Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Little goals to keeping moving forward

Its day 12 post surgery about 7 AM. I'm due out for a walk in a few minutes, but it is cold and windy outside so I'm procrastinating a bit by posing on this blog.  Had a pretty good day yesterday.  Had two walks, one in the morning to the local cafes and back with a stop at Denny's for breakfast.  The other was a trip to the local Trader Joe's supermarket.  I walked over to the market, shopped for some light weight goodies, and then carried the bag back with no issues or fatigue.  In all, I think I totaled about 3000 steps for the day or roughly 1.25 miles on flat ground. A good goal according to the American Heart Association, for the average person,  is 6-10,000 steps.  I logged between 8000 - 10,000 steps on my watch regularly before the surgery.  So using those numbers as a gage, it shows slows but steady progress.  Like they say, one step at a time.

Left leg still a bit swollen, but less so today.  Its definitely more flexible and stronger the more I use it.  

The goal for today is short walk in the morning to the park along the bay, then a medium distance walk to the local IKEA for lunch later in the day.  I'll save shopping inside IKEA for later as one can easily exert 10,000 just shopping inside the store!

That's the boring details of recovery day 12.  

Monday, May 29, 2017

Early morning California time........

Its almost 5 am, my normal wake up time in Kalifornia.  In a great mood and feeling OK.  Going to gently ease into my daily walking program and mix that with lots of naps and good food. Weighted myself this morning and found that I lost almost 8 lbs since the surgery.  A large part may have been due to the medications they gave me, but I think also because they severely restricted what I had to eat afterwards.

Anyway, to lighten up this subject a bit I've included a clip from one of the late Robin Williams shows.  It was my doctor who worked on Robin Williams at Cleveland Clinic for a totally different kind of procedure -- he had his aortic valve replaced plus other issues and was in pretty bad shape.  Obviously he recovered well enough to survive many years after this, but his comedic take on this process is pretty funny, so here it is to brighten up your morning.

Back in Ca-li-for-ni-A

Yes, Sevenwinds is finally back in the bay area tonight.  Just had some dinner and plan to rest for the remainder of the night. Made it through the entire trip back from Cleveland without taking any more pain killers after this morning, but I am starting to feel it coming on again as well as the cough. Great flight, and good service from the limo ride all the way to the SWA airline wheel chair guys.  Down to one oxycdone every 6-8 hours and sometimes for the entire day.  I think by next week, Tylenol should be all that I will need if I can't sleep or if the pain comes back.

Just want to crash for a few hours and maybe post later.  


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Going back to Kalifornia today....

Pizza, medications, and a chromebook....a lethal combination of today's lifestyle components

Its 4 am in Cleveland and I just got up and couldn't go back to sleep.  I'm excited to go back to the Bay Area.  Besides, I was asleep by around 9 PM anyway after gorging on a large pepperoni pizza for dinner.  Last night was the third 'bad' dinner in a row after surgery, but I think my body is trying to tell me I need lots of energy and building material to repair itself after major surgery, and to not worry too much about its exact contents at this point.  At least that excuse sounds good right?  Once back in Kalifornia, there is a large stockpile of healthy food waiting for me even though I did have some stuff here.  Its not the same when buying stuff to keep in your condo vs buying stuff knowing you are in a hotel room.

Day 10 feels good.  No chest pain from the full sternotomy but the leg where they harvested one of the veins for the bypass is still sore and stiff.  In fact, I would say it hurts more than my chest when I walk.  Supposedly, they used a 'Minimally invasive" approach to getting the vein, but if that was 'minimal", I would hate to see what a 'normal' harvest looks like.   

No shorts for now...to avoid grossing people out or getting bombarded with questions

I have a gigantic black and blue bruise that runs from the knee joint up to my groin on the inside of left thigh.   Researching the web indicates that its normal for lots of people so no worries about this issue for now.  The bruising and scaring could have been a lot worse if done the traditional way.  Otherwise, I have been very lucky as there are no unexpected complications except the few hours of Atrial Fibrillation on day three after the surgery.  Because of that incident, I have to take a blood thinner (warfarin) for the next three months to reduce the chances of a stroke, due to pooling of blood, if  the A-FIB comes back (it hasn't).  I know A-FIB is a big problem for some OH or MI heart surgeries.  One of my Thai golf friends who underwent valve repair is still having to deal with it, and its been over a year and a half since his surgery.  If it can't be solved, he might need more drastic action, like an external pacemaker.  A-FIB is the medical term for an irregular heartbeat (faster, slower, and/or out of sinus or regular rhythm).  I think its the heart's way of telling one that they didn't like what it just went through...555

Interior portion of the pavilion
From the outside, one can see downtown Cleveland in back and Lake Erie on right

My own 'high tea' yesterday

As for my recovery program, I took a couple of walks yesterday to the hospital, including to the roof pavilion for those 'elusive' cookies.  Struck out again, but I did have a chance to sit and admire the great view and give thanks for having more time on this beautiful planet.  I ended up rewarding myself by getting some cookies, on my own, downstairs from the au bon pain bakery.  In all, I took four 20 minute walks and two trips to the local Rite-Aid on the shuttle.  I did feel tired at the end of the day, so it must have been good and I do feel more energetic for the flight back today.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A beautiful morning in Cleveland

The sun is just about to rise in the horizon and I just had a breakfast of meusli with soy milk.  Its day 9 after the surgery and each day I can feel my body getting stronger and my stamina getting longer. Was able to not only walk around inside the hospital for my appointment in the afternoon yesterday, but was also able to walk back to the hotel from the hospital with surprising little effort.   Got my follow-up exam results and everything is going remarkably well for an old geezer like myself.  But getting to sleep last night was hard last night as I had this persistent cough that wouldn't go away.  Around midnight, I took a second round of pain killer and then slept like a baby until this morning.  Now I feel great (about 33% of normal),  Have to be careful though as I don't want to get hooked on prescription narcotics nor push too hard and rip up something I shouldn't.  Yesterday's follow-up was to get cleared to travel back to the bay area this weekend.

Will be here one more day before getting on the big silver bird back to Kalifornia.  Plan to walk around the campus a bit, and maybe visit the roof pavilion for those elusive cookies.  Last night, we went back to Little Italy for some great pasta at Trattoria on the Hill.  It felt soooo good to be doing normal things again like dinning out.  As the worn out cliche that is so often quoted says "you don't appreciate what you have until you lose it", it was great to  just dine out again, if even, for a simple dish like hot pasta!  

The other feeling I have is one which Johnnie Walker said I would have a few weeks back.  That feeling is that the 800 lb gorilla that was on my back is now gone...and any hidden stress and tension has now been replaced with a feeling of new freedom and anticipation of living life again to the fullest.  Not that things are just that simple and great as there are still weeks of recovery left, 9 medications a day for a few months, and a much stricter diet.  But those are not bad considering the alternatives.

So its a rigid training schedule every day so I will sign off for now as its almost time for the  morning walk.

Friday, May 26, 2017

First night out of the hospital

Day 8 after surgery.  After getting out of the hospital yesterday I was really hungry.  For the period during my stay CC, they kept me on a very strict diet.  Low everything, including taste, and low portions too.  After all, it was a contributing factor to my problems, right?  Not really, but that can be debated another night.  Decided I wanted some Chinese Food.  A quick look through the internet and I found a place called LI WAH (Reviews here) in Cleveland's Asia Town.  They are located in a small Asian mall and have a large seating area,  They are supposed to have great dim sum, but it was late and I was through a lot during the last week.

Anyway, hopped an Uber ride to the mall and we (my support team of Godmother, church friends, and family) had a great dinner.  Needless to say, I was happy and gobbled up my food quickly.  It was good, the portions large, and the wait service friendly.  Ended up paying around $60 when all was said and done and typical of many suburban Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area.  We also had enough food for lunch today as well as some snacks.

Anyway woke up feeling great, took a shower, dressed, and will be ready for a short walk in a few minutes after posting on this blog.  I have a follow-up appointment this afternoon, but I really anticipate no problems going back to Kalifornia on Sunday.

Could not have done this without friends like you and all your positive encouragement and support.

Life is great and life is good!  Living it to the fullest throughout the world. 

Going Home

Obviously made it through, but not alone.  Can't say enough about the man above and the talent and skill of the Cleveland Clinic's world class team.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Today is the day

Its about 3 AM and I have to report to surgery in a couple of hours. Still have to bathe with the special soap they gave me and to put some kind of ointment (Mupirocin) inside my nose to prevent getting staph bacteria infections.  Nothing to eat or drink, and can't even let any water from brushing my teeth from being swallowed.

Already talked with Marina and B a few minutes ago.  Kind of emotional for me as I wish they could be here, but circumstances won't permit that.  At least we talked, joked and played over the phone. Marina is still too young to understand the situation and its probably better as I don't want her to be scared or worried.  It will give me the incentive to get through this thing and spend a lot more time with them once its over.

That's it for this morning's briefing.  Hopefully you will hear from me in a couple of days after I get out of ICU and they let me have my tablet.  Whatever the outcome, its been a real honor to have friends and loyal readers like you.   Thanks for all your well wishes. 

Will still be tweeting until they take my phone away.  Follow me on @seven_winds or click on the link to follow.

Catch you all on the other side!

Day 3 - Meeting with the doctor

Met with my surgeon this morning (profile here).  Fortunately did not have to wait too long because he was available and not in surgery.  He went over my condition, which is that I have a mitral valve problem, but that problem may have also saved my life from a silent widow maker heart attack because of my constricted artery.  Its one of those conditions in which people will have no symptoms and can be in apparently good health, but can suddenly have a fatal heart attack without warning.  One would not have any indications without getting a catheterization procedure.  This procedure involves inserting a thin tube to your heart and then injecting an iodine dye before special cameras take pictures of the entire circulatory system close to your heart.  So in his words, the mitral valve diagnosis and repair saved me from a fatal heart attack situation which could have occurred at any time.

He also said that due to the bypass operation, the only solution is to have a full sternotomy.  No other options are recommended due to the location of the bypass and the risk.  His assessment is that this was going to be somewhere between an easy and medium difficulty operation.  The bypass part, he said, could be done by a third grader.  That gave me a lot of reassurance that the whole procedure was going to worth the risk.  100% chance of dying from a heart attack in the future or a very minimal chance of complications from the procedure.  He did say that these repairs would last my lifetime and that my heart and circulation should be better than it ever was.  It was easy to sign the consent form.

Anyway, just got word from the clinic that I will be reporting to surgery at 5:15 am.  Hopefully, by this time tomorrow afternoon I will be awake in the ICU all patched up and ready for the long haul. The road to recovery is next but at least there is hope for a much longer ride on this merry-go-round called life.

The takeaway for all of this for the readers of this blog should be to get your regular exams and make sure you follow-up on all the recommendations.  If it wasn't for the follow-up to my heart murmur after my annual physical at Bumrungrad, I would be a walking heart attack case which could have happened at any time.  Now, with the right procedure, I should be OK for a normal life with no other heart problems.  Doctor says I will likely die of something else...555

Got to get packing for a hopefully short stay in the hospital.  More tomorrow morning before I go into surgery.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Day 2 of Testing - The news is not so good...

Day two of testing is done, but the outcome is not as expected.  Aside from waiting a long time for the procedure due to an emergency case ahead of me, the results were not what I had wanted.  It looks like in addition to my mitral valve problem, I also have a moderately blocked blood vessel in the front on the heart which will require bypass surgery.  While its not severely blocked, its on the bordeline (70% blocked) and looking at the images, this may have been a congenital defect as well because the vessel is constricted in a small section only and all the other vessels around the heart are clean.  Its like a two inch pipe suddenly being reduced in size to a one inch pipe then expanding out to a two inch pipe again.  The blockage is not due to plague build-up, but the sudden reduction of size in the vessel. People don't normally have symptoms until around 80% blockage so I could have had this for some time without knowing it and the slightest buildup could have resulted in a 'widow maker' event.

With that news, its now a toss up if I will have a robotic repair or not.  The surgeon will have to decide that tomorrow during our consultation.  Its totally possible to do both robotically, and the doctor definitely has the experience and skills to do it, but it has to be weighted against the risk. A full sternotomy is the gold standard, but that too has its risks so it will be an interesting discussion with the doctors tomorrow.  Which ever the case, this complicates my simple little valve repair job quite a bit.

On the positive side, its good that we caught all of this early, in advance of an emergency cardiac event and before any damage has been done to my heart and body.  Since I was almost totally asymptomatic, I see it as finding out and fixing an engine problem before your car breaks down during a long trip on the freeway.  Its good to have the luxury of time and being able to pick the best hospital and doctors to do your surgery instead of the emergency room resident.  Will keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best tomorrow.

Taking things in stride, I went out to dinner tonight with family and friends in Little Italy.  Took Uber and it was both convenient and fast.  The weather was perfect today and it was in the 70s in the evening.  People were dinning outside on the sidewalk and the place was festive with Italian music coming from the various venues.  Had a great dinner at Trattoria on the Hill.  Huge pasta plates big enough for two meals and a great relief after fasting most of the day.  Hey, its time to enjoy life to the fullest until it time to go under the knife right?

Talking to the owner of the restaurant this evening, he asked me if I was scared.  I told him I wasn't and not only that, I feel very calm and relaxed - almost like I'm on vacation.  After all these months of waiting and research, and knowing that I have the best hospital and doctors in the USA on my case, what else is there for me to do that I haven't done already?  Oh yeah, I got anointed by my priest and also brought my Thai tree spirit just in case ...555 So it was such that I am resigned to whatever the outcome - preparing for the worse...hoping for the best.

More tomorrow after the consultation.  Maybe a visit to the Rock N Roll hall of fame in the afternoon before surgery.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Day 1 of Testing is over!

The first day of testing is over.  Reported to the registration station as scheduled at 8 am and went through the formal registration process.  Filled out all the paperwork about me and collected all my insurance cards and ID.  Guess they wanted to make sure they got paid for all the services I will be receiving.  My estimate is that this procedure will cost between 250 -300,000 USD dollars when all the cotton balls are counted.  Its a good thing that Medicare and my supplemental insurance will pay for all of it.  It will not pay my travel expenses, but that is a small exchange for this world class care.  Its time for me to finally get something back from the decades of taxes I've paid into the system.

After registration, I had an EKG, blood panel, and a chest xray.  At 10AM, I met with my assigned staff cardiologist.  He is from Ireland and is the head of his department.  Tomorrow I am meeting with the head of Cardiovascular research who will do my catheterization procedure and finally, the director of cardiac surgery will be doing my procedure.  Talk about lucky streaks, somehow I got the three top people in their organizations at CC on my case.  If these three renown doctors can't fix me up, no one can.

Anyway, the take-a-way from the morning session with the cardiologist is that my valve is indeed leaking, but the heart rhythm is ok.  I do have palpitations from an early firing of the left ventricle but that is not major - I am not going to drop dead tomorrow.  His early impression is that a minimally invasive procedure is likely unless they find that I need some kind of bypass surgery.  Tomorrow's catheterization procedure will give a more complete picture and determine the final approach.  That was great news for me as I was preparing for the worse case scenario - a full sternotomy where they crack open your chest to get to your heart.  My hope now is that I can get robotic surgery and save weeks if not months of recovery.  He told me that whatever approach, there would be pain and to not be macho and forego the drugs.  I know from first hand experience when I had hernia surgery that he was absolutely right.  

Found a great place for lunch at the hospital.  They have a huge Au bon pain bakery and restaurant. Same chain as the ones in the big mango, but much much larger in size and a huge selection of food. Had a great soup and sandwich combo to end my fasting.

Family and friends coming in tonight so I am in good care.  Plan on going to dinner at Little Italy tomorrow as they will likely be tired.  I personally feel as good and energetic as ever, doing my daily walk and having a busy day today.  Since tomorrow is a only half day of testing and so is Wednesday, I plan to keep the days full and might even go to the Rock and Roll hall of fame before my procedure. Strange situation feeling  so good going into an operation knowing that you will feel worse coming out on the other side in the short term.  Its the long term benefits that I am after and it will be worth it.

Finally thanks for all the well wishes from everyone!  I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart - its in need of a little tune up now, but its deep and full.   We'll be hanging out again soon.

Follow me on twitter at @seven_winds for live updates


Monday, May 15, 2017

In Cleveland

Posting from my room in Cleveland.  The trip over was very smooth.  Everything like clockwork starting from the airport shuttle.  Was lucky too as I was the only passenger in the Van. Traveling on mother's day was a blessing as the airport security was fast and the plane left on schedule.

Came to Cleveland via Chicago midway.  Haven't been here in years and it looks like they have expanded it a lot.  Was a zoo.  People everywhere and long queues for the dirty bathrooms.  Noticed that the gates were also packed with no seats to sit and wait.  Taking Southwest Airlines is like riding a bus...only this bus flies instead of rolling along the highway.  Sat next to a guy who brought his own hard liquor and virtual reality glasses.  He appeared that he was on another trip of his very own.

You call this a meal or snack? 

Also got a reminder about the lack of food on these flights.  I should have known as I use to take SWA once every other week on business.  But its been a few years and I've been spoiled by the great service of an overseas Asian airline like EVA.  Had a package of crackers and some peanuts for my meal...555.

Now that's what I call real food

But during the stopover in Chicago, I found this place called Real Burgers.  And boy where they real, and real good too.  Nothing compares to Midwest beef...must be the grass.

Got into Cleveland around 4:45pn local time and was met by the limo driver provided by the hospital. They provide two way limo transport for their patients from the airport if you are from out of the state. After checking into the hotel, I scanned the neighborhood for restaurants and stores.  I knew that there was a CVS nearby and both a Burger King and McDonald's too.  A Vietnamese noodle restaurant was within walking distance but it was boarded up and closed.   Walked to the CVS for some supplies that I did not want to pack and also bought some water and juice.  I was rushing to get back to the hotel because I had to eat before 8 pm due to a requirement to fast before tomorrow's testing.

Main Building of Heart Center at Cleveland Clinic
Starbucks is popular for both staff and visitors

From the hotel, I walked to the main building at the clinic.  Its a huge sprawling complex and within its bowels is a food court of sorts, two coffee shops, and a few gift shops.  Decided to have dinner at one of the food stalls called Moe's Southwest grill.  Mexican food, but coming from Kalifornia, it didn't meet my standards at all - plus it was expensive.  Too much junk food for today already.

Anyway, I'm back in my room chilling out and reviewing my schedule for tomorrow, posting on my blog and sending Marina off to school.  I'm one hour ahead of the LOS now and the data service on my phone is great so its just like being there.  

B's father went fishing at the pond across the resort this morning.  See his catch in the photo below.

Cousin Bow holds up fish as Marina looks on

More tomorrow after the first day of testing.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

One more day.....

Tomorrow is the day.  At 5:15 am the shuttle will arrive and I will be on my way.  In a way, I am glad the waiting in nearly over.  The initial contact with Cleveland clinic started back in January.  It took nearly three weeks after I submitted all the documentation before they got back to me with an offer to do the surgery. They then offered surgery in April, but I wanted a bit longer for a trip back home. Between then now, I had that nice trip back home to the mango and spent the time with family and friends.  The time there was priceless.  By this time next week, the surgery should be completed and hopefully I will be out of ICU and in a regular hospital room and maybe blogging again!

I've been reading up on what to expect from the surgery.  There is a book out by Adam Pick called "The Patient's guide to Heart Valve Surgery".  Its very helpful as he provides both clinical and well as personal information about his own procedure.  It seems like most patients go into surgery not knowing what to expect and thus will not be prepared for its impact on their lives.  

The main takeaway is that the surgery itself is the easy part as you will be asleep the whole time anyway. Its what happens after you wake up in ICU and the weeks of recovery afterwards that is going to be the greater challenge.  Most importantly, the people around you need to understand your limitations and challenges and must also set their expectations accordingly.  Being patient is the key.

Planning to go to mass this evening with my Godmother's family and then have a quiet dinner at home before going to bed early.  

Remember, starting tomorrow look for twitter updates also on @seven_winds.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Will also be using twitter when I am in Cleveland

Decided to use Twitter as well as blogger when I depart for Cleveland.  The reason for expanding is so that I can do less typing and keep my messages shorter.  Being the long winded person that I am, using blogger only encourages me to say more.  More is not always good, especially if its boring stuff or repeating the same old things.  

So while I am away for my surgery, you might want to check out what's happening at my twitter handle:  @seven_winds (underscore between the seven and winds). If you don't have a twitter account, that's ok as I will try to post what I can here on blogger.  I found that with twitter, I can do updates quite easily with my smartphone, PC, or tablet.  

Spent some time repacking again yesterday.  Looks like the weather in Cleveland is going to be nice while I am there having surgery.  It won't be so nice when I arrive, but later in the week, the temps are going to be in the 60s, 70s and 80s.  That creates a problem of what to pack as I was preparing for cooler weather.  But the best plan seem to be to pack layers so that I am ready for anything.  Its not quite so simple as the clothing has to be non constricting and if I have a full sternotomy, a shirt that buttons instead of being a pullover (i.e. Tee shirts).  Threw in a couple of Hawaiian shirts for some color and to brighten up the situation.

Lastly, word from home is that things are well.  The 'official' start of school is Monday the 15th, but Marina is in pre-school and not part of the National calendar.  Parents all over Thailand are rushing to raise money for tuition, uniforms, and other expenses.  I guess when you have to personally pay for your education, one values getting a good education that much more.  Even the public schools require parents to provide kids with their own uniforms and supplies so everyone has a stake in the success of the kids.  My big regret is not being home to give Marina a big hug and kiss before sending her off to school each morning.  But that will hopefully change when I get back in July.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Busy but feeling good.

So far the week has been busy, but that's good as the weekend is rapidly approaching.  Didn't realize it was mother's day this Sunday, so that's a little bit more I have to prepare for before getting on the plane.  Made arrangements for pickup to the airport on Sunday.  Shuttle will be here at 5:15 AM and will be at the airport no later than 6AM, one hour before my flight.  Can you believe it costs $29 bucks for a one way, 10 mile trip on a shared shuttle?  Complain as we might about taxi scams, that 270 baht ride from Suvarnabhumi is really dirt cheap compared to the bay area.

Spent the last couple of days on business, including a visit to the now completed JV project. Business looks good at the center although one of the retail centers opted not to open a new store, but instead will continued to pay rent.  It seems like the company is short on capital and will likely be taken over by one of its competitors so they are holding off on new store openings.  Just as well because it will be less wear and tear on the property if they have to redo things.

Yesterday, I applied for a special shuttle program for seniors and ADA individuals in our area.  This program provides low cost door to door rides ($1) to anyplace in the city.  Don't know if I will need to use it, but I signed up for it at our local senior center anyway.  There is a free shuttle service called Emery-go-round that takes people to various points in town too, including BART so that will be the first option.  My hope is that I will be cleared to drive in 3-4 weeks after surgery.

Stumbled on a great blog post by an Alaska Expat that is living in Thailand that also had a heart procedure done at Cleveland Clinic a few years ago.  It describes his experience there in great detail and like everyone else, provides glowing compliments to the staff and doctors there.  The link to his blog post is here:  http://dswarthout.blogspot.com/2013/05/open-heart-surgery-at-cleveland-clinic.html

Look at all of those FAT frogs!

Talked to B last night and she says that it raining a lot upcountry.  It looks like the rainy season started a little early this year but its a welcome relief from the hot weather.  When it rains, that means it frog season to the locals.  During heavy rains, the frogs in the ponds and lakes come up out of the water and are easy pickings for capture.  B went out with her newphew and father to get some the last few days and they are having BBQ froggies every night....555.  I must say that these frogs are tasty when I've had them, but they are a bit of work to eat.  Delicious meat which tastes like mild, moist, fat free chicken...yum!

That's it for now.  Some housework, laundry, and paperwork scheduled for today.

Monday, May 8, 2017

First day of School

It was only preschool, but it was still school.  Yesterday was Marina's first day of school.  Can't believe that my precious little girl is at this milestone of her life.  It seems like just yesterday that she was a little bundle, just barely bigger than my hands in the hospital.  She will turn four in June, but we found a great preschool where they take younger kids and offer an exceptional program.  This is hard to find upcountry, but we found out about it through one of the other parents.  Its not cheap and thus the students are mostly from well off local or foreigner parents in the area.  The classrooms are very nice and well equipped and the student to teacher/teacher aid ratio for the young kids is an amazing one to one.  

B took Marina to school and stayed there a few hours to make sure she was OK.  Near the end of the morning, Marina was already telling mommy to 'go home and come back later' to pick her up when school was done..555 When I talked to her this morning, she had a big smile on her face and said she was looking forward to school again tomorrow.  She had brought home some stuff and was already doing some 'play homework'.

These twins are smart.  Can already read and write at second grade level

The other little girls in my life are my twin grand daughters.  They had their 5th birthday party over the weekend at a park near their home.  It was a 'Princess' party, where all the kids coming to the party are dressed as little Princesses.  A special appearance by Queen Elsa the magician was the highlight of the day.  It was so much fun to watch them as they were led through a host of activities on the grounds.  I am such a lucky guy with these special girls in my life.

Spent time with them afterwards and caught up with them on various things.  Agreed to a date for the red egg and ginger party for the newest grand daughter Kaitlyn.  After a dry spell of nothing but boys in the family line, we are now flushed with girls galore so everyone is overjoyed.  It will be the weekend before I return to the mango, and hopefully fully recovered from my surgery.

And finally yesterday, I attended the wedding of my nephew's son.  My nephew has just finished treatment for cancer, and the year before he had a heart attack that required bypass surgery.  Part way through the ceremony, one of the groomsmen passed out.  After he was revived and taken off by the EMS people, the wedding resumed.  Word we got was that he was fine (passed out due to hunger and exhaustion) and the rest of the wedding went off without further incident. Had one of the best roast beef dinners at a wedding in a long time or maybe I was just really hungry???

That's all for the weekend.  This week is crunch week already as one week from today I will be undergoing testing in Cleveland.  Lots to do in a short time, but better busy than sitting around second guessing and worrying about things.

Life is great...just go out and grab it by the horns and hang on for the ride!

Friday, May 5, 2017

A week already

Its already been a week since getting back to Kalifornia.  Needless to say, its been a busy one and rightly so as I get ready for Cleveland.  I've been shopping for things that I will need the next two months that might be heavy and hard to get as I won't be able to drive for 4-6 weeks after surgery. Not supposed to lift anything heavy either so that kind of limits what I can re-supply on my own by just walking.  Fortunately, this area is abundant with restaurants, stores, and facilities in walking distance. I even have an IKEA within walking distance of my condo.  That means the worse case scenario is Swedish meatballs for six weeks...555

Eating right - no fast foods for now

Also am preparing physically by walking 45 minutes every day and now on alternate days I hit the weights in the afternoon at the condo gym in addition to the morning walk.  I want my cardio and muscles to be in as good a condition as possible so that they won't waste too much when my activities are restricted.  Thank God, I have no symptoms that prevent me from exercising before the procedure.  I will take precautions to not overdue it and be rested by next weekend.  Also changing my diet a bit to speed the process of losing some unhealthy weight.

I'm reading a lot to also prepare mentally for the challenges after surgery.  They say its normal that I'm going to not have an appetite, be moody, and feel tired. I will second guess my decision to have the surgery if things take longer than expected and  I might even go into depression. Might even have hallucinations from the medication.  Knowing all those things in advance will help me deal with the situations as they come up - so all you readers be prepared too..555  Never know what kind of person will come out on the other side of the surgery!  For sure I know I will be bored already...being used to an active lifestyle and having to sit around a lot will really be a change. But in the long run, the outcome will hopefully be worth it.

Started packing some stuff yesterday and deciding on which bag to bring. The situation is compounded by the changing weather in Cleveland as its colder than normal. When I was working and commuting between Texas and Kalifornia, I got by a whole week with one roll-on suitcase.  The challenge is to go two weeks this time with even less weight and stuff.  The only solution is the perpetual bag approach, which is to bring clothing that can be quickly washed and drip dried.  But that also offers a challenge in that I may not be in the mood to wash and hang clothes after surgery.  Anyway, I will check on laundry service at the hotel as that will be my plan B.  Plan C is to ship the whole bag back from the hotel with UPS.

Everything going well at home.  Talk to B and the kids twice a day on video.  They like the new feature in LINE that allows you to alter your face during the call.  That's its for now..

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Wild one...

She is going to be a wild one.  Ella riding the machines for the first time at Big C back at home.  This kid is only 8 months old and she is getting right into the flow of things...555

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Kite World lost a great one yesterday

Got an email today announcing that Pam Kirt, one of the grand ladies of kite flying died yesterday morning. We lost a really unique person, who in her deeds and works of art, made a significant impact on the history of kite flying.  As a factory team flyer, she rose to prominence not only for her skills, but being a woman flier, inspired many women and girls to take up the sport.  Her factory team, Top of the Line, was the first World Cup Champions.  They literally invented team flying and formation flying in the early days and many of their maneuvers and basics of team flying are still being used 30 years later.  Their technical skill is still admired and looked at with astonishment to this day.

I had a chance to meet Pam many times on the competition team.  She was always warm and friendly, even to a newbie like myself.  We even competed on the same field on individual events at some of the kite festivals.  Always a class act and excellent kite maker.  In the old days, all the kites were made by hand and Pam made sails for TOTL.  In recent years, she and her husband continued to make kites for a living until her illness.  I still own many of her sails from TOTL.

In the video below, Pam is the one with the pony tail (obviously).  They do several 'hook ups' in which the kites fly between the lines of their team mates, locking them temporarily together with both flyers controlling the linked kites.  In the finale, all four team members are 'locked together' before being separated for the landing.  Amazing stuff...even 27 years later.....  Rest in peace Pam, and thanks for all you've done for us.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Two Weeks to the day

In exactly two weeks, I will be entering Cleveland Clinic for the start of a series of tests that will eventually result in me getting admitted for heart surgery.  They already sent me a detailed schedule of the tests, times, and locations in my orientation package.  Its a three day process in which tests will be followed up by a meeting with the surgeon and his team on Wednesday.  On Thursday of that week, I will go in at 6am and be prepared for surgery.  The surgery will be done sometime in the morning and hopefully I will wake up in ICU in the afternoon.  At least that is the plan.  Should be in the hospital about five days if all things go well.

In the meantime, far from being worried about surviving the operation, I am planning on what I am going to need for the two weeks that I will be in Cleveland.  I will have family and friends with me for a couple of days but they are scheduled to leave on the day I am released from the hospital.  The plan is to stay in Cleveland about five more days to recover and then check in with the doctors before heading back on memorial day weekend.

After that, its about six weeks of recovery and if all goes well, I will be returning to the land of smiles in July.  There will still me some limitations as I understand my sternum can take up to a year to completely heal and bear the full weight of some activities.  That will put things like archery on the back burner for a bit and maybe even flying kites with my team.  Better those restrictions than having major heart issues down the line.

As for the last few days, I did have a chance to attend a couple of social activities.  The spiritual director during our last pilgrimage was ordained a pastor of his parish and I wanted to attend to give him my support and thanks.  Also attended the first communion of my Godmother's great grand daughter.  

This weekend, I will be attending the birthday parties for my twin grand daughters.  It will be their fifth birthday and I will also have a chance to see my newest grand daughter, Kaitlyn, who was born just two weeks ago.  Small family events, but great because it allows me to stay connected to family and friends even though I live so far away now.  

Back on the home front, B took Marina to get measured for her school uniform.  She is going to order three sets, plus some kind of athletic/sport suit.  I can't believe my little girl is going to attend pre-school. She seems ready for the experience even though she won't even turn four until next month.  B and I have said to each other so many times "I wish she would never grow up from this age" as we just adore her sincerity, innocence and view of the world.  She will surely change as she gets older - especially after she starts to attend school.   Well....there is still Ella and she is growing fast and looking more like Marina every day...

That's it for today.  Busy week and next week won't be better.  

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