Preview of Your Coming Attractions

When I retired after 40 years of writing columns for the San Jose Mercury News, I figured I'd said about all I could say. Wrong. I've realized that at age 76, I'm about 10 years older than the oldest baby boomers, who are now turning 66. My very average body has had a lot of experiences in those 10 years. I've learned a lot that could be helpful to people just starting on that same path -- what to do, what to avoid, what to keep an eye on.. Consider me your canary-in-the-coalmine for the boomer generation. Tune in regularly for the heads-up advice.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How It's Going

     You know how older people get. You ask them a simple question – “How’s it going?” – and you run the risk of getting a 20-minute dissertation on all their health problems. Way TMI.
     That being said, though, I fear that I haven’t been following my own advice about “How’s it going?” brevity much lately. A lot of these blog postings  have been health related. My health.
     That’s natural, of course. Most of us think our problems are pretty darn interesting. In my case, my problems and their solutions constitute the reason for this blog. Things have happened to me that may well happen to you, too. I want you to be prepared, not surprised.
     Still, I don’t want to be hypocritical.  I don’t want to be one of those geezers who bore friends to tears with too much detail about the workings of my innards. I want you to keep asking me, “How’s it going?” without fear.
     So I’ll simply say that I’m having surgery tomorrow to repair or replace a valve in my heart. It may leave me slightly out of touch for a while. I’ll write about it – briefly – when I’m back.
     How’s it going? That’s how.

Monday, August 13, 2012

No Fear Here

     There have been all sorts of scary predictions about what will happen to patients once Obamacare goes fully into effect. But if it’s anything like the current care offered by Kaiser Permanente, maybe the fears are misplaced. Consider my recent experience with Kaiser after I noticed I was having some heart irregularity and shortness of breath.
     Fear: It’ll take forever to see your regular doctor.
     Reality: I emailed my doctor with my symptoms and was given an appointment that same day. She slapped me in the hospital for treatment of atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure.
     Fear: It’ll take forever to see a specialist.
     Reality: I was treated while hospitalized by a hospital doctor and a cardiologist, and an appointment was made with a cardiac surgeon.
     Fear: You’ll be denied the use of the latest medical devices.
     Reality: I was given an EKG while hospitalized and a CT scan with contrast immediately after my release. I’m scheduled for a cardiac catheterization and another EKG in the immediate future.
     Fear: Medical decisions affecting me will be made by bureaucrats.
     Reality: The doctors with whom I’ve spoken directly, not faceless bureaucrats or insurance company executives, thus far have made all medical decisions.
     Fear: Remember those “death panels?”
     Reality: It has been decided that I need heart surgery to repair a malfunctioning mitral valve that seems to be the source of my problems. This decision was made by my cardiac surgeon after discussing the situation with me. My age (76) and current state of health are good enough to make a positive outcome seem likely. Had I been older or my health worse, a surgical decision also would have been agreed upon by my surgeon and me.
     That’s the story so far. I’m scheduled for non-invasive valve repair/replacement surgery at the end of the month. I’ll let you know how that turns out. But if this were Obamacare – and run on the model established by Kaiser Permanente, -- I’d still have no fears.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

You Gotta Have Heart

My apologies for taking so long to get this post up. You see, I’ve had a couple of adventures.
     The first was a two-week trip to Switzerland with my wonderful wife Geri, a celebration of our 50 years of marriage. (More about that in the “Something Different” section to the right).
     The second was what happened to me during and after that trip. (More about that below.)
       For all of the vacation, I was feeling somewhat out of breath. I figured that was because of the altitude – we got up to 11,000 feet – and the excitement of seeing so many beautiful things. But when I got back home to sea level and the shortness of breath persisted, I thought I probably should call my doctor. I did, she agreed, and promptly slapped me into the hospital for four days of treatment for atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure. Those last three words shocked me. I figured you only heard them in conjunction with an obituary.
     Turns out congestive heart failure can be a process, as well as a single, final event. In my case, those two weeks of shortness of breath and irregular, rapid heartbeat were signs that something needed serious fixing.
     Medication brought the heart rate back into the ballpark. But it seems the cause of all my problems is the mitral valve in my heart. I’ve had mitral valve prolapse all my life – for me, it’s congenital – and now, after 76 years, that valve is starting to act too funky for my own good.
     It needs repair, which is scheduled for the end of this month via non-invasive surgery. I’ll let you know how everything turns out.
     But your main take-away from all this should be the reminder that if anything seems amiss in your life, health wise, call your doctor. Don’t delay. Get it fixed.
     I wouldn’t want to read about congestive heart failure in your obituary.