Monthly Archives: September 2014

Scallop Scampi Veggie Explosion

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I experimented with this tonight, and it turned out really great!  I hope you like it, too!

You’ll need:

12 oz Box Ronzoni Garden Delight Trio Italiano Pasta

1 Packet of McCormick Garlic Butter Shrimp Scampi Seasoning Mix

10-14 oz. Fresh Frozen Patagonian Scallops

1 cup fresh or frozen broccoli florets

1/2 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (or 1/4 cup olive oil AND 1/2 stick butter)

 

Directions:

  • In large pan, cook and drain pasta; set aside.

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  • Heat oil in large skillet on medium heat.  Add seasoning mix and scallops; cook and stir 6-8 minutes until scallops are heated through.
  • Add broccoli florets and tomatoes to skillet after cooking scallops.  Cook and stir 3-4 minutes until broccoli is soft.

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  • Pour scallops/veggie mixture over cooked pasta and stir to coat well.

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  • Serve and enjoy!

Banana and Peanut Butter Snack

I’m sure this has probably been done before and may even have a name!  Anywho,  I decided to put these together for a quick and yummy snack for a healthy afternoon treat (with a tiny bit of cheat).  You’ll need Vanilla Wafers, Banana, and Jif Whipped Peanut Butter.

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Slice the peeled banana into thick slices.

Spread peanut  butter onto the bottom of the Vanilla Wafer (either a lot or a little, up to your taste).

Place sliced banana on top and enjoy!

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Nuclear Exercise Stress Test and Results

I was very nervous preparing for my first stress test and unsure of what to expect.  Luckily, my facility provided me with a one-sheet of information that eased my mind.

I could not consume any caffeine, decaffeinated beverages, or chocolate for 24 hours prior to my appointment, and I could not have any food or drink (unless water to take medication) 4 hours prior to my appointment.  They were very strict on this.  They also suggested that I wear comfortable clothing and sneakers (or shoes you’d go walking/jogging in) and to plan on being there for up to 4 hours.

A nuclear exercise stress test is used to see how blood flows through the heart during exercise and at rest by using radioactive tracers.  Images are then taken of the heart to show the coronary artery circulation and which parts of the heart are receiving blood (marked by the radioactive tracers).

When I got to the facility, I checked in, made my co-pay, and was immediately called in by the Technologist.  They first took me into a room where I had to sign some forms and was asked a few general questions about my meds.  I made sure that he knew I had a stent.    Then the Tech inserted an IV into my arm (inside elbow) and the radioactive tracer which needs some time to circulate before they can begin taking images.  I was then escorted to a small waiting room and told to relax and drink 3 cups of water from the water cooler.  I probably waited about 15-20 mins and made conversation with a nice man in his 80s who must have been there for a similar test.  He told me how he used to be in the military, worked as an engineer, retired from NASA, and his grand daughter was going to Auburn University (the conversation began because I was wearing an Auburn shirt).  It helped the time go by quickly because the TV channel was boring.

The Technologist came in to get me and took me into the imaging room where I had to lie down on a narrow table with my arms above my head.  To the left of my chest was a large scanner that rotated over my chest so the Tech could position it accurately.  Once it was in the right position, he told me to hold still and breathe normal and that the scanner would take about 15 mins to take its images.  The computer monitor was in my line of sight, but it didn’t really show me anything that I could comprehend.  My arms got a little tingly from being over my head for so long, but I stayed as still as I could so they could get good images.  When the machine was done, the scanner rested to the left of my chest, and the Tech escorted me to the room with the treadmill.

There, I met a nurse (or maybe she was also a technologist) who began hooking me up to a 12-lead EKG whose pack was strapped to my stomach and had a long cord connected to the computer.  I was able to lie down on the bed to connect everything.  She had to enter lots of info into the computer and verified info with me and was also pleasantly conversational.  The room had lots of windows, so I had a great view of downtown while I was in there.  Finally, the first Tech came back in along with a doctor, and they helped me with my cords (so I didn’t trip) onto the treadmill.  It didn’t look like a normal treadmill.  It was basically a belt and bars.  No buttons or displays, which I thought was odd, but helped me focus.  They determined that they needed to get my heart rate to 153 to get the images they needed.  I let the nurse know that I had not gotten over 137 in cardiac rehab.  They turned on the treadmill, and let me start walking.  The EKG monitor was right next to me, so I could easily see my heart rate and the timer.  I told them that in cardiac rehab I normally walk for 15 mins at 3.0 and 3%.  They began this treadmill walk at about 1.6/1.7 and 10% (the max).  They needed to quickly get my heart rate up to its max.  I could completely tell a difference between this treadmill and cardiac rehab.  Within 1 or 2 mins, I could already tell I was getting winded.  They kept me talking the entire time (not sure if that was on purpose or if we were all just chatty), but I started to get out of breath pretty fast.  I told them that this was EXACTLY what I had been explaining to my doctor about how I feel when trying to walk up stairs or briskly walking through a parking lot, but I had never experienced this in cardiac rehab.  When I started to get really winded, the doctor asked the nurse to administer the second radioactive tracer so they could get it in there before they needed to stop me.  I had to continue on for about 2 or 3 more mins (I think).  I was hot and very winded and my heart rate was only 147.  Finally, the doctor told them to stop the test as he didn’t want me to overwork or push my heart too much and he got what he needed for the images without going up to 153.

Wow!  What a workout!!  I sat back down on the bed and the nurse took the leads off of me.  She then brought me a juice box (all natural, no added sugar) and a pack of peanut butter crackers, and had me wait back in the small waiting room for about 15 mins.  It was so great to finally eat and drink something!

The Tech came back in to get me to take me back to the imaging room where I got back onto the narrow table and let the scanner take pictures of my heart.  This lasted for about 15 mins again.  Then the IV line was taken out, I got a bandaid, and was released to go home.

So, the stress test was not as bad as I thought it would be.  I was afraid I would be running for a long time and not able to keep up.  But now, I feel like I want to conquer a treadmill at 10% incline!  But I’m sure my doctor won’t approve of that anytime soon.

The doctor overseeing the test said he would read the results the next morning and call me (even though it would be a Saturday).  He never did.  I went by his office after cardiac rehab that Monday to get my results.  A nurse called him on the phone and let me speak to him.  He said he was surprised at my results and had mostly good news for me.  The scar tissue is at the apex of my heart and estimated to be about 20% (originally estimated at 50%). My ejection fraction was a couple percentage points better than my echo, but that doesn’t mean it had improved in 2 weeks, it’s just that this is a different test measuring that. They are not sure how much of the 20% is permanent damage.  It will take 6 months to a year to better determine that. But I am still cleared to continue working out and to start jogging.  I will probably continue to have shortness of breath for a while (or even the rest of my life), but it could get better as I continue to work out and my body finds ways to compensate for the damage to my heart. This encourages me to want to work so much harder.  It is really disappointing when you’re told that you may never be the same again and may be limited in activities and quality of life.

Dental Woes

In the midst of my financial and health crises, I am faced with another – Dental problems!!! I haven’t been to a dentist for a regular check-up in maybe 3 years because my last one was bad.  While drinking sweet tea one night and biting on ice, one of my 2 crowns came off!  It was horrendous!!!!!  First of all, it was a nightmare come true…just like you dream about…chewing and your tooth falls out and you catch it in your hand!  Second of all, it is noticeable when I smile and if you know me well then you know how particular I am about my teeth and my smile!  Probably the 2nd most important thing to me besides my heart (before my heart, my teeth/smile were probably my 1st most important).  My immediate concern was “I need a good dentist” and I began texting everyone I know for recommendations.  I was going out of town for the weekend, so it was imperative that I get the crown put back on the next day.

Luckily, the first dentist I called was able to get me in right away the next morning.  His office staff was extremely nice, and he and his daughter (also a dentist) were friendly and accommodating.  I’m glad that I asked my cardiologist about dental visits during a previous appointment.  He had told me that I should make a dentist aware that I’m on blood thinners (and my other meds).  I brought my binder with me to the dentist and made sure they took note of all of the meds I was taking including both blood thinners (Clopidogrel and baby aspirin).  I also let them know I have a stent.  They put all of the information in my chart and I was asked about my blood thinners by several staff throughout the appointment.  I could tell they were thorough and double checking everything.  They were also concerned with knowing all of my drug allergies.

Ultimately, my tooth could not be saved, and an extraction was in order.  But after crying in the dental chair by the overwhelming news and trying to figure out what to do about the hole in my mouth, the dentist had sympathy and vowed to do everything he could to try and temporarily get the crown back on for my weekend trip.  How awesome!  He even told me to buy some lottery tickets because I was lucky it had stayed on as long as it had!  Why is everyone telling me I’m so lucky all the time?  I’ve always felt like the unluckiest person, but I guess I saved up all my luck to use when it was life or death (or toothfull or toothless).

I couldn’t eat, chew, brush, floss, or touch the crown (or that side of my mouth) during the whole weekend.  The dentist had even told me not to breathe on it if that gives you any indication of how he used whatever he could to come up with a way to get the crown back on.  LOL.  The crown stayed on during my entire trip, and my dental appointment was 8am the next morning.

When I went in for the tooth extraction (I was sooo nervous), the crown came off very easily and once again, the dentist (his daughter, this time) said how lucky I was that it stayed for the weekend.  The extraction was done (which was AWFUL!!!) and they had to be very careful about controlling the blood during the process.  I’m not sure how much I bled; I actually didn’t ask.  But they gave me a list of stuff “not” to do for the next 24 hours – 1 of which was no aspirin.  Too bad, I have to take it and didn’t modify any of my cardiac meds regime for the extraction.   They also gave me a prescription for pain medicine and antibiotics.

When I got home, I decided to take the pain medicine (percocet generic brand) that I had been prescribed from the Gall Bladder surgery.  I was in a lot of pain (enough to miss my next day of cardiac rehab), so I was taking the medicine every 4-6 hours.  I noticed I was itching all over my body, and on the second night, I looked in the mirror and noticed I was starting to break out into a rash on my torso.  Scratch marks were red and raised, and I realized that while I did not have a fever, I needed a fan to make me feel cool the past 2 days…just like I had when I first got out of the hospital.  It must be the pain medicine that I’m allergic to!!  I called my cardiac nurse and let her know and called a 24 hour pharmacist to confirm who said to take Benadryl.  Thank goodness, I had 2 Benadryl tablets left (25 mg each) and took them both.  I had been on so much pain med, I wasn’t driving anywhere.  The next day I got the dentist’s prescription filled for Norco (generic is Hydrocodone-Acetominophen).  I began taking that, which the pharmacist had said is in the opiate family (like the percocet) but not as strong.  I knew I would likely be allergic to this one, too, but I still needed pain med.  The reaction on this one wasn’t as severe.  No rash, minor itching, and I felt like my lips and left cheek were numb/tingling.  I thought the numbness thing was a side effect of the pain med (I’ve also been taking pencillin during this time).  At my cardiologist appointment, I brought this up, and he said it was likely something caused from the dental procedure and not a medicine side effect.  So now I’m thinking that is odd that my left cheek and lips are STILL slightly numb/tingling and it’s almost been a week.

I had another appointment the next day with the dentist anyway, for a root canal on the tooth next to the extraction site.  They also didn’t think the numbness was a side effect of the meds and asked if I had sinus problems.  I said no.  They seemed a little baffled but thought maybe it was due to infection because that could cause referral pain or numbness feeling, I guess.  So, after the root canal heals up in a few days, I will see if my face gets back to normal.  They said that due to the blood thinners, they use numbing medicine on me WITHOUT epinephrine because it won’t stay in my bloodstream as long as the medicine WITH epinephrine.  It’s what they do for their heart patients due to the meds, etc.   The numbness was still there the next day, so I called the dentist. They prescribed a stronger antibiotic (Clindamycin HCL) saying that if there is still swelling with infection, it may not be allowing the numbing medicine to get out of my system as quickly (or something like that). I will need to take the new antibiotic for a full 7 days and stop taking the penicillin.  The Clindamycin does not have very pleasant side effects, but let’s just say it’s helped bring my weight down the past couple of days.  The numbness finally went away and still no pain (gum is a little sore at the extraction site still).

More Test Results

I received the results of my 3rd heart echo.  It did not show any fluid around my heart, which the cardiologist was looking for since I’m still getting winded.  My ejection fraction has increased from 40-44% to 45-49%!!!  My cardiology team is ecstatic that my heart function has improved.  Normal range (according to my cardiac nurse) is 55-60+.  While I can’t believe it has ONLY increased 5% with all the changes I’ve made and all the cardiac rehab I’ve gone through, the cardiologist thinks this increase is huge…especially considering it was 15-20% after my heart attack.  Also, due to the damage that my heart has, it isn’t really expected to get back to normal from what I gather from the doctors.  They also say at least we are moving in the positive direction and any increase is great!  As for the results of my bloodwork for BNP and BMP, my BNP level was 114.  The PA (physician assistant) said that 100 or below is the normal range, but 114 was a good number for me.  They don’t start to really worry until the level gets to 300 or greater.  Within my BMP, my glucose was 99, which is good, so I shouldn’t be considered pre-diabetic anymore since the last my glucose was measured was in the hospital during all of my drama.

The kicker on this one is that I received a letter from my insurance company saying they will not cover the blood test for BNP because it is determined to be “experimental, investigational or unproven for the diagnosis” submitted with the claim, which is Coronary Atherosclerosis of Native Coronary Artery.  Of course, I think this is ridiculous.  Thank goodness it was only blood work, but I have NO CLUE what my bill will be!!!  If it is a small amount (like under $50) then I don’t have a huge problem with that; but if it’s a large amount, then I will have to appeal their decision, which is allowed.  It also says that health care professionals in my insurance network generally can’t bill me for services if they know they are not covered (yet necessary) and they tell me that in advance and I agree to it in writing.  No one advised me of such, so I’m wondering if I will get billed.  Maybe I will take it up with my doctor first if I do receive a bill.  Speaking of…I’m still waiting on a refund from the GI Surgeon for paying for my outpatient procedure in advance when everything was switched to in-patient/hospital stay.

On another positive note, my doctor did say that I can now ride roller coasters and start jogging (I asked about both!).  The jogging part is what excites me the most because it’s the only thing that will help me lose weight (I can’t believe I’m not losing weight with all of the changes over the past 3 months).  My doctor ordered another heart test, which I’m having done this week.  It will be a nuclear stress test while exercising.  He said it will help answer all of our questions as to why I’m getting winded when I go up stairs and why I’m having chest pains and tightness.  It will take pictures of my heart at rest and under stress to show how my heart is responding. Once the results are back from that, cardiac rehab will let me start jogging (based on the results) so they can monitor me before I start jogging on my own.  Ironically, my dad, who now sees my cardiologist, is going for a nuclear stress test (non-exercising) at the same time on the same day but at a different hospital.  Cardiac rehab told me that “no news is good news” when I’m waiting on results of the stress test.  The unfortunate thing about this stress test is it has a $200 co-pay.  Luckily, it’s happening on pay day.  Otherwise, not sure how I’d be paying.  Medical bills are adding up, and it’s taking a huge toll on my finances and budgeting.  Having a heart attack is expensive, people!

Orlando Heart Walk

The 2014 Orlando Heart Walk was a huge success!  I set my goal at $300, and due to the overwhelming generosity of my friends and family, I raised $660!!!!  This surpassed anything I even thought was possible, so I guess I will need to have a higher goal next year!!

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The night before, I made a tshirt to wear.  The front said “Survivor” and the back said “love your heart blog .com”.  I also made a tshirt for my friend to wear that said “I walk for JAG”, which is my team name and purpose.  And, I made a heart bow for my hair.  🙂

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It didn’t seem like there were half as many people at the heart walk this year, which was great for me.  Last year, the crowds were awful and getting onto UCF campus to park was a disaster.  This year, the parking situation was a little better, and I was able to park closer to the festivities, which gave me more energy for the walk.  My parents and a friend met me there.  My dad, also a survivor, had only planned to do the 1 mile walk, but he was determined to do the 3 mile walk that morning!!  I advised him against it, but he had his mind set!

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We walked around and enjoyed the tents, free stuff, free bananas, I signed the heart wall, etc.  One tent was giving away “survivor” hats from AHA.  My dad already had his, so I went to the tent to get mine.  The girl at the tent said, “um, these are only for survivors…”.  And I said, “I am a survivor!”  The other girl at the tent said, “Yeah, didn’t you see her shirt?  It says she’s a survivor!”  I’m sure it was an awkward moment for the girl who judged me.  It’s not the first time I’ve encountered that.  Like my doctor said and I’ve said before…I’m not the face of a heart attack, but it happened to me!  I proudly accepted my survivor hat!

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The walk began at 8am, and it was SOOOOO HOT and humid!!!  I probably drank 3 bottles of water during the walk.  Luckily, there were iced water bottle stops at the 1 and 2 mile markers.  My dad had to stop and rest a couple times throughout the walk, so my friend and I kept going.  It was a leisurely pace, which made the heat a little more bearable.  And before we knew it, we were at the finish line!!  It did not seem like 3.1 to me, but I was so excited that I did it!!  It’s the farthest I’ve walked since my heart attack, and it was a huge milestone (pun intended) for me.  My dad also completed it (not long after I crossed the finish line), and I was SOO excited for him.  I could tell he was very determined and pleased with his achievement!  It’s probably the most he’s ever walked.  LOL.

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After the walk, they had CPR dummies set out on a tarp on the grass and did a couple of training sessions for everyone.  I thought this was a great resource for folks (especially kids), and many people participated.  You didn’t have to do mouth-to-mouth, just compressions.  It made me think that CPR should be something that heart attack survivors and their families should be required to become certified in before leaving the hospital after a heart event.  My mom realized she didn’t know what to do if something ever happened to my dad, so she went to a table where they were demonstrating and explaining to individuals to learn.

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It was still so hot outside (luckily, I finally found a tent that was giving away fans), but I wanted my picture with the “my 65 guy” and my fave show, New Girl (I just got my bangs done).  We left shortly after the finish and went to breakfast at First Watch.  It felt good to indulge (a little) after working so hard and sweating so much.

The rest of the day, I rested on my couch.  I was exhausted from the heat and so proud of all the money I raised for a cause that is so dear to my heart (yep!  pun intended).

#ORLHeartWalk