Her head is hanging over the side of the transfer chair resting on the table next to it.  I suggested that she go to bed, but she insisted on staying there for another half hour.  That half hour will be up in a few minutes.  I wlll take a break and get her into bed in a moment.

After a restless beginning last night, sleep finally came and stuck around.  There were only a few commode trips after she finally settled.  She chose to sleep in until about 9:45am.  That rest seemed to help her alertness and responsiveness.  She has often put her head down on the table today.  I think the restless nights and early mornings have finally caught up with her.

I am heading off to get her to bed now.

She is in bed and already appears to be asleep.  It is too early to tell, but I certainly hope she sleeps well.  She needs the rest.

When the phone rang this morning it was the call I was expecting from the Cardiologist’s Nurse.  She had in hand the reports from the echocardiogram, the carotid sonogram and her blood work.

The call was another encounter with realities that are not visible.  Probably the most serious concern is the increase in the severity of her Pulmonary Hypertension.  That is the disease that took the lives of those who had taken the diet medication called Phen-Fen (sometimes designated in reverse, Fen-Phen).  Pulmonary Hypertension has been a part of the array of Mary Ann’s diseases for the last two to three years.  It is a funcion of the high blood pressure, which is, of course, raised by the Midodrine.  Any treatment would involve medications to reduce her blood pressure, bringing on the return and probably increasing the frequency of the fainting spells.

As last summer’s posts reveal, the fainting spells lower dramatically our ability to function.  Gratefully, both Mary Ann’s Cardiologist and her Neurologist understand the dilemma well and respect our decisions on how to proceed.

As I mentioned a number of posts back when reflecting on the report we had received on her blood work, her kidney function also has declined in the last six months.  She is now only one point away from Stage 4 (of 5 stages) of Chronic Kidney Disease.  A couple of years ago, her Nephrologist agreed that any treatment would lower her blood pressure, creating the same problem as the treatment for the Pulmonary Hypertension.

The Cardiologist’s Nurse said that the lesion in her left Carotid is still not past the 50% mark, which is the point at which the need for surgery comes into play.  She mentioned that there is a build up on her right side also.  I don’t remember whether that has been mentioned before.

The Nurse confirmed that there is leakage in more than one heart valve, including the Mitrovalve.  That regurgitation seems to have worsened some, but the language of the tests was not clear on that issue.  At our last appointment with the Cardiologist six months ago, the leakage was not bad enough for the surgery option to be up for consideration. There are also enlarged chambers in the heart, especially the left Atrium.  That problem has worsened.

All of the above has been factored into our consciousness at some point already in the past.  Hearing the results of the tests bring it all to the surface.  My questions always probe the rate of change.  This set of test results seem to indicate a more pronounced decline that in the past.

I plan to fax the Neurologist to probe further any treatment options for the fainting that might not raise the blood pressure.  At one point he mentioned an off label use of a drug called Mestinon.  The Cardiologist was unfamiliar with it and unwilling to prescribe it at that point.  I may try to get them to talk with one another about that or other options.  Getting doctors to talk with one another is not always an easy thing to accomplish.  They are both good doctors — maybe it can happen.

On the matter of the quality of life and the health of this Caregiver, the power of the Alien possession is now getting scary.  This is the Alien from planet Pedometer Prime who, as in the movie the Body Snatchers, is trying to change me into some sort of walking, exercising pawn.  This will frighten you.  Mary Ann and I made an afternoon run to the store for something.  Afterward, I offered to get some ice cream.  We went to Sheridan’s Frozen Custard for a what they call a concrete.  The one of choice is made with chocolate frozen custard with pecans mixed in.

Here is the terrifying development.  As we approached Sheridan’s, the Alien simply took possession and overpowered my will to eat ice cream.  Those of you who know me well (or have been following this blog) understand just how horrible this was.  I got Mary Ann a concrete as described.  Then the Alien took over the car and drove it to Cedarcrest where I walked the path while Mary Ann ate her treat.  It is a miracle we made it safely.  I certainly had no control over that car or, at the very least, we would have veered left at 17th and headed for Maggie Moo’s.

If that is not horrifying enough, the Alien had already forced me out to walk in the neighborhood early (for me) this morning while Mary Ann slept.  Keep alert, you never know when one of those Aliens will try to take you over too!!

By the way, Mary Ann actually said she liked what I made for supper tonight.  There were a couple of pork chops in the fridge recently thawed and needing to be cooked.  We had some red potatoes, onions and fresh broccoli in the there also.  I cut up the potatoes and veggies and put them on a foil covered cooking sheet (I hate cleaning pans).  We had some Hendrickson’s dressing and marinade that we have used in the past and liked.  I tossed the veggies in it.  Then to make the food preparation easier, I put the pork chops in a baking dish and covered them with the same marinade.  Both dishes went in the oven (375) for almost an hour.  I really liked the meal, but then I like everything.  Mary Ann only ate the meat, but volunteered at one point that it was good.  There is such a feeling of victory when something has passed muster with those finicky taste buds!

Just in case the Alien attacks again in the morning, I had better settle in for the night and get some rest.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

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Warm gel is a good thing when having an echo-cardiogram and a carotid sonogram.  Yesterday was Mary Ann’s every six month check of the lesion in one of her carotid arteries (the ones in the neck that supply the brain with blood), and her every six month check of her heart, the valves and general condition.

The tests happen so regularly since at some time, should the lesion in her carotid artery grow past a certain point, the question of surgery will come up.  She has already had one stroke, probably caused by bits of plaque sloughed off from that lesion.  The most we can hope for is very little change in how much of that artery is blocked.  I will admit that neither Mary Ann nor I am much interested in a major surgery.  We would certainly discuss the option.  I would not presume to know for sure what Mary Ann might want to do if surgery is suggested.  Her Mom had it when she was in her 80’s, and she did very well.

What the echocardiogram shows could have some impact on medications.  It was interesting to watch the med tech do the test.  She had a student with her.  She described what she was looking at to the student as she pulled up each view of Mary Ann’s heart.  I had a great view of the screen during the entire test.  It was helpful to me to hear her point out and name the parts of the heart on the screen.  Having watched the screen for the last few echo-cardiograms, I am getting fairly familiar with the images on the screen.  It helped this time to have a running commentary on what I was seeing.

What was especially interesting was a little mini-drama, as the med tech was describing what she was seeing to the student.  At one point there is color added to the screen.  The red indicates blood coming toward the probe, the blue indicates blood moving away from the probe.  When the med tech was checking the valves using the color mode, her voice lowered as she spoke to the student.  I inferred that the movement of the colors was indicating leaking valves and she did not want to break protocol by revealing that within Mary Ann’s and my hearing.  I had been quiet (unusual for me) until then.  I decided to relieve her distress by mentioning Mary Ann’s problem with leaking heart valves. The med tech’s response indicated my assessment of her reaction had been correct.  Up to this point, the leaking is not severe enough to warrant raising the surgery option.

Both Mary Ann and I had blood tests a week ago.  Her orders came from our GP (thyroid and cholesterol check), mine came from our Cardiologist (cholesterol).  Mary Ann is the one with problems, right?  Her numbers were great!  Mine produced a message from the Cardiologist to double the dosage on my cholesterol lowering med.  Mary Ann’s annoying ability to stop eating when she is full, as well as her distaste for leftovers and much of what I cook, seems to be serving her well in the blood chemistry department.  My inability to stop eating until everything is gone on my plate and all the containers on the table, does not serve me so well in the blood chemistry department.  I suspect a program of improved diet, exercise and weight reduction is in my future — perhaps I should have a snack and lie down until that thought passes.

We got a copy of the written results of our blood work yesterday after the tests were done.  Mary Ann’s results revealed the continuing reduction in her kidney function.  The surface of her kidneys has hardened due to decades of high blood pressure.  If you have read earlier posts about her struggle with Orthostatic Hypotension (low blood pressure when standing, producing fainting spells) you will catch the irony.  She is now taking medicine to raise her base blood pressure to reduce the problem of her BP lowering too much when she is standing and walking.  If I am reading the lab report correctly, she has just moved into stage three of five in her Chronic Kidney Disease. The good news is that we all have so much kidney capacity that it could lower to 30% of full functioning without becoming dangerous. When I include that sort of information, remember that I am not a doctor.  Don’t take my word for it. A few years ago a very candid Nephrologist told us that Mary Ann would likely die with Chronic Kidney Disease, not of it.  At that time we all agreed not to treat the kidney disease since the treatment would make the fainting worse by lowering her blood pressure.

As the tests were going on, I thought about how scary all the test results can be.  When we first were told about each of the problems, there was that feeling in the pit of the stomach that the end might be nearing.  After years of monitoring the results of the tests, it is just more information confirming what we already know.  Even if there is something new, Mary Ann has faced down so many medical problems for so many years, we just take it in stride.  Mary Ann could die in ten minutes, ten months, ten years, or more.  So could I.  Death lives just on the other side of life.  Coming to terms with that provides a sense of peace, and affirms the sweetness of the life we have at any given moment.  Our spiritual foundation steals from death its ultimate power to destroy.  Neither of us longs for it.  We both recognize the pain that is left to those we leave behind.  At the same time, we recognize our mortality and have learned to live with it.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.