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Four Weeks On

...from a heart operation

Garry Jones
post 21.Mar.2013, 09:33 AM
Post #1
Joined: 20.Feb.2005

Four weeks to the day after my heart operation it is time to take stock of what has happened and what this means to me and my life. To recap I went to hell and back during the week of 18-22 February. From seeing the Doctor on Monday to realising I had a life-threatening condition on Tuesday, Wednesday’s stress-ECG and direct admission to hospital, ambulance transport to Falun on Thursday where they carried out a procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) or angioplasty. Finding blockages and stops they inserted stents. (Small expandable tubes used to treat narrowed or weakened arteries in the body used to open narrowed arteries). It went well and I was allowed home on the Friday. On the Saturday I wrote about the week on my three most regular spots on the Internet, Facebook, happymtb.org and thelocal.se. From all three frequent fickle and often cynical Internet neighbourhoods I received only encouragement, love and understanding. These words (your words?) meant a lot.

One concern I had was if I would be able to make a return to any form of cycling training with high pulse rates. Although that was secondary to the things that really matter in life and love. The episode shoved things into perspective and knocked me back on track. I had not been living a healthy lifestyle for years. A few examples of how I was living: Working from home I was often up late at night and the boundaries between work and home life were non-existent. I had a few dead potted plants that I had been watering since 2005 in the hope of one day seeing a green sprout. I ate once a day when I was in acute hunger mode. For instance I’d fill my plates (plural) with 8 hot dogs and chips with baked beans. I’d make five 90g hamburgers with the same side dish as the hot dogs. I ate until I could no longer get anything down and threw the rest away. Because I used low-fat oil to do my frying and cycled a fair bit I considered my life balanced. I often told myself that this was probably not a good way to live but that my new life could begin tomorrow. In the middle of February 2013 there was nearly a day with no tomorrow.

On the bus home from the hospital that Friday afternoon I had a clear vision of how the rest of my life was going to be. One can only get out of life what one puts into it. When I got home on the Friday night change was immediate and determined. Without taking my shoes off (we usually remove shoes indoors in Sweden) I stormed into my flat, grabbed a bin bag and binned the dead potted plants. I emptied my cupboards, fridge and freezer of all food and drink. An hour later I was in the local supermarket buying healthy food.

After reading a couple of books and the advice leaflets I got from the hospital I knew what to do. These last 19 days I have been eating five or six times a day. I eat fat, small portions, and as much unsaturated fat as possible. For my evening meal I cook from scratch using raw meat or fish. To this I have salad, root vegetables, fruits and berries. I have potato or pasta in moderation. After a breakfast with hard bread sandwiches and oatmeal porridge I have a kiwi fruit or similar around 11 o’clock. Lunch is usually the other half of last night’s dinner warmed up and in the afternoon I have another fruit. Cola, crisps and fried food are in my past even if I will not become insane about this. I will allow myself a fast food meal at a train station or airport once in a blue moon.

Having been to two group meetings for other people with similar stories I realise how well I am doing. Some of the others were talking about hoping to be able to give up smoking. Granted, something I can not relate to as I have never even had a puff on a cigarette, but I am surprised their problems have not led them to kick bad habits. Physiologists have been telling us how we are probably in shock and that a process of change can take up to a year. Seeing an overhead picture of the seven stages of change I realised I hit number seven while I was on my home from the hospital on that bus.

The Swedish health care service has been outstanding. They have fast-tracked me keeping up with my pace and allowing me to progress at a level they have rarely seen. The group meetings are usually booked in for the months following an operation like mine and the consultation with the Doctor some weeks later. I had both within 11 days.

Three weeks to the day after I was admitted to hospital I was back for consultation with a heart doctor. She was wonderful and really helped me deal with a few issues still playing on my mind. In the initial stress ECG test I was in pain at 105 pulse and was pulled off at 115 when the arrows on their display were all over the place and I was in agony. This Doctor arranged a new test and I had no problems pushing it to 155 pulse when she stopped me because she didn’t want me to go any further. I had been worried I would not find any sort of Doctor who understood about the fitness levels and the type of cycling I do. Then she explained about herself. She is in a team of Swedish racing cyclists known as Sub XX and last summer she completed the famous 300km fun-ride Vätternrundan in under 9 hours. She had heard of my name in cycling circles and she knew I worked for Cykeltours, the largest cycling tour operator in Scandinavia. This is almost too good to be true. Just by chance my local heart Doctor is a cyclist! – She understood my concerns and was able to explain in great detail how I can ease myself back into a fitness program that will allow me to return to, as I call it, proper cycling.

My LDL (aka bad cholesterol) was 3.4 at the time of my op; it is now down to 2.4. (Target 1.8). The best part of all, without really trying to I have lost 7kg (15lbs) in 19 days. I have not been hungry once and I am really enjoying all my healthy meals. My boss has been incredible and arranged for me to move my work into a local office in the town. Just moving the pc and all the folders and paperwork has made my flat into a home. I wake up at 7, have my breakfast and go off to work around 8. I don’t feel I have to do things any more. I feel I want to do things and I have become really effective, if a customer calls me in the evening I ask them to call back during office hours or send an email. Likewise, if I take a personal call during office hours I cut it short after exchanging pleasantries. I’ve worked over a couple of evenings this week but it’s been because I’ve chosen to and I’ve been home by 10 pm.

Tomorrow I am on my way to Italy to look after 200 cyclists. I won’t be working as a guide in the same way as usual but the sunshine and fresh air will do me the world of good. Later this morning I have a meeting with a Swedish heart charity. I have an idea. (Watch this space!).

I’ve had four stents inserted in to blood vessels around my heart so it is a serious situation but there is no way I am going back to my old life so I have all the chances of having a long and healthy life.

Choice?

Choose life!
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johnjohn
post 21.Mar.2013, 09:43 AM
Post #2
Joined: 10.Dec.2010

Good to hear, keep up the goog work!
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Divan
post 21.Mar.2013, 12:46 PM
Post #3
Joined: 23.Jan.2012

It is definitely "heartening" to hear about your resolution to start a new healthy diet and life!! You are on the right path and all the best to you in everything you do!!
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Svensksmith
post 21.Mar.2013, 02:14 PM
Post #4
Joined: 28.Jul.2011

You may also wish to consider Vitaman C supplements, as well as adding nattokinase to your diet. Pomegranate juice and garlic are also natural heart protectors.

Good luck with your new life.
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johnjohn
post 21.Mar.2013, 02:27 PM
Post #5
Joined: 10.Dec.2010

Don't forget the Himalayan rock salt! wink.gif
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Micardo
post 21.Mar.2013, 08:51 PM
Post #6
Joined: 22.May.2006

Good luck Gary, keep it up. You must have had a bike with reinforced wheels if you ate like that !!!
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Hisingen
post 22.Mar.2013, 02:45 PM
Post #7
Location: Västra Götaland
Joined: 5.Jul.2012

Shall I chip in with 3 'hearty' cheers for a successful op. Good to know that the old ticker is still doing its work. As you get on, it doesn't do to miss out on the 1000km service.
Me - I'm on a pill diet to keep mine ticking in rhythm. My doc says that I'll be taking them ad infinitum since there is no way of ensuring regularity otherwise.
We are more than a little reliant on that part of the system, so it definitely pays to keep it in trim.
On the subject of bikes, I have given my 40-year-old Raleigh Esquire a clean up, but somehow seem to have lost my balance somewhat, so here's hoping that with warmer weather I can endeavour to push the pedals a bit, but not to the same extent as you, I fear. Must say I envy you.

Good lcuk, Garry, and may you continue to push your pedals round for a long time yet. biggrin.gif
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Max Reaver
post 23.Mar.2013, 12:34 PM
Post #8
Joined: 26.May.2011

Good luck Garry! Hope you enjoy your new life!

Live long and prosper! biggrin.gif
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