If you remember a while back, I wrote about an episode with my buddy, Mike who had to make a trip to the hospital after a second blood pressure crash in a couple of weeks.
So, going back to his episode where I left off, Mike went to the hospital as soon as he got home and cleaned up and they kept him for observation. His blood pressure was all over the place and his daughter was a nervous wreck about the whole thing because he kept tripping the alarm on the heart monitor (there was no indication of how his wife was handling it, but I’d bet not too well).
Long story short, they went in and found that one of the lower arteries was blocked 90%… They did a triple bypass on him a few years ago but failed to remember that they had to keep an eye on that lower artery that was 70% blocked at the time. Well, they put a stent in and he recovered well. After just a couple of days he felt fantastic and couldn’t wait to get back out on the bike. He said he hadn’t felt that good in a decade. He was certain that was it, and he was going to be riding again, full gas, in just a couple of weeks. Giddy is a great word to describe his mood.
The electrical heart doc hadn’t had a go at him yet, and still wanted to check him out so Mike’s return to cycling was put on hold for a bit longer.
He went in to see if they were going to have to ablate him and that’s where the wheels fell off, so to speak. The electrical doc managed to make his heart duplicate what was happening on the bike. Mike’s heart stopped on the table and they had to paddle him back. The problem wasn’t the upper valves, it was in the ventricles. If you know anything about tickers, they can fix the upper chambers but there’s nothing that can be done for the lower ventricles. You’re pretty much screwed if your heart rate gets up too high.
The original prognosis was for him to “stay off the bike” for the rest of his life.
Mike’s entire identity in life is as a cyclist, and one-time runner (before knee surgery) and as an athlete (even if he is older than dirt). For him to lose cycling, I can’t even imagine what that would do to him.
My cycling brother from another mother managed to keep his head up, though, at least until the docs stopped poking at him. We talked often over the next week or two, and my wife and I always tried to stay on the positive with him. He was fitted with a defibrillator vest that he’s gotta wear until they can fit him with a permanent, internal model.
And therein lies the rub. A defibrillator isn’t like a pacemaker, where it just keeps your heart beating at a set rhythm. A defibrillator zaps your heart to tell it to wake back up. Again, the upper rhythm problems require a simple pacemaker. Lower, ventricular problems, have no simple fixes.
However, that’s not the end of the story, a sad tale till that point.
It seems there exists a little bit of a battle between the cardiologist and his medical doctor. The cardiologist says Mike’s done. The MD, though, who’s known Mike for a long time, knows he’ll never keep my buddy permanently off his bike, so they worked out a deal. Mike keeps his heart rate at or below 120 and he can ride his bike.
Folks, that’s a compromise right there. That’s how things should work. So Mike’s cleared to start riding whenever he likes. He’s beginning on the trainer for now, because he’s got that vest. Then, next year, because the season’s already over, we’re going to dedicate our Sunday rides to slow days with Mike. Rather than worry about that most excellent 20-mph threshold, we’re going to go with whatever 120 bpm or less works out to be. The plan is to just go out and cruise the neighborhood with our buddy. A Sunday slow day. LSD miles. Call it whatever you want. My wife and I have already decided that we’ll be riding our tandem so Mike’s always got something good to draft in the process.
That’s making sunshine with $#!+ right there, and that’s where my buddy’s at. Please say a prayer for him. He needs it – and if you’re anything like me, you need the practice, too.
I’ve meant to write this for a while, but I wanted everything to be sorted out, first. So my buddy will be back soon enough. It’s been a crazy roller coaster for the fella.