First Things First

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Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

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If you missed part one from February 22, 2007 -- read this first.

I’ve done my share of complaining this week. I prefer to call it meaningful observation with a touch of drama to provide in-the-moment authenticity. Laree calls it whimpering, sniveling and grotesque. 18 days since the good doctor made the first incision and I’m on the mend.

The days are long, not predictable, colored in tones of grey, demanding and rancid. They are also laced with hope and relief, insight and gratitude. I’m not alone in my little journey and the emails from all corners of IronOnline world remind me of this comforting truth.

To ease my mind -- becoming overwhelmed when recovering from open-heart surgery is common and destructive, and should be handily avoided -- allow me thank you all for having supported Laree and me during these unusual times. Not a prayer, get-well wish, graceful thought, good vibe, hearty encouragement, candle lighting or positive meditation has gone unnoticed, and is deeply appreciated. Thanks, bombers. Through them we, you and us, are becoming bigger, stronger and faster.

Now about my scars: I have three beauties. One goes down the belly of the left forearm for 12 inches and it’s oozy. From that incision they harvested an artery. A vein was retrieved from the 13-inch slice on the inside of the right thigh. It’s crooked and almost healed. Down the center of the sternum is a clean and well-behaved 8-to-10-inch zipper that’s the least nasty of the trio. The experts promise they’ll heal nicely and in time be faint memories.

Funny thing about the less-than-lovely invasive cuts across my hard-worked, once-polished body: I adjusted to them immediately. How the doctors have the nerve to inscribe the bloody things I’ll never know, nor shall I ponder deeply.

Next subject, please.   

The kitchen counter is a functional display of bandages, remedies and open drug containers. There’s something for everything: pain, blood thinning, blood clotting, inflammation, stool softening (cute), water retention, hiccups, infection and bad cholesterol. Laree is currently managing the lot as needed to keep things in order. With a dozen different medications swirling around the body and mind, I might get confused and gobble them like Red Hots. It’s a temporary load till the system regroups, identifies itself and requires only a basic concoction of Western medicine. Not wanting to lose practice, the essential supplements -- aminos, B, C and E -- remain under my command. I’m Captain of this shipwreck.

I’m mostly listless and the gym is far away. Curiously, I am well adjusted to these facts of life. The fatigue will give way to desire as I heal, the energy will return when it has completed its work in the major repair process and the gym will resume its intimate place without anxiety or undue haste. The surgeon said I was run over by a trailer truck; it stopped abruptly and backed over me, and then proceeded forward with a roar just to be sure. I get the picture, fresh road kill.

I’m up one minute and down the next... or is it the other way around? Progress is counted step by step, often intentionally, and savored. It works -- positive reinforcement. I ate, took my pills, went to the bathroom, bathed, made two important phone calls, got my blood test, utilized the Voldyne, walked... Good boy and a pat on the head for you.

And then I’m a mess. This is not uncommon, depressions the origins of which are numerous, logical and not extraordinary: itchy-scratchy discomfort, pain from a dozen sources, congestion, swelling, out of breath, confused and restless. A cascade! It’s worse at night; fatigue takes over, darkness crowds and sleep, an elusive character, paces in the shadows of the mind.

Mornings are always a fresh, new start, even though the nights are a bear. My sunrise smile is as big as my prayer for another day, a good day, thank you, God. Bears growl, but they are beautiful animals.

Open-heart patients are awarded two gifts at the outset of operations: a small pillow and a plastic gadget resembling a sterile, hi-tech bong pipe. The pillow is offered with reverence and declared unmistakably by doctor, nurse and former suffering patients to be your best friend; it should not be absent, misplaced or out of reach. It seems any active stirring within the chest cavity -- clearing the throat, grunting, coughing, hiccupping, sneezing -- projects pressure on the newly set and wired sternum, causing pain that is off the charts. Rolling up the soft object and holding against the sternum tightly counters the forceful bursts and prevents unmentionable agony.

The pillow is forgotten only once.

The clear plastic gizmo is a breath-measuring device commercially called a Voldyne. It is also a tool to be used regularly to exercise your lungs, restore their function and improve their capacity. Bite on a tube attached to the simple ruled gauge and inhale and exhale five times with all your might. The inhale determines the prize you win. Throughout the day this procedure (it becomes a ritual) is practiced, and outdoing yourself workout by workout becomes the goal. Does that sound familiar? I do five sets of five reps five times a day, 5 x 5 x 5, seven days a week.

I’d rather be curling.

Since starting my erratic tapping on the keyboard only yesterday to convey these post-op thoughts, I have taken another giant step forward in mood, energy, painfree-ness and hope. Laree and I will buzz around town to accomplish errands and keep me on my toes. The appetite is back, and I weighed 212 this morning. Walking will suffice as my hardcore exercise, though I just got the urge to formulate some sort of daily routine to stretch and stimulate the muscles hanging from my bones. These are very good signs to the captain of a lost and distressed craft. The sun shining outside the open doors is a big help and last night I slept almost seven hours straight. Thankful is the number one feeling.

I look down and consider the bare evidence (literally) of my adventure. Humility is the number two feeling on my list. Stooped, shallow and pale; scarred, bruised and swollen. Ha, what a mess, I think with a grin. This, too, will pass as I, along with you, move forward and onward. I’ll leave the lumps and bumps behind and carry with me only the newly acquired equipment that makes life less difficult, more understandable and more precious, richer, sweeter and deeper. We live, we learn, we grow.

Now this is peculiar: One becomes so preoccupied with the doctors and hospitals and surgery and pain and recovery and details that one totally forgets the original purpose and consequence of the whole catastrophe: the successful repair of a diseased and broken heart, and the incomparable goodness that accompanies it. The rubies and gold are overshadowed by crude, dense lead and shards of dull glass.

Enough wallowing, it’s time to rejoice!

Let her warm up before you taxi to the runway, bombers. We want to fly high and mightily, but there’s no rush. Let’s do it right.

Go with God... Draper

If you missed part one from February 22, 2007 -- read this.

 THAT BOMBER BLEND

Quick note: To avoid mucus formation and the resultant throat-clearing that guarantees thunderous pain in the wired sternum, I ingested no milk products to this date. I’ve been a dairy man all my life. Today I mixed two scoops of Bomber Blend in cold water and guzzled it like a wild pig. No mucus, color returned to my face, I felt a warm pump all over and I laughed for no apparent reason, the first time in three weeks. Go figure.

I'm seriously considering the elimination of milk from my diet, maintaining some yogurt and cottage cheese and increasing my already substantial intake of the Bomber Blend. Man against mucus!

BOMB SQUAD FLASH

IronOnline, our weekly newsletter, has been delivered to mailboxes and shared for eight years.
 
Our endeavor began as a weekend curiosity (whatsa-web-site?) at the brink of 1999 and grew into a gazillion (3,000) page wonder. We enjoy each other, we encourage each other, we inform each other, we depend on each other, and one might say we know each other.
 
Aware of this community relationship, Laree and I do our best to provide the best of everything to make your muscle journey productive, enjoyable and complete: inspiration, motivation, information, instruction, explanation, suggestions and advice in muscle and might, exercise and nutrition, attitude and behavior.
 
Among our ranks are some of the brightest trainers who have been there, done that, and delight in doing it still. They have joined forces with us to offer devoted bombers direct personal training through IOL. Here’s an opportunity to engage in one-on-one training with IOL’s finest to progress confidently and vigorously in your training -- workouts, menus and motivation.
 
This gallant team of muscle minds and iron heads are long-time friends. They are knowledgeable, understanding, honest and generous benefactors who will help you over the obstacles that drive us Crazy.

Enjoy and trust them.

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