Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 66 - Eye-opening Conversations

Today is Friday, September 24 - Day 66 of my journey to health. And I had the most eye-opening conversations this past week, I just have to journal that experience.

(My previous post was for the 21st, but just posted earlier today, just so there is no confusion on the days.)

First, some personal observations.

Dad's surgery was just one of dozens (DOZENS) scheduled for that day. Every single, solitary "pre-surgical" private room had someone in it, scared to death of the surgery. And with him/her were loved ones, equally as scared.

Will the patient survive? And if so, will the patient be able to function, talk, walk ... will s/he even be able to return home again? Or will a stroke on the table force a trip straight to a nursing home, from the hospital?

Life, for patients and families alike, literally hang in limbo there. It did for us. At that point, no one there (patient or family) had control of anything.

And that unit is filled like this, day in and day out.

And yes, while we were there, one of the morning patients didn't return to his room. A nurse returned to his room (across from ours) to take away his bag of clothing, the stuff he wore when he walked in and said good morning to us, as we passed in the hallway. He seemed like such a nice man.

This was the reality.

We prayed for him and his family - and hoped he at least lived. (The staff can't share any information about a patient, so we don't know if he even lived or not. All we knew was that he wasn't coming back to that unit.)

You know how we always thought "tomorrow, I'll ..."? Well, the nurse said most of these patients didn't even know they had a problem a month ago.

The unit was filled to capacity with people who thought "tomorrow, I'll ..." -- it had some retirement-age folks, as one would expect, but also a surprising (shocking) number of 40- and 50-somethings too. I didn't expect to see that, in those numbers.

When reality visits, it sometimes doesn't give a warning.

We often don't have a clue what is going on inside our bodies. If we don't feel pain or discomfort, we must be okay, right? How misguided of us, how naive, and how potentially dangerous. We hum along, doing what we usually do, how we like to do it (more bacon, please) and never give a thought to what reality is going on inside our bodies, undetected.

And most of the unit's 40- and 50-something year old patients were heavy. I didn't see one that looked to be under 250 lbs. It is one thing to be told "this is what could happen" and "this is what statistics show," but it is quite another to see human faces (and so many of them), going through something I didn't really ever think could possibly apply to ME. That stuff is what happens to other people. I'm not a statistic.

Well, neither were they.

A phrase one of the nurse trainees told me the nurses use (privately), is "I'm not a statistic - YET." I'm forever going to keep that in my mind.

I'm not a statistic - yet.

Dad's vascular surgeon came out to talk to us, immediately after the surgery. The surgeon was fit and strong and so very serious. He deals with blocked artieries and veins every single day, in one way or another. And most issues, he said, can be completely prevented with a healthy diet.

Something as simple as diet, could (literally) prevent all of this?!

But reality continued ...

Some of Dad's issue was handled well, but some could not be. (What? You mean surgery can't solve EVERYTHING?!!) No, sometimes not. I'm sorry.

The surgeon was being kind, but firm. The truth sometimes hurts.

This was the reality.

The good news - the immediate crisis has passed, and Dad will be okay - not 100%, but okay (at least for this particular issue).

So, here is the bit of free advice Dad's vascular surgeon was kind enough to pass along to me, unsolicited.

Lose weight. You now, officially, have a parent with this issue. Take it seriously. Don't become a statistic. (!!!) I will send your father home with a packet of information and a set of instructions. In it, there is a diet plan I strongly urge him to follow. I'm going to have the nurse include a second diet plan set - for you. I don't want to see you on my operating table unnecessarily.

Ouch. The truth hurts. But this is a highly paid expert at what he does, and he knows of what he speaks. I'd be a fool not to pay attention.

And here is the funny part - the nurse told me just yesterday that the diet will be a low fat one. (That's what I've been trying to do these last 66 days.) The surgeon didn't know, of course, that I've lost over 20 lbs in the last two months. But, I am now very excited to see what exactly the instructions say. I'm not sure how compliant Dad will be, but I don't need a hammer to fall on my head - I get it. I do.

Dad can't wait to come home this afternoon! And we can't wait to get him there. He was an excellent patient, so far. It wasn't an easy thing to go through, and it wasn't an easy recovery period either. But, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, I hope we never have to visit that unit again - ever. The staff was wonderful, and highly skilled, and (sadly) very well practiced. How sad, that poor diet had more to do with this than anything else. And I keep remembering what the nurse said - most of these patients had no clue anything was wrong a month ago.

I've had my warning shot over the bow. It was a week of eye-opening conversations, and eye-opening observations, and I'm not wasting any of it.

Interestingly, the hospital cafeteria had a salad bar (as one would expect), and some healthy entree choices (2), but it also had a pizza area, a "classic American" section (cheeseburgers, anyone, with fries?), a dessert stand to make Wonka weep for joy, and enough cola-company-sponsored beverages to fill Lake Ontario. Okay, perhaps I exaggerated there a bit, but you get the point.

It is up to the individual to practice self-control, to make good choices. And isn't that what I face every single day? It is up to ME to make good choices. The variety is there, the good and the bad, and it is up to me to pick wisely, carefully.

So, I managed to lose weight (1 lb, so far - though I can tell I've lost more since Tuesday), by eating salads with smart dressing choices, or a healthy entree, and by consistently making proper selections for myself. What I wanted was comfort food - lots and lots of comfort food. And it would have been very easy to "treat myself" - trust me. I came THISCLOSE on one occasion, but I reminded myself that habits must change, and food doesn't bring any real comfort - not really. We had a lot of curve balls tossed our way this week. I wouldn't want to repeat any of it. But, we got through it. And ...

I'm not a statistic - yet.

Day 66, and looking forward to Dad's discharge!


  1. A wake-up call if I ever heard one! I'm glad you heard it, although you were already doing so well. And I hope your dad continues to improve.

  2. Wow Ann, that was a very thought provoking post! So much to think about. My mother died at age 56 due to heart disease and it was a sudden death... I know I don't want to be a statistic either, and I don't want to leave my kids as they are starting their families. It is time to WAKE UP and make better CHOICES! Even though the food industry and society is against those healthy choices, we have to make that effort! Well said. Glad your dad's surgery went well. :)


  3. I know exactly what you mean. I had to have vascular surgery to put 2 stents in last year and boy oh boy did that open my eyes! Glad your dad is well and going home.

  4. My husband died from a heart attack when he was 47 years old. He weighed 180 pounds at 6'2". Not overweight in the least. His total cholesterol was 168. Sometimes genetics plays a huge role in whether someone dies at a early age. While his cholesterol was low, he'd had severe coronary-artery disease for years. He had an uncle who died in his 30s. By the time they were in their 50s, all of his uncles on his mother's side had either had bypass surgery or were dead.

    I've gone over what happened to him again and again. He, too, died suddenly like Mom to the Fourth Power said about her mother. In fact, Al literally dropped dead.

    I don't want to a statistic either, but I also know it's not a simple as all that either. Yes, we can make significant changes in our health just by keeping a close watch on our diets and exercising regularly. But that doesn't change your genetic structure.

  5. Hope you dad has arrived home ready to rest and recover onward. No doubt this has ignited an awakening within you. Becoming a statistic is something we all should strive to avoid. Onward we must all go to prevent just that.

  6. Eye-opening!
    Maybe we can be statistics of the group of those who made it back to health -- and stayed that way for life!

  7. This is a powerful post!! I don't want to be a statistic!!! I am grateful that I am making healthy lifestyle changes now and getting this weight off!! 51 pounds down so far!!!!

    Keep doing what you do!!! Keep focused and don't ever give up!!


  8. Cyber hugs, Kathy! You are 100% correct, of course. Sometimes genetics has everything to do with the bad stuff, and the most perfect diet on earth may do nothing to even extend a life. But, that may be the exception, rather than the norm.

    The vascular surgeon did say "most" issues could be prevented with a proper diet, and if I didn't include that in my narrative, then shame on me!! I bow to the medical expert here, because I'm no clinician.

    Jo, thanks!

    Margene, Mom died the same way yours did. You are so right about the food industry! I think that is one reason why we need to be consistent and vigilant about our dietary choices. Dad is home again (as of last night) and glad to get his life back - he doesn't like his routine messed with in any way! haha

    Spunky - that had to be scary at the time! Did you have to change your diet? I'm glad YOU are okay!

    No stats here, Patrick! I'm working hard to prevent that. Onward and DOWNward!

    Anne, yes, it was eye-opening ... and scary too. I like how you think! You are leading the way ...

    Joy, AWESOME about the 51 lbs gone (forever)!! When I grow down, I want to be like you, looking back from 51 lbs thinner. Oh, this little incident has brought everything into much sharper focus. Hugs back at you - between us, we've lost 75 lbs! And there is my post for today ...

  9. I.LOVE.YOU. I came over from Tessa's blog [whom I love and adore] and although I am not fighting a weight loss issue I support many people that do - and you said it better than I ever could.

    I tried to explain this to one friend but I don't think I used the right words. You just did. I thank you so much for this and hope that she reads this.

    Take care and my best wishes for you and your Dad.

  10. Ann, Thanks for your great comments. If I didn't have hope, I wouldn't keep trying. Big hugs to you. You are a wonderful friend.

  11. Kathy - hope is everything sometimes. You will do this. It may take a few more attempts, but it will fall into place for you. You'll see. Thank you for your kind comments. I know you have my back, and I have yours too. xxox

    SkippyMom - Welcome! Wow - so glad I finally made a stand-out first impression with someone. LOL That is really neat of you, to offer support to those struggling with weight issues. It isn't easy. Dad is home, safe and sound, and so glad he is doing better! Thank you for the well wishes. Tessa is a love. Glad you stopped by for a visit!

  12. Great post Ann. Hope your dad is well.