Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Heart Attack Update: Riding the Iron Rooster

I was great yesterday--I walked around the house 3 times for about 6 minutes each time, did these breathing exercises on the hour like I was supposed to, took it easy all day watching the food channel and poker on TV, but the night was terrible.

I couldn't sleep and there was a lots of pain. I gave up around 3 am and took some oxycodone and started reading Paul Theroux's Riding the Iron Rooster, a book about traveling through China by train in the 1980s.

Theroux is always wonderful. Especially after open heart surgery. There's something about his prose rhythms and the rhythm of the train trips he's describing that inscribes itself on your heart rhythms, no matter how wild and vacillicious they are. And there's wisdom there too.

Here's what he says about traveling to China by railroad:

"Sometimes it seemed like real travel, full of those peculiar discoveries and satisfactions. But more often it was as if I had lost my footing in London and had fallen down a long flight of stairs, perhaps one of those endless staircases designed by a surrealist painter, and down I went, bump-bump-bump, and across the landing, and down again, bump-bump-bump, until I had fallen halfway around the world."

Theroux could be talking about the heart attack I had or didn't have on the ship and the world it opened me up to.

I read Riding the Iron Rooster till about 7 when it was time for my first 10 pills of the day. They almost knocked me out. I started sweating and couldn't stop. Linda helped me to the couch. I lay there for an hour till I stopped sweating finally.


Christina said...

Love Riding the Iron Rooster. I have a collection of travel essays Theroux edited- the Best of Series and it is my favorite of that series. Let me know if you would like it and I'll send it to you.

Take it easy and don't overdo. My dad had 5 bypasses almost 10 years ago and is doing great.
Christina Sanantonio

John Guzlowski said...

Hi, Christina, I have that one. Do you have the one he edited of his own essays? Sunrise with seamonsters. It's good. I'll send it to you.

Anonymous said...

Whatever gets you through the night is what works. Take it easy. Pain is a signal. I don't have your terrible post-op pain but I live with pain daily. Listen to it. Taking medicine to help your pain is OK. You need it now. It won't be forever.

Urkat said...

John, Do yourself a favor and buy a Cuckoo clock or any clock with a steady pulse. My parents have several in their house and it always sounds like the house itself has a pulse when I walk in. Dad turned 90 this year and Mom is in her late 80's. I think the clocks help remind their hearts to keep beating. Matt

Teresa said...

Uncle John,
Take it easy! Don't overdo it- even with the reading late into the night. Just take it slow, and try some relaxation- yoga, or meditation when you are in pain and trying to fall back to sleep!
Take it easy and be well! Glad you are home and walking around the house! Love, Tia

Beth Kalikoff said...

John, thank you for posting. What generosity and loft in your comments. I'm glad you walked around and read some.

Let me second the (e)motion of whoever told you not to put off taking a painkiller when there is pain. It's temporary. You're not in danger of becoming a morphine fiend, esp. as you are not taking morphine. Hard to get better when you are in pain.

Riding the Iron Rooster sounds great. Ray just read The Dark Star--is that the name--and liked it a lot. The dog is wearing a plastic cone on her head and sends you her love. As do we.

Rati saxena said...

Dear John, reading the book at the time of pain you were riding on the pain and feeling every pulse of it. bravo, wish u a life without much pain

Rati Saxena

Anonymous said...

John --As I still live with pain from a knee replacement gone bad about a year and a half ago I can relate. Don't be a martyr. Take the pain pills BEFORE the pain takes control of you. Also don't forget the best meditation tool -- the rosary. You get so lost in the prayers that it takes you away. Barbara

Catherine Hobbs said...

John, you will get through this and be well again. When I had my spleen out late 2008, it wasn't fun afterwards but today as I am fat and sassy, I can scarcely remember those two weeks after surgery. I do recall the older doctor who dismissed me--he gave me morphine-based pills instead of what everyone else gets. When I tried to go off them, I thought I had the flu, felt awful, couldn't hold down a drop of water. My younger (real) doctor set me straight--I was a junkie. Write more,

Helen Ochej said...

Sounds to me like you are doing all the right things. Having a supportive partner helps you to maintain your own freedom, health and sanity! "Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain..."

oriana said...

Another amazing travel book is Brodsky's "Watermark" (about Venice). There is something hypnotic and soothing about its poetic style. After reading it, I feel calm for hours. Some poems (but only some) have the same effect. It should be explored more: words that heal, that activate the parasympathetic system rather than cause sympathetic overarousal (as some drugs can -- e.g. if a drug lowers blood pressure too much, the body will pump more adrenaline to raise the BP, and the adrenaline can cause sweating, palpitations, and other woozy nastiness. Warmly, Oriana

Brett said...

I have the fondest memories of The Old Patagonian Express. Also enjoy Bruce Chatwin on Patagonia, a part of Argentina I haven't yet gotten to.

I guess we can't expect too much better so close to the surgery. If this latest posting is any indication, your clarity of thought and expression hasn't been hurt by your experience. Here's wishing continued pleasant readings and swiftly (at least steadily) declining levels of discomfort.

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