Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sixty-Three

Today is my birthday. I am 63.

When I turned 60, I was a little spooked about it. 50, 40, and 30 were nothing, really, but entering my 60s was, I admit, a little scary. When you get into your 60s, people start thinking of you as old, not simply middle-aged. It's just an arbitrary point along a continuum, to be sure, but we measure our ages in integers, and 60 is a lot of integers.

That was 3 years ago. A lot has happened in 3 years. My little girl, who was just coming up on 4 then, is now coming up on 7. She is learning to play the piano and has gotten quite good at riding a two-wheeler. These are the things that make the passage of time enjoyable. Less enjoyable: the shock of finding out I have heart disease.

Looking back on it now, it's obvious that something was wrong. I was wiped out at the end of the day. I couldn't recover from sprints when cycling, and just couldn't manage the distances I used to do. By December, I was plain worn out, but I attributed these things to stress and possibly low testosterone. I never would have believed I had heart disease if the wife hadn't nagged me into getting my blood pressure rechecked; if my doctor hadn't been astute enough to perform an office EKG and to order a stress EKG when she saw the results.

That was in February. In March, I had an angiogram that confirmed heart disease. They placed a stent in my LAD artery. To wit:

Because the LAD provides much of the bloodflow for the left ventricle, which in turn provides much of the propulsive force for ejecting oxygenated blood to systemic circulation via the aorta, blockage of this artery is particularly associated with mortality. In the medical community ischemic heart attacks associated with this blood vessel are colloquially called "the widowmaker."
A month later, they placed another one, in my RCA artery, which  supplies most of the blood to the right ventricle. In both cases, I had blockages exceeding 90%.

After a period of recuperation, my cardiologist pronounced me fit to pursue a normal schedule of activities, including an aggressive exercise program. The hope is that a combination of exercise and drugs will begin to clear the arterial plaque that has been building up for years, to the point where it took me within a millimeter of death.

So 63. So what? I'm above ground, and now that my arteries are open, the ticker is getting all of the blood it needs. I rode my bike to work today, and I'm going to ride it home. And I won't be tired and wondering what's wrong.

Happy Birthday to Me.

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