The DVT/pulmonary embolism recovery marches on. No setbacks so far, knock wood.
Today I ran some errands in the car. I was not the least bit tired nor did I experience any shortness of breath. The spirometer indicates that my lung capacity is still lower than normal but there is no huffing and puffing and my heart rate isn’t jumping into the red zone with minor exertion.
Only a few days ago, I was having difficulty getting the spirometer up to 2,000 ml. Last night and today I hit or exceeded 2,500. I still can’t hold it in my lungs for than a second though.
After lolling around most of the day, I went into the basement for a riding and reading session. Today I lasted 1:03 and I pedaled much harder than yesterday. So I am calling the “mileage” at 12 miles.
I was not the least bit uncomfortable during the ride. I didn’t feel that sharp pain in my left calf as I did yesterday. And there were no stabbing pains in my right lung.
I may be going nowhere but I’m getting somewhere.
I made appointments to see a hematologist and a pulmonologist in the coming weeks. The pulmonologist saw me in the hospital. She’s calming and is a good communicator. I will not be using hematologist from the hospital. He made it clear that he’s inclined to keep me on blood thinners for life. I want a second opinion. My doctor thinks very highly of a hematologist in his building so I am going with his recommendation.
At the doctor’s office yesterday, I weighed 203 pounds, six pounds more than on the very same scale a month ago. Perhaps it is a coincidence but in the last six days I have downed six apple fritters, prescribed by the mental health professionals Rachel C. and Katie B. Suffice it to say, my pants are fitting a tad snuggly. My mood is good though.
As has been the case since I came home from the hospital, I felt a little better today physically. It snowed overnight. As much as I wanted to go out and shovel the inch of powder, Mrs. Rootchopper would have nothing of it and handled the chore with ease.
For most of the day I hung out reading and waiting for the mechanic to call about Mrs. Rootchopper’s car. The year and a half old battery died. Completely. It won’t even hold a charge. So the mechanics put in a new one. Then they checked the oil and found the dipstick dry. Oops. I hope this is not the beginning of old car syndrome, the affliction that kills both your car and your bank account.
While waiting for the mechanic to finish, I went into the basement and rode Big Nellie. It was my first ride or exercise of any sort since the embolism. I took it easy and noted a number of interesting things:
My megamileage base will serve me well. My legs were not the least bit stressed.
I felt a distinct cramping in my left calf. I never cramp so I am assuming that what I was feeling was the deep vein thrombosis, the source of the blood clots in my lungs. So there you are you little bugger.
About 25 minutes into the ride, I felt the familiar stabbing pain in my right lung. I backed off my pedaling, dropped to a lower gear, and the pain went away. (It’s a 3 out of 10 on the objective pain scale.)
I felt numbness in my calves. Since I have nerve issues in my legs whenever I ride my recumbent I thought nothing of it. The numbness went away once I stood up and walked around for a minute.
As I rode I read my book. Oddly, I read much faster when I am spinning my legs than when I am just sitting in a chair. I put the reading to a secondary use. I spent one page on each cog, going up and down the cassette in the middle ring. Then I shifted to the big ring and did the same. At no time was I out of breath but my heart rate was higher than normal for the effort I was putting out.
All told, I rode 52 minutes. I’d say the equivalent of about 8 1/2 miles at the pace I was going (about 10 miles per hour).
It’s not much, but it’s a start. Now that all the fritters are gone (oink) I can hope to gradually increase my time and intensity on the bike and drift ever so gently back below the Mendoza line.
I was being a good boy. Except for one holiday party, I had greatly curtailed my alcohol consumption since my bike tour. And I’ve stayed out of the junk food cabinet for two months. So I did the math: much less alcohol + no junk food + daily riding = pulmonary embolism.
Sooo, let’s reconsider. My recovery plan: more alcohol + junk food out the wazoo + daily sloth = bicycling fitness monster. What could go wrong?
In the hospital, my thinking was all about denial. I am going to get better in record time. No problem. My body, apparently, has other ideas. This is going to take a while. My body gets a little tiny bit stronger by the day. I am, however, a long, long way from being back to anything approaching normal.
Ever since the event rides I did in August and early September, I’ve been wondering if something was wrong with me. I went from a bad climber to a horrible climber this year. My 50 States team had to wait for me at the top of every hill. It was embarrassing. Whenever I started climbing, my speed dropped like a stone and I had no ability to get it back. Was I throwing clots into my lungs this summer? Was my strong heart kicking out unnoticed clots for weeks? Whatever the answer, I am betting that I have much more cardiopulmonary fitness than the average PE patient. My doctors were pretty funny remarking on it too. I look like the average man on the street until you measure my vital signs and take an EKG. (Better knock some wood, right?)
I’ve been reading, watching movies, watching sports, and hanging with my family. This has really lifted my spirits. If I stop and think about things, my brain goes into weepy mode. Thankfully, it’s nothing like true depression. A tear here and there actually kind of helps. Even having not meditated in several days, I am confident that I have the mental part of this sussed. I need to be vigilant. Hearing words of support from friends and family and readers helps a ton. I am truly grateful.
Spiro, the spirometer, is not my friend. Spiro, you are dead meat. I am coming after you. I may be a wimp now but just you wait. I am going to kick your ass.
Since most of the clots and the pleural infarction are on my right side, I can sleep comfortably on my left side, which is how I prefer to sleep. If I turn over onto my left side, my breathing becomes shallow and labored.
My family gave me four books for Christmas. And cold weather cycling gear. I won’t make much use of the latter in the days ahead, but the books will come in handy. Once I get some strength back, I’ll be reading with Big Nellie.
Tomorrow we go for diner breakfast and the new Star Wars movie. Then I write some thank you cards. And we’ll see about some very light exercise too.
We had an ice storm overnight. Last winter, during the aftermath of a similar storm, I went outside to fetch the paper. After one step, I did a classic Charlie Chaplin pratfall and ended up (fortunately) in a bush next to my front door. This year I wised up and just said the paper can wait.
Last week I brought Big Nellie into the basement for just such an occasion. Also, earlier in the year I replaced the florescent light above the bike with an LED shoplight. They switched to LED lighting in the garage at work and it makes an immense difference.
So today I am riding underground. I will be multitasking with Elvis Costello’s memoir. By the end of winter, I will find it hard to read without my feet spinning.
By the way, the trike in the background is my son’s. He’s about to turn 25. Do you think he’ll mind if I take it for a spin?