Grump Central Archive: Week of 15 March 2020

Saturday, 21 March 2020

And so begins a brief new chapter of my life that has the potential to offer a vague roadmap for the remainder of my days. This new medication I'm starting is supposed to strengthen the heart muscle and thereby offer me more years of life (although just how many is unknown). This assumes it works; the cardiologist claims the next 45 days should tell. If there's no improvement by then, the end of days will likely come much sooner for me, possibly in months, even though the cardiologist insists there are other options, such as a heart transplant or mechanical pump implant. What he does not yet know is that I'll refuse both of these options for a host of reasons, including the extreme invasiveness of the surgeries, prohibitive cost, and highly demanding maintenance requirements. Thus my days may be numbered...

Specifically: a heart transplant would require daily medication for the rest of my life to suppress rejection—up to thirty drugs at a cost of thousands per month—that also place me at high risk of disease and infection. The mechanical pump, surgically installed in my stomach, would require that I wear an external control unit and two battery packs 24/7, plus take up to a dozen medications daily. Both would require constant monitoring, frequent doctor visits, modified diet and lifestyle, and so forth. When I consider the diminished quality of life I'd endure, neither of these is an option for me. I'd much rather have just 6-8 months of relatively normal, comfortable living versus maybe 6-8 years of constant, onerous maintenance.

By the way, the weather has been utterly insane: yesterday afternoon it hit 80°, and tonight it's supposed to drop below freezing. Then snow is predicted for Monday. I don't know what to wear anymore...

Friday, 20 March 2020

I think I made the cardiologist a bit uncomfortable. I asked him for an honest prognosis, because I wasn't getting one. He squirmed and became somewhat evasive. I pressed him harder. He stuck with the good news: he was putting me on a new drug and said, depending on how I respond to it, I could have "years." He wouldn't define "years," but instead claimed he's had patients with the same EF as mine who play tennis every day. I made it clear I've been doing my homework, and pressed him even harder. Finally he admitted I was correct—the statistics for me are pretty grim. "Then we discuss other steps," he added hastily. Which are...? "Heart transplant. Heart pump." At which point he stood up. "But we won't let it get to that," he concluded with all-too predictable optimism, and promptly bid me farewell, apologizing for not shaking my hand under the circumstances.

The statistics for me are indeed pretty grim. With an Ejection Fraction of less than 15%, I have a 90% chance of being dead within a year. I've also learned during my research that there's a strong tendency for people to be overly optimistic about the chances of survival. This isn't surprising, since no one likes bad news. On the other hand, I don't want anything sugarcoated. I want honest, straight answers. I fully understand doctors aren't psychic and can't predict exactly when someone will die, but they can at least provide a ballpark estimate, because there have been countless studies done on heart failure, and the professional literature is available to anyone. Thus I already had a pretty good idea what the truth was, whereas he's programmed to focus on the best-case scenario. But he also made sure I understood that I'm entering a critical phase, and after 45 days on the new drug he'd have a much better handle on my longevity.

So now the countdown begins.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Today I get the skinny on my condition. Looking forward to it with mixed feelings.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

A year ago the house was shaping up nicely. Now it's more or less in its final shape, unfinished as it is. It's still far enough along that there isn't very much I feel a burning need to do—other than get rid of the camper. That would make me happy. The rest I'll gladly leave to the next owner.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

It's just as well I've nowhere to go anytime soon, what with New Jersey now under lockdown. Honestly, if officials are deliberately trying to make matters worse, they're doing it right. Most of the food I'd stockpiled I shouldn't eat in my condition (very high salt content), but ask me if I care. Now I'm wondering if I even need to worry about my cardiologist appointment on Thursday...

Monday, 16 March 2020

Good days, bad days. Or, more precisely, so-so days and bad days. I think I'm beginning to adapt a little to the blood pressure meds, and I may be almost fully adapted just in time to have the regimen changed this Thursday. What I'd prefer to focus on, however, is not in my chest but in my head: I need help regulating my emotional health, as currently I'm prone to wild swings from introspective to morose to indifferent to anxious to... whatever. Every time I feel the slightest twinge in my chest, I fly into a brief panic wondering, Is this it? This is no way to live, even for just a while...

Sunday, 15 March 2020

I'm seriously bemused by this whole Coronavirus thing. I sit in my little hidey-hole in the woods confident that it won't affect me. But, even if it does, so what? I've already got a deadly disease, so what's the worst that can happen to me? I die just a little sooner?

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