My Heart’s Journey: Getting back to normal is the goal

Published 12:26 am Monday, March 14, 2016

This is part of a series of articles about the writer’s recent open-heart surgery and recovery process.

By Ty Cobb

I hope that “Booo!” at the end of my previous column did not scare you too much, but it terribly scared me while I was “out” for three and a half days in Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte. My problem was pretty uncommon but it has abated at this point.

I am having trouble getting my body in sync with the Coumadin I am taking to reducing the risk of blood clotting. This, in turn, decreases the possibility of a stroke re-occurrence. This requires me to get a blood test very two weeks (sometimes once a week). When the test is conducted, it is a quick test read and I wait (about 15 minutes) to get a new dosage adjustment. That may take a continuing set of adjustments to the Coumadin. Goodness, I have adjustments to the dosage about eight weeks. There goes that old bag of chemicals in my old body!

The Coumadin will ease the risk of clotting but it does cause one problem. Of course, you knew that was coming. Because the medicine thins the blood, it is going to cause you to be more sensitive to the cold. My caregiver (my wife) and I are constantly moving the thermostat up and down (always fighting the “thermostat wars”). I always lose that battle, but she is right. I surely do not want another stroke.

Last week I had a consultation with my neurologist from the Novant Stroke Center in Winston-Salem. He was pleased with my recovery from the stroke and making it so well through the open heart surgery. I told him that I still have problems remembering people, except those that I have interfaced with for years. He feels that is normal for the stroke I had. I also sometimes “search” for the right words when conversing with people (and this article!). Barring any new problems caused by my (October) stroke, he feels he no longer needs to see me. I feel good about this even though I know I am not as good at interfacing as I was before the stroke. I may never be as “normal ” as I was before the stroke, but I am going to try my darnedest to get “there.”

I am in my 10th week since my open heart surgery; I have also just completed my second week of rehab at the Rowan Novant Cardiac Rehabilitation and Wellness Center. I do not know how to determine how well this center is, as I have never been in such a place. But, I am impressed!

A class of up to 12 participants meets for three one-hour sessions per week. Most insurance companies will pay up to 36 sessions with cardiologist supervision. The cardiologist determines when rehab is no longer needed or further care is needed. Most “patients” have had some type of cardiac surgery or they might simply have some abnormality in the heart’s function that may be corrected by the rehab exercise. At each session there will be three to five nurses or “techs” that supervise the patients. Patients wear an electronic monitor that records their heart function throughout the entire the session. In addition, the heart function is actually producing an instant echocardiogram every time a patient’s heart beats. Weight, blood pressure and blood oxygen level are all measured periodically. The key information has all been left in a computer so that the supervising cardiologist can “pull up” this data for patient review. The cardiologist has a great “picture” of a patient’s heart while going through his/her workout routine.

I am very impressed with the very professional folks at the Wellness Center with whom I deal. Salisbury is lucky to have such a facility in Rowan County.

Patients also get periodic oral instruction on pertinent subjects such as the heart function and diet. I have come to define diet as “things you love to eat you cannot have.”

Sorry. Gotta go. Time for my afternoon milkshake!

Ty Cobb lives in Rowan County.