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Cautionary Tale--dodging the bullet

How do you prepare for the rigorous physical requirements of high elevation adventure? Strength and endurance are key, but are only part of a more complex equation. How do you prepare for changes in altitude, exposure, diet, etc.? How do you mentally prepare? Learn from others and share what you know about training in advance for outdoor adventures.
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Cautionary Tale--dodging the bullet

Postby oldranger » Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:07 pm

With Medicare in the immediate future I have been doing everything I could to avoid the accouterments of old age. All objective measures have indicated that I have been in good shape for an old fart--Blood chem ok, bp ok, pulse low. To ensure good health I have been eating right (mostly) and getting lots of exercise. For example this past week's schedule included:

Sunday-- walk up Pilot butte (500 verical) with 22 lbs in pack

Monday--35 minutes on treadmill with 25 minutes at 3mph and 11% grade followed by 45 minutes of weight training, followed by 31/2 mile walk with Kathy.

Tuesday--11 mile ski with old farts, beer, yoga

Wednesday--27 minutes on treadmill with 20 minutes at 3 mph and 11% grade, 35 minutes of weight training then 5 mile ski, beer.

Thursday was scheduled to be an off day. But I had been feeling slight pressure in my chest during exercise and for the first time that feeling continued in the AM. So I made an appointment with my doc. at 3:45 My EKG was the same as last year but she did not feel comfortable setting me free. After consulting with a cardio doc I was admitted to the tellimetry/cardio ward where I soon consulted with 2 cardio docs. Both thought that given my diet and excercise regime, extremely low chlolesterol, good bp that I was not a good candidate for a cardio issue. But to be safe they would schedule a stress test for the next day. So I got to spend the night in an expensive hospital with a miniscule TV watching playoof BB instead of drinking good beer, listening to good music, and then spending the night in a nice hotel with my girl.

After an interminable wait I finally got to do the stress test (finally a little exercise!). Unfortunately the test indicate a decrease in perfusion in the front part of my heart. The next step was a cardiac catherization/angiogram. This is done by sticking a tool up an artery all the way to the heart. If blockage was found then a stent would be placed and I would be stuck in the hospital another night. The problem with all of this is that once the procedure starts I have no say in the matter. My mind was gone with the first dose of ativan. So I was at the mercy of Kathy and the docs! I do remember at one time carrying on a conversation with a most attractive blond nurse (which Kathy confirmed). But other than that I don't remember a thing until back in my room. I remember them showing pics of the before and after views of the artery, named the left anterior decending artery, aka the widowmaker. It was 90% blocked and a stent was inserted

The good news is that I did not have a heart attack and that my heart (if not my brain) remains fully functional. When released yesterday am they would not allow me to go split wood due to the wound caused by the entry for the catherization. So I can do anything now but use my right hand. (word processing was a specifically approved activity). I also think it is ok to lift a beer so I did meet up with the boys for beer and pizza (vegetarian).

The bottom line is that there is no limitation on my activity, I can chase Kathy around as much as I want, I can hike, I can fish (in a couple of days), I was actually ordered to drink a dark beer or red wine regularly. There are a couple of drugs I will have to take short time and another long term. But other than that it is play time!

Whether grandkids, kids, wife, or backpacking and skiing buds I will be keeping up my commitments!

Lessons learned:

1. You can do everything right and have all the signs of being in first rate condition but you may be at risk for something really bad.

2. Pay attention to your body! Mine was whispering to me. Generally I have such a loud mouth that I don't hear whispers! Had I not paid attention, and given my level of activity, It was just a matter of time.

Finally it was not until this morning that I realized how lucky I am. This morning has pretty emotional for me and if I can wake up just one person on this forum who has been feeling wierd, different or whatever not to write off that feeling and to get it checked out I will not be so embarrassed about sharing my experience.

Your resident Old Fart

Mike
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Re: Cautionary Tale--dodging the bullet

Postby rlown » Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:53 pm

Glad to hear you're ok, Mike.

Had my weird feeling in November; Felt like I was going to faint half the time. I knew my BP was high, so I went right to the Doc. My heart is wired funny with a RBBB, so the EKG was inconclusive. He sent me to the Cardio Doc, who had the same concern, and I was scheduled for the Stress test the following Friday.

That left a day open for duck hunting. We walked out the mile to the pond at 5am, with that slight pressure left of the sternum. I was careful not to push the duck cart or overdo the walk. However, half way out into the duck pond (about 150yds) the pain was more pronounced, so I pulled out my duck stool and sat there in the knee-deep water for about 15 mins. I thought I had made a horrible error in judgement by even going hunting until I got cleared by the Doc. It was the first time I've ever taken the cell phone with me into the ponds..

The stress test showed nothing conclusive, but the cardio doc said he wanted to see the inside of my arteries.

The holidays got in the way, but 1 week later, I was in the hospital at 6am (MLK day), and under by 8am. The procedure took 25mins, of which I remember nothing except the hot flash from head to toe when they put me under. Luckily, they too went in through the wrist. They found no trouble, So i felt better about that. They still haven't figured out what that pressure is, but it's been less since they put me on the aspirin regimen and BP meds.

Now, I'm looking to see if the meds impact any capability on the trail.

I listen to everything my body tells me now, If just to have piece of mind.

Russ
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Re: Cautionary Tale--dodging the bullet

Postby The Other Tom » Sun Mar 11, 2012 1:22 pm

Congrats Mike. You're absolutely right about listening to your body. Most people (especially men) don't. You're one of the lucky (smart) ones. I'm glad you will live to hike/fish another day.
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Re: Cautionary Tale--dodging the bullet

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun Mar 11, 2012 1:50 pm

I do listen to my body but for me there is not allot I can do about it. With no medical insurance and an absolute rejection on the notion of getting into medical debt I only go to a doctor if my life may be in immediate danger. I saw a doctor when I was 12 to get a cast from a foot injury. I saw a doctor at 24 when I had some sort of blood infection spreading across my foot causing swelling and allot of pain. That's about it.

For almost a year now on the left side of my torso I will feel a slight pain or pressure that is not enough to even cause discomfort but what is going on in there? Who knows.

My left heel may have a stress fracture although it doesn't seem like one. When I am physically active all day and then I sit and rest, then resume I am often almost limping by how sore and stiff it is. After a couple minutes of walking it goes away. This started when I was in the mountains last year and has me worried about how I will do this year. Yet again what is it? Who knows! lol

It doesn't seem like a fracture though because why would it stop hurting when I walk more?

I've said it once and I will say it again, I hate being a biological organism! It sucks! Especially when we still live in the dark ages of medical science.
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Re: Cautionary Tale--dodging the bullet

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Mar 11, 2012 2:35 pm

oldranger- I am so happy all ended well.

Rogue- oldranger and I are a LOT older than you. At our age odd pains and bad feelings often ARE a symptom of somthing wrong. At your age it is more likely (although not for sure) that there is not a serious problem. Your body is pretty amazing at healing itself. You do have the internet so you can read up on medical symptoms. I just do not take any of those stupid "tests" to see if you may have x-y-z or whatever. They seem to be designed to send you to a doctor! I went without insurance MOST of my life so I can understand where you are coming from. Do take advantage of the free "health fairs". That is how I kept track of my health most of my life. Given the beating you gave your body last summer, it is not surprising that you have some lingering aches and pains. Sounds a little bit like osteoarthritis to me. I have that too. Feel fine when moving - stiffen up when I do not. The flare ups are ususally inflamation and if I can get that down everything is OK. I tolerage aspirin very well so I take low dose for a couple of weeks while doing range of movement exercise without any body pounding. Moderate bicycle riding is good for me. Everyone is different so hard to say. The other thing is tension and stress. It is really helpful to learn some targeted relaxation techniques. I know this sounds crazy, but my natural childbirth training I got before I had kids has really helped me manage all sorts of other pain. It is really little more than targeted relaxation achieved by proper breathing and how to get your mind off the pain.

The funny thing is that when I was dirt poor, I worried less about medical bills, because honestly you can pay only so much. You sort of have nothing to loose. There are good low income programs out there too. Having no insurance when I had saved quite a bit for retirement was a lot more worrisome. Insurance is expensive at my age. But if I do not have major medical coverage I could lose everything. For any of us who do not have someone or some employer paying for our insurence, there is NO DOUBT that this country's medical system is horribly BROKEN!

It might be worth your time to look into what is available. I bet you quailfy for some good low income services. I took advantage of some of those myself. I am not poor now and I pay taxes. It would make me happy if I thought my taxes could help someone like you.
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Re: Cautionary Tale--dodging the bullet

Postby dave54 » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:17 pm

Yes, the stealthy creep of aging...

Knock on wood, no major issues yet, even though I am already past the age my father had his first heart attack.

Still fighting my triglycerides, although the rest of my blood lipids and BP are good. I have a nagging 20 pounds or so that I cannot exorcise despite my ongoing efforts.

I do some sort of workout almost daily, although the cardio is not as regular as I would wish.

Chronic tinnitus and an enlarged prostate. Both common to males of our superannuation.

I have banished alcohol my my diet (few exceptions -- I still insist the requisite cold beer after mowing the lawn on a hot summer day is heavenly ambrosia and a deserved reward). Alas, even the nectar of a single malt scotch is relegated to a rare celebratory event. Eat better, more vegetables, less flesh. Surprisingly, snack foods no longer hold the allure they once did.

Oldranger and I both are reaping the benefits of a career that offered low pay, but lifetime medical coverage. at least that is some compensation.
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Re: Cautionary Tale--dodging the bullet

Postby oldranger » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:41 pm

dave54

Though long time fed employee I was never a permanent. As a term built up a little in my TSP and managed a small FERS pension. But relied on Kathy's health insurance. Now the poor woman must work til 65 to keep her insured. Considering paying for her insurance our selves so she can retire a little early. But that cuts us out of vision and dental coverage, too. At any rate just got back from a 6 mile walk along the river.

Thanks to all for good wishes but the best thanks is for you all to take care of yourselves!

Cheers!

Mike
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Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: Cautionary Tale--dodging the bullet

Postby RoguePhotonic » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:56 pm

Honestly money isn't the problem. I can afford health insurance but I choose not to buy it. I don't like the medical establishment and avoid it at all costs. If health care was free I would still not go to the doctor.

Stress is certainly a problem. All I do is stress. There is a reason I am 27 with a growing head of grey hair when my family does not have any history of early grey hair. The minds power to heal the body is very real and general relaxation goes along way to ensuring good health but there will be none of that for me. I will stop being angry and stressed out when I am dead.
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Re: Cautionary Tale--dodging the bullet

Postby dave54 » Sat Mar 17, 2012 3:24 pm

oldranger wrote:dave54

Though long time fed employee I was never a permanent....


I was not aware the NPS still did that. The USFS is moving away from hiring large numbers of temps every summer, only to lay them off, pay UI over the winter, and rehire new each spring. Of course, they are going through a general downsizing now, so the hiring pattern is currently in flux.

I was a temp for 4 years before becoming permanent, and even as a temp worked year around. 32 years later I got fed up with the bureaucracy and the judicial micromanaging and good science being trumped by political correctness and pulled the plug shortly after reaching minimum retirement age. So I have an annuity and the lifetime health benefits. Really grateful for it, but I earned it and paid for it (7.5% of salary for the pension plus an additional 10-15% into the TSP, plus paying the retiree health insurance premiums from my annuity).

I am sticking close to home right now, as I am awaiting the phone call from my daughter tellling me to come to the hospital and meet my new granddaughter (due today).
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Re: Cautionary Tale--dodging the bullet

Postby OzSwaggie » Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:16 pm

Congratulations Mike on successful survival and procedure, sounds like an experience that would rattle you (or anyone), reminder of how easily the candle can go out...

Reading the other posts makes me grateful that here in the land of Oz we have universal health care, no need to worry about private health insurance unless you fuss about having your own room in the hospital. It must be awful to have personal finances come in to decision making with life saving medical assistance, I can't really imagine that. Not that the system here is perfect either, but I think it's a difference in philosophy where appropriate medical care is seen as a social right, not a consumer product, and maybe recognition that ill health or injury is not a choice! Mike's case shows that you can do everything right and be amazingly fit and active and still get sick. (Mike I was amazed by your training regime!) . I guess this is a bit off topic, I'll stop now...
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Re: Cautionary Tale--dodging the bullet

Postby quentinc » Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:19 pm

Oz, in preparing for your visit to the U.S....

Many things that are taken as a simple matter of common sense in most of the developed world somehow manage to spark unbridled outrage and controversy here. It's part of our charm. :rolleyes: Luckily, I don't think any of this applies to the backpacking!
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Re: Cautionary Tale--dodging the bullet

Postby Cross Country » Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:34 pm

As most on this forum know I was a California public school teacher and have Medicare and before that a good health care plan. I had no real problems til 62 but for the following 4 1/2 years had lots of them (mainly heart problems). We (the US) are the only 1st world country without universal health care. I never met a conservative who was embarrassed by our backwardness. I imagine most of them would have denied me the coverage I had because I got it through my teachers union, something they seem to think is anti patriotic. It seems that they think that I and my union stole their money in the form of taxes. Without my insurance I think I would probably be dead. I know some political conservatives who would wish that on me and lots of other people too.
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