Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Education”

Why You Need, And Should Want Therapy

So, maybe this post could have been called “You’re Too Young For This – Part 2.”  I had made comments about my experiences lacking in physical therapy, and during cardiac therapy.

When we experience any kind of trauma to our bodies, whether it be physical or emotional, we need to repair whatever damage has happened.  This is called rehabilitation, or therapy.  We should expect to either go through this rehab supervised, or at home.  No matter where it occurs, it needs to be done.

Besides the fact that therapies are often not suggested, there is sometimes a cost factor involved, especially if benefits do not provide or do not provide enough coverage.  But as a fellow long term Hodgkin’s survivor once told me, “do not let economics determine the care you need.”

For the purposes of this post, I am going to talk about cardiac rehab, or cardiac therapy.  Physical therapy and psycho therapy are just as important, but the points I will make using cardiac therapy, actually apply to all three types of therapy.

We can all agree that the heart is the “be all, end all” when it comes to our bodies.  If I oversimplify that all we need to do following any surgery involving the heart, is to just get some exercise, as simply as going for a daily walk it is easy to dismiss the necessity of cardiac therapy.

The question you have to ask yourself however, is how do you know your heart repair is healing properly, getting stronger as it should, and that there are no complications?  After all, were you aware that you had an issue with the heart before the surgery?  Or did someone else need to diagnose that?  For as important as the heart and cardiac system is to us, following a surgery to that system, we need to, and should want to rely on anyone, and anything we have access to, to makes sure our recovery is progressing as it is expected.

Three Things That Cardiac Therapy Accomplishes

The first, you have had physical trauma, whether through open heart surgery or even through catheterization.  Especially when it comes to a cardiac procedure, most patients will agree, you feel almost completely different, better of course, following the procedure.  But for many, depending on how long the patient has been sedentary, we can, and I did, end up very weak, as in lost probably 80-90% of my strength and endurance in less than a couple of days.

Of all the several times that I have had to rehab, more than a half a dozen, I am notorious for pushing myself, often further than I should.  No one wants to return back to what I was like before quicker, than me.  And  because of that, I am likely to not adjust back into a routine, but rather pick up, right where I left off.    And the only way that ends, is with me getting hurt.

A cardiac program will have a therapist set up a program, designed with your goals, as well as how to get there safely.  The therapist will set up based on time of exercise, somewhere between 30 to 40 minutes, different exercises to be done, and what level of resistance or effort to complete each exercise.  That therapist will increase time, and effort as time goes on, and just as your goal was set, it will be reached, safely.  And when therapy is completed, you will have learned how to continue and build on that progress.

The second thing accomplished with a supervised cardiac rehab program, trained staff can actually see what you cannot, your heart.  Remember when I asked if you knew you had a heart issue or if someone had to tell you?  Cardiac therapy gives you a constant set of eyes as you exercise.

All cardiac patients are attached to their own monitor, usually with three leads.  One goes to each side of my chest, another to the left side of my rib cage.  My heart is watched the entire time that I am exercising in the event of any event involving my heart beat.  As I am not one to complain, this is a big deal, because they will see what I do not say, and if necessary, stop the exercise.  Whereas on my own, I would be likely to continue on, pushing my body harder than what it should, potentially ending up with a serious issue.

The other benefit of this therapy, as mentioned, the staff can see what my heart is doing, and can adjust the exercises to achieve goals, one of which is a working heartbeat (as opposed to at rest).  Work loads can be increased to get the heart beating stronger.

And one of the final things cardiac therapy does?  It helps to fight off the excuse, “I don’t have time to exercise.”

Cardiac therapy helps, it does not guarantee.  But, after two and a half months of going three days a week, for forty-five minutes each session, there is really no excuse to say you have no time.  That has been the schedule for two and a half months.  And it has been done with the same time and schedule.  Instead of looking at our newly returned forty-five minutes to our day, we need to keep that forty-five minutes committed to continuing on our own.  As many try to start an exercise program, too many give up just weeks into the program.  A cardiac therapy program helps you to establish a firm routine.

There you have it.  My explanation of why you not only need cardiac rehab, but should want it as well.  It is to your benefit and your family will thank you for it.


There Is Only One You

I am doing some housekeeping.  It seems that I have over 250 prompted posts that I have not published, just sitting there.  This is on top of the nearly 800 I have already written.  I recently just completed an annual writing project that I have done for the last seven years.  That story will be published here some time in March.  In all of this, I now have four book ideas that I need to finally “get off of the pot” and get writing.  So, I will get at least one of those posts sitting in my cue published.  It is a bit of a public service announcement, more than about my survivorship or parenthood, though clearly both have been and can be impacted by the topic.

Lock yourself out of your Apple product, or worse, completely forget your super secret information that was originally given when you purchased an Ipad.  What happens?  You are “SOL”, or sh*t outta luck.

Just bought a really cool game system used at a yard sale?  But when you go to sign up for programs or apps, you get a message that the unit has already been registered previously (obviously by its previous owner).

This lengthy number is located just inside of your car’s windshield.  Literally, it is called a vehicle identification number or VIN.  It is a unique identifier to the vehicle and its owner.

We here, in the United States, have our own unique identifier, called a Social Security Number.  This set of digits is just as important as a car’s VIN, a TV game console serial number, or Ipad model number.  Unlike the list of these and many other material items, the security of our SSN, is not only not taken as seriously, is also not as protected.

It is likely at some point in a person’s life, some form of our personal life will be breached, whether bank records or even a social media account.  We deal with any issues that arise with corrections and alterations and move on.  Usually these “hacks” often go without apprehending the individuals committing the illegal acts, often because it is too difficult to determine.

But for being the 9 most important numbers in a person’s life, there are not enough protections in place, and definitely not enough enforcement when incidents are discovered, and luckily solved.  In fact, even if you are a victim of identity theft or identity fraud, involving that SSN, you keep that same SSN.  You do not get a new SSN.  What you get are a whole lot of extra security steps that will get attached to your number, that you will have to remember, but also change everything else associated with your personal life such as bank accounts and credit accounts.  Everything will need extra security steps to help insure your security.

I have studied this issue, because I myself was a victim of identity theft and identity fraud involving my social security number.  And it was not because of anything I did, anything I told anyone, or any of the many forms I filled out that required me to submit my social security number.  My social security number was actually stolen.  But unlike many cases that remain unsolved, I know who did it.  I know who used my information.  The frustrating thing, was in spite of me knowing this information, I was unsuccessful in court not only in having the individual held accountable for his actions, but having the judge totally dismiss the accusation all together.

Having possession of something that does not belong to you, by any means committed, is theft.  Using that illegally possessed information is considered fraud.  I cannot explain what was missing in leading the judge not to protect me, but I do know this much.  I have made all of the corrections I needed to for my privacy.  But also, if I discover anything else being perpetrated against me, my finger will be pointed in that individual’s directions.  At some point, legally, this will catch up to him.

But in the meantime, I want to share this with you, to help you protect yourself.  Because that is what Paul’s Heart is about, sharing my experiences to help you deal with your situations and overcome any obstacles.

The most thorough process you can find to help you deal with an act of identity theft or fraud, can be found at operated by the Federal Trade Commission.  They will take you step by step what you need to do right away, soon after, and how to repair.

The first thing to do is to contact whatever entity was affected, where you know the theft or fraud occurred.  You need to have a fraud alert put on any and all accounts, and possibly consider a “credit freeze.”  The easiest way to figure out who all you need to reach out to, is to get a credit report from all three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Transunion, Equifax).

Once you have done all the notifying, then you need to get to the repairs and corrections.  Fight all fraudulent claims.  Close every account you have and open new, with the extra fraud protections.  I mentioned a “fraud alert” and a “credit freeze,” both of which are meant to do the same thing, protect you, but the alert still allows you to have access as long as verifications are made and is free to have done, and lasts for seven years.  The freeze stops all access until you lift the freeze, with fees depending on individual states, and lasts until you remove it.

Of course, like I mentioned, close every account you have, and open new with the added safe guards.  Of course identity theft and fraud does not limit itself to just credit and social security, but also for taxes, child identity, and even medical theft.

If a company loses your information, or it is breached, you can count on that company being held accountable.  It is when the theft occurs by an unknown person that the uncertainty of a resolution will cause the most stress.  Even as I pointed out, even though I know the identification of the individual, the law was actually used to allow that individual to steal my identity and commit an act of fraud.  But as I said, with all the protections I now have in place, any future attempt, he will be the first one accused.

You Are Too Young For This

If I had a dollar for every time I heard this phrase… “Oh my God, you are too young for this…”

  1.  I was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 22 (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma).  Barely adult of age, the stereotypical age of cancer was at least well into adulthood.  But here is the fact.  Cancer does not discriminate.  Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is one of many cancers referred to as a “pediatric cancer.”  That’s right, a cancer that is known to strike children, as well as adults.  The truth is, there are many types of cancers that affect children not just as young as toddlers, but there are even reports of infants being born with tumors.
  2.   Following the staging laparotomy for my Hodgkin’s (to determine how bad it was), my spleen was removed, liver was biopsied, as well as other lymph nodes, I was told I would not need physical therapy to recover because of my youthful age.  I would bounce back with no problem.  Here is what happens with that kind of surgery.  Doctors make a huge incision in the abdomen to do all of this work.  That means they go through all those abdomen muscles  that on some are referred to as “six-pack abs.”  This area is often referred to as your personal “chi”, your structural strength responsible for good posture and such.  Not that I had any six-pack abs before, I definitely had not shot at them following the surgery, not because of the surgery, but there was no training to strengthen my abdomen muscles.  With the pain I was dealing with during the long healing process, it was never going to happen, especially without any physical therapy.                                                                .
  3.   In April of 2008, as I am laying on an operating table, naked, covered only by a thin blanket, having all kinds of tubes and wires being connected to me, I heard one nurse quietly (though obviously not quietly enough) say, “Oh my God, he is too young for this.”  I had been diagnosed with a “widow maker” heart blockage which is clearly what they had been used to seeing in someone who was overweight, a heavy smoker, or even just older in age.  But I was treated with high dose radiation (four times the lifetime maximum exposure limit) and toxic chemotherapy medicines that caused this extreme damage to my cardiac system at the age of 42.
  4.   Once I had been cleared by the surgeon following that open heart surgery, I began cardiac rehabilitation.  Man, if the nurses thought I was too young to be on that table, the looks I got from other patients, much older than me, reminded me of a southbound train ride with “snowbirds” travelling to Florida in my early 30’s.  Clearly I did not belong there, or so they felt.
  5.   In 2013, my career took a very much unexpected turn.  A combination of circumstances between my health, and business restructuring, I would have to finally except the decision to pursue disability.  I had already been reluctantly labelled as “handicapped” (parking placard included), but as my employer up until this moment, had been accommodating the many physical health restrictions allowing me to still be able to perform certain work functions, while dealing with my health (should be noted, this is required of the Americans With Disabilities Act – something I have written in the past about), a mutual understanding was reached between the company and I, that upon an updated review by my doctors, and considering a staff reduction, there was a likelihood that I would no longer have any work to perform, and therefore they would assist me with applying for disability.  I thought accepting being referred to as handicapped was tough.  Being told as a 3rd generation blue collar worker, that I was no longer able to do my job, which I had performed decades even through all my health struggles, was the most difficult thing to accept.  One part of my life, no longer had any purpose.  The one thing standing in my way of the approval process, my age.  I was too young.  Granted, there are many on disability that are much younger than me, but nonetheless, it is an argument that is made for some, and was made in my case.  In a word process, it was determined that not only was I disabled, but only from the date that I turned 50 years of age.  There was no denial when my disability began, but they would only consider it effective at age 50.
  6.   Following a second surgery earlier this year, it was decided that I would need to undergo another round of cardiac rehab to help control my blood pressure.  I take several medicines to help do this, and for the most part, I have reduced most of my stress with one or two triggers remaining.  But, here I go again.  The average rehab class age is around 70 years of age.  And once again, I am getting the looks from those who wonder what I am doing there as I am too young by their judgement.                               

I have gotten used to hearing the “you are too young for this.  In fact, at this point, if I did have a dollar for every time I had been told I am too young for this and that, I would be able to enjoy the local pizza special for lunch today.

Yes, I know, neither of these are good for me.  But given what I have gone through, I do have some things I still enjoy, and honestly, this will not have an impact on what has been done to my body by science.  Plus, I am ending this post on a pleasant note, and tasty too.

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