Sunday, May 7, 2017

An Ill-Advised Bike Ride

I probably shouldn't write this post, because as soon as V reads it she will come downstairs and whack me in the head with a 2x4, and right now I'm not able to outrun her.

I will not bore readers with the details of my recent health issues. The short summary is that since last August I had been having symptoms while exercising, which turned out to be caused by blockages in my coronary arteries. By the time the cause was identified my arteries were really, really blocked - it was serious enough that they scheduled my surgery for the next morning, bumping someone else off the surgical calendar because of the urgency of my surgery. The conditions were there for me to have a fatal heart attack and I'm lucky that it didn't end that way. So are you, because you would have been deprived of my deeply entertaining blog posts forever.

For most of the seven months it took to figure the issue out the doctors were pursuing both pulmonary (breathing) and cardiac (heart-related) causes. A cardiac stress test in 2015 (I actually had brief episodes of symptoms in 2014 and 2015, but they subsided on their own) revealed nothing out of the ordinary, and I'm a pretty healthy guy, so my doctor leaned more towards pulmonary - asthma, or something like it. The problem is, all the asthma and lung function tests kept coming back normal. Finally, I convinced the doctor to send me for a CT scan of my lungs (I was concerned about lung cancer, since that's what killed both my dad and my grandfather). My lungs were normal, but the CT did reveal calcification of the coronary arteries. This was a very significant finding, but was written up in a very ambiguous way by the radiologist who read the CT and consequently went unnoticed by the other doctors. Fortunately, I read the report on my doctor's patient portal and we brought the calcification to the attention of my primary care doctor, who said she'd talk to the radiologist about it.

At this point, two weeks elapsed without my hearing from my doctor until she called me late one afternoon. Just the fact that the doctor called me herself rather than have a minion convey the message got me concerned - it meant something serious was going on. This was confirmed when she advised me to Immediately Cease All Exercise and Go See A Cardiologist. Needless to say, this kind of freaked me out.

The part of the story which hasn't been told until now is that when she called me I had just finished changing into cycling clothes and was about ready to walk out of my office and go bike riding. I have an awful commute, which I mitigate by exercising after work, letting rush hour pass by before I take on the 50 mile drive home. Well, there I was, ready to go cycling - excited, in fact, because this was going to be my first time mountain biking in a long time. And so I was faced with a dilemma: I was all set to go biking, I needed to do something to kill time before heading home, but I was now under orders to not exercise.

In retrospect, I could have found other ways to kill time. I could have watched Netflix at my desk. I could have put in extra time working. I could have gone outlet shopping in Clarksburg. I could have had a long, leisurely dinner. Probably the least advisable course of action was to say to myself, "Hey, if the doctor waited two weeks to call me, then it can't be all that urgent - I can wait two hours to put her advice into effect," and do my ride in Little Bennett Regional Park as planned. Oh, and it was a really pretty evening.

I will give you a chance to guess which option I took. As a hint, here's a link to my Strava track. I will say in my defense that I rode exceptionally slowly - no bombing down the single track, just a short, gentle ride through the woods at a pace no more taxing than a brisk walk. I've got to say, I had forgotten how much I enjoy mountain biking. Riding a bike through the woods is a very cool combination of, well, riding a bike and being in the woods. It's like a faster and more exciting version of hiking. I had a big grin on my face the whole way and thought to myself that if I did keel over, I would die happy.

Biking Little Bennett Regional Park w/ a bad ticker
The happy ending is that I did not die. I returned home and did indeed put the "No Exercise" prohibition into place. Four days later I wound up in the hospital, on a trajectory that shortly took me to surgery. Right now I'm not allowed to pick up anything weighing over ten pounds (and contrary to what you might take away from this blog entry, I actually am a compliant patient - if I know I'm sick) and so I can't even pick up any of my bikes off the rack. But I'm counting the days until I can!

A few days later (that's decaf, BTW)

No comments: