I walked two miles with my wife each night after work in three of our four Wisconsin seasons. The loop through our neighborhood passed from an open area lined with Ash trees through wooded areas. The road gradually dropped and rose about 200 feet in one wooded area and then dropped the same distance more steeply, rising just before returning to our home. In the fall, the 35-y-o Ash trees blazed bright yellow under the warm sun, and the woods provided shade and whispering breezes.
Time passes, and things change. The Ash trees are gone, save for the ones in front of my house and my neighbor’s. Several years ago, I put letters in everyone’s mailbox pointing out that imidacloprid soil soaks, or even professional tree injections, were cheaper than removing dead trees. One distant neighbor treated his trees for a year before giving them up to the Emerald Ash Borer, and the guy next door seems to be hanging in there, along with me. But two yards with trees don’t provide the same beauty we used to enjoy.
Beginning in the summer of 2021, I avoided the usual path down a road that led to a cul-de-sac. My wife continued that route without me as I stood and caught my breath for ten minutes—no big deal. I was 60 yrs old, after all. My build is the same as when I ran track and cross country in high school, but youth fades, and my doctor said I was only getting a little older.
In 2022, I cut off half of the loop and returned home while my wife, accompanied by our dogs, did the rest. The conversation stopped because I couldn’t string more than three words together. Besides, I often forgot what I was saying halfway through a sentence and couldn’t remember some words.
In April, I asked for a chest x-ray, worrying I had lung damage even though I don’t smoke. The test was normal, but my dyspnea worsened. I dreaded going to the second floor for a forgotten item and resting for five minutes afterward. Finally, I gave in to my wife’s pressure and asked for a stress test.
In July, I collapsed two minutes into the stress test. The NP put a pulse-ox on my finger – 83%. That got the attention of me and everyone else in the room. The NP worked on getting me to a cardiologist within a month. Her next suggestion probably saved my life: “you might want to get a cardiac calcium scan. It is only $49, and we can do it tomorrow.” I signed up.
A day after the scan, the results showed up on my app. No calcium. Good news, but not exactly as I was hoping. The next day my phone rang over and over while I was with patients. When I eventually answered, the nurse on the line told me that I had to get to the clinic within 10 minutes. When I said I was with patients and could come later in the day, she said I couldn’t drive and offered to send an ambulance. I told her that my wife would bring me, and she said that would be OK only if she picked me up right at the door and I didn’t walk through the parking lot.
The nurse met me with a wheelchair at the clinic door and took me to a hall by the CT scanner. A cardiac ECHO tech came from another hallway and said she needed to do an ECHO while they got the CT ready. By the end of the day, I learned that a large mass was blocking most of my right pulmonary artery. I started Eloquis, and doctors scheduled more tests and appointments.
A few days later, a cardiologist had his assistant listen to my chest to hear a classic ‘gallop.’ For months I wondered why my laptop bounced when it rested against my stomach, and I learned that my right heart now extended over it. Then, near the start of the appointment, my new pulmonologist said, “you need to get to San Diego.” I thought he was crazy.
I wrote about my eventful summer in real-time, mainly so that my patients could follow my progress and learn, as quickly as possible, whether they needed to find a new doctor. I removed most of those entries and comments with the intent of publishing them on a different blog that isn’t focused on healthcare or addiction. I’ll go to that site and post them later today in case anyone is interested. Please realize that I wrote the later posts when I was sleeping very little, recovering from surgery. Some dates are off, and I can’t vouch for my punctuation. I experienced mild psychosis, and my brain was stunned by six hours without blood flow and a body temperature of 64 degrees, so I know you’ll forgive me!
I intend to write about the process with a clearer head. My wife/office manager helped me keep our 400 patients set with their medications and prior authorizations throughout the process, a feat that warrants documentation! More than that, I took notes about good aspects of the journey through the healthcare system and situations where improvement is warranted.
I will interrupt this personal narrative with a post about the vaccine adverse event reporting system, VAERS, and describe the problems with the current system at a time when every article about COVID mentions the little-used reporting system. I need to link that post to the events of last summer in order for people to understand my point.
Most posts in this blog attempt to point out discrepancies between reality and the mainstream opinion of those who should know better or between the government’s stated goals and the path their experts choose to get to those goals. I make similar points on the new blog that might not be as directly linked to healthcare. As always, thank you for following along.