Gentle guilt

My friend Rayna sent me an e-mail today notifying me and 4 other friends that she had nominated all of us for the Kreativ Blogger Award. It's a mutual encouragement sort of thing--I was hoping for a big cash prize. So, I go to Rayna site and I find these insightful descriptions of the 5 blogs she has nominated--including mine. Only thing is, here's what she wrote:

[I nominate Russ Little because he needs a kick in the butt so he'll post more often. I love reading his posts and looking at his art cloth in process, but cheesh, it's too long a wait between posts! So get with it, Russ! Your life is too interesting not to share it with us.

I'm laughing as I write this (and I need a laugh right now) because I can hear her voice and I know she means every word of it. OK. Fine. Consider my butt kicked.

I haven't been writing for a couple of reasons. First, I've been busy. Second, I've been trying to figure out how to write about what I ought to write about--if I'm going to be honest and all that. Before I tell an abridged version of my tale of woe, remember that I'm writing this, so I'm OK. Alright, that said, let me start by saying that I've now had my first ride in an ambulance. It was OK, but I could have done without the drama.

Let's start at the beginning--the very beginning. I was born with a bicuspid aortic valve in my heart. A normal aortic valve has 3 leaflets. In my case I have only 2 of those leaflets. The valve closes but not very well. The condition is called aortic insufficiency. My parents learned about this when I was 5. It's not the best thing to know growing up, but it's given me a good sense of "things could be worse." Over time I've also developed stenosis in this valve (a thickening of the leaflets), which makes it even leakier. For years I've heard, "Someday we'll need to replace that." Someday only stays someday for so long. The last few years my doctors have been saying "Someday" then launching into discussions of different surgical techniques. Personally, I think there should be a bar in the lobby of every medical building.

Is anyone grossed out yet? Feel free to bail. I promise that's about all of the anatomy lesson. Although if you want more I think that the Society of Thoracic Surgeons has some of the best illustrations and descriptions that I found. Some people want to know these things. Don't feel bad if you're not one of them.

So...back to the ambulance. In a nutshell, Friday before last I went to the gym at lunch, did a few weight machines and didn't feel great. I did a little time on the stairmaster and felt worse. I showered, dressed, and started to get worried because I could tell that my heart rate was elevated for no good reason. I walked back to work and thought a bite to eat my help. By the time I got to my desk I was short of breath, having mild pain in my chest and knew that my BP and heart rate were both climbing. I am so blessed to work for a company that has an onsite nursing facility. We send people all over the world and it makes sense to be able to deal with the prep (and aftermath) and I think it must help with our insurance rates. Anyway a co-worker walked me to Medical. The nurse agreed that this was not a good situation and called my primary who said essentially, "Hospital, and step on it!" Parametics, dramatic exit from my place of business on a gurney with people staring, ER, blah-blah-blah---2 nights in the Howard University Hospital. Bottom line. I did not have a heart attack. This "event" is unexplained, but everyone believes that it's related to the valve. The best idea so far is that the workout intensity (it was NOT intense) cause my heart rate and BP to go up, increasing the volume of regurgetation (leaking). More exercise before recovery made it worse. Somehow things got REALLY out of hand, and as one of the attending docs put it, "Perhaps you had a little bit of failure." Excuse me? Failure? Don't say that word in front of the P-A-T-I-E-N-T.

Oy. It's been a journey. I'm going to my cardiologist's office tomorrow morning at 7:15 for a nuclear stress test. I get to run on a treadmill while they pump me full of something that gives off gamma rays so they can image the heart. I'm told it's painless--running uphill with an IV in your arm. Sure, no problem.

Sorry y'all. Probably not the news you were expecting. I wasn't expecting it either. I don't know what happens after tomorrow. We'll see how the test goes.

The shining moment in all of this was Dan, who arrived in the ER calm and reassuring, helped me manage the communication with all of my docs, kept me company, and loved me. I'm so blessed.

I promise that the next post will concern art and will include at least one picture!