Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Step by Step We Overcome Our Challenges

This short note is about walking through challenges, one step at a time.

So far in 2015, each new dawn brings new daily blessings and new challenges.  The blessings are appreciated and the challenges, well, having been forced to become a pedestrain has taught me that we all get through our issues, one step at a time.

One step at a time is also how I get around.
Walking Gives Me a New Perspective on Facing Challenges
In part it sucks, especially living in a place with no public transportation.  We do have plenty of sidewalks here in Palm Coast and they go everywhere and even go nowhere.  You see, when the city was planned big developers were hoping for a megatropolis.  Sidewalks were built to allow for senior citizens to ride big Schwinn tricycles two abreast.  But the crash came.

So we have lots of very wide sidewalks and lots of woods.  I like both.

Lately my walking has been curtailed a little because of encounters with unexpected health issues.

I know I should never expect issues to stop arising.  They always will, that is just part of life.

But sometimes, after a long time of dealing with one body part malfunctioning it seems like there might be light at the end of the tunnel.  Then another body part issues manifests itself and does so usually in a most unpleasant way.

Last week my heart (the thing is already filled with artificial parts) decided to begin mimicking my brain's erratic electrical patterns.  My heart forgot what proper rhythm was all about.

I know now that arrhythmia is much more common than I  thought.  But when it hit me it hurt bad.  I thought the end was closer or near or around the corner somewhere.

So that morning I asked Ruairi to take me to the emergency room in St. Augustine.

The Bigeminy they diagnosed me with hurts.  I feel like someone is squeezing my heart while the organ is dancing around trying to remember how to beat.

Honestly, I could have probably dealt with the Bigeminy better if my aorta valve weren't so clingy loud.

Over the past three years I have come to rely on my metronome-like heart valve to keep all my life in perfect sync.  One loud click each second and a half.  I even half like that steady, audible noise, sometimes now.

So when the heart started jumping and hurting the steady metronome rhythm did something unusual.  The clicking noises switched beats.

The steady click click was gone.  Instead my heart was beating two and three times in the space where one beat should have been.  The doctors explained this to me with the EKG graph as an illustraton.   Actually the second and third beats are not full heartbeats but they originate when the top part of the heart known as the atria contracts again out of sync or the bottom part of the heart, known as the ventricular portion does the same.
Bigeminy (irregular heartbeats) show up on an EKG
Oversimplified, a Bigeminy PAC would be a heartbeat with one good beat and one half beat coming from the top of the heart.  A Bigeminy PVC would be the same except the extra contraction arises from the bottom of the heart.  A Trigeminy PAC of PVC manifests itself as three beats, one full beat and two half beats.

What causes these Bigeminies?  Extra stimulation including; caffeine, sugar, stress or previous open heart surgeries.  Treatments can include a procedure called ablation or a pacemaker, bypass and importantly, adoption of a centered, calm lifestyle - one I find through prayer and meditation.

Yet sometimes I feel like this falling apart mode is never going to end with a dark cloud of worry and depression always just around the corner.

At least the diagnosis has a cool name.  Jiminy Cricket would have been proud.

Discharged with instructions to see my cardiologist asap (my appointment with the electrophysiologist is this week) I spent the weekend thinking, 'how am I going to get through this new challenge?  I want my old heart rhythm back. Back at home I immediately dumped the French roast coffee beans into the garbage.   Judy says hot water is just as good and I am beginning to agree.

Sitting made my loud erratic beat even louder and more obnoxious.

'Just make up your mind, dammit!', I yelled.

After three years I was finally used to and even happy with the plain-jane click, click, steady beat.   Now instead I have this wild, band like drumming going on, producing barbaric rhythms that evoke memories of the most annoying jingles I've ever heard.

'Chili's Baby Back Ribs' and the jingle to one of my teen's favorite television shows, 'The Office' immediately started playing with the aortic beat.  Arrrrgh!   'Who Let The Dogs Out!' and 'YMCA' then started playing.  Finally there was 'Whoomp!  There It Is' and the 'I Wish I Were An Oscar Mayer Weiner' and 'SpongeBob Squarepants'.  Would the nightmare end?

Out the door with my cane.  Time for a walk.  Fresh air and being outdoors always helps me work through issues.  Halfway to Publix I realized, 'I can do this'.  The solution to any new challenge is just like walking.  Step by step you will eventually get there.
Step by Step and before you know it the journey is complete
Sometimes a journey looks impossible to complete.  Surgeries can take forever it seems to recover from.  Life events seem as though they are impossibly permanent.  My mile walk to Publix seems forever to me as I start out.

Yet from having walked just about everywhere here for the past couple years I have learned a maxim.  And that maxim is 'before you know it, the journey will be complete'.

Don't worry about how far you have to go.  Just take the first step and then the second.

Importantly, new perspectives may open up along the way.  I have learned so much about urban planning through my walks, especially with respect to just how our cities and living spaces are not planned with disabled or pedestrians or even cyclists in mind.  Our metropolia are planned around the automobile.  So I've learned how best not to get hit by a car when I am walking.  That is where bright orange and lime green socks and show laces come in.

Too, I have learned that the most common sidewalk litter include; previously scratched off lottery tickets, cigarette butts and dog droppings the size of which I am sometimes flabbergasted.  Another good reason to not look too far into the distance but rather focus on what is immediately in front of you.

I've always admired wildflowers.  Florida has some awesome weeds with beautiful blooms.  Florida also has some terribly aggravating (though ecologically important) weeds like Spanish needles aka Bidens alba but that is another story.  Walking has provided me with an opportunity to stop when I need to rest and truly observe nature.

The complexity in simple things, like weed-wildflowers amazes me.  Sometimes, when I see a weed-flower I stop, set my bag and cane down, sit down and just be. I hadn't held a dandelion-like seed head in the wind in decades, but I do so now.  Carrying home blooms I've been trying to create illustrations of these blooms.
When it seems as though I may die, I draw wildflowers.  My best medicine.

Those jingles are slowly fading away.  Acceptance of the regular irregular click is happening.  Something new, yes.  Step by step I will get through this.

Honestly it amazes me just how fast journeys, even hard ones, fly by.

Yep, there will always be new and unexpected journeys we are required to take along the way but step by step will get us there.

It is so much easier for me to focus on a step rather than think about a long path ahead.   One step turns to two and two to three.  Before you know it we are home.

I suppose there is a spiritual lesson here for me too.  Don't focus on the reward at the end.  If you do you will miss out on the journey here and now.  Live life with each step.

Sometimes many or most steps will be so hard.  Other steps will be good, fun and easy.

Pffff….. this morning my heart valve rhythm decided on the 'Meow Mix' jingle.


  1. Great drawings Kevin. Keep on walking a moving target is harder to hit, right? I have had a few challenges lately, health wise. So I also understand the feeling that this might be the last downhill slide.I think I like the idea of enjoying the walk. Thanks.

  2. Hello Kevin, your article is very informative. Health should deteriorate only after the mid age, not before that. I will start exercising and consuming good food for maintaining good health. I have heard that heart health can be improved by eating cranberry. Check out article - Cranberry Juice for Heart. I will buy cranberry tomorrow for sure.

  3. Hey Kevin, I was just thinking that I haven't seen a post from you in awhile. Hope you are doing ok. I'm sure wishing I was at conference in Chicago this year. The timing just didn't work out for me and my daughter to go. I always enjoy your posts. I have had 5 open hearts and am mostly all bionic 😁 now. As you said you think it's smooth sailing and then some fun new challenge comes along. This year has been a major challenge for me hospital for a leg bleed that almost bleed me dry, and left my left leg useless (second time dealing with this) at least this time I got back to walking pretty fast, just a couple weeks. Last time was 3 months. Went to conference in LA with a wheelchair and crutches. My one kidney now has a narrowing in the artery as does my stomach ( mesenteric) artery. I can't have salt or potassium anymore because of Dural Ectasia and my poor little kidney. I'm wondering what to eat. Have lost more weight than I need to! Well, sorry for the ramble, just thought about you the other day hoping you are still doing ok. 😊