Saturday, November 29, 2008

Where to begin?

Last time I posted I was on the Space Coast of Florida, shuttling between the hospital and my dad’s house. “Felix” – aka John – was improving but we still couldn’t figure out the low blood pressure. In addition to the low BP, his heart rate was mostly in the mid-40s.

I’ve talked to more health care professionals in the past week than I have in all my previous years, I think. After several conversations, I learned that in addition to digoxin, Dad had been taking another heart drug called Cordarone, and he had practically every side effect listed in the product information sheet for that drug. Once they took him off both those drugs, improvement was swift and dramatic.

Cordarone is long-acting and will stay in his system for about 10 more weeks, but already his heart rate has made it to the 60s. He was released from ICU to a regular room last Tuesday and was released to a rehabilitation hospital Wednesday. Dad, his wife and I had turkey and trimmings together at the rehab dining room (Dad calls it the mess hall).

It was one of the best Thanksgivings we’ve ever had.

I made it to the beach one afternoon while I was in Florida, and took about 20 pictures of this bird. No one down there could tell me what it was, other than it’s “some kind of crane.” Anyone know? He wasn’t shy at all and, in fact, was pretty aggressive with someone fishing on the beach.

The most exercise I got all week was walking from the parking lot to the hospital entrance. I made sure to park as far away as I could after the first couple of days. I made up for the lack of exercise by eating very little – some days all I had was breakfast. It’s quite amazing how little appetite I had while I was there.

Hope to get back to a more normal routine soon. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep in my own bed.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bloggers, meet Felix

I'm posting from my dad's home computer, which has spotty internet service. When it connects, though, it's fast! Fast and unreliable works for me, at least this week when I haven't had much time to park my ass in front of a monitor.

Dad's still in ICU, but - as the title of this post implies - making a pretty good recovery. Turns out he has pneumonia. In someone with compromised health, pneumonia is life-threatening. The first system that shut down was the renal. His kidneys no longer produced or filtered urine, and all the normal medications he was taking started building up in and poisoning his system.

So, pneumonia followed by medication toxicity on top of heart problems and you've got the geriatric trifecta. The health care team figured it out pretty quickly, got his kidneys working again (three rounds of dialysis) and started him on three different antibiotics.

The lingering problem is low blood pressure. He's on an IV medicine to keep it in the normal range, but they want him off of it. When they try to wean him off, his BP drops dangerously low. Next step is a temporary pacemaker, the theory being that if his heart rate were higher (it's now in the 50s, they want it to be 70-80), his BP would rise as well. The temporary one will be in place for 24 to 48 hours, to see if it does what they want it to do. If so, a permanent one will be the next step and he should be good to go.

He has sooooo many problems, nearly all are complications of Type II diabetes, which is, if not completely preventable at least mostly preventable and certainly treatable. I'm not sure if he thought he was invincible or what, but it's all catching up with him now. Even if the pacemaker works, he has ongoing foot and leg pain that is excruciating and prevents him from doing so many things he used to enjoy. Just before this hospitalization, he joined the "Scooter Generation," walking the dog while riding on one of those cool little scooter chairs.

I hope he'll be out walking the dog again soon. Even if it is on a scooter. Your good thoughts and wishes and, especially, your prayers are working. Thank you all.

Felix and Debbi

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Made it ...

to Florida. My dad isn't doing well at all. It's hard to fight everything at once, and it seems that his heart, lungs and kidneys have all given up at the same time. He woke up for a little bit last night, but he's confused and very sick. The doctors say everything is reversible, but we need more time. More time ...

Thanks for your comments about the half. Finishing IS better than not finishing or not starting - thanks for that reminder, Marla. And seeing my dad and all his preventable health problems makes me more determined to do the right stuff to protect myself and defy my genetics.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Better with age?

Not so much.

I’d really, really hoped to PR the Richmond race. Didn’t happen, not by a long shot. Total time was 2:51:40 – more than a minute/mile slower than my first (and best) half-marathon in April, 2007.

I weigh 20 pounds more than I did a year and a half ago. I’m sure that’s the – um – bulk of the reason for the less-than-optimal performance. Training didn’t go as well as it could have either.

Here are the splits (sorry for the crappy screenshot):

I forgot to turn the Garmin off at the finish line, so that purple-shaded last lap isn’t correct.

I recommend the race, if you’re in the Richmond, VA, area next fall. The course is lovely, winding through some beautiful old neighborhoods and the biggest hill is the long one going down as you approach the finish line. The promised music-every-mile didn’t happen, but the weather forecast might have had something to do with that.

The forecast was much worse than the actual weather. I’d taken arm warmers and a hat (I never run in a hat), and I bought gloves at the expo. Turned out to be a warm, humid, windy morning but the predicted thunderstorms had already blown through by the start of the race.

Both of my running companions finished, as well – my husband’s cousin’s wife’s 16-year-old daughter had entered as well, and we crossed the line together. Her mother was 20 minutes behind us, happy to finish and on a runner’s high the rest of the day. They both made the race a lot more fun for me than it would otherwise have been.

I was 31st out of 52 in my age group – and I was very happy with that.

Now on to the rest of my life. My husband wants me to “retire” – I don’t know about that, but I do know, from experience, that race training and weight loss are mutually exclusive, at least for me. So weight loss is now my primary focus. Clean eating and consistent exercise are the order of the day, and the exercise will most likely be walking. I promised I wouldn’t train for or run another race for a year. That oughta be enough time to a.) lose the weight and b.) convince him that I can run a full marathon – a venture to which he is comPLETEly opposed.

The rest of the rest of my life involves quite a bit of travel to see very dear people who are very sick. One is my dad – I’m heading back to Florida Tuesday (taking two days to get there) and will stay for at least a week, although it’s kind of open-ended. The other is in Indiana and, depending on my dad’s situation, I’m supposed to be with her the first week of December.

Blogging will be spotty for the next couple of weeks, but I’ll try to post occasionally. Thanks for reading, whether I’m here or not. Your encouragement has always meant so much to me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rain, rain, go away

The forecast for Richmond Saturday morning looks pretty bad. Eighty percent chance of rain, slight chance of thunderstorms, 99 percent humidity … earlier this week it looked much better, all sunshine and roses. Can we turn back time?

Whatever. We’re leaving at noon to wend our way east and won’t be back until Sunday night. No blogging during the interim.

I dreamed I ran the race in two parts. I did 10 miles on Saturday, then came back and finished the final 5K on Sunday. Total time was 2:10. Which is IMPOSSIBLE, people, for a middle-aged slowpoke like me. There was some kind of hospital triage unit I had to go through in order to run on Sunday, and I was really proud of myself for figuring out what I needed to say in order to get through the proper channels and back out on the course. Weird dream.

I’m running with my husband’s cousin’s wife, who averages 13-minute miles. Since that was the dismal pace I ran last Sunday, we should have a good time. I’m just glad the election is over; we cancelled out each others’ votes. (Need I say more?)

Seriously, I hope to do much better than a 13-minute pace and I hope she doesn’t mind my leaving her behind. Heh. I think I just jinxed myself.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One more training run

A five-mile speed drill today marks the end – let me say that again: THE END – of race training. The half marathon is Saturday morning. I have previously been psyched beyond belief to run a race. This time? Not so much.

(You can track results at that link; my last name is McNeer. Unbelievably, there is another Debbi(e) McNeer running that day, but she’s doing the 8K.)

Right now when I say “THE END” I think I mean it. I may be all out of races. Of course I reserve the right to change my mind. I’ve already told my husband I want to run a full marathon when I’m 60.

Believe me, I won’t spend the next two and a half years training for it.

Today is my miracle birthday. My bio-birthday is May 25 (and don’t you forget it!), but I really started living 18 years ago today. The backstory is here; it’s so much easier to send you to that link than to rewrite the details.

It’s just wacky to think I haven’t had a drink or a drug in 18 years. Most of the time I don’t even think about it, but it’s good to relive history and remember not only the how, but also the why.

Especially the why.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rethinking my goals

The Richmond Half-Marathon is this coming Saturday, and I’d hoped to finish in 2:30.

Somehow – especially after yesterday’s abysmal 11-miler – I don’t think that’s happening. In fact, I’ll be glad to cross the finish line Saturday. Period. I might be limping along with the middle-of-the-pack marathoners, actually.

Perhaps a bad long run the week before a race is a Good Thing. When I learned to fly, I wasn’t allowed to solo until I’d recovered from a bad landing. I didn’t know that when I was taking lessons – my flight instructor only revealed it to me when I hopped out of the plane after executing three perfect solo touch-and-go landings.

So 11 slow, painful, crappy miles on Sunday might be just the thing I needed to get out of my system before next Saturday.

Someone tell me I’m right. Please?

Friday, November 7, 2008


As a formerly obsessed knitter (production has fallen significantly in the last couple of years), I know what it’s like to be obnoxious to a fault about one’s hobbies or interests. Running falls into the same category. That must be why I blog about it – I’ve worn out my face-to-face welcome and am reduced to assaulting the few strangers on the internets who happen to stop by.

Indulge me in one last comment on the political season, please, and I will return to the knitting and the running next week. I promise.

I’m a reformed Republican who voted for W twice although, in my defense, I only voted for him the second time because it was his mess and I thought he should clean it up. Since he didn’t, since he – incredibly – made an even bigger mess, I felt compelled to turn my back on him and his ilk. (I’m truly sorry for my transgressions, and grateful for the many campaign workers I met who have forgiven me.)

There are other reasons why I feel the Republican philosophy is no longer a good fit for me. Six years of volunteering in a federal prison will make you think twice about sentencing reform, for instance. Also? A dozen years of living in an economically depressed part of the country that repeatedly votes against its own interests – need I say more? If I do, just think about “God, guns and gays.” And, of course, race. My husband and I have occasionally entertained the thought of moving just because people are so not like us.

Anyway, back to being obnoxious. The biggest reason I’m proud to call myself a Democrat is because we’re so nice. I’ve been working to elect Obama since the primaries, and not once did I receive an anti-Republican e-mail, cartoon or bad joke. I never saw a Democrat shake his fist at a McCain bumper sticker.

During this political season, I’ve made several car trips ranging from Ohio to Florida. Because my Ford Escape sports several Obama bumper stickers, I felt it was imperative that I drive politely. I strictly followed the speed limit and, in fact, topped out at 55 mph most of the time in order to conserve fuel. (The exception was when my dad was in a coma. That was a very quick trip, all things considered.)

I smiled and waved when McCain-Palin supporters passed me, even as they flipped me off or made gagging motions. I walked away when someone tossed a racial epithet at me. I refused to engage in any kind of back-and-forth with those whose minds weren’t going to change.

I saved my rhetoric for the on-the-fence voters – I particularly remember a checkout worker in our local grocery. She noted that I was supporting Obama (because I obnoxiously wore a campaign button everywhere I went), and asked me why. Instead of reciting my reasons, I asked her what her issue was. She said she heard a lot about the middle class, but not much about the working poor.

I don’t know if I changed her mind, but I do know that when I left, she was thinking about it. What could McCain have in common with her, with his seven homes and 13 cars? Do the rich get poor, really? They have connections and assets the working poor can’t even imagine. The Republican reign has dramatically increased the divide between the haves and the have-nots. I’m pretty sure that had something to do with the outcome of the election.

My daughter has been worried about me, wondering what I’m going to do now that the campaign is over. My husband and I have been working on health care reform for many years, and I’ve been an advocate for sentencing reform for many years, as well. I still have a few pounds to lose. I want to paint the interior of my house and remodel the master bathroom. I have a couple of freelance graphic design projects to do.

Life goes on. Next up for me is the Richmond Half-Marathon. Training has sucked the last couple of weeks, but I did eight miles yesterday and survived.

I’m looking forward to the future. In sooo many ways.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Today’s the day: VOTE!

Democracy is …
the conviction that there are
extraordinary possibilities
in ordinary people.

~ Harry Emerson Fosdick

My daughter is worried about me. Today being election day here in the U.S., she’s wondering what I’m going to do with myself tomorrow. And for the rest of my life.

I’ve been busy since the most recent blog break began: busy with family illnesses (my dad is being released from the hospital again today, my mother-in-law continues to improve), with family fun (spent Halloween with my youngest granddaughter) and with many new friends working hard to elect a President.

I’ve helped make hundreds of campaign buttons, posters and signs; worked in our local Democratic headquarters; knocked on doors and made phone calls; put myself in situations that were uncomfortble because, for the first time in my life, it really matters to me who gets elected. And I believe my vote counts.

By uncomfortable, I mean I’ve been asking strangers if they’ve registered to vote. If they’re undecided, I ask what their issue is. I’ve done this in red-state West Virginia and in the toss-up states of Ohio, North Carolina and Florida. If they’ve already voted for Obama, I thank them.

If McCain got their vote, I still thank them. Because, while voting is important, it’s even more important to be civil and polite and respectful of individual rights and opinions.

(By the way, McCain may have his Joe the Plumber, but I have Tom the Exterminator. And Greg the UPS Driver.)

My husband and I are having a party tonight. We’re expecting a couple dozen people and a big celebration. We’ve made party favors (of course!), printed electoral maps, made tons o’ food and cued up the victory music.

Let’s hope we get to use it.

Everyone at the party gets a clipboard (with an Obama sticker), pink and blue highlighters (to fill in their electoral maps) and a bottle of M&Ms labeled thusly:

Speaking for myself, I can use a little medicine today.