Tuesday, May 17, 2016

An Encounter with a Gator, the CLOSE Kind!

Sparky said she was going to tell you all about kayaking on the Braden River, so here goes....She's ready to go kayaking...

And because she's saving for a new kayak, she has to rent one. No better place to rent one than down at Jiggs Landing, which is a hop, skip, and a jump behind her subdivision. Jiggs Landing is a marvelous place, a former fishing camp that recently underwent renovations and got a family to run concessions. There are "throw back to the forties" fishing cabins, which are now getting AC to make them more comfortable. There's a new parking lot, a boat ramp, a nifty floatable kayak launch, a nice playground, and a beautiful boardwalk to view the wildlife from the reservoir, which leads out to the Braden River. Kayaks can be rented for 20.00 for four hours, a reasonable rate! They are short, though, only 10 footers, but that's a great size for just lazy day paddling along the river....The staff at Jiggs are very friendly, and keep a close eye on things.  One day Sparky went out with her brother when he came for a visit. We were going to paddle all the way to Linger Lodge, a cool old Florida tavern in an old RV campground with lots of taxidermy stuff, a big screened in porch and live entertainment. It's about a two and a half hour paddle. We stopped there, Charlie had a beer and Sparky had a root beer. As it was getting late in the day, Sparky's better half called Jiggs Landing rental shop and just said we might be a little delayed, since closing time was getting close. They are thinking, ok, drinking at Linger Lodge Tavern, we'd better check on them. We were almost all the way back, when here comes a pontoon boat coming up the river with a park staff member, looking for us. Guess they had some previous experience with drinkers along the river, but it wasn't us! We were fine..."You sure?" as he checked us out very carefully... "Yep! We're fine!"

Back to the paddle today....You never know what you are going to see....Sparky started out slowly up the river, (it's not much of a current), and she soon saw a flash of colors on a duck, it was a WOOD duck, one of the most beautiful ducks in duck world, in her opinion! Woo hoo! She loves these ducks! He was all by himself as far as she could tell.
On she went....There are beautiful plants along the river, sometimes Sparky will only see just one bloom of a certain kind....Sparky doesn't know the names of this one, it could just be a weed, but this one caught her eye....it was gorgeous!

A beautiful red cardinal.....
She saw a banana tree in someone's yard that lives along the river...Wonder if they taste good?
Some more beautiful river plants....
The reflections on the river were so pretty....

And get a load of this! Sparky was floating along and came up along side a tri-colored heron...she snapped the shot with her camera phone, and not till AFTER she got home and posted it did she notice the bird's foot clamped down on top of a turtle! Don't know if the bird was just resting, claiming the turtle for a later lunch, or if the turtle got away....Cool beans! (Doesn't Judy say that, of Travels with Emma fame?)
What else happened on this eventful kayak trip? (Uh, yeah, Sparky...remember your title? reminds E.)

Yep...Getting there....Sparky sees a gator...no big deal...Sparky sees at least one gator every time she goes on the Braden River. This one was about 100 yards in front of her boat. Sparky kept paddling. No worries, the gator will see her coming and slowly submerge to get out of the way before she gets close enough to take a good photo. He doesn't move... Sparky keeps paddling....He doesn't move...He is now directly in front of her kayak bow. Sparky gets out her phone and takes a quick photo. She is not sure what he might do, so she needed both hands on her paddle to be ready....But she's not worried. (Sparky is stubborn and is a little bit of a risk taker, explains Eldo.) Notice he said LITTLE bit of a risk taker. Sparky has seen and photographed LOTS of gators. They are NOT interested in a bright green hard shell kayak, 99.9% of the time. Sparky was NOT worried....He was not a huge gator. So she kept moving forward expecting him to submerge or swim away from her at any moment. He never did. Sparky went RIGHT OVER THE GATOR'S BACK and could feel the bumpy ridges under her seat as she went over him, (at least she would swear she could)..."OMG, I JUST RAN OVER AN ALLIGATOR!!!!!" That was a little bit unnerving to say the least! 

Nothing else can top THAT experience of the day! Only as she was floating by the shoreline (following it fairly closely after that unusual experience), she just casually glanced off to the right and saw another BIG gator sunning himself on a log, that one was less than ten yards from her.

It was a fabulous day on the Braden River today.....and exciting, too! The next time you see Sparky, she will be in Houston visiting her little grandson! Soon to follow that will be Sparky and Eldo heading to Alaska!   See you later!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Bike Rides are NOT Boring in Bradenton!

Hi, folks...Sparky's on vacation...NOT! Not really, just going to blog today in first person...Me, Jeannie Sparks, a.k.a. "Sparky." Well, time to post a collage or two of nature's beauty that I have seen in the last several months on my 12-15 mile bike rides a couple times a week in the residential areas of Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch, a beautiful master planned community adjacent to where we live.....These are some of my favorite photos..Got lots more...But thought it would be nice to collage a set, although you can't see all the details that way. The bee in the middle is having a "bath" in a magnolia blossom. He was just diving in and out and all around in the fallen pistols (?) stamens (?) or whatever that magnolia "stuff" is. Then, when he realized there was a great big HUMAN photographing him, he started doing a wild and crazy warning dance to another bee who had alighted on the same blossom, who didn't pay him much attention. Down on the bottom right, a young heron with an itch....

I have been really lucky in all the nature and wildlife sightings that have graced my bike rides. Most of the time I use my iPhone 6S for the closeup nature and flower shots, and for the longer distance sightings, I have used my little point and shoot Canon camera that has 30X zoom for quite some time now.  I'm not very happy with it because often the birds' feathers are washed out, but I'm sure that's the amateur in me, not knowing how to fix that...I know that time of day is very important, so I try to take photos early in the morning and near sunset in the evening, as those are prime times, but my photos still look overexposed many times.

I've tried experimenting with different settings on the point and shoot, but I can't seem to figure out how to get improved visibility of bird feathers with this type of camera. Years ago, I thought a Nikon SLR camera would be more to my liking, but it wasn't portable enough and I found that it was taking so much time to switch out lenses and get the right settings that I gave up. I'm not a very patient person on things like that. I needed something a lot more simpler to grab and go, so I'm back to the Canon SX500 IS that I use, and my iPhone 6S, which takes amazing landscape and amazing close up photos. Some day I will upgrade my point and shoot again, and hope for a little better quality of detail on my photos when using that kind of camera. But I am REALLY happy with the iPhone 6S. Twice now, my iPhone photos that I submitted to a local newspaper were chosen to be featured as the photo of the week. Here's my latest chosen photo, a bee on a bristlecone flower, taken with the iPhone 6S, and published in the Observer, our local weekly newspaper.

When you are retired, you can stop and look at the darnedest things that capture your interest, just because you can. Sometimes, it's the bees on the flowers that captivate me....

Sometimes, it's the patterns on water or leaves that interest me.....

At any and ALL times, it's roseate spoonbills! (Yep, can't tell you how many times Sparky has yelled, "STOP! There's a spoonbill! Stop the car!" laughs E.) Just today, I happened upon a flock of seven spoonbills at a local park here in Sarasota. I have not seen a flock of spoonbills in over a year, maybe two. Just one here or there, but today, there were SEVEN of them! They were in a ditch over at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, by UTC mall, having a feeding frenzy, not seeming to mind that people were walking by not too far from them. Usually, spoonbills are quite the elusive bird, and skittish around people. Not these....Here are three out of the seven....

Captured this spoonbill shot at a marsh that I ride by at least three times a week. It's on River Club road, in and around Lakewood Ranch, part of my 12-15 mile ride that I do about three times a week.
This is with my Canon point and shoot, 30X zoom...No doctoring at all of the photo...natural light, that's the bird's actual colors, everything just came together on this one.

I always see tricolored herons on my ride....

And a new batch of sandhill crane babies with their mom and dad....In case you missed them, they are at the bottom right of the photo....
The one day I was watching these little cuties late in the afternoon......

A small herd of deer passed directly to the right of me and crossed over the road to the other side...I have never seen a herd of deer, not even one or two deer in this residential area in the three years I've lived in Bradenton!

Saw this egret and spoonbill together in the same big marsh one day, that I pass by every time on my bike..It's a big marsh on River Club Road in Bradenton in Lakewood Ranch. Usually WONDERFUL sightings there, but not always...
A wonderful place to observe wildlife, Bradenton really has it all......You just have to keep your eyes open to see it and take your time....Until next time, when Sparky gets out on the Braden River to kayak!  See you later!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

In the Meantime.... How's Eldo Doing?

Eldo is doing well...It's 2 1/2 months since quadruple bypass surgery..Eldy is driving, walking 30 minutes a day, and just recently got back on his bike.  He is also back to playing golf twice a week. He has very little discomfort of any kind. No chest pains or "pulls" as he describes it--a pulling sensation as if gravity were tugging his chest down to the floor, which is what he had felt for the first month and more after surgery. He is having a lot of trouble sleeping, that's his only complaint right now. He is just really really restless when it's time to go to sleep and sometimes he can't fall asleep. We don't think it's related to any medications he's taking...(Plavix and Lipitor, blood pressure medicine and a vitamin.) He still has numbness along his right leg where they took an artery from the leg to do one of the bypasses. The numbness might never go away, the dr. said, but he can live with that. His biggest complaint is his chest hairs growing back in prickly. :-) (Eldy is a hairy guy, it's just not on the top of his head!) If that's his biggest complaint, he's made it almost back to where he was. He still tires easily, and the simplest activities remind him that he still has a long way to go as far as stamina goes.

What have Sparky and Eldo been up to lately?  A trip to Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island one Sunday....What did we see and do? A great blue heron high up in the pines preening....

A little girl peeking out from a changing station at the beach, watching the passers-by on the boardwalk.....

We took a beautiful walk along the boardwalk.....Eldo is still trying to keep up his walking, so we walked the boardwalk, which is a lovely, shaded with Australian pines, long walk parallel to the beach...
We saw a circus performer wannabe.....set up a cord between two trees and then practice over and over to try and keep his balance. Sparky went over and talked to him. He wasn't really aiming for the circus, he just wanted to achieve this goal of being able to walk a tightrope.

We've been going to Anna Maria Island's Gulf Gate Cafe for Sunday breakfasts now and then....We love the vibe out there....

After breakfast at the restaurant, we drive over to the city pier to see what the fishermen are catching...

Eldy celebrated his 68th birthday this month....He's got a new lease on life....Doctors have told him several times it's a miracle he didn't experience a heart attack before they fixed him, with the "widow maker" 90% blocked. We may be doing a little traveling soon to celebrate... We celebrated his birthday dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in Sarasota, in our opinion...healthy, fresh food cooked by a wonderful chef...Paul Mattison, at Mattison's City Grille, in downtown Sarasota. The food is presented beautifully...This salad looks ordinary, but the tomatoes had the most wonderful flavor...white balsamic vinagrette dressing...yum!
Sparky's dinner....Extra rare steak, of course! Eldy had a wonderful meatloaf dinner...
And for dessert.....Mango cheesecake for Eldy....
We are truly blessed to live in such a beautiful area and for Eldy to be on his way to being healthier.....Although Sparky complains a LOT about the heat, (and HOW! laughs E.), she loves her subbing job and as long as we can get away some times in the summer, she'll try to not complain as much. :-)

Bye for now......

Monday, April 4, 2016

Sparky Visits Cheatham Annex and Her Daughter in Williamsburg, VA

If you are member of the military, you have some wonderful, reasonable places to stay as an RVer or family member of the soldier. Sparky's daughter, Kelly, invited Sparky to come for a visit to Williamsburg, VA where she was running a 5K race in Colonial Williamsburg AND she had a reservation at a cabin at the Navy base there, Cheatham Annex, also known as CAX.  What a fantastic place! The base is considered a small one but boy, did it have the options for fun and it was absolutely beautiful! We stayed in a modern cabin with lots of amenities.....

We were there for four days...It is located in the heart of Williamsburg, just minutes from the "historic triangle" of Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown and the beautiful Colonial Parkway and is on the York River...It supplies Atlantic fleet ships and provides recreational opportunities to military and civilian personnel. It has an RV park which appeared to be relatively new and modern, it has cottages for both non-pet owners and those who have furry friends. A link to the RV park and cabins: http://www.militarycampgrounds.us/virginia/cheatham-annex-recreation-cabins-and-rv-park
There are 69 RV sites and 31 cottages on the base which has 2,3001 acres of woodlands and three freshwater lakes. Some of the recreational activities that are there...bike rentals, canoe rentals, boat rentals (kayaks and rowboats), fishing, hiking and golfing is available at a nearby course. We loved the trails there, as they wind around the annex, skirting the bay.

We spent four wonderful days exploring the historical part of Williamsburg, albeit that part somewhat briefly because we were having so much fun checking out the shops, museums and restaurants and a Black American History Tour in addition to walking the trails on base and watching Kelly run her race. We did  not purchase any of the tours to go into the different shops of historic Williamsburg. Instead, we got an overall view of the town and its history through an African American tour with Trish, a very knowledgable tour guide with the Williamsburg Walking Tours. African Americans comprised HALF of the city of Williamsburg in the 18th century. We learned a LOT about this city's history with Trish. She gave us excellent background to set the stage for learning about some of the African American citizens and store owners who fought to earn their freedom, to keep their freedom and a lot of interesting history tidbits that have never been spoken about in history books. Unfortunately, Sparky lost her notes she took while on the tour so you'll just have to ask for Trish's tour! She wrote it and got it on the books for the tour company, Williamsburg Walking Tours, to offer to you. She also does a haunted ghost walking tour, and we would have LOVED to have taken that tour, but we ran out of time. She had some interesting side bits of stories to tell us about personal experiences with people on the haunted spirits tour, both in the flesh and not of the flesh! Sparky got shivers up and down her spine....

The buildings in Williamsburg are amazing, of course! We chose to focus on the outside of the town on our first visit...Noticing all the period costumes....the double brick bridges on the Colonial Parkway.....

the Governor's Palace....

The 300 year old Bruton Episcopal Church still having services....

the cloche jars covering the plants from the cold in a Williamsburg garden...

Kelly ran a 5K race while we were there and it was terrific! The race was started by a drum and fife corps...They walked all the runners from the William and Mary College campus to the race starting line, playing and drumming the whole way. The race started with a musket shot! It was inspiring to say the least!
We took the Alewerk's Brewery Tour...It's a small brewery but has great beer. Sparky doesn't drink beer, but Kelly reports the beer was great!  Sparky bought Sparky Jr. (Kelly) a cool growler mug. For us in the U.S., we thought we drank a lot of beer nationwide (20 gallons a year per beer drinking person) but in the Czech Republic, they drink 40 gallons per person a year! We learned that your palate changes about every 7 years which explains why Sparky never used to like mushrooms, and now she does. :-)
We experienced some of the local restaurants and can recommend DoG Street Pub, for tavern fare, Water Street Grille on the Yorktown River Waterfront (a little pricier but well worth it!) and Shorty's Diner on Merrimac Trail in Williamsburg, for breakfast.

We visited the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum and Dewitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum--TWO museums in one. This was one of the most beautiful museums we have ever seen. The layout was fantastic, the exhibits were laid out beautifully, the explanations and signs were well lit and easily readable, unlike other museums we have seen in our travels. There was a fantastic display of African American quilts while we were there....Some of the other exhibits were the Thunderbirds jewelry of Santa Domingo, outdoor folk art, innovative 18th century fire fighting techniques, the evolution of spinets, harpsichords and pianos, and birds, bugs and blooms from the 18th century....a very eclectic choice of exhibits to appeal to a broad range of interests!

The photo on the left is in the Birds, Bugs and Blooms exhibit.

Our short visit drew to a close...

We can highly recommend the Cheathem Annex naval base as a place to stay for  military members and their families...Great location, close to everything, nature in your backyard, the ocean and water activities right there, too. Accommodations were fantastic....

We loved our hikes together on the Cheathem annex campground trails....and Moxie, Kelly's dog, loved it, too! It was a fabulous way to spend time with Kelly...Thank you, Kelly, for taking Mom on this wonderful trip....xoxoxoxo

We will leave you with this beautiful closing shot in colonial Williamsburg....A beautiful scene as daylight was coming to a close.....We will definitely go back to Williamsburg again some day...There's so much more to see...Thanks for stopping by today to have a read....

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

How's Eldo Doing? Recovery Notes After Quadruple Bypass

Eldy's surgery was February 3, 2016. It was relatively quick, a three hour surgery and he came home from the hospital on the morning of the fifth day after surgery. You can read about the preliminaries leading up to his hospitalization, why he had to have a bypass and his hospital experience here. To review quickly, with no previous heart troubles, an episode of pain one day and his family doctor's diligence ("We haven't seen you in awhile and think you should come in") and notice of heart disease in his family, a series of visits led Eldy to have a quadruple bypass. He had an artery stripped from his leg and his mammary artery from his chest for the quadruple bypass. He had a six inch scar incision on his chest, a little puncture wound near his right ankle, and a more major scar of about two inches further up the leg on the same right leg nearer to his knee where they took the leg artery out. He had little wounds and scabs all over his chest where he had had monitors and little electrode pads attached to his skin from the surgery.

When he came home, he had a new regimen, pills and walking...The pills consisted of Lipitor, a statin, which is supposed to help lower heart related events by lowering cholesterol (preventing additional heart damage or heart attacks), Metropolol, a drug used to treat high blood pressure and angina, a pain medication called Ultram,  Lasix,  a diuretic to remove excess water from the body (which made him pee five to seven times a night, and Plavix, a drug used to inhibit blood clots, so I guess you could say a blood thinner. All these names are the common names for the medications. A baby aspirin was in the regimen as well. Not only that, but he also had to take Pepcid (over the counter) the first week he was home as he was having trouble with indigestion and belching constantly! Eldy had not been on any previous medication whatsoever prior to his experiencing some initial chest and arm pain that happened before all the events leading to the visit to a  cardiologist, except for the start of some blood pressure medication, metropolol, which his doctor started him on before the sequence of events leading to the bypass surgery.

Directions for recovery at home: He was told not to push or pull on anything, that meant he couldn't use his arms to push himself up out of a chair, nor could he bend over or raise his arms, he was told not to lift anything over five pounds, ( a gallon of milk weighs EIGHT pounds!) to sleep on his back for six weeks and wedge himself into that sleeping position with the use of pillows. He decided he would make his recliner his bed of choice for the first couple of weeks. He was in quite a bit of pain the first week and a half, but the pain medication which he was able to take every six hours really helped. He had to sit in the back seat of the car with his little love heart pillow wedged between him and his seat belt if we went anywhere during a four week duration.

He was to use his breathing spirometer daily once an hour for a set of ten breaths to keep his lung capillaries expanded and open for one month. He did this religiously every day. Sparky was proud of him! If you don't use your breathing apparatus to open back up the lung capillaries, you could develop pneumonia. That was a big motivator for him to keep using it! Here he is using it in the hospital. Once we got home, we kept forgetting the wash the tube every night, but no harmful side effects were noticed from not remembering every night!

He had to wear his white compression sox/hose for two weeks after surgery and they had to be washed out every night. We made sure we had two pairs so we could cycle back and forth between them. He was given leg exercises to keep the fluid and blood circulation moving...ankle rotations, small leg lifts up and down while sitting in his chair, things like that. He was told to use a different washcloth for each part of the body that had an incision. He was not to use the same washcloth for his leg as for his chest as an example. Sparky went and bought two sets of microfiber washcloths at the Dollar Store for him to use so we could wash them every night and still have enough clean ones for the next day.

Eldy had to weigh himself every morning at the same time before eating or drinking. If he gained two or more pounds overnight, then that was an alarm that fluid was building in his body and we were to call the doctor right away.

He was to start a walking routine as soon as possible. The first day was three five minute walks in the house. Each day he had to add one minute to each of the walks.  He did them in the house at first. It was kind of funny to see him walking around with his compression sox on and big ole surfer shorts that he wore to be comfortable.

Eldy did his walks faithfully, (and I'm still doing them! he reports) and this is pretty amazing. This is a man who NEVER walked in his life other than from the car to a restaurant or grocery store, or from the golf cart to where his ball lay. Eldy was a true couch potato, the only exercise he ever got since we retired from the RVing lifestyle to a permanent house was a little bit of walking on the golf course (using a cart) and to stores to and from the car. He quickly started to drop some weight from his belly and boy, is he looking a whole lot better!

How has the pain level been? Not too bad....the pain medication helped. He has been out of the hospital now for almost four weeks and he doesn't need pain medication at all. He is up to three 20 minute walks a day. His fatigue level varies from day to day. That has been the most discouraging part of the recovery process. Some days he feels terrific, then the next day he will feel like he just came home from the hospital and was run over by a semi. The least little exertion wears him out, so after a walk, he's ready for a little nap. They don't want you to take any nap longer than an hour, which was hard, because he wasn't sleeping much the first week he was home, with all the peeing going on! He has numbness in his right leg from the puncture wound to the upper leg wound where the artery came out. The doctor said that's normal and some people never regain feeling in that area, because to get the artery out, they have to strip it away from the skin, and the nerves are really affected by the procedure. He says the numbness might be improving little by little, but he can live with that, if that's the worst of the leftovers from surgery. He is still having some trouble sleeping, some nights are good, and some nights are bad. Now that he's not on the diuretic any more, he doesn't have to get up to pee!

Things we were told to watch for after surgery, to call the doctor to report:

1. Shortness of breath--that worsens or is new...some shortness of breath after exertion is to be expected
2. Signs of infection--temperature more than 101 degrees, redness, pain at the site of the incision, draining
3. Palpitations, skipped beats or racing heart
4. Dizziness, nausea or vomiting, excessive sweating
5. Clicking or popping sound or feeling in the chest, (that would be the wires moving or pulling apart) or drainage from the chest wound
6. Increased swelling in the ankles or feet, pain or swelling in the calf of either leg
7. Black, tarry stools, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, blood in urine or abnormal bruising

And of course the more major stuff to call 911...severe chest pain, arm, jaw pain, severe shortness of breath, loss of consciousness or near loss of consciousness, sudden numbness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, trouble seeing, speaking or understanding, and/or sudden severe headache (stroke signs).

Thankfully, none of these happened...We were blessed in that Medicare covers some home health visits for the first couple of weeks home. A  nurse came every day for a little over a week, then twice a week for the next two weeks. We were able to ask questions and the care was excellent!

We are happy to report that he is recovering beautifully at this point. He had his four week checkup and in a couple of weeks, he can resume normal activities. He is able to drive now....The window for resuming driving and normal activity will vary from person to person, but the best window is four weeks, and for more severely involved patients, six to twelve weeks. The doctor said that even after resuming normal activities, his chest is still going to feel "weird" for up to a year. Eldy will say now and then that his chest feels like it's dropping to the floor when he walks. Guess gravity becomes a bigger factor and a reality after having open heart surgery! He gets tired really really easy, so he takes mini naps now and then during the day. His appetite is good. Surprisingly, the doctor said very little about diet, but we already know to watch the salt, portion control (no more three brats at one sitting, Mr. Eldo!) and fats.

Thanks again to all who wrote and sent lovely comments and shared their experiences, and we especially loved it when people wrote and said they were readers and commented for the first time. Wonderful to hear from all of you...God bless you and safe travels....

                                                Eldo and Sparky, a.k.a, Eldy and Jeannie

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Followup on Eldy's Cardiac Bypass Surgery

Theresa and Eldy
Apologies for an extra long blog today, but there's lots to report! Eldy, of Where's Eldo? fame, (lol....) was scheduled for open heart/bypass surgery on February 3rd. His sister Theresa and her husband, Chuck, flew down to be with us having originally planned to spend the week vacationing with us anyway. Instead of enjoying breakfasts on the beach on Anna Maria Island, and taking side trips to explore our beautiful city some more, they spent a couple of days hanging out with us and boosted Eldy's spirits with wit and laughter. We had at least three days to spend with them before the day of the surgery. Eldy had pre-op blood work done, a chest Xray and some tests done two days before surgery just to make sure his body was ready for the big procedure.  We all had a wonderful meal the night before surgery at the fabulous Mattison's City Grille in downtown Sarasota. Sparky was trying hard not to think about this might be our last meal together but to think positive thoughts. Eldy was very quiet on the subject, trying not to think about it too much. He was scheduled for afternoon surgery on Wednesday, February 3rd but was required to report in at 7:30 AM that morning having had nothing to eat or drink since the night before, at least 12 hours before.

And so, the wait began...Here's how it went at Sarasota Memorial, one of the best cardiac care hospitals in the state of Florida.

7:30 AM...We reported in to the surgical waiting area...the waiting center nurse liaison gave Sparky a name tag identifying her as a family member. She explained how the morning would go, the different stages of surgery, how the surgery information board would show by color and doctor's name at what stage the patient would be in at each phase of the surgery from start to finish.

She gave us a web address for Sarasota Memorial for your phone where the patient is given a five digit code number and you can check on your phone as your family member moves through the different stages of open heart surgery...pre-op, surgery, intensive care, critical care, recovery room.
Not only that, but at each stage of open heart surgery, the family member is informed by a member of the cardiac care team directly when the patient is under anesthesia, hooked up to the heart bypass machine, when they come off the heart bypass machine, and when they are closed up and taken to the intensive care unit.

Wednesday, February 3

In good spirits 
10:30 AM....we were escorted to the next waiting area, the pre-op where Eldy had to get into the hospital gown, climb up onto a hospital bed and wait for awhile in an area where he was pre-prepped for surgery. This was where he had to get shaved by a very nice orderly/surgery assistant/?  The orderly and Sparky teased Eldy....and Eldy was able to joke back. We didn't get the man's name, but he was terrific in helping Eldy get his mind off what was about to happen. He was kind and gentle and very careful in his shaving procedure despite jokes about how he hadn't ever slipped, YET...Eldy was completely shorn of all his chest hair AND leg hair on both legs, in case they had to use either leg for the bypass. A line was inserted for the beginnings of drug administration.

The anesthesiologist  came in and asked all kinds of questions about previous surgical history, breathing patterns, and lots and lots of general health questions. He explained what would happen as he went into the operating room, that it would take an hour for them to prep Eldy for surgery in the actual surgical center. Lots of tubes and monitors to hook up before actually going under, and that the procedure would take about an hour.  Then the surgeon and came in and said that Eldy was good to go, and he wasn't going to repeat the previous office visit warnings as he didn't want to scare him right before surgery. The list he went over at the previous office consultation visit was VERY scary---heart attack, embolism, nerve damage, brain damage, stroke, kidney failure, pneumonia....and more. What are you going to do? Opt out of the procedure? Nope...you hope and pray that all will go well.

1:00 PM..Time for Eldy to be wheeled to the surgery center....Sparky hugged and kissed him and off he went....Looking back on things, the afternoon seemed to go by quickly with Theresa and Chuck there beside Sparky to keep her company. At each stage, just as the hospital had promised, the liaison came out to speak to us directly to inform us at what stage he was at. They DON'T tell you if anything is wrong, that is the surgeon's call to tell you after the procedure. They told us when the operation started, when Eldy's heart was hooked up to the bypass machine,  when he was off the bypass machine, and when he went to intensive care.

4:30PM... Eldy's surgery was completed and he was in intensive care. The entire bypass procedure had taken just a little over three hours. After Eldy was stabilized in intensive care, Sparky would  be able to see him.  At about 7:00 PM, the surgeon, Dr. Hoffberger, came out to see us. He had four bypasses instead of the six the cardiologist had predicted. He had a leg artery used from his left leg, and a mammary artery removed from his left chest area for the bypasses. There were no complications, and he did well.

8:00 PM....Sparky was allowed to see Eldy briefly. What was rather shocking and surprising to Sparky, she was able to walk right up to him in intensive care. She didn't have to put a mask on, nobody asked her to wash her hands or use hand sanitizer. With all the worries about hospital infections, that totally shocked her. Although the hand sanitizers were all over the place everywhere in the hospital, nobody was monitoring this in intensive care at this particular moment. At this moment, Sparky's heart almost stopped, unnerved by all the hardware, tubes and lines inserted all over.

He was completely covered up to his chin. His monitor screen looked like a space rocket console, and it was the size of a very big screen TV. Sparky had never seen so many tubes and lines and machines hooked up to one person. Not thinking, she put her hand gently on his chest and said,"Your pesky better half is here..." and the nurse immediately rebuked her! DON'T TOUCH HIM THERE! ---Sparky recoiled. OMG! WRONG SPOT! Eldy opened his eyes and smiled but became aware of the respirator tube and started trying to gag it out. The nurse quickly put him back to sleep so that he wouldn't get agitated with the tube in. He doesn't remember any of this, of course. Eldy remained in intensive care till the next morning, and was moved to the critical care unit. His breathing tube was removed by then.

Thursday, February 4th....Both our memories are fuzzy as to the time passage and the chain of events after the big surgery..... But he was on the road to recovery. Some of the things that we do remember and wanted to share....Eldy's blood sugar went haywire while under surgery. He became officially diabetic at the time of surgery and had to be put on insulin. He was getting injections and an insulin drip to manage the roller coaster sugar levels that had been triggered by the surgery. When you go through major surgery like that, the body may react in a lot of different ways...and Eldy's blood sugar was a surprising development. But that straightened out by the fourth day...He had no previous history of high blood sugar before that.

Eldy was so pumped full of fluids during surgery, he came out with elephant sized legs and puffy all over. You can gain as much as 40 pounds during a surgery like that from all the fluids that are pumped into you to keep you alive. Once you start recovering, they keep close track of your weight. Eldy was given diuretics to flush the fluids out, and potassium medication to replace the potassium lost. As soon as he took the diuretic pill, he had to pee and almost immediately, within just a few minutes. He had to go and often. He ended up having a container right beside the bed to pee in so he could use that since he couldn't always count on the nurse making it to him in time. The amount of fluid that came out of him was strictly monitored and measured. Gradually, the swelling of his legs and body came down.

Within one day he was up and sitting in a chair, but still hooked up to lines for insulin and IV drips for different things. It's hard to tell here, but his skin was ashy gray..Sparky was worried, but was told this was normal.

Within less than 48 hours, he was up and walking in a special walker. The walker is designed for cardiac patients not to put any pressure downwards. The chest and rib bones have been wired together and it is critical that there be no exertion of the chest muscles nor any kind of pull or push that might shift the wires to pull apart from each other until the bones have started to knit together. He has a six inch scar on his chest, and two incision areas on his leg, one down close to the ankle, and the other one near the knee on the left leg. Eldy will not be able to drive for six weeks and has to sit in the back of the car to avoid air bag pressure deployment in case of an accident. He will be using the heart pillow to cushion him from the seat belt. He will be sleeping in a recliner for the first week or so to keep him from shifting over on his side and moving the chest area. The goal for the hospital stay if all went well was predicted to be 4-6 days.
"Don't you dare take a picture of my backside!"
February 5th, two days after surgery...He's looking a LOT better...More tubes and lines have been removed...He's not getting much sleep as one night the nurses came in and checked his sugar with finger pricks every hour on the hour.  :-(

He was given a special breathing apparatus which is standard for heart surgery and other types of surgery patients. When you undergo surgery, the little sacs in your lungs collapse and they slowly recover afterwards and inflate back up with help from this portable device.

You breathe in slowly and try to keep the little ball on the right centered in its little space as you watch the indicator level rise. Eldy's goal started at 1500 and it is hoped he will be closer to 3000 as time goes on.

Deep breaths slowly in and out on this little device help those little lung capillaries inflate and keep pneumonia at bay. Eldy has done a fantastic job from day 1, surpassing his goals and religiously using it, 8-10 times a day, with a set of ten breaths at each practice.

February 6th...Three days....Lots of people coming and going...housekeeper, dietician, diabetes doctor, physician's assistant, nurse, nurse's assistant, and they are all really really nice, kind, and helpful, here at Sarasota Memorial, right down to the housekeeper, who asks us as family members, do we need anything? Can we get you anything?  Eldy continues to improve...walking a little more each day, today around the hallway, to the nurse's station and back. Pain is being managed well, but he definitely needs it regularly with a pain medication not quite so strong in between the require waiting time till the next dose. Today Eldy's white blood cell counts are a little elevated. Signs of a possible start to an infection. Antibiotics are administered quickly and he will have another blood check drawn tomorrow morning.  Nurse hears a little crackling in a lower lung lobe, possible signs of a little fluid buildup still there. Keep up the breathing treatments, Eldy, that will help take care of that. He does.

February 7th, Four days out....Target time for going home is tomorrow morning, Monday...Blood work comes back normal, the threat of infection has dissipated. The surgeon wants Eldy home as quickly as possible to keep from getting any infections in the hospital. Despite their best efforts to prevent that, it happens, so that's why the push to get patients home as quickly as possible. Eldy will be eligible for home health care, daily for at least the first week, Medicare will cover it if the doctor orders it. He does. The decision comes down from the power that be, that Eldy will be discharged tomorrow morning. Woo-hoo!

February 8th...Five days from surgery...time to go home! We sit and wait for SEVEN AND A HALF HOURS twiddling our thumbs to get cleared to go home. Paperwork has to be done elsewhere in the hospital. This is the only time we have gotten upset with the hospital. To have to sit and wait 7.5 hours for someone to say you can go home is ridiculous! Finally, the compulsory wheelchair arrives and we get out of Dodge.
The next time we see you, we will report on recovering at home....Until then...thank you to all of you who read us, and to those who read our Facebook postings, for all the good wishes and prayers through all of this....It was heartwarming :-) and encouraging to have so much support behind us.

Please remember that February is Heart Month. If you are among the boomer population, please get a stress test at some point. If you have family heart history, make sure you are getting your heart checked out regularly. Eldy had very few signs leading up to this, but we should have gone and gotten the stress test much sooner. He had shortness of breath over the years which he thought was related to his line of work, but the shortness of breath had increased quite a bit in the last year. He became more and more sedentary because he had so little energy and didn't feel like doing anything. The fatigue was much more pronounced. Sparky thought he was just sitting too much but it was a lot more than that. He started complaining about little pain twinges, but didn't think it was anything to bother the doctor with because they were so fleeting. His legs were bothering him a LOT. He had leg pain that would wake him up at night. Sparky thought he might have some blockages there but we never got as far as having a doctor say let's check that out. We now think that the blockages in the heart were causing some of these other symptoms. Sometimes people think a heart attack has to be the classic elephant-on-your -chest sign with left arm pain, but by that time, you probably ARE having a heart attack and the heart muscle is incurring damage as it's happening. Eldy was fortunate. He didn't have a heart attack. He had warning signs. His family doctor was caring enough to call him fortuitously one day after he had a particularly troubling episode of arm pain and twinges on the golf course, and the office said, "You know, we haven't seen you in awhile, we think you should come in." He relays the episode when he went in. They look at his family history again, then refer him to a cardiologist, and that's where the story began.....Please get your heart checked out if you have family history...Better to be checked too early than too late....The heart is a muscle, it doesn't regenerate tissue like some of your other organs can. Once it's damaged, you've lost part of it. Your life becomes more precious and shortened because of it.

Thanks for stopping by today...Eldo is on the mend and doing very well....We'll see you again soon!