May 21

Fifty per cent

I received the results from my echocardiogram this week. My ejection fraction was estimated to be 50%. That’s the low end of the normal range. It’s also double what it was when I was admitted to the hospital five months ago. So that’s good news. I’m still using my Life Vest wearable defibrillator, but I have an appointment to see Dr. Desai on May 31, and I’m sure we’ll be talking about whether I still need it.

I think he’ll be pleased with my weight. After he expressed concern about it on April 26, I made some changes to my diet, and I’ve lost eight or nine pounds since then.

I completed my home sleep study and returned the kit to the sleep lab on May 11. That must have provided the data they needed, because Dr. Vora called this week to tell me that he’s submitted an order for a new CPAP machine. I probably won’t get it for a couple of weeks, but there’s no rush, since I can keep using my current machine.

I visited Cary Dermatology on May 18 to have a growth on my right arm looked at. Candace, the PA that I usually see there, said it was benign and froze it with liquid nitrogen so that it would crumble and flake off (which it’s already doing). She also froze a couple of other small spots on both arms, and examined the moles on my left arm. One of them was irregular, so she shaved it off and sent it to pathology. A sensible precaution, given my history of skin cancer. So I have a couple of Band-Aids at the moment.

My COVID-19 symptoms are long gone, and I feel fine.

May 13

Too healthy

I visited Cary Cardiology as scheduled on May 10 to have a second echocardiogram, as requested by the cardiologist, Dr. Desai. I couldn’t remember which kind of test an echocardiogram is, but it turned out to be an ultrasound of the heart. This will enable Dr. Desai to measure my ejection fraction, which will help him decide what to do next. (The last time we spoke, he was leaning heavily toward getting rid of the defibrillator that I’ve been wearing since January 3.)

While I was there, I also had some blood drawn for various laboratory tests, and I received a phone call from a nurse today to let me know that the tests were all normal. She said that Dr. Desai hasn’t read my echocardiogram yet, but I can expect another phone call next week to tell me the results.

I got another phone call yesterday that was rather encouraging. I am on the mailing lists of a couple of research organizations in this area that run various studies using paid subjects. It’s a good way to pick up a little extra money while also contributing to medical research. My most recent one involved being a test subject for a new avian flu vaccine — one that has already been approved by the FDA, but they collecting information about side effects. I don’t know whether I received the actual vaccine or a placebo, but I didn’t experience any side effects.

Yesterday’s phone call was about another study for which I had filled out an online questionnaire. It was for heart failure (HF) patients. The call was to ask me a question that wasn’t included in the questionnaire: what class of HF do I have, according to my cardiologist? I wasn’t familiar with that term, so I had to ask for an explanation. It turns out that there are four classes of HF:

  • Class I: No limitation of physical activity. Ordinary physical activity does not cause symptoms of HF (shortness of breath, fatigue, or chest pain).
  • Class II: Slight limitation of physical activity. Comfortable at rest, but ordinary physical activity results in symptoms of HF.
  • Class III: Marked limitation of physical activity. Comfortable at rest, but less than ordinary activity causes symptoms of HF.
  • Class IV: Symptoms occur even at rest; discomfort with any physical activity. Unable to carry on any physical activity without symptoms of HF.

I told the researcher that my cardiologist had never mentioned a classification to me, but I undoubtedly have Class I HF. I described how I was almost certainly Class III when I was admitted to the hospital on December 29, but by the time I was released on January 3, I had none of the listed symptoms. She congratulated me on doing so well, and then said, “Unfortunately, that means you are too healthy to participate in this study.”

I can’t say that I’m disappointed. A little extra cash would be nice, but I would much rather be rejected because I’m too healthy.

May 06

COVID-19

In my last entry, I mentioned that I was sick with a cold. The day after I posted it, Ben contacted me to let me know that he was experiencing “very similar symptoms: fatigue, runny nose, ache, [and] feeling warm despite not reading a fever.” He used an at-home COVID test and got a positive result. So he was letting me know that I might have COVID too.

I didn’t have any home COVID tests, so I requested some from the Postal Service website. They arrived in today’s mail, and I tested myself this evening.

Positive. I have COVID-19. A very mild case, to be sure.

Now what? I checked the CDC guidelines to find out what I am expected to do in terms of isolating myself. It says that asymptomatic and mildly ill people (that’s definitely me) should quarantine for five days after the onset of symptoms. I noticed the first symptoms a week ago, on the evening of Friday, April 29, so my quarantine period was complete at the end of Wednesday, May 4. (At that point, my symptoms had been gone for a couple of days, and I felt completely normal). CDC also says to wear a well-fitting mask for ten days following the onset of symptoms to limit spread to others. I will do that if I need to go out during the next three days.

And that’s it. After more than two years of living in COVID World, I finally got the virus, and it was so mild that I thought it was just a cold. Kind of anticlimactic, but I’m certainly not complaining! Mild is good.

I had planned to go see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness tomorrow. In fact, I reserved a seat at a matinee showing. I could go to the showing as planned, and just wear a mask in the theater. But it would be more considerate to wait a week, so I have requested a refund. The movie just opened today, and it won’t be going anywhere soon. I’ll see it next weekend.

This has been an eventful year in terms of my health. First heart failure, then severe lower back pain, and now COVID-19. And 2022 isn’t even half over. But I’m still standing. If Friedrich Nietzsche is right, and anything that doesn’t kill me just makes me stronger, then this year has already made me tougher and more resilient. That’s something to be grateful for.

May 02

Health stable, not much happening

It’s been a while since my last health update, but that’s because there hasn’t been much to report. I had an appointment with my cardiologist, Dr. Desai, on April 26. He remains satisfied with the state of my heart. I’ve been wearing the defibrillator for four months now, and it hasn’t had to do anything. Dr. Desai thinks we can dispense with it soon, but before deciding, he wants me to have another echocardiogram. My first one was on December 31, while I was in the hospital. Comparing the two should be useful for measuring my progress. The new echo is scheduled for May 10.

Dr. Desai also commented on my weight. It seems that I have gained a few pounds (four or five, I think), and he would prefer that this trend not continue. He doesn’t think it’s fluid this time, just calories. I told him he’s probably right about that, since I’m been focusing mainly on sodium and fluid intake, and not on calories. After the appointment, I decided that the wisest course of action is to rejoin Weight Watchers. I’ve actually signed up for the service already, but I probably won’t start rigorously tracking my food for a week or so.

I had an appointment with my pulmonologist, Dr. Vora, on April 18. He wasn’t aware of what had happened since the last time we met, so I spent some time bringing him up to date. He listened to my lungs and said they sounded healthly. He asked if I could remove the SmartStick (basically, a USB flash drive) from my CPAP machine and bring it in so that he could download the data. I was a little surprised, because I’ve been using the machine for many years and have never been asked for the SmartStick before. After I dropped it off the next day, his practice called to say they couldn’t read the data. I made a few phone calls and, after talking with a local medical supply store and the customer service line for the company that made the machine, I concluded that it’s probably not possible. The problem is that the machine is so old that nobody really supports it anymore.

I was told that insurance companies will pay for a new machine every five years, and I’ve definitely had mine far longer than that. Current CPAP machines don’t use USB sticks for data — they connect to your Wi-Fi and upload the date over the Internet. They’re also smaller and lighter than the one I have, which will be nice for travel. I called Dr. Vora’s office and asked him to write a prescription for a new machine.

But there’s a snag. The insurance company will want to see the sleep study data that indicates a need for a CPAP. My original sleep study was close to twenty years ago, and I have no records of it. I don’t even remember who conducted it or where. Dr. Vora suggested that we repeat the sleep study. Fortunately, I won’t have to spend the night in a lab as I did the first time. I can do a home sleep study. I have appointment to pick up a sleep study kit tomorrow, at which time they’ll instruct me on how to use it. Afterward, I’ll drop off the kit and they can analyze the data it recorded.

One other health note: I am currently sick with a cold. Nothing major, just a runny nose, achy joints, fatigue, and possible fever. (I feel rather warm at times, but I’ve tried measuring my temperature with one of those forehead thermometers, and it always says 97.6.) I started feeling ill on Saturday evening and spent pretty much all of Sunday in bed, resting. Today is Monday, and I felt well enough to work. But I’m probably going to bed early tonight.

And that’s it for now. Nothing much going on with my health, which is how I like it.

Update: I called Dr. Vora’s sleep lab to tell them that I was sick, and we agreed that it makes sense to postpone my appointment to pick up the home sleep study kit to next week.