On January 26th, I took a bus to a place that left me an eleven minute walk to LifeStyles, my fitness center in Tampa. The sun was brilliant, the weather comfortable and best of all everything was flat. We heart transplant recipients like flat!
I was excited because I was returning to Albany for a series of meetings with doctors and I expected to be the bearer of good news. My weight was increasing and it ,as muscle.
After a prescribed forty minute workout, which concentrated on a series of lower leg exercises and stretches outlined by my conscientious trainer, Zach, I turned to my pretty feeble upper body exercises. Suzanne would walk to the fitness center from Davis Island and we would walk more than two miles home. Suzanne is inspirational and a good conversationalist to boot. All in all, it was a great cardio and strength program. Life was good.
On Thursday, January 27th, I exercised at home and seemed to be breathing with effort. On Friday morning, I could barely mange to walk fifty feet. On Saturday, we managed the flight home, but I was forced to stop for frequent rests after very short distances. I could not lift my travel bag.
By Saturday night we were home but a fever had arrived. After my 2100 meds, the fever decreased. On Sunday, the fever returned and did not diminish after either the 0900 or 2100 medications.
On Monday, I called my friend and cardiologist Dr. O, who listened to the symptoms and suggested I get on a plane back to Tampa. I notified Tampa General and was instructed to stay in Albany and get to an emergency room. When stabilized, I could return to my home away from home, the Mirasol and Tampa General.
Today is February 28th, I have moved from one hospital to another, Albany Medical Center, where I have received the courteous, professional services of a team of health care specialists and support staff that do the medical profession proud.
I have been discharged twice and been hospitalized two days later in both cases. As Dr. Philbin, who suggested the good news was that I was not in rejection but the bad news was that the cause of my symptoms was unknown combined with information from the first hospital that was slow in arriving.
My difficulty walking was especially puzzling and frustrating. An ultra sound for my legs was ordered and the young administrator began to unravel the knot. Major blood clots were found in every vein in my lower legs.
A series of thoracic, abdominal and pelvic ultra sounds were ordered and things now took on an alarming feel and look. The intensity of the staff and testing really intensified.
After a series of catscans, Dr. Philbin presented the news that I had a pulmonary embolism and a blood distribution system riddled with a large number of blood clots. A Pulmonary expert was added to the team and a hematologist, Dr. B, joined the group. Morning rounds by the AMC team were informative and the physicians of the teaching center actually took the time to answer questions.
Of course, the possibility of cancer was present and added an undercurrent of tension that I found difficulty controlling. After four days of waiting, “there were no cancerous sources although I had an enlarged and unhealthy spleen and gall bladder that would need to be removed.
That happened today by Dr. Stain, who I cannot wait to thank tomorrow. For the first time in three weeks, I have energy. This will mark the third time I have had to begin the recovery by learning to walk. There is so much to say about this three week period. Much of the information exposes the strengths and definite weaknesses in the health care system.
There are still hard questions that will need to be answered.
But, you know what, I am ready to start again. I really like my health care team in Albany and I really like the Tampa General cardiology, psychological and transplant surgery departments.
This experience was the first time in this process that I thought about dying, but perhaps this will drive my recovery. And, the Yankees are starting Spring Training in Tampa. It could be worse.