Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A walk in my park

Last week I bought a new fitbit. The old one was like a little charm and I carried it in my pocket, and of course I lost it someplace. The new one is like a bracelet. So far I haven't lost it.

I decided to set a goal of walking 10,000 steps a day. For me that's about four miles. I've noted that on a normal day here in Arizona, when I'm walking to the activities center a couple of times plus around the house, I cover about 4,500 steps. That means I need to add about 5,500 steps - a little over two miles - to reach my goal.

Yesterday afternoon at around 4 I took a walk in this park, where we live in the winter. It's a 29-acre place with 600 spaces for RVs and 976 park models (trailers), either privately owned or rented out by the park. In the winter 4000 retirees live here, and, in the summer, about 700.

In the first block of 4th Street, where we live,  I passed Ronnie and Tom's park model. Well, just Tom's now; Ronnie passed away in December at age 68 after a mysterious three-week illness. Everyone thought it would be 92-year-old Tom who would be first. It looks like Tom has a daytime companion now rather than his partner of 20 years. I said hello and Tom and his companion waved.

I turned left on Quail. I was in the pet section now, where hundreds of people live. I always pass people walking their dogs. Even folks using walkers or canes are out and about. If I'm in a conversational frame of mind, I compliment the person on their dog. We live in the non-pet section, where dozens of cats live quietly indoors, looking for an opportunity to escape through an open screen door and explore the neighborhood. Our Larisa has only gotten out once this season, but she took three hours to find her way back to her food dish.

I turned right on 3rd Street. My friends Mer and PJ live near the end of the block. Two years ago, when Art had his cardiac arrest playing pickleball, PJ drove me to the hospital and Mer sat with me in the waiting room for five hours. People here are very friendly and helpful. We all watch out for each other. I thought about stopping in as I passed their house - both their car and their golf cart were in the driveway - but decided against it. It's common here to just knock on people's doors when you want to see them, but it's still a little awkward for me. I have never been to most of my friends' homes in Washington; I meet up with them for coffee or lunch instead. As it turned out, Mer arrived at our place on her bicycle this morning and we had a nice chat.

At the end of 3rd Street I turned left, walked a block, then turned left onto 5th. I didn't realize my friend Susie lived on that street until I saw her in her driveway. Susie picked up C. diff a few weeks ago from some unknown place. She's on her third antibiotic - and this one is new and not available generically and it costs $5,000 for 20 pills. OMG! Susie sounded discouraged and, of course, she is sick of being sick.

I continued up 5th Street. I was looking for Scott Kline's trailer. When Art had his cardiac arrest, Scott was on the scene immediately, sent someone to find an AED, then used it on Art to shock his heart back to life. As soon as the EMTs arrived, Scott left the scene. I've wanted to thank him ever since then for saving Art's life, but I've never run into him again.

I turned right onto Quail and walked three more blocks, then turned left onto 11th Street, where I ran into Hanna and Peter. Hanna is my occasional moviegoing companion and friend, and Art and I are indebted to Peter because last year he tuned up both our bicycles. They'd been on an eight-mile hike and were picking up their dog from the sitter. We always chat when we see each other; they are from British Columbia, and Hanna claims I'm one of the only sane Americans she knows!

While we were talking I saw my handbell director, Ken, drive by on his scooter. He's new to the park this year and he is a fine, calm, encouraging director. He's one of the reasons I decided to go back to handbells midway through the season. He was wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants; yesterday, at our performance in church, he wore a suit and tie.

 I walked all the way down 11th Street to the edge of the park. I met a woman walking her Westy. I commented what a pretty dog he was. She said, "He's been lazy since he was a puppy, and he's blind now." The dog took his cue and lay down in the middle of the street! Still, he was a beautiful white dog.

I passed Dee's house. She's the producer of the Voyager Light Opera Company's show this year, "Oklahoma!" We've had a number of talks about the play, ticket sales and other life happenings. She's a new friend this year. And, right next door, my friend Eve. Like a small town, you know, I go by a house and I know who lives there. Well, I really don't know because I've never lived in a small town. But maybe this place in Tucson is one, after all.

I walked along the park fence and turned left to 1st Street, passing by where my friends Bob and Sue live. They take care of our trailer during the summer - and 60 other places. We pay them $30 for each month we're gone. Very good for us and, multiplied by 60, for them.

Two doors down is the Oklahoma! box office: a park model owned by Dee's father-in-law. I'm responsible for the volunteers and ticket sales this year. We're open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. As of today we've sold 697 tickets out of a thousand, with 14 days to go. We'll get there.

I turn right on the main park road, walk three short blocks and turn right onto 4th, my street. Just about 3,000 steps. Not too bad.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

One week bad, the next week good. How come?

When I look at the calendar for the week before last, it looks a lot like last week's. Wait. The week before last I had activities on only two evenings, and last week I had them five evenings in a row. So why was last week  better?

It wasn't that I had less time to myself the first week, or that its goings on weren't as interesting. I need to figure this out.

Here's what happened in Week 1:
  • Monday - Started a five-day week of coordinating volunteers to staff the Oklahoma! box office. Everyone was present and accounted for. 
  • Tuesday - Got an afternoon massage.
  • Wednesday - Attended Current Events, one of my favorite activities.
  • Thursday - Facilitated my Great Decisions discussion group on the future of Kurdistan.
  • Friday - Spent seven hours going to the dentist in Nogales, Mexico, including travel time. Got a crown removed, tooth confirmed not needing a root canal, and new crown prepared and installed, and a nightguard mold created.
Two events at home in Washington that were completely out of my control, so I could do nothing about either of them.

By Friday evening I was anxious and stressed, and by Sunday I was sufficiently wound up to call a friend to listen to me vent. She reminded me that moods come and go and that "this too shall pass".

And in Week 2:
  • Monday - For the five-day box office week, replaced one sick person with a substitute. Facilitated a different Great Decisions group as a stand-in for their traveling leader. Attended a CPR class in the evening and got to prove once again that I know how to do it correctly on a dummy. I did it on a real live person two years ago and I will never forget the procedure.
  • Tuesday - Had to cancel my afternoon massage because our Prius was at the dealer getting its water pump replaced. We have only one vehicle here, and it would have cost nearly $50 for a transportation alternative. Started back up with handbells, which I'd decided not to do this year. I was persuaded by a friend in that group to come back. We have a new director, the music is easy and fun!
  • Wednesday - Spent three hours with the friend of a friend preparing her for a divorce mediation next week in Texas. The session was as intense as any I have done in Washington.
  • Thursday - Spent four hours going to the car detailing place and waiting for the Prius to become beautiful on the inside. Facilitated my Great Decisions discussion group on international migration. Attended a small group meeting at church in the evening.
  • Friday - Had a free day except for opening the box office. Went out to dinner with friends.
As I compare these two weeks, I note that I was busier in Week 2, and things were more hectic. However - and this is a good insight for me - I felt better about it. 

That might be because, in Week 1, I was powerless over the things going on at home in Washington.

Yep. I am still powerless. I hate it when that happens. Especially when I realize the reason for the stress and anxiety as I am writing my blog post about it! This business of stressing over things over which I have no control has bitten me for decades. You'd think I would have figured it out by now.

Or maybe not. As I listen to friends, many of the issues that trouble them are things over which they have no control. It may be money or vehicles or parents or children or management or a cold spell or a heat wave or endless rain - but the aggravation is there.

Guess we're all in this powerlessness thing together.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

It's been two years!

This is a post from two years ago. I still remember like it was yesterday.

Last Monday evening, at the last minute, Art and I took a refresher CPR course at our resort. It's gotten simpler through the years. Now, if there's a witnessed cardiac arrest, CPR is chest compressions only. If a person's heart stops beating suddenly, there's oxygen already in the blood. The chest compression squeezes the heart to pump the oxygen to the vital organs of the body. The thinking these days is that the "two quick breaths" doesn't increase the chances of survival. I did my practice on a dummy under the watchful eye of a second-year University of Arizona medical student. Then we were shown how to operate an AED, a defibrillator that talks the user through the procedure, from placing the pads correctly, to running the analysis, to generating the shock if necessary. We were given the locations for the five defibrillators on the resort. Then we walked home.

Yesterday after lunch, Art and I rode our bicycles over to the pickleball courts to try our hand at this new sport. He was winning 10-8. He walked to retrieve the ball and suddenly clutched his left knee and approached the bench on the side to sit down. He had that knee replaced two summers ago and I was concerned he might have wrenched the appliance. I sat down beside him. "Does your knee hurt?" Art shook his head. "Does anything hurt?" He didn't answer. I looked at his face and it didn't look right. Out of my 65-year-old brain floated the questions you ask a person you suspect may be having a stroke. Can they repeat a complete sentence you give them? Can they smile? Can they raise both their arms? Art repeated the sentence faintly. Then he slumped into me.

I looked up. At the end of the pickleball court, half a dozen men were chatting. "Call 9-1-1",  I shouted. First step, remembered from my CPR training five days earlier.

I could see most of the men running toward me. "Let's get him on the ground," one said. Art resisted a little, but he was transferred from the bench to the ground by three of the men. He was breathing, gasping a little. One of the men said, "I'm a retired fire chief. The AED is on  the way." Someone had run 100 feet to retrieve one of the five defibrillators.

"Start CPR," said the chief. "He's still breathing," I responded. "You're not supposed to do it when they're breathing."

Then he wasn't breathing. No chest rising and falling, no pulse. Art was in cardiac arrest; his heart had stopped. I placed my hands over my husband's chest and started CPR. I thought his chest felt exactly like the dummy I'd practiced on. I paced myself for 100 compressions a minute, remembering the song "Staying Alive" which has the beat I needed to match.

The chief tore Art's t-shirt off, opened the AED box and extracted the shock pads. He placed one pad at the top left of Art's chest, the other at the bottom right. He pushed a button and the machine said, "Analyzing."

I was still doing CPR. A man standing over me said, "Want me to spell you?" I said, "I'm okay for now, but if you help, you need to kneel on the other side of his body to be ready to take over for me."

The AED said, "prepare to execute shock". The machine will only shock if there is no heartbeat or an arrhythmia that can be fixed. We pulled away and Art was shocked. His body jerked, drool oozed down the side of his mouth, and he opened his eyes.

He was alert as to place and time. The men remained with him until the paramedics arrived. The chief told the EMTs what had happened and passed the responsibility on to them. Then he said, "I'm going back over to the pool." I called to him and asked his name. Scott. A resident of the resort. I didn't get his last name. I need to thank him.

Art was transported to the University of Arizona Medical Center South Campus and I arrived by car about 45 minutes later. A cardiologist would be doing a cardiac catheterization. The procedure would take about an hour, he said. If they found anything they would probably fix it while they were in there. If a stent or a bypass was needed they would do it then. An hour later, the doc came out. "The best possible news. His arteries are clear. He did not have a heart attack."

In ICU for 15 hours, all the tests were run. Echocardiogram showed no damage to the heart. Blood work showed very low potassium levels, which is probably the cause of the cardiac arrest. Within six hours of admission Art's heart rhythm returned to normal; it has remained that way for 20 hours now. Potassium levels are now normal. Art is eating like a horse, texting friends, talking to visitors. He may be released tomorrow.

My husband's heart stopped. CPR performed by me kept the blood flowing to his vital organs until the AED shocked his heart back to life. Amazing.

I have no idea how I remembered CPR. It seemed natural to be kneeling there on the ground ministering to my husband. I felt no fear.

Then this morning I woke up at 4:00 a.m., full of fear and unable to go back to sleep. The adrenaline that kept me going had worn off.  It has been a busy day - six more hours at the hospital, talking to doctors, talking to five of our eight children by text and by phone, answering emails from concerned friends, remembering to eat from time to time.

I am very tired tonight. I hope I will sleep.

I saved a life. That's CPR in the real world.

Two years later, Art is thriving. This year, at our winter home in Tucson, he's playing Will Parker in our resort's production of Oklahoma! His pacemaker is working well. He takes potassium and reminds himself to drink plenty of water. He's had no aftereffects from his cardiac arrest.

We've spoken to groups a couple of times about the lifesaving effects of CPR. If everyone knew how to do it, many more lives could be saved.

Life is good.