“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it”. The saying is adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns, and it has been the story of my life for the past month.
After launching my book, The Chosen Ones, back in September, I announced that book #2 was scheduled to be released in early December. I knew I would be under pressure to write the book while still doing promotions for #1, but I was optimistic and felt sure that I could do it.
I am a planner, perhaps even a bit of a control-freak. I create a step-by-step blueprint of how I am going to achieve my goals, and then I endeavor to follow this plan each day until the task or project is completed.
However, life has a way of throwing a wrench into the most perfectly lined out plans.
In this past month, my dog Frodo, started having idiopathic epileptic seizures. He has had 4 to date, each of the grand mal (full-blown seizure) type. As of yet, I have been unable to detect any signs or warnings preceding an attack, though the last 2 occurred 12 hours apart and after a particularly stressful period. Afterwards, he becomes confused and unsettled, and clings to me like a shadow. My heart breaks, not being able to explain it to him, though I do my best to comfort and reassure him. The vet I talked to suggested using CBD oil and changing his diet to a raw natural one as the first course of treatment. If the seizures become worse or more frequent, then medications such as phenobarbital or potassium bromide may become necessary.
By his own nature, Frodo is rather protective of me and not exactly the friendliest dog. He is also somewhat stubborn in regard to obeying commands at this point, (something I am still working on), so I usually choose not to take him with me out in public. But since the seizures started, I don’t want to leave him alone. So, my self-imposed restrictions have prevented a major portion of my promotions, and in turn missed sales.
I have consoled myself of this setback with knowing that as my canine companion and friend, Frodo is worth doing what I have to in order to help him. I know there are those that would not agree with my sentiment here, and that is fine. It is just a part of who I am and will always be. We will work through this together.
One of my closest friends described me as, “independent, stubborn, stoic, and determined”. For the most part, I consider these to be good character traits. I grew up with the mindset that, if something needs doing, I just do it. I don’t believe in putting my responsibilities off onto someone else, and I’ve never been great at asking for help when I need it. I have managed to improvise when necessary, finding creative ways of doing things on my own, instead of bothering others to do things for me.
However, with age (and pain), some wisdom has been gained.
A few years ago, I began having minor issues with chest pains and irregular heartbeat, though not enough to seek medical help. A combination of mistrust and fear of doctors tends to make me avoid them (no offense intended to the medical professionals out there). So, I waited.
Since then, the issues became more pronounced, and I realized there was something wrong. So, I finally faced the dragon and made an appointment.
With symptoms of pain in my chest, heart palpitations and a murmur, extreme fatigue, dizziness, and high blood pressure, the doctor ordered blood tests and an EKG. She then ordered an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart.
Last Thursday I went to the cardiologist for the consultation of the results. I expected a 15 to 20 minute visit to discuss the results, and being told to lose weight and change my diet, and maybe some medication and a few other lifestyle changes.
Instead, I was told that I had apparently already had at least 1 heart attack, and there was damage to the wall between the chambers of my heart, and that I have aortic stenosis, a condition where the main valve that pushes the blood out through the body does not work properly. The doctor said that he also heard a sound in my neck that shouldn’t be there.
He said there may be some blockages in my heart, and he wanted to do a heart catheterization to get a better look, and that if there were blockages, he would insert stents or that open heart surgery may be necessary.
After agreeing to the procedure, I waited for my prescriptions and started thinking about preparations and plans, making sure my critters were taken care of, and getting my legal papers in order and such.
Past experience led me to believe it would be at least a week before the procedure would be scheduled. So, I was a bit alarmed when the doctor returned and said he had rearranged his schedule and would be performing the procedure the following morning.
Between the discussion, prescriptions, another EKG, and blood tests, it was 3 ½ hours before I was on my way home, scrambling to get everything taken care of, not exactly how I had planned to spend my day. But I stayed focused and accomplished what I needed to do.
The doctor’s 1st choice for the procedure was to go through my right wrist, saying that would be the easiest. I was wide awake throughout the process, as the sedatives had very little effect on me, so I was able to watch and ask questions. At one point, my heart had some palpitations which could be clearly heard on the monitor. The doctor said, “Wow, that’s weird”, to which I replied, “That’s not what the lady on the table wants to hear from the doc”. He proceeded to say, “Well, you’re off rhythm now and we’re trying to get a good beat going”, while snapping his fingers.
I like the fact that the doctor has a good sense of humor, as it put me more at ease during the ordeal, having a more calming effect than the sedative did.
At last, the news that there were no blockages found was welcomed, though now it means further tests to find the cause of pain and other symptoms.
What was not welcomed was the instructions of aftercare that stated I was not to use my right hand at all for at least a week and not being allowed to lift anything over 5 pounds or any strenuous activity.
Have you ever tried to open a cheese wrapper with only 1 hand? Try opening a can of soup, or lifting logs and putting them in the woodstove one-handed. Even simple things like brushing my hair or getting dressed proved to be impossible for me. And don’t get me started on opening those child-proof pill bottles! I have a hard time with those using both hands.
I honestly tried very hard to follow the doctor’s instructions, but after 1 day, I had to cheat, at least a little. I found out that I am very right-handed, with little coordination in my left hand, plus my left shoulder is a bit out of whack and moving it is painful most of the time.
I did watch closely for any signs of bleeding or unusual pain and swelling, and I’m happy to report there have been none. The bruising and swelling have gone down, and the throbbing has almost stopped. I am taking it a bit easier and resting as much as I can, though it is a battle.
I have a follow-up appointment scheduled later this week which I’m not looking forward to, as I’m sure the doctor will probably fuss about me using my hand. But in all fairness, if I had been warned beforehand of the details of aftercare, I would have asked that he use an alternate means of access instead of my right wrist.
“Doesn’t follow directions well” will probably be my epitaph, although I am earnestly trying to do better. But it’s not easy being told I can’t do something, especially when it’s something I’ve been doing for years, and even more so when it’s an essential part of living.
But because of the events of this past week, it’s made me take a closer look at some of the things I have been neglecting or taking for granted.
What stands out the most to me stemmed from the fact that I had so little time to let anyone know what was going on. I managed to call a few people, to make arrangements for my animals and house, but there were several calls that I didn’t get to make.
You hear about regrets people have of not sharing their thoughts and feelings when someone close to them dies. But seldom do we think about our own death and leaving things unsaid to those we leave behind.
That is what was on my mind going into the hospital. I questioned whether or not my loved ones really knew how precious they are to me, but at that point, I could only hope they did. I had managed to write a couple of short letters to my son and my sister, just in case, but the words I put on paper were so very inadequate.
I prayed hard that morning, that I would be given more time to share with my loved ones, to make sure they know how much I love them and appreciate them. And that prayer was answered.
I realized that I have been pushing so hard to succeed in my writing career and remodeling my home, and so many other little details, that I had been neglecting my most valuable possession…my heart. Not just the blood pump, but the spiritual one, the one that feeds my relationships.
I am resolved in taking better care of both.
So, while my writing is still important to me, and there are other aspects that have to be dealt with, my family and friends are my priority above all else, except God. He must remain #1 in my life, and living by His commandment to love others is exactly what I will be focusing my time and attention on.
At this point, not knowing how things will work out with more tests to find out what’s going on with my heart, I don’t know if I can give a deadline for when I will be able to release book #2. I am already behind the original schedule. But I will continue to work on it and give updates and perhaps excerpts as I can. If God be willing, I could still have it ready in time for Christmas, though I don’t want to make that a promise yet.
I apologize for the inconsistency in posting lately, and I hope you can understand. It was not intentional.
I will be changing my posting to Wednesdays only for a while, in order to allow more time in other matters.
Please bear with me, as I go through these changes. It was difficult hearing that I’ve already had a heart attack and didn’t know it. I guess I thought it would hurt more, or maybe I’ve just been too stoic and stubborn to pay attention. But I think I would like to stick around a bit longer to enjoy the folks (and critters) that I love so much.
As always, I appreciate your comments, and especially your prayers.
Love to all. – Amber