Sunday, February 22, 2015

Go With the Flow Never Let Go

I was sidelined for a couple days this week while I waited for the level of coumadin in my blood to drop to a more normal level. I routinely go in to have my blood tested to make sure I'm getting just the right amount of coumadin (often referred to as blood thinner or rat poison). My INR is supposed to be between 2 and 3 but I registered a 5 on Tuesday. That's way too high and the nurse administering the test told me that I was at high risk for a bleed and to go home and take it easy for the next couple days until the number fell to a safer level. It takes time to establish just the right amount of the drug to take each day. One's diet can have a big effect on their INR number. I'm back within range now and hopefully, we'll soon figure out the proper dosage for me so I stay within range.

I took a drive with Toby on Tuesday afternoon to Lake Pepin to try and capture some video of eagles flying the bluffs along the Mississippi River. We didn't see any but still, it was nice to spend a few hours alone with my special little guy.

Video from our drive.

Rachel makes her way from Rochester to Minneapolis for work 2-3 times a week via a vanpool that's made up of a diverse group of people: an older man, a foreign man, a quantum physics grad student, a chain-smoking truck company owner, a former pastor, and Rachel.

I got a text from her this week:

"Picked up a new guy today who lives on a farm. Al is driving. As we pull forward into an area of what seems to be unshoveled snow, the new guy says, "uhh you're actually in the yard right now". Instead of backing up, Al proceeds to make a 5 point turn in the yard before getting out to the main road. *palm to forehead*"

She's told us a few "palm to forehead" stories like that recently about her experience with the group in addition to recalling for us some of the off-the-wall conversations that play out among them. I suggested that it would maybe be a good scenario for a sitcom. She agreed and said she's already thought of that. She has a close friend in Los Angeles who has dreams of someday making it as a writer. This may be her in.

It's a small world. Rachel also works in a long term care facility in Rochester as a nursing assistant. I'm not exactly sure how the conversation played out but a woman whose mother is a resident there commented that she reads my blog and recognized Rachel from my writings. How cool is that?

I ventured away from the trails I normally use with my fat-bike in favor of some exploring yesterday along the Minnesota Valley State Trail beginning in Shakopee. There's nothing at all technical about this trail but it has some beautiful scenery and made for a fun few hours.

Here's a map of my route.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Que Sera, Sera

I met up with the Fat Tuesday group for my first night ride in decades. What a blast but what a workout! I'm not nearly recovered enough to be doing that to myself. It didn't help that I was running a squishy 4 pounds of pressure in my tires making it a little slow-going when I could've easily been running closer to 10 psi. I was finishing near the back of the pack each time we'd regroup but I was smiling.

I didn't wear my glasses so I couldn't read my Garmin with its heart rate data but I knew I was redlining at times. The graphic to the right shows what I'm talking about. I hit a max heart-rate of 177 at one point which is pushing it for this no-longer-a-young-pup!

I was surprised to see how many other fat-bikers were out there in addition to the 23 in our group. The trails come alive at night and I had no idea! It's a much more happening place after the sun goes down than it is during the day.

My GoPro lens kept icing up in the steady light snow that was falling so the video it captured was next to useless. I'll try again next week.

I stopped in at work on Wednesday afternoon to pick up some paperwork I'll need to file in order to get my medical back. It was nice to drop by the area and say hello to the people there. I felt somewhat like an outsider looking in. Perhaps there's some disconnecting on a subconscious level happening.

I've been off work for 3 weeks now since my latest blood clot scare and it's probably going to be at least another couple of weeks before I'm back, if ever. Que sera, sera.

Not having to show up at the salt mine makes it so much easier to get out and ride. I made it out 4 times last week and I've got the aches to show for it. It was -1ºf when I started out late yesterday morning. I had the trails mostly to myself but by the time I arrived back at my car there were several others just starting out.

I was clicking away on my laptop recently when I noticed a coyote walking on the street outside our window. My neighbor had also seen one last summer in the middle of the street between our homes. Our 3 small pups wouldn't stand a chance against a coyote so we're being much more careful to not leave them unattended when they're outside.

I had to laugh when I saw the video of Peaches, the cockatoo who mimics her former bickering owners. Get a load of not only her language but her body language as well. So funny!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Here's My Goal

It's been more than two weeks since I've needed to use oxygen to abort a cluster headache. I want to believe they're gone for many months to come but I'm hesitant to believe that. This has been my longest running phase of these god-awful headaches that I've ever experienced so who's to say they won't soon be back. Regardless, I'm having my first glass of wine in months (red at that!) to see if I can once again safely do that. My canary in a coal mine so to speak.

I called today to have them pick up the 5 oxygen tanks I have. They'll be by in the morning. I hope I don't have to see these delivered to our door again anytime soon.

I stopped in at work today to pick up some paperwork to get the ball rolling on reestablishing my medical to work traffic. Hopefully, that will go smoothly but if it doesn't, so be it. I'll be a retired controller and that won't be so bad.

This has by far been the most stressful few months of my life. Between the cluster headaches and my latest clotting issues, I just want to move on and get back to where I was last August. I think back to our little vacation to South Dakota and how healthy I was feeling then. It seems so long ago.

It's going to take some work and time but here's my goal: to get back to this!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Glenn Hamilton Has Left The Building!

I would've thought that with all this time off I'd have found time to update my blog before now but the motivation just hasn't been there. I'll try to do better.

Glenn Hamilton has left the building! Glenn has been a controller in my area of specialty for the last 17 years or so since transferring from Albuquerque Center. In all that time, I've only ever worked with Glenn a handful of hours because of our schedules. He's a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan and would bid a schedule opposite mine that allowed him to take in their games. He always struck me as the kind of guy I'd like to have worked alongside; very competent and easy going.

Here's a link to a set of photos I took at his farewell party. Glenn is just left of center wearing a Hawaiian shirt in the photo to the left. I believe Glenn chalked up 32+ years with the FAA. Wishes for many years of retirement bliss, Glenn!

I'm slowly making my way back to more normal health but I've still got a ways to go. I tire very easily. I've been out on my fat-bike down by the river a couple of times in the last few days but each time I had to pack it in earlier than I wanted. I arrive there with ambitious plans to do 25-30 miles but there's no way that's happening yet. I do my 14 miles between 35W and the Bloomington Ferry Bridge then head for home and I'm okay with that.

I tried a helmet mount for my GoPro, setting aside my pride in favor of a full-blown geek look hoping it would result in less shaky videos. It didn't. The videos were even more shaky than anything else I've done and I was surprised by that.

I got an invite from a friend (Hynek) to join a group ride tomorrow night along the same river trails I've been riding lately. The ride doesn't begin until 6:00 so this will be my first experience with both night riding and a fat-bike group ride. They had about 20 riders last week. It sounds like a blast! I went out tonight and bought a light at Erik's Bike with hopes that it will see lots of use in the years to come. Tammy lets me do pretty much whatever I want but I actually ran this one past her first to get her okay considering all I've put her through lately. She and Rachel both shot down plans I had to do some night road riding years ago but this is different because I won't be mixing it up with traffic.

I have no idea how well my GoPro Hero 2 will do capturing video at night but I'm about to find out.

Tammy is down to 21 workdays until she retires. I think I'm looking forward to this for her nearly as much as she is. I anticipate she'll be much busier in retirement than she is now with all of her plans for volunteering. We're still kicking around the idea of just having one car when we're both retired. I hear very few people say that that's a good plan but I really think we could make it work. We'll see.

Charlie gave us both a laugh this morning. I was on my way out to the garage with a bag of trash in hand when Tammy opened the bedroom door for them to come charging down the stairs looking to eat. I greeted them and continued toward the garage. That wasn't good enough for Charlie. I heard him run back upstairs to where Tammy was and bark loudly at her, twice, as if to say, 'hey, dad's leaving and we need you to feed us'. It was so funny.

I'm in the middle of a month off from work as I steadily get my health back. The decision to retire or go back and finish out the last several months of my career still hasn't been made, or has it? There's a real possibility that I won't get my medical certificate to work traffic again and in that case, I'll be done. The plan is to try and get it back then go from there. I'll begin jumping through those hoops tomorrow while taking it one step at a time.

In the meantime, I can practice being the retired guy who watches the squirrels outside his window in the morning while sipping his coffee with chocolate creamer and marshmallows. I've got this down!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Perhaps God is Laughing at Me Now

This is part 3 of 3 about my most recent blood clotting ordeal. Find part 1 here and part 2 here.

I wanted to say a little about the staff on the vascular floor (3rd floor) of Southdale Fairview. They are such a caring group of people. Everyone I came in contact with there was always so pleasant and I made a point of learning their names and showing the same warmth back to them that they were giving me. They are such good people! Also, the staff in Interventional Radiology: I actually looked forward to being wheeled down there each time (3 total) to have a procedure done. They were the ones who restored the blood flow to my leg and I have them to thank for their efforts in saving my leg for me. But they were also a pretty cool group of people and I enjoyed our conversations.

Also, I've never had more people praying for me than I have this past week and I very much appreciate that. Trust me when I say that for all of you who have offered up your prayers and well-wishes or stopped by or offered to stop by to see me, from the bottom of my heart I appreciate all you've done for me.

Dr. Foley came by my room before 8:30 Wednesday morning to talk with us about where we go from here. He said he'd had a change of heart about going forward with surgery after speaking with Dr. Johnstone and comparing notes. He talked about patency and with respect to the surgery, how there's a "bit of a dance you do when deciding when is the best time." He said that ideally, it's best to put the surgery off until there's an expectation that I'll die of other natural causes before any complications from the surgery present themselves years down the road.

Dr. Johnstone seemed to think we could afford to wait but for how long I'm not exactly sure. Yes, I do have some clots that could break free into my bloodstream at any time and that's a concern but what's also a concern is how many years I can expect to get out of the surgery.

Also, what I haven't mentioned in all of this is that the aneurysms and the blood clots of my common iliac arteries are two separate things. The aneurysms I have aren't near the point where they're ready to burst so they don't present an immediate problem. They will be monitored, I assume, with routine CT-scans but eventually they will have to be treated surgically. Hopefully, there won't be any additional blood clots developing within me now that I'm on a blood thinner. I should also add that a blood thinner doesn't actually thin the blood, it just helps to prevent additional clots from forming but will do nothing to erode away a clot that already exists.

So, my main concern now is for the clots in my iliac arteries that could potentially break free and cause me problems. My doctors say they appear to be smooth and stable and not at all impeding blood flow around them. I'm fine as long as they stay put. There's definitely a risk associated with waiting (there's also a risk when I ride my bike on highway 169 during rush-hour traffic catching drafts off semis as they pass by a few feet off to my left with my body feeling more alive than ever). I don't anticipate I'll change my lifestyle all that much or invest too much time in thinking about the what-ifs. I've done enough of that already this past week.

As we were finishing our meeting with Dr. Foley he asked who my primary care physician is. I told him that I didn't have one, that the doctor I'd been using for the last 20 years had recently retired. He asked if I'd be interested in having him become my primary care physician. He said he'd like to continue to monitor me closely and that if I have any issues whatsoever he'd make room for me in his schedule no matter what. I jumped at his offer.

There's another question that's been on my mind lately. Am I retired? I don't know at this point but it's a question I've been asking myself again and again as if it's on a loop in my brain. I had a conversation over the phone from my hospital bed with a retired controller (John Manring) and I told him that I was pretty sure I was done. I hung up shortly after I said that and my eyes welled up with tears. Did I really mean what I'd just said? Was this the way I was going out because this wasn't at all how I ever envisioned my career ending. A part of me pushed back and said ''re not making this decision in this state of weakness from a hospital bed!'

I remember my last night of work last Saturday as I got out of the sector for the final time that night. On my way out of the control room, I stopped to chat with Steve who was plugged into sector 36. We touched on plans for retirement as is often a topic of conversation with many of us. I told him my tentative plans but qualified them by saying, "Wanna know how to make God laugh? Tell him your plans."

Perhaps God is laughing at me now. I'm okay with that.