Sunday, December 1, 2013

My Near Death Experience and Angel Acquaintenances, #Marfan Syndrome, Death and Life

I'd been asked a couple times lately about my thoughts on 'angels'.  Since my Florida Drivers License has already been medically revoked I am not in any danger of loosing any more privileges from being assessed mentally unfit.
My sketch of Heidi, our granddaughter who passed away last year
 Maybe someone could try and have me committed however I am betting that process would be significantly more difficult than revoking a drivers license, especially considering I am a pretty smart lawyer too. 

However just the fear of having freedoms taken away is a strange concept for some of us in the United States to even begin to comprehend. 

This post is about seeing angels.  If you don't believe in angels, that is ok.  Over the last two years though I've had a substantial number of encounters with angels.   Some of these spirits were good and some were not good, at least from my perspective.  And I bet most would agree that perspective is reality.

Enough other people have shared similar experiences with me.  If I am crazy then there are others crazy too.  If I am not crazy as I believe and have actually had real encounters with angels then I am confident that there are quite a few others who have interacted with these and other spirits too.

First of all as I've strongly suggested before, words are too inadequate to describe true reality.  Words are a starting point.   But trying to label those self-aware beings I've come to not be surprised at their presence anymore, is difficult to accurately do limited to dictionary nouns and adjectives.

Cherub, archangel, guardian, seraph, sprite, celestial, supernatural, holy and a myriad of other words exist to pick from in describing those others ('I know a  phrase like 'those others' sounds a lot like the television show, LOST but I can not think of a better term tonight).

I first became acquainted with the 'those others' during my first open heart surgery.  As my heart and body were separated during bypass I woke up floating just below the operating room ceiling.  Before I'd only seen the operating room in a highly medicated state as I was being wheeled in on the gurney.

Now though, I could see every detail of me on the table with a team of doctors and nurses working on my body, talking, moving and doing whatever doctors and nurses do during a major surgery.  My heart was clearly visible inside my open chest.  I remember asking myself if I was dreaming.  I was lucid and everything was incredulously clear.

Off in the distance I could see throngs of people I knew and others did not know.  They were all sending me good thoughts and praying fervently.  I did not have any feelings of fear but rather a sensation of curiosity.  I knew my wife Judy was in the waiting room and I knew she was going to be OK no matter what.  There was no sense of panic or helplessness.  In fact I felt very much at peace, relaxed and filled or covered with a bright feeling of love.

Looking up I could see through the ceiling.  Beyond the roof lay another world, one filled with what I can only describe as an immense, thick essence of love.  Everything was real, very real.  There were many beings, all very, very happy to see me, all just as real as the doctors and nurses in the room below.

But then the bumping started.  I tried to move towards 'those others' but for some reason was stuck below the ceiling.  Every time I would literally float up I'd bump into the ceiling and bounce back down into the air above the operating table.  At first I was frustrated at being able to see and hear the others but not being able to join them.

A calm voice informed me I was not going to leave my body permanently yet, that it was not my time to die that night.  'OK' I thought, 'this is really amazing'.  Before the dissection I had always worried about dying and what happened afterwards.  But the actual experience was not one of dread, not one of missing my wife and children, not one of regret of having to leave, but instead was one of excitement and anticipation.  And I had other beings to be there with me through it all.

Bright lights, unbelievable landscapes, colors, senses I've never experienced or imagined before and a warm, all encompassing love clothed and lay before me even as I bounced back down from the operating room ceiling.

I am a scientist trained in formal, demonstrable proof and have always questioned near-death accounts like mine, that is until it happened to me. I also flatly reject any suggestion that experience was imagined and I really don't care if the reader believes it or not.  This is my experience, one no one can take from me.

After my surgeon woke me hours later and as I began a very long recovery path, the out of body event stayed in my memory with startling detail, and continues to do so even today.

Subsequently there had to be a second open heart operation to clear a thick mass of fungal growth around my heart from complications arising out of the first surgery.  Months later I was finally home.

Death then lie in waiting close by.  I cried the first time Judy and I went for a very short walk under a five hundred year old live oak in Bulow Plantation State Park, thinking I'd not live to see my teens grow into adults.  But that night, lying in bed and looking out the window across the swimming pool into the saw palmetto flatwoods I saw the first of 'those others'.

It really looked like Gandalf, only about fifteen feet (five meters) tall and bright white, and it knew I was looking at it.  I feel bad for calling it an it, but I am at lost with available words to use in discussing this topic.  Anyway the Gandalf other knows how much I appreciate being looked after and over for many days and nights, giving me security, guarding me from what what I should be guarded from, bringing me peace, allowing me to close my eyes without fear.  I would tell Judy and a some close friends about these angels or those others.

Some nights two or three would appear on the lanai just outside the bedroom window.  On a rare occasion they would come into the bedroom.  I knew why they were there -  to protect and look after me - even though these never spoke out loud.  These 'those others' wore long silk-like robes.

Those others, those angels who came, walked a long, dark and lonely path of recovery with me, watching over me, there to make sure my wife, Judy, children and I were OK at all times.

They still come to visit after two years though not as often anymore.  I called these angels the 'guardians'.  They were there to protect me and from what I was soon to find out.

As my body strengthened bit by bit each day I began to walk.  Walking helped move the lymph and blood up out of my ankles and back through my organs for cleansing and processing.  The first day on my feet I walked five steps with help.  Each subsequent day I'd add another step or two.  After a couple months I could walk to the mailbox and back.

Today I walk and ride my bike, but with a heart output function of twenty to twenty five percent I tire very quickly.  Yet I believe walking keeps me alive so I walk and walk and walk some more.

One place I like to walk is along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway here in Palm Coast.  There is a nice wide paved walkway on the banks of the waterway, several nice parks, restroom facilities and a Children's Memorial Garden where I've hung a set of windchimes for little Heidi, our granddaughter who passed away last year.

Those others followed me faithfully on my walks.  Sometimes they would walk out of the bushes along the path, smile, nod and then disappear.  It never fails that when an angel appears I do a double take.  The being is always there the second time I look, but never stays long.

Some of 'those others' even have a sense of humor.  I've had one drop out of the sky riding a bicycle and land on the paved path next to me, laugh, tell me, and I quote, 'just checking on you' then take off and ride off down the path, laughing even louder as they rode away. 

One day I literally jumped, dropping my crutch-cane when a very dark, greyish spirit came charging out of the bushes towards me.  But almost as instantly, just behind the charging thing I'd call a 'demon', came one of the guardian spirits.  The protector grabbed the greyish demon and threw it violently down into the earth, turned and was gone.  Shaken I picked up my cane and returned to the park area.

Several people walking close by stopped out of curiosity to stare at me when I jumped as the grey spirit charged. 

I believe this grey spirit was something bad, something that wanted to harm me.  However the guardian angel stopped it.

Yes, even after two years they still let me know they are there.  Last week there was one in an animal form, brilliant white, persistent even with the double and triple head turns and eye rubs.

Some are very lovely, with long flowing hair.  Others are the epitome of strength and security.  Some are small, some large.   They all come to me when I am awake.

Yes, I have had what my neurologist calls "embolistic events" or small strokes as a result of the dissection, surgery and recovery.  I drool, stutter and have extensive short term memory loss.  I take beta blockers, clot prevention medications, aspirin, statins and ARBs for blood pressure.  My dreams are quite vivid every night.

But 'those others' come to me in the day, when I am awake and well aware of what is actually happening around me.

There is no doubt in my mind what I experienced the night of my dissection and the intense out of body excursion was real.  I saw other beings, angels for lack of a better descriptive term and my self-awareness existed outside my earthly body.

These others had a job.  They watched over me and still do.  I see them, hear them and know they are around me.

Some may try and take what I saw and continue to see and pass it off as my mind playing seemingly real but actually illusory tricks. I feel like I don't have to defend what I see and hear to anyone.

To me these angels are real.  I believe that once one walks that fine line between life and death daily as I and others do we are privileged to witness part of eternity here and now.

Before my dissection I'd smile and shake my head to hear this.

Reality is primarily perspective.

I know angels are real.  I now know there is so much we here on earth are really clueless about.  They say seeing is believing.

I've seen and I believe.






Friday, November 29, 2013

My Confused, Broken Heart Jerked Around Daily

Poor confused heart.  I feel sorry for it.  But I appreciate it.  However it has occasionally been telling me the 'calvary is not coming', and we may have to deal with the worst.
Yoga for Blood Pressure Control
No wonder.  It's been cut into, had the original aortic root cut out and replaced with mechanical parts.  It has been on bypass of a long time.  It has had multiple surgeries.  It suffered through almost fatal endocarditis.   It had a pic line inserted next to it for almost four months of daily heparin, fluconazole, vancomycin and amoxicillin.  It dealt with a nasty wound vacuum taped above it.  It fights off fear and doubt, sadness and depression daily.  And it is protected by a very precarious unstable sternum with wires almost poking through my chest. (I have to say though I do love the loud surreal mechanical clicking :))

First thing in the morning it is dosed with losartan, metoprolol and aspirin.  The metoprolol works to slow it's beat down to about 40 beats per minute.

Within minutes of the metoprolol it is hit with a jolt of freshly brewed bold and rich coffee out of the French press, something I know is probably not so smart but without the coffee I walk around in a zombie state all day long.

Cardiac confusion sets in as the metoprolol tells it to slow down and the coffee tells it to speed up.

After the second cup of java the coffee wins out over metoprolol and the blood pressure begins to rise.

To offset the rise in blood pressure from the coffee that pulls me out of zombie land I start with prayer,  Yoga and breathing therapy.  Now while the heart is beginning to race my focused breathing and calming focus on omniscient love somehow mitigate the caffeine's effects.

After slowing from the metoprolol dose, then speeding from the coffee and again slowing from the Yoga, my fingers and toes begin to go through their daily chill, as my partially functioning heart can't pump enough blood to the now constricting peripheral arteries.

And as the peripheral arteries constrict, the Yoga slowed heart starts pumping harder and harder to move blood to the fingers and toes.  At this time I know AFIB is moments away.

But as I tire of coffee after the first two cups and turn to ginger and green tea, the heart starts slowing once more.  Ginger tea, socks and a hot shower help with peripheral blood flow and once more the heart relaxes.

The sun now a couple hours in the sky and feeling relaxed, I walk outside, making a decision to either go for a walk or ride my bike.  Once into the walk or ride my heart starts beating harder and harder….sigh.

Worrying about too fast a pulse and potential effect on my dissected aorta I return to the house and lay down by the bedroom window to take a nap, slowing my heart again as I fall asleep, totally exhausted from the little bit of morning's physical activity.

Waking from the nap I open a letter from Division of Motor Vehicles to see that my driver's license has been medically suspended or some other typical 'bash-the-disabled' letter (I have begun to dislike the U.S. Postal Service as they have become a barer of bad news more than once lately).  Coping with huge challenges like these, especially unexpected ones sends the cardiac muscle into overdrive, and one day may be the cause of an aneurysm.

I slip another big blue metoprolol under my tongue and let it dissolve.  If the big blue pill doesn't help I pop a losartan.  Soon my heart shifts from racing mode back into slow mo through by this time my chest is hurting from the constant changes in slow, fast, slow, fast, slow, fast, slow motion.

I know my heart does not do well on the roller coaster-like ride each day.  Dietary changes, as well as constant physical therapy and a focus on spirituality are helping me level the valleys and peaks somewhat.  But I still have a long ways to go.

This journey of getting to know my new heart in a much more intimate way than I ever knew it before is now becoming a passion.

Not only do I want to live a long time but I want to try and heal my flopping, torn, ripped main artery that runs down from the Dacron tube atop my heart down into my chest, kidneys and legs.

I have learned so much, especially lately.  But there is so much more to learn.  And much of what I've discovered has not come from doctors but from others suffering from the same and similar challenges.

So much swirls around inside my stroke damaged brain.  Ideas, observations, theories, notes, comments and thoughts of mine own and of my friends are interwoven with those of volumes of proven medical data and surgical experience.

A tiny light is glowing way down the very long, dark tunnel.  I am excited about this light.

Soon, with diet, spirituality, my medications, more physical therapy, the help of my family, my friends and the ability to manage stress my heart may learn to shrug it all off and settle into a steady rhythm.

I call that hope.  Maybe, just maybe way off in the distance I am thinking I hear a bugle and the rumble of that elusive last-minute calvary charge.

Maybe my heart might soon not be quite so confused anymore.








Friday, November 15, 2013

The Cold Front That Almost Killed Me; Barometric Pressure and Cardiovascular Failure


Today is Friday and I am alive and writing about how I thought I was going to die just forty eight hours ago and at that time I had no clue as to why I felt as though my aorta was about to aneuryze.

But now I know what happened, thanks to several research papers published to the internet and input from others who are challenged with similar conditions.
Watch Out For Low Pressure Systems

I would like to take this opportunity to share my experience with others.  Hopefully someone suffering from these symptoms may find this information useful and the following links educational, for feeling like death is imminent can be an unsettling experience.

This Wednesday, November 13th, I retired to the bedroom early in the evening, feeling especially tired and lay out my sleeping pad by the tall, opened bedroom window.  I sleep on the floor because  of my back and feel so much better for doing so, but sleeping on the floor is another story.

The bedroom window opens out to the large screened lanai over the pool.  The lanai is surrounded by Judy's herb and flower gardens which are in turn enclosed by a thick pine and saw palmetto flatwoods forest area.

When the moon is full the shimmering light dances across the broadleaf palmetto, reflecting nature's silhouettes on the swimming pool's surface.  Cool breezes laden with oxygen from the woods flow into the window and cover me while I sleep, filling my lungs with fresh, invigorating air.

Wednesday's weather forecast called for a low pressure system to move in from the north, rapidly covering the area with the year's first heavy cold air. 

Sometime, around three a.m. I woke, my St. Jude aortic pounding loudly, my pulse racing.  The front was coming through,  bringing with it forty mile an hour winds.  The tall pines swayed more than I'd ever before seen them sway.

My chest tightened as though someone was reaching around me squeezing me tightly.  But the cooler air felt good across my face and I rolled to my side to see if the mechanical valve would quieten.   The valve beat louder and faster and the pain did not subside.

Alarmed, I rolled up to my hands and knees, stood and walked into the bathroom to take a Losartan tablet as well as my beloved beta-blocker, Metoprolol.  Usually an extra dose will calm things down when unexpected heart pain hits.

Sometimes my medication induced vivid and colorful dreams can really jump the blood pressure and pulse, but I could not remember any such dream having taken place that night and my chest was much tighter than normal.  Was this an anxiety attack?  I'd not experienced this level of discomfort since my dissection but the sensation was much different than the aorta tear.

I sat down on the floor and began to do gentle stretching exercises, hoping to release the muscle tension.  No luck.  Turned on the Ipad's relaxing music station, and again no success.  Working with my breathing usually helps but not that night.  So I lay back down, covered up and waited for whatever challenge my body had in store for me.

Sleep eluded me for the next several hours and when daylight finally broke I was glad.  The pain persisted.  My blood pressure soared, especially the systolic.   I just knew the big aorta tear was around the corner.  Times like these are difficult because I can go to the ER like most everyone including the doctor usually suggests but doing so always results in a contrast dye CT scan.  I have been in renal failure already and absolutely hate the contrast dye.

Avoiding the ER is always my first thought because of my kidneys and because the doctors usually can not figure out what is happening anyway.  They give me some pills and send me on my way until the next incident where they run a CT scan, scratch their heads, give me some pills and send me on my way once more.

By early after noon the horrible pain was gone and I felt as good as ever.  The weather front had moved through and sunny, cool blue filled the afternoon skies.

Then it struck me.  I bet it was the weather.  Blame the weather.  It just made sense.  My mom and I talk about our mechanical valves always rattling louder during storms or when a system comes through.  I was almost sure my intense pain was do to the weather.  So I started researching the internet's library of barometric related health conditions.

Turns out I found the culprit, at least so I am convinced.

Looking to the NOAA weather site for barometric pressure tracking in Florida, I found that as the cold front came through the local barometric pressure quickly dropped by almost an inch of mercury over a very short time span.

As a scuba diver (pre-dissection) I was well aware of what differences in ambient pressure can do to the body.  Interestingly, an inch mercury drop in barometric pressure could be compared to climbing several thousand feet or more in altitude in a matter of minutes.

 As air pressure decreases, available oxygen also decreases.  Because my heart's output function is already extremely low due to my dissection, valve damage and surgery stress, it has a hard time supplying my body with the oxygen I need.  When, all of a sudden my body is screaming for more oxygen because the existing air O2 content has just dramatically decreased, my heart freaks out.  And wow, did it ever as the cold front was racing through.

Interestingly, my pulse really was not affected after I had taken the big blue pill at 3 a.m.  Metoprolol controls my pulse like a hen-pecked husband who is stifled by his over bearing wife.  But because my heart could not pump faster, it beat 'harder'.  Peripheral arterial vessels constricted and my systolic pressure shot through the roof.  It was like jamming on the brake and throwing down the accelerator all at the same time, a mega Valsalva maneuver.  Worst of all I had no idea of what was happening.

But now I do. And I want to share it with you, just in case you are ever faced with the same symptoms.

There is so much information on the web also.  For instance, googling terms like 'barometric hear attack', 'weather related health issues', and 'barometric migraine', I came across many interesting sites, including;
As the cold front passed, the barometric pressure rose with the influx of clear, cold air and my heart and chest, felt so much better.  My blood pressure settled to normal.

Frighteningly though, there are plenty of studies and data to show that cardiac fatalities do occur on a frequent basis associated with weather systems arriving and departing.

I truly believe I am lucky to have survived the first real cold front of my post-dissection life.

Unfortunately I am not sure what to next time a fast moving cold front comes through.  I may shut the window, hoping the enclosed house will mitigate the sudden drop in pressure and allow me to acclimate to the pressure drop somehow.

I may hide under the covers and pray, or take a hot shower, or who knows.

If you have suffered similar barometric attacks I'd love to hear how you deal with the frightening symptoms.

Sheeez.  Living with Marfan, connective tissue complications and a dissected aorta is a challenge.

But I am up for it so bring it on.



Monday, November 11, 2013

A Marf Morning Musical; Marfan Syndrome Issues

Here is a short parody about waking up, a blend of ballet and orchestra in the bedroom.  I will call the typical daily event my "Marf Morning Musical".  Enjoy!

Drum rolls start as my Coumadin dose is now due and without the beta-blocker my St. Jude aortic valve is clicking louder and louder, faster and faster.  The St. Jude drum section wakens me from a fitful sleep of wild, medication induced dreams.

The only way to quiet the drum section is to take my meds.  That means getting up.  So I stretch and the stringed up sternum section sends a loud thunderous pop, louder than the St. Jude drums, as my unstable sternum pops open once more, as it does every morning.  Added to the sternum pop is the prolonged and melodious 'owwwch" coming from my lips as the chest cage breaks apart.  It has been two years since the last cut through and still no healing (Thank You connective tissue disorders!).

Of course the pain from the popping sternum sends the St. Jude valve section into wild non-rythmic AFIB or VTACH beating, changing the beat from a slow 4/4 to a rushing drum roll.  Now I know I must quickly reach the medication drawer and slip a big blue pill under my tongue.

I roll over to my hands and knees, up from the floor bed pad I've made because my lower back detests the bed mattress and push up to a standing position, taking the first few steps towards the bathroom and the pills.

Ker-pop, ker-pop, ker-pop echos the sound of me walking across sheets of bubble wrap strewn across the floor.  Of course there is no bubble wrap laying anywhere in our house.  But my knees, ankles and other joints must go through their daily popping, releasing all the body gas built up in the joint sections.

But with the ker-pops and St. Jude valve section in full play, my seemingly beautiful and graceful dance across the floor ends up with a loud crash into the bathroom door as the connective tissue in my ankle gives way and my tall, lanky frame flings furiously forward.

No, that is not blue make up covering my forearms and face, just bruises from the Coumadin regime and the morning smacks from the floor, doors, dresser and walls.

Things begin to slow down with my first cup of dark roast  in the French press and a hot shower.  Then then pick up again as the day progresses.

Such is the Marf Morning Musical.

I know there are lots of you out there who can relate.

It is good to know I am not alone with my music and dance.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fear of Night

November 28 will mark the two year anniversary of my dissection experience.  I am really glad it happened then and I am somewhat 'fixed', at least  for a while.

But aren't we all here only a 'while'?  So every day I wake and am breathing is a blessing beyond any words I could write.  Each new morning's light is like a coffee break (I'll take espresso) in the long day of uncertainty.

However at the end of the day, as the sun sets, a sometimes subliminal fear sets in, a fear of not waking up.  I think this dread of the dark is a weaving of many thought currents not the least being the memory of my late night dissection and the severe panic and pain accompanying the aorta tear.

So at night I do not welcome that visitor of disquietude.  Yet it predictably comes.

I do not understand many things.  But I know this; it is good to wake up and take a breath.  For every new sunrise I am granted absolution from a darkness once more.

Maybe for me this reprieve is what grace is all about. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Singing Aorta - Marfan Syndrome and Dissection

My aorta has been singing.  On top of the 'itchies-bugs crawling', the clickity-clicking, vivid dreams, insomnia, chronic fatigue and..., now my aorta is singing.  I call it 'harmonic pulsation'.  When my heart beats, I am thinking my torn false lumen is flapping in the blood flow like a piece of paper held taught between two fingers.  Since the tear extends down into my legs my entire body was humming last night every time my heart beat!  This is so cool to have a stringed quartet inside me! Wow!  I love life! xxx

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunshine and Cardiovascular Health

I find peace and God along my walks in the deep Florida sunshine and quiet nature, with camera, walking cane and whispering salty breezes.

Cardiovascular health can be found in nature walks
For someone trying to preserve the integrity of a severely dissected aorta, low blood pressure and slow pulse are so very important.

Nature's indescribable display of colors, forms, geometry, music and scents woven in simply complex life create peace for my soul, and I feel like there may be a chance my heart and cardiovascular system may hold on for a season more.

As can be found on the poetry page of my blog here, haiku and one breath words are my way of conveying the peace found along the path to you and others seeking cardiovascular health.  So here is my haiku for the Imperial Moth, Eacles imperialis and the willow tree, Salix sp.:

Life Shared
dirt, dew, light fusion
shy moth and willow spring forth
weaving a story
.
Flagler Beach, Florida, October 2013
.
May you find peace for your heart today outside in the sunshine.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Yoga on the Beach - Sandpiper (Sanderling - Shore Bird Style)

One of my physical therapies for preventing the descending dissection in my body from further aneurysing is to take daily walks.  The Atlantic Ocean is one of my favorite spots for many reasons.
Sandpiper (Sanderling), Mala Compra, Florida, October 2013
Walking along the Atlantic, the crashing waves calm my spirit and quiet any rising hypertension.  There is always plenty of wildlife and nature to take in, either with the camera or just sitting still and appreciating the amazing life around me.

Yesterday a small sandpiper was really happy to be alive and put on an amazing show of yoga (what I should be doing) in the sand just beyond wave's reach.

There is so much beautiful peace to be found in still quietness.  Enjoy the photos.
Sandpiper (Sanderling), Mala Compra, Florida, October 2013
 
Sandpiper (Sanderling), Mala Compra, Florida, October 2013

Sandpiper (Sanderling), Mala Compra, Florida, October 2013

Sandpiper (Sanderling), Mala Compra, Florida, October 2013

Sandpiper (Sanderling), Mala Compra, Florida, October 2013

Sandpiper (Sanderling), Mala Compra, Florida, October 2013

Sandpiper (Sanderling), Mala Compra, Florida, October 2013

Sandpiper (Sanderling), Mala Compra, Florida, October 2013

Sandpiper (Sanderling), Mala Compra, Florida, October 2013

Sandpiper (Sanderling), Mala Compra, Florida, October 2013


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Simple Spirituality, My Search for The Divine and the Meaning of Life

I have been looking for the meaning of life and think I have found it.

My search for true spirituality was long and complicated when it should have been easy
For me, the meaning of life can be found in love.  

When we love other people we have found The Divine.  That's it.  That's all. 

I could stop here because there is nothing else to say. 

But I going to try to explain myself in really simple terms because I need to try and be consistent with basic principles of western logic; for myself and for others and because, lol, my blog posts need to be a certain length.

First of all, for me ‘The Divine’ must be simple.   Because my cognitive level is damaged as a result of multiple open heart surgeries and my being on heart by-pass for hours I have a difficult time with complicated things.  So spirituality must be easy.

Complex liturgy and lists of things to do and not do may sound beautiful for a contemplative moment but the meaning quickly evaporates as the seconds tick by and my ADHD or stroke induced forgetfulness overwhelms my mind.

Fortunately, simple words like ‘I love you’ profoundly call out to my soul, my deep inner sanctum, my heart, the place where my self-realization and self-awareness reside.  When I am in the midst of love I am also aware of the presence of a permanent Divinity and the paralyzing fear (so typical of my humanness) of temporality fades.

Secondly, walking on death’s threshold with my medical condition, I want to know God.    I also need the Divine because I am scared of facing a cold, dark eternity alone, by myself.  Believing in The Divine alleviates this fear, even if doing so exposes my fragility.  But that is what love is for.

Let me be very clear here about a side issue.  It’s OK if you don’t believe in life after death or God.  I will honor your beliefs.   In turn I expect the same freedom to believe how I need to, of you.  And it is OK if you have a different religious belief from across the U.S. or the world.  I hold you in esteem for your beliefs and wish the same respect in return. 

Now, it is really hard to put what I truly want to say in written words.  As a sometimes writer and blogger I like to think words are the best way to communicate ideas.  But everyone perceives written words differently.  We can both read a sentence and not find the same meaning.

I can even tell you what a group of words is supposed to mean and after hearing me ramble you may still have your own understanding.  The words we use as a human race are terribly inadequate to accurately describe spirituality.

So, ‘The Divine’ is the term I will use here in this post mostly because for me the term ‘God’ has been permanently defiled with an image of an angry, scornful old man up in the sky waiting to strike someone in retribution for even a small misstep.

And I want to believe The Divine loves us no matter what feeble proper noun we choose to call it and won’t get pissed off if we spell or say the right name wrong or the wrong name right.

So, because I think on very simple levels and I am physically fragile with respect to cardiovascular health and realize each breath could be my last, I long for a really simple spirituality and a desire to know and abide in The Divine.  Complicated words are confusing.  Simple words may be the best.  Love is a simple word.

But perhaps words are not even necessary to know The Divine.  Yes, you can read scripture or verse over and over and tell me what it means.  Quite possibly I may be able to see The Divine in those words but I really do not need those words to know The Great Divine; for God is much more than words.

Likewise, you can take me to the top of the highest mountain, through the depths of rain forests or down into the oceans and show me wonderful handiwork, creation, amazing life.  Yes, I can feel God’s hand on my shoulders in the summit wind, or hear God’s voice inside flowing waters or calling birds but I do not need to see the brilliant handiwork of nature to know The Great Divine.

I may sit in a church pew and listen to elegant verbal illustrations of the theologian and catch a glimpse of God’s story.  But I do not need the preacher’s well rehearsed script full of those words validating his or her learnings, to really know God.

Historic Dead sea scrolls with dusty ancient Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic writings may hold special insight about God.  Yet none of these parchments from which much of the Bible is written are not necessary to know The Divine, neither is the Bible.  In fact I really think one does not even have to be able to read, and they can be deaf, dumb or even in a coma and still find The Divine.

When I float in our swimming pool with my eyes closed my St. Jude aortic valve sounds loud under water and something I reason that is probably similar to what I listened to in the womb for nine months.  But many of my other senses are shut down floating with eyes shut.  And even without my cognitive logic and senses operating as they usually do, I still know love. 

So to me, none of our human senses are required for pure and simple spirituality, or to be in a relationship with The Divine.


I find pure spirituality in love.  I believe God is love.  I believe love is of The Divine.  I believe love is The Divine.

And now I want to learn how to love, forgive, be forgiven, and empty myself of negativity, fear or resistance I may have towards others.  I want to live in love, nothing else. 

Going back to those dusty parchments called the Dead Sea Scrolls, some of the texts have been interpreted to say God is love.  We should pay attention to these powerful words.  Weaving love into our life can be easy.  Martin Luther's words helped me understand this when he said, ‘Love God and do as you please’.  Meshing love and life can be easy (though we usually have a tendency to take the long, hard route) and as I said, my brain needs to operate on very base levels to be consistently functional.

Today I like to take Luther’s quote and adapt the words ever so slightly for my own benefit, saying, ‘love Love and be yourself’.

By loving love we are loving God because God is love.  By being ourselves we are acknowledging our humanity.  This is simple spirituality.  Not much to it.   To reside in the presence of God we should give and accept love.  By living in love I will be living in the presence of God.

This is not a separatism of dualities rather it is an emptying of self interest and replacement of our desires with love, help, friendship, kindness and placing our neighbor first, that brings us into the presence of The Divine. 

Acknowledging our humanity allows us to be who we are as a man or woman living in a complicated universe.  And I am going to write another post about my humanity, my animalness.  I am going to try and use words to describe why I am so much like the bear foraging in our swampy flatwoods, the osprey enjoying fresh kill from the salt marsh, the eagle ruffling his feathers and guarding his nest and female, the snake in the weeds or the wise old owl, the butterfly dancing in the wind and why I am also a human, one seeking permanency through love.


Suffice it for the moment of conclusion here to say I am drawn to another group of words from those old parchments found in a cave.  Paraphrasing, they say ‘when two or three come together, in my name, there I am also’.  I know when I am with others, uplifting them, I am in the presence of a great love and have found the meaning of life.

And I will be glad to share my bloody raw fish kill with you any day you are hungry.  Just don’t mess with my female or my kids and leave my territory as clean as you found it when you leave.  


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Making More Healthy Coffee in a Sustainable Manner for Heart and Cardiovascular Health

I love good coffee.  One of first things I wanted after my aorta replacement surgery was a cup of coffee.
French Press made coffee has replaced our drip maker for health reasons
But I detest coffee made in the drip maker.  The product tastes like what I would suppose plastic and petrochemicals taste like.  Blah!

Furthermore, there are quite a few articles out there pointing out just how dangerous chemicals that leach from plastic may be, and the harm to our bodies (and cardiovascular system) that hot water carrying those leached compounds from the drip maker can cause.  Yuck! 

Moreover, it is possible that we are poisoning ourselves by using drip coffee makers.  There are many petrochemical related compounds, mold release agents, stabilizers and other substances that may be found in plastics.    Over time the hot water running through a drip coffee maker with plastic parts may leach out chemicals that should not be in our bodies.   For more information on plastics and chemical leaching check out the link here to an good NPR news article.

Fortunately we found a coffee press system that is stainless steel and glass.  The Mr. Coffee Press makes the best coffee I have had in a long time.  A coffee press without plastic is a great way for anyone to live a 'greener' and more sustainable life!

Stainless and glass instead of mostly plastic
And I am not worrying as much now about drinking leached plastic compounds every morning.  Less worry means less stress on my bionic heart and this is good news. 

So for those of you who are unfamiliar with this simple coffee system, here is a quick look at the way I make coffee in the morning now.

First heat water in a teapot, preferably filtered water.  Second grind your favorite whole beans into whatever grind size you like.  I prefer strong bold coffee so my grounds are relatively fine.
Heart Health and Coffee - Fresh Roasted Beans
Then pour your ground coffee into the bottom of your coffee press.
Heart Health and Coffee - Freshly Ground Beans
Add hot water.  I like mine about 160F, but I've found that as long as the water is steaming it should be hot enough.  Do not bring your water to a hard boil.  Experimenting around with different water temperatures will allow you to choose just how hot you want your brewing coffee to be.  Some mornings I just listen for the teapot to start making its grumbling noises and I then know the water is ready. 
Heart Health and Coffee - Fresh Brew
Let the coffee brew for about three minutes.  Add the plunger lid and gently press down.
Heart Health and Coffee - Pressing the Brew
You will be totally amazed at how delicious your coffee tastes! Sustainability and health go hand in hand.  Removing plastic drip coffee makers from our lives is a good start to better heart and cardiovascular health.



Sunday, October 13, 2013

Psychosocial Stress, Competition and Happiness, Living With A Dissected Aorta

Imagine having everything you want.  In today's competitive world, the goal of having all one ever could desire is the dream of most people.
Finding more time for family and friends is important
From an early age we are programmed to accumulate things.  Our animal-like humanity teaches us about the importance of surplus.  Like the squirrels gathering up a supply for the winter, we spend much of our life stashing away for the coming future when we may or may not be able to accumulate any more.

Moreover, by turning on any television, smart phone, computer or radio we become immediately bombarded with advertisements telling us why a certain product or service is needed, important to have or necessary in our too hectic lives.  And the concept of continued accumulation is a fundamental premise our world's economy is based upon.

Keeping up with our neighbors and friends, brothers and sisters and the 'Joneses' is expected. A spirit of competition has become the norm now required in today's society.  This striving and desire to lay by in store can truly be good for many reasons.

Inventions that seemingly make our lives so much easier, like smart phones, airplanes, computers, air conditioning and processed foods are all products of the competitive marketplace.

Working hard and saving up for later is, in my opinion, the best economic outlook to have.  In many ways, this type of 'go-getter' attitude inspired me to develop and grow during my youth and young adult years and even continues to fuel my desire to write and learn more and more today.

But competition and accumulation's spell has a detrimental side too.   From a biological perspective, competition is energized in part by increased resting levels of plasma adrenaline.  Many studies have shown that over time chronic increases in adrenaline may likely cause hypertension and cellular oxidation damage.

I think of too much competition and an accumulation mode of thinking as correctly being described with the term 'psychosocial stress'.  A little psychosocial stress can encourage us to reach higher and do better.  Too much psychosocial stress can be self-defeating if we hurt our bodies from hypertension, chronic cardiac inflammatory diseases or even cancer promoted by excess adrenaline.

As with most things, finding a good balance between accumulation and satisfaction is crucial.  But with all the pressure we are under to buy and have, the odds today are stacked against ever really finding satisfaction, and instead we remain a slave to psychosocial stress.

So how much is enough?  How do we capitalize on our adrenaline in a healthy manner to lay by in store for lean or later times?  Identifying how much accumulation is enough is a good first step.  Today many people never stop trying to get more and more.  They cannot free themselves from the competitive stress of trying to have the most.  The cycle of 'finding', 'buying' and 'storing' ends only when the great after-the-funeral garage sale event is scheduled and published on Craigslist.

For me hypertension could now be a quick path to a way too early death.  I suspect there are a few others in a similar situation out across the world.  I want to share my solution to the 'how much is enough' question.

The first step in breaking the competition and accumulation cycle for me was to write out a list of every material thing I wanted to have before I died.  Being disabled I am at somewhat of an advantage over most because I know I do not have the energy to take care of too much.

My list ended up being pretty short.  I desire simplification and freedom.  The fewer things I own, the less time I spend fixing, maintaining, repairing or mending.  This means I now have more time to do the things I love, within the limits of my serious disability.

There are no correct limits of how much or how little one needs to have to break the hypertensive adrenaline cycle attributed to endless accumulation.  The key is establishing an 'endpoint'.  My list of things I wanted actually completed, finished my cycle of keeping up with the 'Joneses'.

With my list I now knew exactly what I wanted.  Surprisingly I found that I already had all I ever wanted.

Interestingly, the Bible speaks of Jesus telling a rich, young ruler "if you want to be complete, go and sell what you own and give to the poor".  For me Jesus' words here are not a challenge but a path to freedom, a path out of the accumulation cycle, a way of clarity and happiness.

My 'everything I ever wanted' list contains about one hundred items.  You can view the entire inventory here on my blog under the 'Project 100' tab.

For me my list means freedom from bondage to a bunch of things that would probably be eventually garage or estate sale sold, or passed down to someone else to store.

While others dust their things or pay the storage unit rent of future garage sale items, I am free to have coffee and an interesting conversation, help another or simply sit and focus on spirituality and each treasured heartbeat or breath.  Instead of spending time accumulating I can now walk on the beach or write haiku, spend time with my family or take wildflower photos.

Today, I am free.  I am no longer consumed with the competition and accumulation mindset when I lay resting at night.  Now thoughts of haiku and the beach and nature's beauty flood my thoughts.  Instead of psychosocial stress creating adrenaline charged oxidative stress throughout my body, a peace that surpasses all of my previous understand fills my chest.

Is this path right for you?  It probably depends on whether or not you've encountered that life changing health event.  With the onslaught of commercials we are exposed to every waking moment, the psychosocial pressure to buy more and more is stressfully strong.

In the meantime I am going to finish out my life in a state of blissful satisfaction, knowing I now have most everything I ever wanted, all listed in my Project 100 tab here on my blog that is accumulating all my many thoughts (some quite psychosocially stressful) and ideas and photographs and whatever.






Monday, October 7, 2013

Diet Implications of a Life on Metoprolol, Losartan and other Medications

I feel so much better when I am not carrying around a whole lot of excess body weight and when I am also involved in daily physical therapy.  My heart beats happier too when I do these things.
View from my bedroom window
Our bedroom window opens up to a magnificent view of the Florida flatwoods, complete with tall pines supported by an understory of thick saw palmetto, and this is where on the floor I sit when stretching.

Morning routine consists of about two hours of me attempting various aerobic stretching exercises and lifting two pound weights on a limited basis (wow!) all the while monitoring my blood pressure at varying intervals.  Last thing I want to do is a Valsalva maneuver or attempt anaerobic type lifting.  Keeping blood pressure down below the bursting pressure of my aorta is important here, and I really mean 'important'!

Rest comes next followed by mid-day pool therapy where I walk in the water, tread water and do the breast stroke for a moderate work out.  Lunch follows as does more rest.

Walking or bike riding is my afternoon physical therapy.

By seven or eight in the evening I am exhausted.  Problem is I usually can't sleep, for a number of reasons including my loud clicking heart valve and the complex combination of medications I take.

You'd think that with all the physical therapy I am involved in I'd keep my weight down to a lower BMI than the  twenty-two to twenty-three I hover around.  Yes, I know this is in the normal range but ideally I'd like to keep my BMI around twenty.  My heart and joints feel much better around the twenty number.

And you'd think with my diet keeping excess weight off would not be difficult.  I know that in my pre-dissection life, if I'd eaten then like I eat now, the weight would fly off.

But my severly dissected aorta, stretching from the present Dacron graft that has replaced the ascending aortic arch, down through my thoracic and abdominal areas into my kidneys and legs, complicates the situation.

So the doctors want my heart to beat as slow as possible.  And the doctors want my blood pressure to stay quite low too.  I call this one-two punch, 'Zombie therapy'.

And the knock out facet of this one-two punch are the medications that keep my heart beating sooooo slow and at a reduced pressure.  In and of themselves at normal concentrations they are widely used and not too terrible I hear.  However all thrown together and taken multiple times a day they have turned my once hot metabolism into a cold, practically frozen in time metabolic rate.

I told my daughter yesterday that I can actually get all the calories I need during a day just from breathing.  I was kidding of course, but even on the 1,000 calorie per day meal combinations I been treating myself too my weight maintains itself on an even keel.

Heaven forbid if I eat a dessert or treat.  I have done this occasionally and, OMG the next day I've gained three or four pounds that stay on.

If not careful I could gain fifty pounds over the span of two months.  I bet I could easily gain one hundred pounds in a year on a fifteen hundred calorie per day diet.

Food is one of the things I enjoy most in life, especially good food!  But now I have to eat lots of good-for-you-food instead of good food if I want to keep my weight steady, meaning lots of raw fruits and vegetables, staying away from sugar and moderate caloric intake and other boring 'control my eating' activities.

All this is frustrating, extremely irritating.  There are some days I am ravenous!  I am hungry, hungry and hungrier ever! Pavlov's Dog won't shut up!

I suppose that is why all of those zombies on the television programs now-a-days are constantly walking around looking for something to eat.

I am sure I am not alone.  So for all of you out there on massive amounts of Metoprolol and Losartan and other -olol's or -artans, I know what you are going through.

Check out the diet tab on the blog's homepage if you are interested in my rather dull diet.  And enjoy a cuke dipped in vinegar too!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Aortic Dissection Surgery and Short Term Memory Loss

I have been meaning to write several posts about connective tissue issues but every time I sit down with my IPad I seem to have forgotten just what I was going to write about.

Aorta dissection surgery contributed to my short term memory loss

Well, I am going to try and get through this post without forgetting what I actually wanted to tell you.

This is really frustrating, a cry for help from me, mostly to myself.  It is important for me to find ways to cope with not being able to remember things.  For one thing, the dread of 'am I coming down with Alzheimer's Disease' lurks in the not so distant background each time I have an episode of 'I can't remember'.  That means I worry about Alzheimer's Disease many times a day and worry is not something I am supposed to be doing.  Worry causes stress which in turn contributes to hypertension which in turn is not good at all for my seriously weakened and dissected cardiovascular system or the pseudoaneurysm on my coronary artery.

Mostly I deal with my insecurities about the fragility of my heart, arteries, memory, stuttering and connective tissue problems with a blend of persistent but low impact physical therapy and humor.  Certainly it is more palatable for me to joke about my short comings than to deal with ugly defensiveness on my part.  But today I  thought a frank discussion and sharing of experiences coping with forgetfulness would be the best route for me to take.

Sharing with others about one's shortcomings opens up vulnerabilities but in a safe atmosphere can become a healing modality too.  So I am sharing with you today some of the things I can remember enough of about my forgetfulness issues to record here before they disappear into wherever lost memories go.

Ever since I had unexpectedly been subject to two open heart surgeries, one where my heart was on bypass for quite some time, my ascending aorta replaced and a mechanical heart valve installed, I have struggled with short term memory recall.

As a blogger I used to have excellent recall of words.  My mind was part of a walking thesaurus; me. Not anymore though.  Now I keep a tab open to the thesaurus wepage on the computer when writing.

So several times over the past few weeks I've had some seemingly great ideas for a cardiovascular or connective tissue or Marfan post only to arrive at the IMac empty minded.  Sheeez.  That was so frustrating.  I have much to say and share but I just cannot remember what it is I want to say much of the time.

The other day I was leaving a business and headed to the pharmacy to pick up a refill on some my medications.  Exiting the drive I could not figure out which way to turn.  Do I turn to the right? Maybe I turn to the left?  Arrrrgh!  This is happening more and more frequently to me.

Then this week on the way to drop my teen daughter off for her college class where she was having an exam, I became wrought with irritation when I could not get out my answer to her question about the topic she was being tested on.

I wanted to share three very important study points with her.  I had them laid out clearly in my mind but they would not come out of my mouth in the form of words.  As soon as I started to tell her the first then the other two would disappear.  So I stopped and rethought the three facts through again, and once more, as soon as I began to discuss with my daughter the information disappeared from my mental recall folder.

Well, I have been considering this issue and exactly how my brain may have been compromised somewhat with respect to 'embolistic events' as my neurologist calls them, during my surgeries.  I have decided a couple of important things, and they are;
  • I need to stay active physically to keep good blow flow to my brain.
  • Diet is extremely important.  I must do 'brain' foods!
  • Plenty of rest is an important thing to add to my 'to do list'.
  • Daily mental exercises are a must.
  • Stress must be minimized (stop worrying about Alzheimer)
  • Support group interaction and participation (sharing) is required.
  • Creative solutions to improving short term memory are available for my use, and
  • I need to focus and stay away from multi-tasking.
One creative solution I've come up with solves the 'which way do I turn?' dilemma.   Instead of asking myself 'which way do I turn?', I first tell myself where I am headed.  This peels back the layers of a more complex question, simplifying the decision making process from a 'which way do I turn to go where?' to a statement 'I am going to the ...'.  Once I am focused on my destination it is easier to decipher directions.

And I tried this method all this week and it works!

For me, creative solutions to short term memory issues lie within my ability to adapt!  Now, all I have to do is remember these creative solutions from day to day.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fighting Hypertension and Supporting Cardiovascular Health Through Haiku

I have been working with various types of stress relief therapies to lower my blood pressure and reduce hypertension, including diet, cardio, medications and also short poetry.  If you notice, this site has a new tab entitled "One Breath Poetry".  Enjoy the nature centered haiku and other short poems, all of which are a reflection of my search for peace and health.

Worth

quiet confidence
realizing self worth comes
from within one's heart 
 ...
Bald Eagle
Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Flagler County, FL, September 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Renal and Aorta Dissection in Marfan Syndrome. Color Doppler Views.

For those of you interested in color doppler photos of a dissected renal artery and aorta, these are my latest, taken a couple weeks ago.
Color doppler showing blood flow through my aorta #Marfan Syndrome #Dissected Aorta

Color on a doppler echogram represents the direction of blood flow.  As indicated by the legend bar on the upper right, red and the shades of red represent the velocity of blood moving towards the ultrasound transducer.  Oppositely, shades of blue ranging from light to dark reflect the speed of blood flowing away from the doppler unit.

In the photo above the blue represents blood flowing through the true aortic lumen ( the open, original aortic channel) while the redish orange colored section represents blood flowing back towards the ultrasound, or blood caught in the false lumen or channel and flowing back towards the doppler after being caught in the dead-end channel.

The false lumen is like a dead end street.  There is no outlet to the false lumen channel.  Blood flows into the false lumen through the tear in the inner most aortic wall layer called the intimal layer.
My aortic dissection, the torn intimal flap is easily seen crossing the inside diameter of the thoracic aorta
  The photo immediately above shows the ultrasound without doppler effects.  My aorta's false lumen is visible running directly through the middle of the channel.   This 'flap' you see is the section of my aorta torn away from the rest of the vessel.  

Blood flows through an open channel on one side.  The other side of the intimal flap though goes no where.  It is a dead end opening where blood flows in, then back out.

As long as the true lumen is open enough to provide adequate blood flow and the aorta wall does not aneuryze from loss of strength then the flow of blood to the body may still occur.


Another side view of the intimal flap inside my aorta.
Medications and diet can help control blood pressure and pulse rate.  The lower these variables are the more likely the blood flow can be managed.  My blood pressure averages 109/59 and I have a pulse rate of around 45 beats per minute.

The issue with my massive dissection is the fear of aneurysm or total blockage of blood flow.

Because renal artery dissection is one of the health problems I am dealing with, my hypochondria goes into high gear whenever I see blood in my urine.  Is my dissected renal artery aneurysing or bursting?

Doppler view of the flow through my left renal artery

 In fact, last month while visiting my parents in Tallahassee I started having lots of blood in my urine.  My wife, Judy took me to Tallahassee Memorial Emergency Room.  I honestly thought I was having an aneurysing renal artery because of the pain's location and the amount of blood.  Fortunately the blood was caused by a kidney stone. 

But living with constant fear, knowing one's aorta wall is compromised is a constant physical and mental challenge, one experienced by most of those struggling with Marfan Syndrome and other connective tissue disorder issues.

Doppler view of my right renal artery

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cardiac Arrhythmia and Marfan Syndrome, Socks and Gloves

Cold temperatures and I have never been fond of each other.  My heart too detests what the cold does to my circulatory system.
Touching cold objects causes my heart to beat wildly


With the Marfan Syndrome issues affecting my body, including extra height and long limbs, the heart inside has to work extra hard every moment just pump blood those extra long distances.  But when cold affects my fingers and toes my heart sometimes goes crazy trying to figure out how to handle pumping blood through now constricted blood vessels way out there in the fingers and toes.

To put it simply, when my fingers and toes become cold my heart sometimes starts racing or jumping around with crazy atrial fibrillation, also know as cardiac arrhythmia.

My simple solution for avoiding this type of heart fluttering lies in warm socks, a pair of soft comfy gloves and warm weather.

Its that easy for me to avoid certain types of cardiac arrhythmias.  Keep those toes and fingers warm.  Don't let them get cold.

Our body has certain reactions to cold.  One of the first things our body does when our peripheral temperature (temperature of toes, limbs, fingers, arms and ears) drops is to vaso-constrict blood vessels.  There is a good, brief explanation about cold and our body's cardiovascular system on the Livestrong.com website.

An even more comprehensive and excellent brief, visually oriented website explaining the fundamentals of cardiovascular output and variables that can affect both blood pressure and heart rate is published by James Doohan and is a site I highly recommend.

As my curiosity concerning peripheral body temperature and arrhythmia grew, I wondered about my own body.

Judy says my fingers and toes are unusually cold and I agree.  I hate the cold weather or touching anything cold or jumping water.

So I measured my body temperature orally with our medicine thermometer.  The temperature in my mouth was 97.7 F, or 36.5 C.  My fingers and toes were so cool that the digital medicine thermometer could not determine the temperature.

Not to be thwarted I found the industrial infra-red digital thermometer I had in the garage, installed a new 9 volt battery and pointed the laser at my toes.  The readout told me why my feet felt like ice.  Toe temperature was a cool 74.4 F or 23.6 C.  My fingers were not much warmer at 76 F.  The house temperature was a pleasant 79 F while the outside temperature hovered in the mid 80's F.

For comparison I measured my wife's and children's peripheral body temperatures, though the teens thought I was crazy.

Judy's finger and toe temperatures were in the low 90's F.  The two marf teens, with their long limbs were more like me, with lower peripheral body temperatures.

These temperatures are no surprise to me because I know my heart has to pump blood extra long distances, all the while dealing with installed metal parts and foreign aortic components.  The old clicker is also stressed from multiple open heart surgeries, functioning well below normal output.

So when the fingers and toes get cold and the skin vessels constrict as they do naturally to conserve body heat, the heart has a harder job pumping blood.  At this point all the node chemicals and signals start to fire, diastolic pressure jumps and my heart attempts to increase output.

It is kind of like flooring the accelerator pedal in a car with an engine about to throw a rod.  Motor starts shaking, clanging, huffing and puffing and, well you get the picture.

Of course there are many causes of arrhythmia.

But because they are so frightening to me with my beat up heart and aorta, controlling one cause is important.  When  my heart  goes into erratic beat patterns I become concerned the dissected descending aorta will further aneuryze, dilate or even burst.

Fortunately warm comfortable socks, like those made for diabetic patients can moderate lower body peripheral temperatures and reduce the likelihood of signalling for increased cardiovascular output.  Gloves too address the same issue on the hands.

Avoiding cold weather is my big strategy.

But wherever you live, keeping peripheral body temperature fluctuations to a minimum might help you solve some of your afib or arrhythmia problems.  It is worth a try!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Morninga can be Deadly too. Plant Interactions with Medicines.

Seems lessons are always learned the hard way for me.  It is my own fault though.
Moringa oleifera, a very powerful herb that can cause bleeding
I had always read about the many benefits of the plant moringa, especially as a food and source of vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

In fact, moringa provides solutions to far more issue than just health.  The tree can remove pollution from water, grows easily where water is scarce and provides livestock with protein.

As a plant biologist, I've always munched on berries, leaves, nuts and fruit from plants in the garden and plants in the wild.  And I've never had a problem, until the other day after a week of eating a handful of moringa leaves each day.

Immediately after eating the moringa leaves I began feeling full of energy.  There is quite a bit of literature available pointing to how the phytochemicals in moringa can actually improve peripheral circulation.

But within a couple of days I began to urinate blood, lots of blood.

At first I thought I was passing another kidney stone.  It'd only been a couple weeks since I passed three very large stones and they did some serious damage on the way down, creating lots of blood flow with their razor sharp edges.

But the kidney stone damage cleared up within a couple of days.

After a week of urinating blood I began to think the problem at hand was not a kidney stone issue.

Then someone sent me a link to a website where the information suggested moringa could cause internal bleeding.  So I began to research moringa's effects on bleeding and clotting.  There are several quite complicated scientific papers on how moringa's chemical components can interfere with blood clotting.  After reading and rereading the medical terms I realized that the plant is actually a very powerful anti-coagulant and even an abortifacient.

So the morning habit of eating moringa leaves stopped.  And within a day there was no more blood in my urine.

The more I read and researched, the more I realized this plant is not a plant to be taken lightly when ingested for any reason.

Moringa was causing me to hemorrhage.  I was actually bleeding out internally.

Now before I would had scoffed if I had read this.  I would have said something to the effect of 'it was a fluke interaction with other medications', or 'actually something else and not moringa'.

But once you experience first hand the power, good or bad, of this plant, you stand in awe of it.

We have several moringa trees planted around the yard.  Now everytime I walk by one I shiver just a little.  The plant can be a blessing.  The plant can also be a monster.

Lesson learned the hard way.  Herbs, leaves and berries can be good.  They can also be deadly. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fasting, Cardiovascular Issues and Marfan Syndrome

Quite excited about the four day get back to nature fast I am on. 

Kevin Songer's Marfan Life Challenges
Follow my diet journal here on the blog under the diet tab.  Trying to stick to juiced or raw vegetables and fruits.  After Day One so far so good.

Even with all the meds I felt no additional dizziness, blood pressure or blood sugar issues.  In fact yesterday afternoon I had so much more energy that I spent additional time doing my physical therapy in the pool. 

My blood pressure had dropped about ten points both systolic and diastolic  - and this is OK for me because of my dissected descending aorta.

I will do an in-depth post towards the end of the week, but so far so good!