Tag Archives: bav

Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other

A six word story:

Anxiety now, chest cut next… LIVE.

How perfect that I fall victim to a writing prompt via wordpress. The irony is that I assign such work almost daily to my students.

More and more, I’ve been wishing that my surgery date was sooner. More irony. Previously I wished it away into the distant future. Now, i feel that the anxiety leading up to it must be worse than the surgery itself. The last part of the six word story is “LIVE“. I just want to put this behind me so I can get on with life. I am very excited about life ‘on the other side’. I plan on livin’.

Which leads me to a relevant lesson taught to me by a Bruce Lee JPG (click pic to read).

then die...

then die…

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/daily-prompt-six/

The Athlete’s Heart

cycling red rocks

cycling red rocks

The different opinions coming from different patients and doctors about how much exercise is appropriate for someone with BAV can be a little frustrating. There are various camps out there on this matter, and I will attempt to break it down here. Keep in mind that recommendations can vary depending on severity of regurgitation & stenosis, and the presence/ size of an associated thoracic aortic aneurysm. My current status is Bicuspid Aortic Valve with mild-severe regurgitation and 4.6cm ascending aortic aneurysm. Here we go:

1. Doctors and patients who see the potential of dissection and rupture, even though it might be a small risk. If there is a possibility, then why risk a catastrophic event with the stress of exercise? These opinions stem from the recommendations made at the 36th Bethesda Conference in 2005. Walking, bowling and golf are ok.

2. Doctors and patients who take a cautious yet more liberal approach. This is where I’ve been hanging out for the past few months. I continue my normal forms of exercise, yet I do not push myself. Keep BPM under 140, avoid the Valsalva Maneuver while exercising, and listen to your body.

3. Patients who say, “Screw what anyone else says, I’m doing what I want!” I seriously considered this for a while. Not the smartest move, but potentially liberating. Potentially liberating from life as well.

I just recently had a cool email correspondence with Dr. Larry Creswell, from a blog that I’ve been following called athletesheart.blogspot.com. His blog is exactly the resource that I need. He is a Cardiologist who cares enough about people like me to make his knowledge available to the public. He also responded to an email of mine in full detail. I asked Dr. Creswell about what he thought I should be doing in regards to exercise right now, and he definitely falls under category #1. His response was, and I quote:

“…You ask about my thoughts about exercise between now and 11/25.  I’d be very cautious.  Guidelines developed by an expert panel can be found online in the Proceedings of the 36th Bethesda Conference.  Athletes with BAV and aortic diameter >4.5 cm should participate in only low-intensity sports (eg, golf, bowling).  I know that’s not what you’d like to hear.      On the brighter side, once you’ve recovered from operation you should be good to go.  I’m aware of a bunch of young athletes who’ve returned to their sports after operations like yours.  You might check out Ironheart Racing online; their founder, Dave Watkins, had your operation and is back at triathlon.  Climbing El Capitan would be awesome.”

Dr. Creswell is right. That IS NOT what I wanted to hear, though it is important for me to hear these second opinions. His thoughts will definitely help me shape the next couple of months. Maybe I should scale back a bit. More yoga. Less climbing. Less hills while cycling. More patience.

Ima still jump off cliffs though

Digifit Testimonial

About a month ago, I posted about how I was using Digifit to continue exercising while keeping my heart rate low. The editors over at Digifit contacted me about doing a little testimonial for their blog. Check it out!:                           http://blog.digifit.com/2013/08/digifit-helps-anthony/

It is just really incredible (and strange) that, so far, this has been one of the most positive experiences of my life. I know there is a hard road ahead of me, But I can also see some rewards up ahead as well. I have many ideas that I can’t wait to explore and share with you.

I really don’t know when I was happier than now.

happiness

happiness

cheers!

Anthony

Surgery Day Scheduled

thump thump

my heart

Whelp. It’s official. My Open Heart Surgery has been scheduled for MONDAY, NOVEMBER 25TH 2013. I chose the week of Thanksgiving break so that I can take off from work during the time in between Thanksgiving and winter break, then come back to work, ready to go after the New Year. This would minimize the number of days that I will be out.

When I was on the phone with my coordinator from the surgeon’s office, I asked about available days on the week of Thanksgiving. She replied with, “Yes, Monday the 25th, would you like me to schedule?….       sir?       hello?…” I couldn’t answer. I was thinking, is there maybe a better day? Would I rather it be after winter break? Is it better on a tuesday? My fear had my tongue. I realized that this surgery was going to happen and it didn’t matter when. Just get it over with.

“Yes, November 25th is fine, thanks.” I replied.

There. Done. Open heart surgery scheduled. Another stepping stone. Next step: My coordinator will ask my surgeon & cardiologist if they think I need an Angiogram. What’s that you say? An Angiogram is when they stick a tube into your heart from your groin to determine the size of bulges and blockages in arteries. So in case you were wondering the way to a man’s heart, in this case, it’s the groin. Cheers.

Anthony

Monitoring BPM with Digifit

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Yesterday I rode my bike to the climbing gym (Threshhold Climbing & Fitness) and then climbed at the gym, all the while monitoring my heart’s beats per minute (BPM). My goal is to keep my BPM under 150, even under 140 if possible. As you can tell, my heart rate spiked pretty high, but I was able to bring it down immediately. I think that soon I will have greater control over my heart rate.

Digifit

I tried several apps with my bluetooth heart monitor, and ended up using Digifit on my IPhone. I like Digifit because it is highly customizable and has crisp graphs and graphics. Most importantly to me, I am able to create my own heart rate zones and enable the voice feedback feature to notify me when I enter these zones. For cycling, zone 1=130-140, zone 2=140-150, and so forth. For climbing, zone 1=140-150, zone 2=150-160, etc. I set my zones up in this way so that the voice feedback doesn’t bother me at lower heart rates, only when I am approaching or within my prescribed max zones.

Results

Cycling Test: It was pretty hot for my bike ride, which made controlling my heart rate difficult. I also had a full stomach. If you look at the line graph, the biggest spike in BPM correlates with a big increase in elevation, thus a decrease in speed. As i kicked the bike into an easier gear and slowed down, my BPM quickly dropped to an acceptable level.  CLICK HERE FOR BIKE RIDE RESULTS

Climbing Test 1 (Lead Climbing): Lead sport climbing is climbing up a rock face and clipping your protection into pre drilled bolts as you climb up. This is typically more difficult and straining than top roping, which I am yet to test with my heart rate monitor. Lead climbing proved to really jack up my heart rate. This particular climb was only rated 5.9, yet it still sent my heart rate above 180 BPM. I may have to steer clear from this form of climbing for the next few months.                                                                    CLICK HERE FOR LEAD CLIMB RESULTS

Climbing Test 2 (Bouldering): I like Bouldering better anyway. Bouldering is climbing literally boulders without rope protection. Typically a boulderer will carry a ‘crash pad’ out and a friend to spot their landing to avoid injury. I had a much easier time controlling my heart rate during this short bouldering session. Boulder problems are rated and I usually max out at V6. I’ve only sent V7 a handful of times in the climbing gym. During this workout, you can clearly tell by my heart rate that I climbed 4 boulder problems. They were V1, V2, V3, V4 in that order. One important indicator that I’m doing an okay job here is to view the pie chart that presents the percentage of time spent in each zone. I only spend 3% of my time in the 150-160BPM zone. I believe that just like with cycling, soon I will have better control over my heart rate as I practice my breathing methods and body control.              CLICK HERE FOR BOULDERING RESULTS

Why is this important? Do I really need to obsess over this? This is empowering me to stay at my current fitness level without putting myself at risk for aortic dissection or rupture. I want to go into this surgery as fit and strong as possible, so that my recovery can be swift.

In other news, I went to the dentist yesterday to get my mouth ‘cleared’ of infection, cavities etc. Mouth infections can easily infect a defective heart valve, which would be a big risk before, during, and after a surgery. The surgeon requires a dentist to take X-rays and inspect the mouth. Luckily, despite my 3 year dentist visit abstinence (yikes) my dentist did not see any cavities/ infection and cleared me for surgery. This means that soon I will have a surgery date.

Also, a HUGE shout out to all of my friends, especially in this case my climbing friends who poured over their support for me! I would especially like to thank young Kristen and her dad Jess. Kristen has a similar heart issue as me and said she was climbing in yesterday’s climbing competition for me! Cheers!

Anthony

Fear or: The Waiting Room

Wherever I read about receiving heart surgery, the people who have gone through it always say the same thing; the hardest part is waiting, and life is better on the other side. Trusting these individuals can make things easier, however this is a hard thing to do. I’ve never met anyone in my situation outside of the Internet. They are correct though. The time leading up to surgery, nicknamed ‘The Waiting Room’, is a scary place. But what am I afraid of? The data is on my side. Science, technology, and the experience of my doctors and surgeons are behind me. So what is the fear? The fear is of the unknown. I am nervous about the pain of course, about being weak, and all that. But I am afraid most of what I don’t know. It is hard to feel out of control. I must place my life and my trust into the hands (LITERALLY) of another human being. He will be a pilot, and I will be a sleeping passenger…
HOOOKAY, that was dramatic. Glad I got that out of my system!
Good news to report: I’ve been cycling with my heart rate monitor on, and it is quite easy for me to ride as much as I want while keeping my BPM well under 140. I rode 25 miles the other day while averaging 122 BPM. I peaked at 140 exactly and was able to slow down and bring it immediately down while going up a big hill. When I get the hang of my workout app Digifit, I will post results.

P.S. since I created this blog, I have received many messages of support and love from my family, friends, and strangers. Thank you all so much. People like this matter:

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Cheers!
Anthony