When Madonna is more Presidential than the President...

Good for her (and the world):

Prime ministers, a king, a prince and Madonna all chipped in to an $8 billion pot to fund a coronavirus vaccine, but President Trump skipped the chance to contribute. Officials in his administration noted that the United States is pouring billions of dollars into its own research efforts.

This article also taught me that Norway isn't part of the EU. Who knew? Probably lots of people, particularly Norwegians, but not me!


Paperclip + Mask = Happy Ears

If you're anything like me, a sensible person who cares about the health of others, you've been wearing a mask whenever you're out and about. You may have also discovered that masks with elastic loops that use your ears as a way to stay pressed against your face are slightly uncomfortable.

There's an easy fix that'll save your ears and press the mask even more tightly to your face. You just need one of these (it is a large paperclip, in case you can't see the lovely picture):

Masks

Which you then attach, like so, to one of the elastic loops:

Masks

Next, slap that mask on your face, place the elastic bands over your ears, and pull them behind your head so you can attach the other loop to the paperclip:

Masks

Adjust for your comfort and then send me a lovely email thanking for for this fantastic tip.

I'm sure there are little doodads you can buy, or 3D print, that do the same thing but you probably already have a paperclip laying around.

I know what you're thinking, "But, Scott, won't I look silly with a paperclip pressed against the back of my head?" There's a global pandemic happening. No one cares what you look like.

Now you're thinking, "Scott, why didn't you include a picture of you wearing a mask so we can see what it looks like on the back of your neck?" I took several of those pictures, dear reader. Trust me, you're better off not seeing them.


Books for me! A future for these stores?

The books I’ve bought during the Pandemic.  No, I have’t read any of them yet.

I feel a little bit like there isn’t much I can do to be helpful during this global pandemic. I’m not a healthworker, I can’t sew (trust me, you wouldn’t want to wear a mask I made. The last time I sewed anything was long, long ago in elementary school. I was in 2nd grade, I think, and preparing to recieve my First Communion. For some reason part of the preparations included spending a morning in our school’s cafeteria where we cut out lamb shapes from fabric, stuffed them, and then sewed them together. My lamb wouldn’t protect anyone from COVID-19 either), and I can’t convince stupid people that wearing a mask isn’t a huge civil liberties problem and the numbers aren’t as bad as predicted because of what we’re doing.

Something I can do, however, is support a few independent booksellers. Which I how I came to own the 20 books above! They are a mix of new and used books from a few of my favorite bookstores (or stores that I went to once and enjoyed):

  • Powell’s - This one shouldn’t be a surprise. I, like many people, love Powell’s for many reasons. Whenever I’m in Portland I stop by and spend more money than I should... and since who knows if air travel will ever happen again I spent a pretty penny using their (not so great) website.
  • Northshire Bookstore - I think we visited this store on our honeymoon... but I don’t know for sure. But they got some of my money anyway!
  • BookPeople - This is a great bookstore in Austin, which I visit and spend way too much money at whenever I’m in Austin. They also have nice t-shirts.
  • A Novel Idea on Passyunk - I haven’t actually visited this bookstore in person, despite the fact that it is in Philadelphia but I want it to continue to exist so I bought some books.

There is one glaring omission on the list above. My favorite bookstore in the world is The Strand. It is a favorite amongst many a book lover but they aren’t shipping books, so I couldn’t order any. I did order myself a gift card to help support them!

Indie Bookstore websites suck

One thing I discovered whilst trying to support independent bookstores I found out that many of them have horrible, horrible, very bad websites. It makes sense since these stores want you to come to their physical locations. They can’t compete with Amazon’s website (which really isn’t all that great either... but it is really easy to find what you’re looking for on Amazon, which is all that matters), so they just ignore their websites.

Bookshop.org is an interesting solution to this problem. It is a service that’ll sell books for indie bookstores and give a percentage to the bookstore. The store won’t make as much from the sale, but they also don’t have to ship books or keep the inventory so that seems like a win to me. And Bookshop.org is a very nicely designed website.


Following up on a thing no one cares about

A while back I got a bunch of t-shirts that were the wrong size.

I said then I wasn't confident I'd get replacements:

I’ve reached out to Loot Crate support, so I’m hoping I can exchange them for a smaller size. Though the response of “we are working on our shipping process so these late deliveries don’t happen again” that I got doesn’t make me think Loot Crate is great at actually reading the email folks send them (and that lots of people are contacting them about these very late boxes randomly showing up now!).

Good news! They sent me the right sized shirts. Woo!


AirPods Pro - A victim of my pandemic mind

So many Airpods Pro

People who follow me on Twitter may recall that I sent my AirPods Pro through the wash last month:

I've had AirPods forever, but this was the first time I managed to destroy a pair with prolonged washing.

Good news: I did the same thing a couple of days ago... so now I have two pairs of broken AirPods Pro.

This got me to thinking about how I could have gone for so long not doing a thing and then suddenly doing that thing twice in a couple of weeks.

It all boils down to the power of routine. I only ever really used my AirPods in two circumstances:

  1. Sitting at my desk at work.
  2. Whilst running (either outside or on the treadmill).

When I used them at work I would just slip them into my bag at the end of the day. My bag doesn't end up in the washing machine all that often, so there's very little risk of destruction for my AirPods in that routine.

When I'm outside running I don't usually bring the AirPod case, but traditionally I've run alone. So when I'm done with my run I just walk home with the AirPods in my ears. When I get home I pull them out, pop them into their case, and go about my life with functioning AirPods.

For use in the gym, I pop them into my ears before I head down the 15 floors to the gym, and then pop them out again when I'm back home (this allows me to pretend I can't hear anyone who might want to talk to me in the elevator).

Enter COVID-19.

Now, I'm no longer going to the office (I haven't been there in a month) so I don't use my AirPods during the day.

And the gym in my building is closed, so I don't use the treadmill anymore. Which means I have to run outside (even thought the air is full of death).

To make it even more different not only do I now only run outside, but since we are limiting the amounts of times we go outside we tend to all go out at the same time.

This means when I'm walking home I'm with Marisa and the boys. And I don't want to be rude to Marisa, since she is still talking to me for the moment, so I pop the AirPods into my pocket of my sweaty shorts.

Sweaty shorts which end up in the washing machine. With my AirPods in the pocket.

And that's how I ended up being the owner of two sets of very clean, and very broken, AirPods Pro.


Breakfast with the boys

Breakfast

Here's some real talk: most everything about this global pandemic sucks.

And that's an optimistic statement, just so you know how things are going these days. However, one benefit of all of this craziness is that while I'm working from home, and avoiding all human contact, new rituals have emerged.

One of the best is that I now feed these little guys their breakfast in the morning so Marisa can take a shower at a relatively sedate pace (i.e. she doesn't have to have a monitor on the shelf or an audience of two tiny freaking out men watching her shower).

It has been a learning experience for us all.


Little Yogurt Beard

As you can see, Declan likes yogurt but has to work on paying attention while his less than neat father attempts to shove it into his mouth while, at the same time, Declan turns his head in the opposite direction to look at something and opens his mouth a tiny bit.

Sammy is all business at the breakfast table, and you can see he's thinking, "Is there more yogurt in that phone? If not, put it away."


Reading in the time of COVID-19

Background stress.

That’s what I felt when I was in the hospital overnight a few months ago. It wasn’t serious, but the docs wanted to keep me under observation (these days I’m pretty sure I would have just been sent home!).

Honestly, I thought it would be a nice opportunity to get some reading done. With two babies at home, my reading time has been significantly impacted (though keep in mind Marisa was, and continues to, doing the vast majority of childcare duties). A whole night where I couldn’t get out of bed and just had to lay there? Paradise.

It wasn’t.

There’s just a lot of stress and tension in the air at a hospital, even if you’re not in mortal danger of death. I couldn’t concentrate on much other than mindless television.

And that, my friends, is how this pandemic is impacting me.

Lots of folks on social media are posting about all the time they have now since we’re sheltering in place without commutes. Time seems to have become unstuck from us, and now we can do all those things we never got around to before.

I have a stack of library books that is the result of some aggressive hold requesting and I haven’t managed to make a dent in it. Luckily, the library is closed until further notice and they aren’t taking book returns so I have time. And yet I lack the ability to concentrate.

Sure, I can read a little bit but all of my attempts to immerse myself into a book have thus far failed.

129B4981-1974-4260-BEA5-0924710FD0EBOn the plus side I’m watching lots of episodes of Time Team with Marisa. I was previously watching it while I ran on the treadmill, but my building’s gym is closed so that isn’t happening anymore.

It was a lovely surprise to find out that Marisa actually finds the show interesting. Score one for us!

Anyway, given this is an once in a lifetime event (I’m just projecting my hope there, I know this could turn into a regular occurrence) I figure I should chronicle some of what I’m thinking and doing.

Stay tuned for more entries in my COVID-19 Chronicles. I hope it continues to be relatively boring chronicle of a stressful time.


Headache or death?

Having AFib hasn’t really impacted my life all that much. I have to take some medicine twice a day, which is surprisingly difficult to remember, and that’s about it.

 

Oh, and now whenever I get a headache I have to make sure I’m not having a stroke. That’s fun.

Good thing I don’t have headaches that often, though the other day I had a pretty significant one come on and was worried for a bit. Good news, everyone, it wasn’t a stroke!


Oh, right. Loot Crate is a thing.

A couple of years ago Loot Crate announced they were doing Star Trek “mission crates.” If you ordered a year of the crates (6 boxes of Star Trek related stuff) you would get a discount on a year of CBS All Access as a bonus.

I signed up on 8/23/17 and the first crate (according to my email) was shipped almost a year later. Turns out, Loot Crate had a lot of trouble creating these things. And while they included some fun t-shirts it was mostly crap I didn’t need. I got a few more of the crates and cancelled my subscription.

Then I forgot this thing ever existed. And forgot that I had paid for a year of crates (though I had paid for them 2 years ago). Forgotten about them until yesterday when the 3 remaining crates arrived on the same day. I was supposed to get them, according to the names of the crates, in July, Sept, and Nov of... 2018.

9475D6A6-DDF2-40F3-9D80-E1607EB1BFD4

Better late than never, I suppose. The only wrinkle is that the fine folks at Loot Crate didn’t tell me these were coming. They just showed up. Why is that a problem? Each box includes a t-shirt, which is good. But I selected my size 2 years ago when I was much heavier so I went with XXL. I’m an XL now, and these fancy shirts (and I do quite like them) are way too big. Bummer.

I’ve reached out to Loot Crate support, so I’m hoping I can exchange them for a smaller size. Though the response of “we are working on our shipping process so these late deliveries don’t happen again” that I got doesn’t make me think Loot Crate is great at actually reading the email folks send them (and that lots of people are contacting them about these very late boxes randomly showing up now!).


The Best Books I read in 2019

Tomorrow is Christmas, which means you might be looking for a few last minute presents for the kind of important people in your life. Why not get them an ebook? You can buy it at any time and it is delivered instantly! Plus, you can tell people you scheduled the delivery weeks ago so people don’t think you forgot to get them something.

I read 71 books this year and as is my tradition I will share the ones that I deemed five star worthy. Surely, any person who were to recieve any of these books as a present would be very lucky indeed.

Non-fiction

Like books about real stuff? I generally don’t, but I did read a couple that I very much enjoyed this year.

  • Underground by Will Hunt - I often idly wonder about what’s happened beneath my feet. Will is one of those brave souls who actually goes to find out.
  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe - Turns out this book that won lots of awards and everyone says is excellent... is very good indeed. And not at all what I expected.

Novellas

It seems to me that novellas are making a comeback. A bunch of publishers are pushing them, which resulted in me reading a few this year. The great thing about novellas is that they aren’t too long but you still feel like you’ve read something of substance.

Don’t start here

Since I’m a big nerd I, of course, read lots entries in series. I enjoyed all of these, but you shouldn’t start any of these series with this installment:

Novels

  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk - One of the odder mysteries I’ve read...and one that was very well written. Also, what a great title!
  • Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia - I enjoy books that force me out of my worldview in interesting ways, and this one certainly does that. And the main character is a hoot.
  • Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett - Do you like books that have detailed magic systems? I do! And this book has that AND a pretty exciting story. Bonus.
  • Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller - One of the more exciting (and depressing) sub-generes of Science Fiction is CliFi (Climate Fiction). These books spin tales about a future shaped by climate change. This book does that very well without being heavy handed and includes a polar bear.
  • Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker - Another great title! K.J. Parker is on my list of authors whose work I just buy, but this book is a great intro for anyone interested in trying out his work.
  • A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine - A great modern space opera, and another book is coming soon (so you should start here).

Do we need Healthcare reform?

Last month I went to my doctor's office and ended up in the hospital (the whole story is here).

Here's a list of the high points of the care (which was very good!) I received:

  • The emergency room
  • A few EKGs
  • Some medication
  • Saw a few doctors for a few minutes each
  • Stayed overnight for observation
  • Had a stress test
  • Bunch of lab work

How much do you think 1 night in the hospital with pretty minimal usage of services costs?

$33,739

I'm not paying that much since I have health insurance and they have agreements that mean they are only paying a fraction of that cost... but if I didn't have health insurance I'd be screwed.

I probably wouldn't have went to the doctor's in the first place and my heart would just have kept on beating oddly until I had heart failure or a stroke. Fun!


These drugs are making my heart beat correctly

HeartyheartYesterday I woke up early to go for a 4 mile run. Usually I run after work, but I wanted to get my run in early just in case I ended up in the hospital. Gotta get my 10,000 steps!

You see, I had my followup cardiologist's appointment at 9am and I was worried it would go along the same lines as my last appointment.

I'm happy to report that I didn't end up in the hospital after my appointment. My cardiologist told me that I'm very healthy, other than my arrhythmic heart, and that this isn't something that people die from. It is annoying, but not deadly.

That was nice!

He was also yawning a lot as he spoke to me. I sense he isn't a morning person.

But how does one live with an out of rhythm heart? Turns out I have two options:

* Take a few pills every day for the rest of my life.
* Let them stick catheters in my heart, burn some flesh, and hope that stops the arrhythmia.

I opted for the drugs for the time being as I've been in aFib frequently over the last few weeks but popping a pill pretty much stops it. I'm hopeful that taking a couple of pills regularly will solve it for the time being (and so far it is! Though I've only taken the new combo twice thus far).

I'm on a drug called flecainide, which Wikipedia tells me is the 273rd most commonly prescribed medicine in America. It is a sodium channel blocker that stops arrhythmic heart beats which is pretty cool. Interestingly, though, one of the potentail side effects is making your arrhythmia worse, so that's not great. It seems to happen in very few people but I will be ever vigilant!

If the drugs stop working, or I get tired of taking two pills twice a day, then my heart will get ablated! Basically, they burn away some groups of nerves in the heart and that SHOULD make the arrhythmia stop.

My doc tells me that for about 85% of folks it works on the first try. And if it doesn't work you try try again and that bumps up the effectiveness to 90%. The only downside (other than surgery) is the heart heals itself. So it is possible for the flesh to repair itself and for my heart to go back to its oddly beating ways.

Overall, I'm pretty glad my heart conditions aren't more serious because while the doc was very knowledgeable and answered all my questions he wouldn't actually recommend one way over the other. I thought it wise to wait until after the holidays to schedule surgery, but I think come February my heart will be burnt from the inside.

Current heart rate: 47 BPM. And I'm in Sinus Rhythm.



These sites have been open on my iPhone for weeks

I don't presume to know how you browse the Internet, but I think of it as a buffet. I can grab a few things from the grill, maybe add a cinnamon bun and a slice of ham, and then go back for more incongruous combinations until I'm way overfull. But kind of happy.

That's the Internet to me, and as part of my browsing I sometimes come across an article that I think is worth sharing. Sometimes I pooped out a tweet with the link but other times I think, "No! This is worthy of being posted on my blog where no one but I will see it when I'm reading through my archives in 10 years (10 years ago I was a 100 pounds heavier than I am today!).

Anyway, here's my link dump:


8 miles with a faulty heart

As I mentioned in my last (very long) post I went for an 8 mile run yesterday. I wasn't going to any time records, I just wanted to complete the run. And I did!

The weather was great, and I even paused to take this picture as I was overwhelmed by how pretty it was:

View this post on Instagram

Seen on my run today.

A post shared by Scott McNulty (@blankbaby) on

A good reminder to stop and take a moment, even if you're covered in sweat and 6 miles into an 8 mile run that you just want to be over.


I went to the ER and all I got was two heart conditions

Many years ago when I was in highschool I was at home in the apartment I grew up in, alone and watching television. I don't recall what I was watching, but I remember the phone call I was about to get very clearly.

The phone rang. I answered.

Keep in mind, kids, this was well before everyone had a cell phone.

It was my mother. Not an unusual thing to happen, since at that time she was in a relationship with a guy who lived not too far from us and would often stay at his place.

This call, however, was a bit unusual.

"Scott, don't worry but I'm in the emergency room."

Reader, I worried.

My mom had been feeling under the weather for a week or so, and went to see her doctor. The doctor examined her for a bit and said, "How did you get here?" She told him that she had driven herself there. His response?

"I'm driving you to the emergency room."

It wasn't the flu, but rather a heart attack!

She had a stent put in and lived to tell about it (until cancer got her).

Anyway, this has been a sort of running joke with me. I'll go to the doctor and say to Marisa, "I bet I'll end up in the emergency room!"

I'm the Cassandra of jokes

I've been wearing a smartwatch that measures my heart-rate for years now. And my heartrate has been pretty stable... until a couple of weeks ago when my average heartrate suddenly went up significantly.

I thought this odd, so I fished out Marisa's blood-pressure monitor and took my blood-pressure. It was fine, but this little icon appeared. I didn't know what it meant, so I Googled it.

That little icon stands for "Irregular heartbeat detected" and the manual suggested that I go see my doctor.

Not troubling at all, blood-pressure monitor.

To the PCP OMG

I called my PCP (who I had never actually visited before. I know, I know) and asked for an appointment. I was told they were taking appointments for the end of November. I didn't think waiting that long was a good idea, so I explained my situation. The office coordinator agreed and made me an appointment for last Wednesday (I called on Monday).

I showed up at the office, saw the doctor and explained my tale. He hooked me up to his EKG machine and said, "Yep! You have atrial fibrillation." He, and his nurse, asked me if I felt light headed or anything. I was honest and said I felt fine. In fact, I had run 4 miles that very morning!

They were impressed.

The doctor didn't seem too worried. He explained that the biggest risk with afib is that a blood clot could form in the heart and if it dislodges it’ll go straight to my brain and I'd have a stroke.

Not troubling at all, doctor.

He followed that up by telling me that I am in the lowest risk pool for that to happen. He prescribed a beta blocker to slow my heart rate down and told me to call a cardiologist.

I asked if I had to change anything in my life and he said, "Nope! You can still run as long as it doesn't make you feel lightheaded."

I was relieved that there was a reason for the change and while it was serious, it wasn't deadly.

I picked up my prescription (do you know they don't write you a prescription anymore? It just magically appears at the pharmacy! Who knew?) and headed home to call the cardiologist.

They didn't have a free appointment until Nov. 11th, so I made the appointment and asked that if something opened up sooner to please let me know.

Since it was about 12:30pm at this point I went to work with the intention of grabbing lunch and working the rest of the day.

As I walked into Wawa (a frequent destination of mine) my phone rang. It was the cardiologist's office. Seems an appointment opened up today, and would I want to see a doctor in 40 minutes?

Thinking this was a very rare occurrence I agreed and hastened to the doctor's office (after grabbing a wrap for lunch).

They should soundproof these rooms

I arrived at the office to see Dr. Goldberg. A tech came in and took my bloodpressure and do my second EKG of the day. She had me take off my shirt to do the EKG, which makes sense, and she told me that Dr. Goldberg liked people to take their pants off as well. But I could wait until she brought me a robe to remove my pants.Scottrobe

Okay.

She brought a robe. Off came my pants and I sat in a tiny room by myself waiting the arrival of Dr. Goldberg.

Now, I had googled Dr. Goldberg so I would have an idea of what to expect. He is an older gentleman. He was most definitely not two younger women... and that is who came into the room after one of those "polite doctor knocks."

They explained that they were medical students working with Dr. Goldberg and asked I would mind if they examined me and asked some questions.

I'm a fan of higher learning, so I was game! They listened to my heart and my story. They took my pulse and told me that my heart was beating faster than my pulse... which seemed concerning to me.

Then they left. I assume to confer with Dr. Goldberg.

I sat. In a robe. With no pants. Waiting.

Another quick knock and the man himself, Dr. Goldberg, appears. He takes my pulse and asks me some questions about my life (where I live and so forth). Then he says, "So, I'm sending you to the Emergency Department." That's what's commonly known as the Emergency Room.

This seemed to have escalated quickly!

He said that not only did I have AFib but I also had Atrial Flutter. Which sounds cute, but isn't. And it was concerning that my heart rate was clocking in around 150 beats per minute (which one of the student doctors explained meant that my ventricles were beating 150 times but my atrium were going at 300 beats a minute. Not good.).

He said, don't worry this is a simple procedure! And I was like, "what procedure?" He was talking about a cardioversion: they shock your heart back into a normal rhythm. He said it is basically an out patient procedure and we could fool around with drugs for weeks but why bother?

I agreed and off Dr. Goldberg went.

Then I heard the nurse in charge of the office talking to the Emergency Department. She was like, "Yeah! He ran 4 miles this morning. Can you believe it?"

Errr

Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital, is where my mom was treated for her cancer and where Marisa gave birth to our sons. There are lots of memories in that place for me and now I can add:

  • My first ER admittance
  • My first IV
  • My first ride in a wheelchair and in a hospital bed

But I'm getting ahead of myself. My cardiologist's office is 2 blocks from the hospital. They were sending me to the ER and I felt fine. I wanted to walk. The nurse wanted me to take a Lyft.

I walked.

Checked myself in and took a seat in the same waitingroom where Marisa and I waited that fateful 3rd of July with my mom as she started her cancer journey (which had already started but none of us knew that!).

It was weird is what I'm saying.

A nurse had me run through my story again and had a tech run another EKG on me. She apologized profusely as she ripped the previous EKG stickers off of my increasingly less hirsute chest (and marveled that no one had shaved my chest yet).

The EKG confirmed that I was in the right place and I was popped into a room to be visited by 4 cardiologists over the course of a few hours. Fun fact: one of those cardiologists was the son of Dr. Goldberg. His name? Dr. Goldberg.

I asked one of them how worried I should be. I mean, it is serious enough for me to be in the Emergency Room but should I be totally terrified or mostly concerned? She told me that I shouldn’t be that worried. They see this all the time and given that I am “young and fit” this shouldn’t be a big deal.

That made me feel better, though I was still in the emergency room.

I was told that I needed to have a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) and then a cardioversion. Scary sounding stuff! But the TEE basically involves them shoving a probe down your throat so they can get a better look at your heart. You just need to have your throat numbed, and I was told it doesn’t take long. Though I don’t think it is pleasant!

Dr. Goldberg had explained the cardioversion to me before, so at least I knew about that. It is an outpatient procedure which is nice, though they couldn’t schedule it for me until Thursday which meant I got to stay overnight in a hospital room!

Another first for me.

Your room, sir.

They pumped me full of beta blockers (to slow my heart rate) and anticoagulants (so a blood clot wouldn’t break off, float to my brain, and give me a stroke) and we waited for my room to become available (by this time Marisa had arrived!).

They hooked up a portable heartmonitor so they could make sure nothing else was going on with my heart and removed the IV which was nice because that meant I no longer had to pee in a bottle.

We made it to the room, though I must say it is odd being wheeled around while you’re laying down in a bed, and settled in. I didn’t have a roommate (woo!) and since Marisa had been in the same hospital for 2 weeks with preeclampsia she had some pro tips (mostly around moving the computer monitor away from the bed as you slept).

I hadn’t eaten anything since 1pm or so, and now it was about 6:30pm. Once they figured out they weren’t doing the procedure until the next day I was told I could eat but shouldn’t eat or drink anything after midnight. Marisa went and bought me a lovely chicken quesadilla and we ate a quick dinner together before she had to go home and take care of the boys.

As we were eating a nurse came in and checked my heart because the monitor told her that it reset to normal rhythm all by itself (well, with the help of the drugs). This was exciting and Marisa went home slightly less worried about me.

Being in the hospital is super boring, and not very restful! The nurses are chatting with one another just outside your door, people pop in and check stuff, there’s lots of beeping, and someone in the next room was moaning rather loudly. I was hoping to get some reading done, and I did a bit, but the environmental factors, and my own stress, made it difficult to concentrate. I decided I should try and sleep a little.

Now, I never have trouble going to sleep, and that held true. I was fast asleep when at 2am a nurse came in and woke me up. “Your heart rate is below 40 BPM. Do you feel ok? Are you dizzy?”

I was bleary eyed, but felt fine and let her know. She seems satisfied and left me to my own devices. I opted for more sleep.

The day starts in the hospital at 5:30am. Who knew? That’s when a tech came in to take my vitals. And since I was up, and people were coming in and out of the room (2 nurses came in, didn’t say anything to me, and took the other bed that was in the room after moving all the furniture. Later, someone came with a different bed and set it up where the other one had been), I decided to stay up.

They call him Dr. Feelgood

I hung out in the room for a bit and then my new cardiologist (not Dr. Goldberg) visited me and told me what the plan was. Since my heart had corrected itself there was no need for a cardioversion today, but he wanted me to do a stress test (with ultrasounds before and after) to make sure there wasn’t a blockage causing the AFib.

He also assured me that while these conditions are serious they are mostly just annoying chronic issues for someone as young and fit as I am. It would seem that two groups of people, in general, get AFib and Atrial Flutter:

  • People in their 60/70’s who are overweight and diabetic
  • Endurance athletes

Basically, he said you’re either really unhealthy and you get this or you’re very healthy and you get it. The people in the middle tend not to have to deal with it. I asked him if that meant I should be less healthy, you know so I could be more healthy. He was not amused.

Frickin’ lasers

We did chat about long term management of my conditions. He said they like to start with drugs first. And he prescribed me a beta blocker that I only have to take when my heartrate jumps or I feel palpitations. There’s the cardioversion which is good for folks who just need their hearts adjusted once and never deal with AFib again (that’s not me, sadly). And then there’s lasers.

Well, there might be lasers. The procedure is called a cardiac ablation. They basically put some catheters into your heart, by way of your upper thighs I think, and destroy the clusters of nerves that cause your heart to miss fire. This procedure is another one that is outpatient, though it would require me to be under for about 2 hours.

Why aren’t you wearing pants?

He left, and I assumed I’d get my stress test right away and be discharged shortly thereafter. Foolish Scott.

Several hours past. Several people told me that they were working on getting the stress test setup up. And I waited.

Then at 2pm my chariot, in the form of a wheelchair and a orderly to push it, arrived. Now, I had never had a stress test in my life at that point. I didn’t know what one should wear, so I just had my hospital gown, socks, and underwear on. Seemed reasonable to me, especially since I assumed someone would tell me if other things were required.

I got to the stress test room and two very nice techs were waiting for me. They had me hop up on a table and then asked me, “Don’t you have shoes and pants?”

“Umm, in my room! I didn’t know what I should bring with me!”

Turns out I should have brought shoes and pants. But they gave me some rather fashionable scrub bottoms and one of the techs ran to get my sneakers from my room.

I put on the pants, took off the robe, and hopped onto the table. The tech looked at my chest and said, “we’re going to need to shave some of this.”

“Do what you need to do!”

And so they did. And yet another set of EKG stickers were affixed to me.

A nurse came in and it was time to do the stress test. After, that is, they told me all the ways - highly unlikely ways - I could die thanks to the test. I signed a waver acknowledging the danger because I’m cool like that and onto the treadmill I went.

After 3 minutes, I was told, the speed and incline of the treadmill would increase. They needed to get my heartrate to 151 for their tests, and so we began. Their calculations told them I would last 9 minutes, which meant I wanted to beat that! So I went for 12 minutes and considered it a win.

The stress test was clear (and told me I am in above average shape for a man my age.. and shape one assumes).

After completing the test I, along with my slightly shorn chest, were wheeled back to my room. To wait and wait and wait. Luckily my nurse ordered me a tray of food because I was quite hungry. But I could have went without waiting 4 hours for them to tell me the stress test was fine and I could leave. A doctor didn’t even come in and talk to me. My nurse just said, “You can go! Sign this. See ya, later!”

I left the hospital with a heart beating in normal rhythm and another prescription for beta blockers (you may recall at the start of this very long post my primary doctor also prescribed a beta blocker, but he told me to take one a day. With this new one I only take it when needed which is nice. Though it also means I have to carry this medicine around with me in case I need it!).

Hello, babies

Leaving the hospital is sort of anticlimactic. This huge life event happened for me... but for everyone there these things happen all the time. And my issue was relatively minor, so it wasn’t a big deal.

Doctors weren’t there to see me off. No one said, “Keep on beating! That is a reference to your heart. Sheesh, I should have said something else because now that I think about it that can be readily misinterpreted. Can we start over? Hey, where are you going?!”

I just walked out of the hospital and headed home. My plan was to walk home since I thought I would be nice to clear my head a little, but the twins were melting down and Marisa was outnumbered so I hopped into a Lyft and arrived to some very cranky babies and a relieved Marisa.

I don’t know if the babies noticed I was gone for longer than usual, but Sammy greeted me with several minutes of cooing, which was certainly an upgrade from the hospital. Nary a doctor cooed at me! Not even once!

Long term

What’s the plan going forward?

Well, I’d like to say this arrhythmia was a one time thing, but it has already happened again since Thursday (and the drugs fixed it. Hurrah, modern medicine). It seems likely that this is a condition I’ll have to live with which means at some point a doctor will be firing lasers IN MY HEART. That’s kind of awesome.

However, I’ll leave those sorts of decisions up to the medical professions. For now I am going to make sure to go to my primary care doctor more often than once a decade and have regular visits with my cardiologist.

There’s also been some changes on my wrist. Thanks to my Fitbit Versa 2 I knew something was up. Now that I know what the issue is, I decided to spring for an Apple Watch.

Why? Well, it includes a feature which detects AFib occurrences and allows you to run EKG scans (which I’ve been doing a lot!). Lest you think I’ve abandoned my beloved FitBit I say nay! I have two wrists, and I have two trackers! An Apple Watch and a FitBit Charge 3. My streak of over 10,000 steps continues!

My running also continues. I ran 8 miles today, and felt fine afterwards.

This was a scary event but I’m glad it happened. We caught it early and it seems like it’ll be an easy to manage set of heart conditions.

Now, I’m off to check my heartrate and run another EKG on myself.


A funfetti fact about me

Galaxyfun

Without a doubt my favorite cake in the world is a Pilsbury Funfetti cake with Funfetti icing. That's the cake that I associate with childhood birthdays, and really does a food memory get any better than that?

For a long time Marisa would make me a birthday cake from scratch, and that cake was, in fact, better than the boxed cake of my memories. However, it just didn't taste like my birthday. So, she gave in and I've had one of these cakes for my birthday ever since.

And now I find out that there is a space themed funfetti offering (via the Impulsive Buy).

We are truly living in a special time.


I have good reasons for not blogging more

Chilling on the couch

These two little guys take up a lot of time! Who knew babies were so labor intensive?

Marisa is doing most of the heavy lifting, but that still leaves plenty for dear old Dad to do!

I've often had the urge to blog about something and then someone poops themselves (usually not me!) and the idea is chased out of my skull by the vulgar realities of the mortal world.

I'm still here and I will blog again! At some point! In 18 years or so.