have a bully pulpit and should use it — if they have the courage and conviction to try to create change.

AND NOW, THE NEWS …

My husband was a news guy for more than 40 years. For 32 of those years, he was a reporter. You could watch him on television pretty much every day.

He covered breaking news. Murder, fires, disasters. Blizzards, hurricanes, politics. Riots. Court cases. Wherever something was happening, there he was. I knew the news from both sides. How it was made, how come some stories got on the air and others did not. What made a story “hot” and why. I have no illusions about the accuracy of media, but I also know how hard reporters work. How little the public appreciates the enormous amount of work that goes into one of those little reports you see every night.

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Reporters don’t usually get to choose what to report. They can enterprise projects. Maybe get to do something they think is worthwhile. A reporter can request to be put on a particular story.

In the end, reporters are employees. They have bosses. They go where they are sent. If they don’t follow orders, they won’t be working long.

Like every other profession. Unless you own the company, you do your job. It’s not like the movies. Once upon a time reporters had more freedom to investigate, but not in recent decades.

Today, news is entertainment. It wasn’t always. Back in “the day,” it was public service. Maybe someday, it will be again. For now, though, the news has to make money. For television station owners, corporate and local owners. Sponsors. Advertisers.

Hopefully this isn’t a surprise to anyone. You all knew this, right?

This is not to say that reporters don’t work their butts off to do the best job they can. Some don’t, but most do. It’s a rough world. Highly competitive, long hours. Much of the time spent racing the clock through rain, wind, sleet, and bad traffic. Seeing the worst stuff imaginable. Murder, mayhem, and human  misery is the bread and butter of news.

Living with a reporter has not made me less skeptical of media than the average citizen. I know how little and how much I can trust what I see and hear. “Incompetent” media is that way because news directors think that’s what you want. If you want it, you will watch it . It will have high ratings which will sell advertising minutes. It’s all about the bottom line. News is a business. Big business. Not a holy cause.

We expect a lot from reporters. We expect them to be better than us. To be fairer. To search for the truth on our behalf. We hold them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves because …

Well, because …

75-Emmy-3Okay, why do we feel that way? We don’t necessary seek the truth. Many of us choose to believe obvious lies and don’t ever check to see if there’s any evidence to support our position.

Reporters are people, some better than others. We are all responsible for seeking truth. If you believe in God, then you believe He gave us free will to figure out stuff. To not believe the snake.

If you don’t believe in God, then you still believe in free will … and that we should not believe the snake oil salesmen.

Nobody could get away with making stuff up, and presenting it as truth (and news) if we were not eager to believe it.

In the end, we will only get accountability and accuracy from media if we demand it.  As long as corporate owners believe their audience wants rumor, innuendo, and outright lies … and will believe anything without corroboration or concern for truth? That’s exactly what they provide.