Tuesday, December 06, 2016


This is a photo of me taken back in 2007 when I was close to my heaviest.  By 2008 I weighted a whopping 308 pounds, so I did something about it.  I went on a liquid diet, supervised by a team of specialists at my health care provider, Kaiser Permanente, called Positive Choice.  Five protein shakes a day for 5 months.  No food.  I lost 110 pounds in that five months and felt better for it.  Since then I have always been active, riding my bike, walking, and lifting free weights.  I ate a more healthy diet. But over time, with travel to foreign lands and about the U.S. I gained some of it back.

When I was home, I would maintain my weight with mostly good food choices and exercise, but when I traveled, it was a different story.  I exercised less and ate more and the food choices were not the best.  Since we traveled for 2 to 3 months at a time, it was easy to gain 10 pounds on a trip.  Upon return home, I would eat better, exercise more and maintain my weight, but rarely would I loose any.  After 8 years I had gained 60 pounds and needed to do something, so back to Positive Choice.  I made an appointment and scheduled my screening for the program.

A medical exam is required to enter the program and included in the exam was a EKG. So the nurse hooks me up, turns on the machine and runs the test.  She then looked at me and said, "You know you have A-Fib"  My response was, "I guess I know now".  A-fib or atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by rapid and irregular beating.  Up and until this point, I had no idea I had A-fib, but the strange thing was that right after she told me, I could actually feel it.

Having A-fib narrowed the possibilities of the diet program and I was told that I couldn't do a full fast but was eligible for a partial fast program, 4 shakes a day with limited food.  More about this program later, but now for the heart part.

First an appointment was made for a echo-cardiogram.  This was scheduled for 4 months out, which was unacceptable to me and I made my feelings known loud and clear. After voicing my displeasure at the delay (read lots of yelling) I was scheduled for an appointment 2 days away.  Basically a echo-cardiogram is a ultrasound of the heart.  To get the results, you go to a cardiologist, but no body had referred me to a cardiologist.  After more "voicing my displeasure", I got an appointment with Dr. Sharma.  He explained to me that the echo-cardiogram showed some minor buildup of calcium in one my arteries, but that first we must get the heart beating in a normal rhythm.  To do this, they shock your heart, but because the heart beating normally again just might send a clot to the brain, I had to go on a blood thinner for 1 month before I got the shock.

I must say that only after learning of the A-fib, did I experience any symptoms.  Now I was constantly out of breath and had little energy.  I could hardly wait the 30 days to get it corrected.  I thought by pissing off a policeman I could get tased.  That would work, wouldn't it?

Finally the day arrive, so off to the hospital for the shock treatment.  As I was waiting my turn, and it was taking longer than expected, the nurse told me that the guy scheduled ahead of me had a heart attack, so that was the reason for the delay.  Oh, great, that made me feel better.  So they put you to sleep, and I gave my approval after the anesthesiologist promised me that he wouldn't use the stuff that killed Michael Jackson.  Next I go to sleep for a few minutes while they use the paddles on me.  I awake and everyone is smiling, including me.  I can tell the difference right away.

Next, a sleep study was ordered.  Picked up a monitor to monitor my breathing while I slept.  Put it on and went to bed.  Couldn't go to sleep.  I tossed and turned, watched the clock and hoped for sleep.  It didn't happen, so I took the monitor off returning it the next day.  I told them that I never went to sleep.  A week or so later I get a call from the sleep clinic and was informed that I have moderate sleep apnea. Tried to explain to them that I never slept, but to no avail.  Now the diagnosis is in my medical record.  Still trying to get that corrected.

Dr Sharma suggested I have a stress test, you know the kind where they put you on the treadmill.  So this was scheduled and completed.  I passed without a problem. This also included taking some kind of atomic pill so they could take a look at my heart with some big scanning type machine.

So, everything is alright, clean bill of health and I'm off to the Sierras for some hiking. While strolling along at 10,000 feet, I started experiencing some chest pain.  Not too severe, but about a 5 on a scale of 10.  The pain lasted for a long time even after finishing the hike.  No other symptoms, and the pain eventually subsided.  A couple of days later, I experienced the pain again while on another hike and it went away when I stopped walking.  So when I got home, no I didn't call for an ambulance, I called Dr. Sharma and he scheduled me for a CAT scan.  This came back negative, but did show that calcium build up.  When meeting with the Doc, he suggested that just to be sure, perhaps I should have a angioplasty, where they put a catheter in your vein and go exploring around the heart.  I agreed.

On the appointed day, we get up at zero dark thirty and drive to the hospital.  They told me to arrive early, but it turns out I was a day early.  Opps!  The next, correct day, we did it again.  Check into the hospital, wait a couple of hours, go to the procedure room, get sedated but stay awake, stick the catheter in the vein in my arm, do a tour of the heart and 30 minutes later, I'm done.  The doctor who did the looking around told me, no blockages, no plaque, only the previously known calcium, which according to him is very minor and no a cause for concern.

So what caused the chest pain you ask?  Don't know.  I go for another consult with Dr. Sharma in a week or so, we shall see.

While all this is going on, I am on my diet of 4 shakes a day and a small amount of healthy food, about 1000 calories total.  Have to go to fat people class once a week to learn stuff about food.  To date I have lost 40 pounds, with 20 more to go, so something is working.

Actually, even with the hiccups at Kaiser, I am very satisfied with my treatment so far.  I must say that after all these years at Kaiser, I am finally getting my money's worth.  As for Dr. Sharma, I am very pleased with him.  If I send him an e-mail with a question, he almost always calls me the same day and is very responsive to my questions.  When I go for an office visit, I have never waited longer then 15 minutes.  He takes the time to explain to me in detail my treatment and answers all my stupid questions.


Dibb Family said...

Wow, Dana! Glad you had all of the tests done. I had a color echo when I retired. Really, really interesting as my technician explained it all as we went.

Our best wishes on all of this!

Thanks for all the info!

Merry Christmas!

Nick Saraceni said...

Dana.....when I related your journey, my wife's reaction was, "The Sierras?.....what was he thinking." I told her I wouldn't have expected anything else. Even in old age we are invincible....well almost. Congrats on the weight loss, stay healthy my friend!