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August 11, 2003

Back in The Saddle Again

Norman M. Covert

We used to sing a song in Scouts about a cat that just wouldn't go away: "The Cat came back, the very next day; the cat came back, we thought he was a goner, but the cat came back, he just wouldn't go away, away, away!"

That may describe your correspondent, who has been out of the loop - as it were - since January, I believe. The absence was certainly not lack of interest in the affairs of city or county. It had to do more with many years of neglect (some said), eating too much of the wrong foods, and probably more with heredity.

Thank God that I am back at the keyboard instead of residing at Mount Olivet. My God gave me a reprieve, probably because I need some more work. I'm having to work extra hard to write a cohesive epistle here, so be tolerant as I take some steps, which may resemble that of a cub reporter.

The bottom line is that I am on the road to recovery from triple cardiac bypass surgery and continuing to work on recovery from effects of a stroke that was precursor to all these "revoltin' developments."

How amazing that a doctor can snake a sensing device through an artery into your heart and see where the blood flow is restricted. Even more amazing, a surgeon, assisted by a full team of experts, can open your chest and create new avenues for the blood to flow in your heart, while it is still beating!

Within a matter of hours your blood pressure can drop from sky high numbers to a manageable rate in the 100/65 range. Not only that, but your skin can change from a gray pallor to an almost rosy glow. I'll never be rosy glow because my natural skin tone is fairly pale. Gray, though, is not my natural color, despite what is happening to my hair.

It is curious that, despite these amazing medical advances, the same medical pitfalls await any person who experiences pain that could be a pulled muscle, indigestion/heart burn, bona fide angina or imagined pain and discontent.

Obtaining a correct diagnosis in the required amount of time continues to be a roll of the dice. A couple of Frederick's respected cardiologists were convinced that I was merely suffering acid reflux and should be sent home with an appropriate medicine. Dr. John Molesworth, of the Frederick Memorial Hospital emergency room staff, didn't agree. He was probably the difference in life and death. Thanks Doc!

(A friend told me of an acquaintance who had been diagnosed with acid reflux. I quipped, "You wanna see the scar you get from acid reflux?")

My daughter, Sara DeGrange, was the real first responder, who wouldn't listen to my objections as she dialed 911. At the time she had spent the day at FMH continuing pursuit of her paramedic credentials. She took my blood pressure, and wasn't happy that two doses of nitroglycerin were having no effect on the BP or the angina.

A month earlier my skilled and sure licensed practitioner Linda Crum Muehl had done the same thing as I complained of angina in her office. The Junior Fire Company showed up on that occasion in February and took me to FMH.

The March trip included response by Advanced Life Support Paramedic Jeff Coombe and the Independent Hose Company Ambulance Crew of Robert DeGrange, Pat McTighe, Troy Grossnickle and Volunteer Chris Marth. This team provided the all-important role of stabilizing my condition, while assuring the family that they would take care of me.

After my surgery, the cardiologist revealed that the diagnostic equipment from stress test to echocardiogram, electrocardiogram and blood tests are far from comprehensive. Those tests indicated a healthy heart, the opposite result from the invasive visual test performed by Dr. Anantha Rao at the Washington Hospital Center.

There is an interesting and frustrating mix of hope and fear when the battery of tests is being conducted, but no doubt about the results when Dr. Rao shows you the pictures. If you have three major arteries in the heart that appear as hour glasses, the next call is to a surgeon, in my case the respected Dr. Steven Boyce.

Dr. Boyce and his team apparently danced around inside of me in the three-hour procedure, modifying the blood flow and adding the potential of many years to my life. The entire team, including the nurses in the critical care unit and Wing 4F of Washington Hospital Center, earned my affection and respect.

I was impressed, too, by a couple of former U.S. Navy Corpsmen, who got me going and tolerated no whining.

Today I'm in the hands of the FMH Cardiac Rehab team, which graduated me from the hospital unit to "FMH at the Y," where so many like survivors are working to improve cardiovascular strength and stamina. I also took Dr. Boyce's advice and have a "young cardiologist, you'll need one to grow old with you."

I have to tell you that I gave up my beloved pipe in January, haven't had any thoughts of stoking it up; last week I was able to get going again on the trombone without problems; but when the doctor asked how I was doing, my reply was flippant:

"No sodium, no fat, no fun!"

Well, maybe a little sodium, almost no fat and we'll see about the fun part. That will come when I begin giving my impressions of so many months of rule by Mizmayor. The Tentacle has been on the job, but there's lots more to cuss and discuss, but she serves as an easier target and I have to wield little words first.

Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
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