Yesterday I wrote about having a heart attack and how vulnerable I was hospitalized as a man with a disability. Since I was released from Yale New Haven Hospital and my lease in Syracuse expired I spent a few days saying final goodbyes. Leaving the city of Syracuse was easy. Leaving the close friendships I had formed was not. Driving from Syracuse to Denver in three days was a blast. I love long cross country trips. I am fascinated by interstate culture and the vastness of this nation. If you ever find yourself in rural Nebraska I highly recommend visiting Car Henge in Alliance. If in Iowa, the Iowa Museum of Aviation is another trip worth your time and energy. This says nothing of Iowa City, a picturesque and vibrant college town.
One may ask, rightfully so, what have I changed in my life post heart attack. The answer is a lot. I have had to abandon some real food and drink loves. For those that know me, Coke is not a soft drink but rather “Holy Water”. No more Coke for me. Caffeine is not good for the heat. This is obvious as when I do have the random cup of tea I can feel the beat of my heart change. This is an unpleasant sensation. No more hard alcohol. No Sailor Jerry rum. No sailing at night as I watch a mindlessly bad movies. Sailor Jerry also just happened to go hand in hand with Coke and pretzels. Of these three staples—coke, rum and pretzels--rum was easiest to give up. I never cared about the booze but rather the flavor when rum and Coke were mixed together. I do have a Coke on occasion (at most once a week). I even tried a Coke Zero and a Diet Coke. I do drink very small amounts of alcohol. It is not the alcohol I am drawn to but the ritual. I enjoy a drink and salty snack at the end of the day. I now have one or two small glasses of port before bed time. I do mean small as I follow the American Heart Association and Heart Rythym Society Guidelines to the letter. The real struggle has been the elimination of salty snacks. Growing up one of many nicknames I had was “pretzel peace”. I love pretzels. I love salty foods too. They are absent from my diet. The impact of lower salt and little alcohol has had a profound impact on my body. I no longer have chronic edema in my legs. My knees look big and my legs appear to be spindly. This makes transfers of all kinds much easier.
Other changes are related to living at altitude. I use sun screen daily. The sun in Denver seems ever present and is intense and hot. Without sun screen I would become lobster red. I am also drinking up a storm. I have given up my penchant of living on the edge of dehydration. I drink water all day long. I use cream on my skin many times a day. Denver air is dry and arid. The humidity level is very low. Moisture is sucked out of my body in a way that is startling and vastly different from life lived at sea level.
The move to Denver has been most interesting from a cultural perspective. Downtown Denver is awesome. I am minutes away from the light rail line station near my apartment and a mere 35 minutes from the downtown. The rail system as near as I can tell is 100% accessible. The elevators are as clean as can be expected and unlike a city like Boston and the gritty Northeast in general homeless men do not use the elevator to get high or use it as a toilet. The busses are merely okay. The drivers stop but seem to have an aversion to using the tie downs for my wheelchair. I can only assume they are accustom to those who use large heavy and power chairs. I have been repeatedly told "You are only going a few stops. You don't need to be tied down." This is great in theory but if the bus is in an accident I will become a projectile. What has struck me the most about the Denver area is the number of people with visible disabilities out and about. I see blind men and women daily. Typically they form a guide dog team but I have observed many cain users as well. I find the dog human partnership in this regard fascinating in part because of the intense bond formed. What I find of great relief is not being alone. I see people using wheelchairs daily. Earlier this week I got onto the train at Union Station with another wheelchair user. She was a young woman in a power chair. She could not have been more typical--tight black pants and bright yellow top with a snarky line. What set her aside in my mind was the fact she was non verbal and used an iPad to communicate. I silently thought to myself this is going to be a disaster when the train operator wanted to know her destination. Without a hitch, he looked down at the iPad and established her destination. This was strikingly ordinary and uplifting. Maybe being green is not so hard.
What I have not done is explore too much. My main focus has been on unpacking. To this end, every box has been emptied. As a neat-nick living with boxes scattered everywhere and a cluttered kitchen is more than I can tolerate. Everything has been put away but don't ask where it is. In the immediate future I plan to explore the medical marijuana industry. Medical marijuana is legal and abounds in Colorado. The Denver Post has an entire section on cannabist culture. Sadly, it appears cardiologists take a dim view of medical marijuana. I asked about any heart related benefits of medical marijuana and the question was not well received. As a model of patient compliance I quickly let matter drop.
I will readily admit I am very concerned about the future. My health insurance status remains unclear. I cannot move forward without health insurance. It is priority one as no one can afford heart related health care without vigorous insurance. Forget about invasive tests, medications alone can bankrupt a person. Next generation blood thinners represent a huge advance in health care but the cost is outrageous. A seven day supply of Eliquis costs well over $100. For the time being I can afford this medication thanks to the coupons I was given. Yet when the coupons expire I have no idea what will happen. What I do know is that I am at long last about to burst forth with a series of posts. I also have begun reworking long term projects that have languished for a while. If anything positive comes from a heart attack it is the knowledge that life is far too short. It is time to get things done. That time is now.