Posted by: mwfjr | October 11, 2018

REHAB, AGAIN?

Should I be complaining about the endless variety of senior fitness? Perhaps not, but one has to keep reality on its toes because some people might get frustrated at some of the negative dynamics. Let’s start with this summer, shall we? We, my stalwart life companion and I, had just returned to Greenport, NY, from steamy Florida, to share life pleasures with our daughter’s delightful family, thankfully including us for most of their summer months.
Almost immediately, I caught double pneumonia, taking the short walk to the local hospital, just two-hundred yards behind our house. Talk about convenient, and their Friday night staff attacked my symptoms with vigor, well before the afflicted drunks arrived later. Soon, I was feeling better, fortified with antibiotics and nose drops, encouraged (so as not to return) to access local lung specialists. That part is more difficult because physicians’ front office staff are suspicious of out of town newbies and the strength of their health insurance options. Also, it being summer, the doctors and their employees are busy lining up their vacation schedules so as to gain temporary relief from their taxing winters, before the Fall and the first kids visits and the upcoming snow drifts. We’ve been through this before, and it is never easy, but still very necessary. As a fitness blogger, I have to get well to be able to truthfully describe coming to terms with staying physically competitive in my mid-seventies.
But who to ask? We settled on the South Fork urologist who had removed my stent last summer. Finding him had been a month-long odyssey. It helped he was sixteen (well, looked it anyway) and brave enough to actually agree to perform his twenty minute intervention. So we trusted him enough to ask for a pulmonary referral. Dr. Muffaiah was close enough to vacation and/or lunch to agree to fit us into his modified late-May schedule. It helped that this physician was dreaming retirement, looking for information we had on small farm estates in SW Florida. That was the bulk of our conversations but we did find a few minutes to discuss why I keep getting pneumonia. Dr. M.’s conclusion was that I was aspirating enough food fragments to keep reinfecting my vulnerable lungs. He encouraged us to stick to a GERD diet, eat dinners early and, in essence, stop enjoying food as we remembered it. He was supportive of our early return to Florida to engage immune and allergy specialists, toward narrowing the sources of my pulmonary vulnerabilities.
That was four months ago and we have been diligent in our search for the truth. During this time I have stayed symptom free and fully engaged in daily workouts, moving to double sessions, morning swims and afternoon treadmill efforts, so much in the tradition of pre-season football, minus the concussions.
Then the latest monkey wrench in the rehab machinery, the need to fix failing inguinal hernias – that have been around since the year one – but no longer could be ignored. That’s what the hospital doctor told us at my last ER admission for a painful kidney stone, and noticing my protruding groin, “Son, git er(them) done.” Four years of intermittent coughing has a way of exposing this abdominal weakness.
This gets us to last week, after Dr. Levy found and used laparoscopic surgery to fix the FOUR waiting hernias. He allowed as how that many was “rare”. That procedure leaves painful bruises and the admonition not to do anything physical for at least five weeks, so goodbye workouts and fitness as I had begun to practice, advance and proudly expound.
My original plan was to be more than ready for senior tennis, starting in early October and ending in late March. Now I will have to crawl carefully back to our refurbished clay court facility, much later than anticipated and postpone the next hopeful blog segment. My credentials as a fitness maven have been magnified by the aging road blocks I’ve been forced to navigate to keep the experience moving in a positive direction. The alternative is too dreary to contemplate.

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Posted by: mwfjr | May 23, 2018

Profiling

Got a complaint?, doctors have a name for it and a prescription, all in their four-minute consultation. “And don’t come back!” Because it will be more of the same.
That’s what I’ve been getting, and I’m sick of it, the quick diagnosis and even quicker fix, that moves them on to their next patient and me out the door. The catch-all category getting them off the hook, hence the profiling implication, is age. “You are 75; what do you expect, the Fountain Of Youth?” “Tsk-tsk.”
Darn right, I’m defying my age. This is a fitness blog. I’m surrounded by older people playing sports, working out, biking, pretty much defying everything except gravity.
But my doctors are on different pages, not getting my message that these diagnoses, about which they are so cavalier, are a major imposition on my athletic calendar, aspirations, perspirations. Because I’m in the mid-70’s, THEY look me in the eye and spout the following acronyms, “you have (not in any rational order or chronology) COPD, ASTHMA, GERD, CHRONIC SINUSITIS, OSTEOARTHRITIS, BPH. And you are prone to get Bronchitis and Pneumonia.” It doesn’t stop. “And did you know your spine is crooked. Did you have Scoliosis when you were younger? Because, you know, your left leg is shorter than your right.”
I guess this is all right with them because of MY AGE. The other question asked balefully, “Have you ever smoked?” Hello, back in 1958, I was 16, EVERYBODY SMOKED EVERY WHERE ALL THE TIME! If I’d never taken a puff, there was enough second-hand smoke in the air to warrant turning on the lights at noon. People smoked in restaurants, cars, planes, trains, buses, classrooms, libraries, bedrooms, kitchens. In my father’s, semi-private hospital room, the guy in the other bed smoked. He was dying of cancer
and my dad was recovering from a punctured lung. So yeah, there was a lot of stuff in the air we strained through our pulmonary systems, some of it was even oxygen. The other junk on the farm included pesticides like DDT, rat poisons, woodchuck bombs featuring cyanide and chaff, that green stuff in the hay mow, so thick it would blot out the sun. You could cut it with a knife. And we would spit green gunk for 20 minutes after the last bale was stacked. I only smoked-smoked, my own cigarettes, maybe five years tops, but the damage (apparently) had been done. My college history professor was a chain smoker. There were ash trays on all the desks. We thought we were so cool, talking WWII, mass casualties, while we carried on our own silent war against our cardiovascular futures.
It’s too easy for these 16-year-old docs. “And you say you had a STROKE??? four years ago? We-hell, that opened up a whole new can of worms, didn’t it?”
Seventy-five AND a stroke, let’s see—-.” You share a few salient memories with these physicians and they jump you with diagnoses and meds riding off into the sunset of their secure liability and MY PROFILE. I even had a neurologist tell me sanctimoniously that I had Normal Pressure Hydrocephaly. He was looking at my brain scans and made a judgment call that I had water on the brain, too much cerebrospinal fluid that had no place to go. Nothing normal about it, my brain, I can admit, maybe attention deficit, but not that, a death sentence, without cranial surgery. I sought a second opinion and was relieved to find out that the first doc had “GUESSED WRONG”, a one time get out of jail free doctor visit.
We older athletes have to soldier on, ignoring the geriatric slings and arrows to stay active and energized. It helps us ward off dementia and depression. Despite my obligatory, morning mouthful of pills, I’ve biked, swam and walked the treadmill this week and wish all the senior warriors continued good health and spirits. But nobody said this gig would be easy.

Posted by: mwfjr | November 24, 2017

REALIZATIONS

In the face of some unremitting imperatives, we adjust expectations and modify behaviors. Advancing in years can promote wisdom, but why does it have to be such a mouthful? And why does the taste have to be on the bitter side? I could list a host of examples but today will focus on something recent.
Last Wednesday, I returned my “like-new”, Catrike 559, the orange recumbent over which I’d been on-line salivating since the folding three-wheeler was first created and advertised. One video has two healthy guys riding in a car toward a secret rendezvous. The clueless one asks what’s the big deal about the surprise, guy number one has up his athletic sleeve. “You’ll find out” says the conspirator, barely able to contain his enthusiasm over the impeding revelations. Cut to their arrival, and Clueless Joe has either a blindfold or has to close his eyes while we see the hero remove a folded device, open it quickly exposing the shiny machine. Guy #2 is suitably impressed by the folding, recumbent Trike, ogling it while his in the know buddy unfolds the second one and they jump on, riding off down a gentle macadam path into a bucolic park in Autumn. They are astride, or better, reclining on the seats of these two bright orange, Catrike 559’s. And there is another video of a trike rider passing an endless number of traditional two-wheelers. I was more than hooked at the chance to buy my last owner-propelled, over-land, exercise machine that promised a little-effort, no-falling, sexy, 21st-century-answer to conventional and dangerous biking, while adding the bonus of senior longevity. Stopping just short of immortality, this Florida-produced breakthrough device could also replace the burden of an expensive second car. And it was a handy retort to my tech-savvy daughters’ frustrations at their parents inability to keep abreast of modern science.
Enter reality and my experience with the new (it can now be told) very expensive adult toy. It rolled well and shifted smoothly, but my weakened left leg would dive inward and make contact with the horizontal frame. Not all the time, but frequently as I became more fatigued, that unfortunate reality would become as painful as a pipe wrench in the shiny spokes. As it turned out, I gave it an experimental two weeks to try and adjust. I concentrated on keeping the left leg straight, but that effort caused my left heel to rotate, disengaging it from the pedal clip and the possible injury, if the unfettered foot, at speed, made contact with the unforgiving ground.
Just as Ferdinand was returned to the cork-tree orchard, I had to come back to the bike store and throw myself on the mercy of a small-business owner who had long-since lost the romantic vision that preceded his entry into that precarious, dog-eat-dog existence. We won’t go into the transactional specifics, as they would only add to the wisdom aging and sadness must deliver to senior jocks.
I can now say that my same-day antidote, buying a step-through, advance-sprocket, unisex, prostate-seated bicycle probably was, and still is the rational answer to my orthopedic, if not stylistic, proclivities. As for pride going before the literal and metaphorical fall, again, my fitness decisions continue to hurtle toward humility.

Posted by: mwfjr | November 17, 2017

CROSS TRAINING CONFUSION

I’d like to say I have a system, a regimen to which one could adhere, like a Wisteria vine on an old brick farmhouse. But down here in Florida, approaching the dry season, there are too many variables that obstruct fitness consistency. Sure, the weather has been recently great, borderline spectacular, when you compare it to our back to back Hurricanes and the Northeast snow storms. There really has been no climate reason not to be out there every day, sun block and all. However, being now a senior jock, I have some physical obstacles with which to contend.
Lets start with the neurological, the ADD that makes it difficult to do anything on a regular basis, as in, “who took my bike helmet?” The answer is, nobody took my helmet. It’s just when you’re disorganized and NEVER put something down in the same place twice in a row, maybe you won’t go biking that morning. That doesn’t mean Monday’s a wash, it just means you will go in the pool today, as long as nobody has misplaced my aqua-jogger or face mask. I’m grateful the recumbent trike allows me to venture out as often as I do. My knee aches after, but I have a Velcro ice wrap that brings down the swelling in a hurry.
Where was I? Oh yes, cross training confusion, in November, in Southwest Florida, that conundrum. I mentioned swimming, needing to get there early, before the floaters show up to monopolize the space and the conversation. That shouldn’t be a problem because the sun doesn’t get over our building until close to ten A.M. But full-proof it ain’t, because the pool guy is also an early riser, arriving just in time to interrupt or abort my aquatic aspirations. When he adds the chemicals I am done. Because of the noodlers and their sun screen, he has to scrub the top tiles more than once a week. I know he has a job to do and he does it religiously, with a dedication and precision I would kill to replicate, but for that neurological condition I mentioned, the one that prevents me from setting an alarm to a time that would circumvent this frustration because I refuse to swim in soapsuds.
Moving on, there is the treadmill in the fitness room, the place I can walk an uncomplicated mile at 2.0 and 3.5 elevation. Because of my left-side weakness, and a left leg that is one half inch shorter than the right, I need the stability of the hand grips to sustain a cadence and stride that doesn’t appear as if Lurch is approaching Halloween. That’s thirty minutes, the limit we are supposed to monopolize a fitness-room machine. And the only time I can count on access and some privacy, is late in the afternoon when most residents are looking for their happy-hour, two-for-one coupons. It’s certainly doable, as long as my life partner isn’t hankering for an early supper because she nibbled at breakfast and skipped lunch.
Finally, there is tennis, the reason I began to work toward strength and mobility and started this blog, yea those many years ago. Twenty years, from rookie to racked, from quick to quixotic, time to shift gears and vary my routine to cover for an aging process that has made life more complicated. Right now, this season just beginning, I have yet to hit with the men. Last year, a helpful player, during the men’s round robin suggested kindly that I might enjoy pickle-ball more than flaying clumsily three mornings a week on the artificial clay. Currently, I’m staying with mixed-doubles, hoping to compete with some of the older ladies still going out there. Last week someone told me Belinda was ninety. There were a few balls she couldn’t reach, her speed constraints right up my alley. But I haven’t lost hope that the cross training could be my ticket back to respectable mediocrity. I have to remember that three months ago I was in the local hospital with double pneumonia. In the meantime, I’ll try to decide what routine is scheduled for tomorrow and who stole the keys to my bike lock.

Posted by: mwfjr | October 22, 2017

BLOOD ON THE SNEAKERS

I can guess what you’re thinking, “oh no, what did you do now?” And you would not be far off, jumping to that actuarial conclusion. After this year’s mine field of medical misfortunes, the odds were in your favor. Admittedly, I HAVE been getting a little cocky, no hospitalizations in two months, time to step on the metaphorical gas of physical fitness aspirations. Your retort would be, “aspire, conspire, perspire and fall flat on your face.”
After the last bout of double pneumonia, I understand your pessimism, and I’ve been trying to be more cautious, including, short swimming sessions, treadmill work, isometrics, and companion biking on our asphalt perimeter trail. Like yesterday, taking our time, giving pedestrians the right of way, staying upright until the final dismount. But there was that obstacle on the path. Looked like some yellow leaves on a broken stem. But it was a bird, spread out on it’s back, wings extended, head bent down. Strange that a dead animal had appeared in the ten minutes it took for us to make it around the circle.
( I told you we were taking our time, not unlike this essay).
Closer observation and subsequent research revealed the animal to be a Red-Shoulder Hawk, and very alive. Sue called the local nature conservancy, where that hospital treats injured animals and keeps track of endangered species. The medical staff there said, “bring her in.” First we had to get a beach towel and a container. I grabbed a towel and Sue went off to find more gear. Foolishly, I didn’t wait for her, attempting to wrap the towel around the wings, when the Hawk twisted to face his large and clumsy attacker. In a second, blood was running from my hand down my wrist. Stroke victims (not the bird, you ninny) have to take blood thinners for the remainder of their compromised lives, thus the red flow. By that time there were the inevitable onlookers, among them my trusted life companion who has too often witnessed questionable husband behaviors. Like the time in that touch football game when I intercepted a pass, planted my right foot to juke the intended receiver, only to hear that pop when the knee hyper-extends. Who cared that the other participants were all my daughter’s friends in their twenties. Those behaviors, but I digress.
I can tell you hawk talons are razor sharp. My injuries appeared dramatic, but were minor, scratches really. Sue returned, neatly wrapped my nemesis and she and Gretchen placed the unhappy bird in a cat carrier, perfect for the trip. I retired to address my wounds, salve my pride and do some online research on what to do with talon injuries. The computer’s consensus was “don’t mess with these”, and showed me some pictures of what happens when infections are not treated. Even though age wasn’t mentioned, it does seem that getting older has exacerbated situations we, as young blokes, had been able to laugh-off, or otherwise ignore. The doctor at the walk-in medical center, took a look, and gave me a tetanus shot and an antibiotic prescription to take twice a day for a week. The Hawk? The tech said it wasn’t a broken neck but a reaction to some toxin, maybe a poison in a dead rat or other nuisance rodent. No prognosis, but they had the bird on oxygen, stay tuned to the column in the local paper detailing their rescues and releases.
No need to change my regimen, full speed ahead, but in moderation. As a reminder, I’m leaving the blood on the tennis shoes.

Posted by: mwfjr | September 28, 2017

BEGIN AGAIN

If this blog has been about anything, it’s been resurgence, breaking the surface, after some time under water. And no better time, to be specific, than after Hurricane, Irma. We look around and people are taking stock of what remains of their personal belongings, what is necessary and what’s not. On Monday, the kids went back to school, some getting their first regular hot meals in weeks. It’s a time for gratitude, for being able to have electricity and a good night’s sleep before attacking the day’s rigors. We are thankful friends reached out and gave us shelter and companionship to weather that monster storm.
For me, it’s having time to again focus and follow through on fitness, building strength and cardio pulmonary efficiency to combat senior lethargy. Can’t have that, no no.
Tomorrow, I’m committed to my first bike ride in three months. Not a long one, in part, because we still have a lot of debris on our roads and sidewalks. And I have to regain balance as well as endurance.
I’m going from invalid to caregiver, a transition that demands diligence and energy, serving a loved one who has lost temporarily her ability to navigate some daily obligations. My new-found strength couldn’t have come at a better time.

Posted by: mwfjr | August 20, 2017

Black Mold

Could describe my mental state, one that might resist psychological intervention, impede resolution, curtail confrontation and suspend serenity. And after a spring and summer of pulmonary stress and relapse, we retreated to SW Florida to begin what was supposed to be a coherent assault on whatever it was putting me at medical risk. We came home, went to the hospital, received four days of treatment for double pneumonia and began the long road back to competitive fitness. Sure, the condo had that funny smell, like some kids had broken in and smoked a box of bad cigars. But open a few windows and the funk would soon be gone, right? Wrong. “Come here. What’s that behind the couch. You look, is that cat shit?” My wife didn’t want to get too close in case whatever it was still lived. You didn’t need a microscope to see it was black mold, caused, we thought, by a faulty window installation, persistent summer storms, and a lack of curiosity by the few people “keeping an eye on the place.”
Thomas Wolfe said “You can’t go home again.” And in this case it’s sad, but true. Talk about setbacks, some have observed, “when will it end?”
How about now? All it takes is drawing a line in the sand. I am all set for recovery. There are assigned nurse and therapy professionals eager to help. They will meet us at my sister-in-law’s gorgeous house and lead me as I begin my last therapeutic journey. I can’t wait to start and some day, we will all go back to our cleansed and toxic free residence, the one with the fresh paint, new furniture and resplendent wardrobes. Where else to kick ass and take names?

Posted by: mwfjr | August 10, 2017

THE ROAD BACK

The latest trip to the hospital has produced, at long last, a consensus, a meeting of at least two minds, one, my lung doctor and I. Later, we may agree to disagree, but now she and I have decided that we need a diagnostic imperative, a clear diagnoses and etiology for the repetitive upper respiratory crises. It’s more than the current double pneumonia, but how it got here, it’s what’s to be done to make it go and stay away. Immunology, allergy evaluation and some test whether I’m carrying an internal toxin that keeps re-infecting my lungs and sinuses, those three.
Yeah, this is another organ recital, that has to precede the description of the future physical rehabilitation and ultimate return to competitive form. But first I have to get out of this hospital. Sorry for the interruption.

Posted by: mwfjr | July 20, 2017

The Journey

Three days out of the hospital, emancipated from France, beginning the rehab, but being horizontal for 12 days creates difficulties. Among the road blocks is the generic weakness, the body resisting the routine. So expectations, to be realistic must be pared down. And it’s summer, so going out on a high humidity day requires caution. The air was thick today, breathing labored. At nine this morning, the walk down Manor Place, to the hospital parking lot, out to the point with a bench and harbor view, was at, speaking of the French, a snail’s pace. Five minutes of observation and we completed the loop, starting back just in time to run into an older friend who needed an update on our European adventure. At eighty, she demonstrated longevity and good health. We didn’t have a lot in common, but her fitness was visible. She was on her daily walk to downtown Greenport, and not a moment too soon. Later I drove for the first time, down to the grocery store and walked to the thrift center with my wife and oldest grandkid. But that was it. I realized quickly I was tired and needed to return to the car, sit in the shade, open all the windows and capture the ocean breeze. I begged off their proposed shopping trip to Riverhead and spent the rest of the afternoon in our air-conditioned bedroom. That could have been my day, but I mustered enough strength to cook dinner on the grill, the first cooking since June 23. Current milestones are sleeping through the night and breathing without assistance. This WILL get better, but we are talking baby steps before quantum leaps.

Posted by: mwfjr | July 16, 2017

Repatriation

Back in the USA, after 10 days in the Bergerac, France hospital, eight in their new ICU, becoming acquainted with Asthma related breathing issues. But what an opportunity to begin yet another rehab experience and share those peculiarities, PLUS the horizontal ruminations that have to accompany any fitness short circuit.

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