Monday, December 21, 2015

Winding toward Christmas in an unexpected way

Munich airport Christmas market, November 22
The last time I updated the blog I was still glowing from the wonderful time we had had in Spain and Portugal—and right now I am still glowing from some of the light fevers that hit me in the days after my second ablation less than a week ago.

Things can change rather quickly.

Let's first of all say it out loud: I am doing well, the fevers are gone, and I hope to recover perfectly this time around (even thought that's what we thought after the first heart ablation this summer as well). While writing this I am sitting in the backyard of my friends Martha and Alan in Temple, with Osler the Doberman and Clifford, Chewbacca's look-alike, lending me company. I am recovering well on a 74-degree day in central Texas, looking forward to driving back up to Lubbock tomorrow and reclaiming my house after an absence of the better part of one-and-a-half months.

After our time on the Iberian peninsula, I spent another week with Sabine in Freising. For her, the daily grind had started up again but I had elected to stick around for a few extra days. Coming back to Germany from the south was a shocking experience, literally: When we arrived, the Munich airport's Christmas market was going full throttle and it snowed! So much for eternal summer. It didn't get much better until I finally got back to Lubbock, late on Sunday, November 29. It was cold, but at least there was sunshine.

The schedule called for a week in Lubbock, enough time to take care of the bills, some eBay stuff, the occasional bike ride, and of course the WTCA Christmas Party. Also thrown into the mix was a visit with my cardiologist, to check the old ticker. Well, the news wasn't so hot: There was a flutter back in the heart, something we thought we had nixed with the first laser procedure back in late July. Shit.
Approaching Cancun
When things had looked happier and healthier, I had booked a flight to Cancun for December 8, to spend a week down in Playa del Carmen. But suddenly the heart issues came to the forefront, and on Monday the 7th telephone calls and e-mails started to take over. Add to that a bike frame that I had sold on eBay and that FedEx could not track, and you can start to imagine how I spent my last three hours in the Admiral's Club in DFW on the way to Mexico. Dr. Horton at St. David's Hospital had a cancellation for an ablation the following week, the frame was spotted, then not, and suddenly I was on a 757 to Cancun, with a racing heart, not knowing how all this was going to play out.

The first two days in Mexico were not about relaxing and just listening to the waves but rather shooting e-mails back and forth. Finally, I had it all in the bag: I was going to leave the all-inclusive a day early, get back to Lubbock in time to drive down to Austin, and stay with friends before and after the procedure. The hotel was easy to work with and refunded the cancelled day, American Airlines (and my old friend Jose in the DFW Admiral's Club who had proactively booked for me a second flight back to the US) didn't charge me any fees since I had paid for my travel with miles, and my old friend Micki in Austin immediately stepped up to take me to the hospital and then pick me up again. Things started to fall in place, and I actually was able to enjoy some of my time in Mexico. I had taken the Ritchey along, but I rode less than 50 miles—that's how shitty I felt. Sometimes things happen fast.
Bubbly fun at the all-inclusive
To show you how much in flux everything had been: I was not notified of the time when I should report to St. David's until about 7 a.m. on the day of the procedure—be there at 9:30 a.m, it said. That's the nature of cancellations, I suppose. But I was in good hands, starting from the time that I arrived at Micki and her husband, Kent's, home in Oak Hill, just outside of Austin, until now, here in Temple. My procedure took place on Wednesday, December 16 (at noon on the 14th I had still listened to the waves of the Caribbean). I was released 24 hours later, a bit groggy still, but in better cardiac health than before. Doc Horton found two areas that were transmitting erroneous electrical impulses in the area that he had burned during the first procedure. After this initial laser blast I was given more adrenaline to make the system fire on all cylinders, and after a 20-miunte wait (is that why I felt as if a truck had hit me?) he found two other spots in a different part of the heart (both known to emit such impulses) that were active, and he burned the hell out of them, too. My cardiac nurse said that altogether he used 32 minutes of burn time for these four areas, which to her showed that he was very thorough; overall, I was knocked out for more than two-and-a-half hours.

Sounds pretty gruesome, doesn't it? It sure is a good thing that they know how to put us out of our misery and then bring us back without too much of a hangover. As I said, 24 hours later I left the hospital and spent the next two days with Micki and Kent before driving on Saturday morning up to Martha and Alan in Temple. I've been taking it easy and have been napping and sleeping a lot, but I also have gone for walks and have tried (upon doctor's orders) to not be totally inactive. This morning I woke up after the best sleep so far, without body aches and the feeling that I may have been running a slight, low-grade fever. No need to get cocky or in a rush—there's still a lot of recovery to come, but I think the worst is over.

The official prognosis is that this time all rogue transmitters have been obliterated, but we thought so the first time around, too. Judging from some of the Facebook comments, few people have just one ablation to get it all fixed—some have three or even five. I hope I won't be one of them. Dr. Horton is considered to be the best in the business, and if one has had four ablations this is where one goes to get it fixed once and for all. So, let's keep our fingers crossed.

My plans for the remainder of the month have changed a bit in that I cancelled a flight to surprise Sabine over Christmas. I'll be in Lubbock, taking things easy and not getting in a rush to do anything. In a few days I'll start an easy exercise program again, but it will all be soave e piano. Tom and Trish have invited me to have Christmas dinner with them, and I am sure that I will enjoy more reading and movie watching time by myself. And then it will be 2016, and my heart will be like that of a 21-year-old!
Christmas in Micki and Kent's neighborhood
Things will be just fine, thanks to my wonderful friends and docs. I owe them all a lot!


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