There was a very heavy fog overnight, with the temperature around -20 deg C (-2 deg F), which resulted in a spectacular coating of hoar frost on everything this morning. I spent about half an hour trying to take photos of the 1 cm (half inch) thick coating of frost on the trees and bushes, but had great difficulty getting the camera to focus on the frost. Here are a couple of the best:
Here's a close-up view of the hoar frost on the branches... a thick coating of fern-like ice crystals growing on every surface. Quite lovely!:
Went to Puerto Morelos, Mexico again this year, but it was a quite miserable trip. The flu was everywhere in the little town, waiters in restaurants were hacking and coughing, tourists were hacking and coughing. The flu spread all over town in just a couple of weeks. Some restaurants were forced to close because they didn't have enough employees able to work. I ended up catching the flu and then got a lung infection. And as if that was not enough of a mess, the weather was rather cool, cloudy, wet and windy, which made snorkeling rather dismal. Oh well.
The cool wet weather was great for the flowers:
This colorful snake came out of the mangrove to greet me. It seems to be a speckled racer:
This little fishing pier in the Puerto Morelos mangroves looks a bit scary... especially when you consider the fact that this mangrove is full of crocodiles!
After consulting multiple cardiologists, it became quite apparent that I needed to have open heart surgery to replace a severely clogged aortic valve. The alternative they offered was not very good... if I don't have the surgery, I am unlikely to survive more than a few years, probably five years or less. But if I do have the surgery, there is a risk of non-trivial issues such as death or stroke. Heavy sigh.
So, after interviewing two of Colorado's best heart surgeons, I finally chose to have the surgery done by Mark Douthit at The Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado. (Although in retrospect, I would now recommend Dr Ammons at St Joseph's in Denver for such surgery, and would recommend avoiding Medical Center of the Rockies.)
Apprehensive me, at 5:30 AM, waiting to get prepped for surgery on March 22, a very auspicious date which I chose for my surgery to celebrate not only the new growth and returning light of springtime, but also to celebrate the birthday of an old friend who had very successful heart surgery long ago:
I looked much happier going into surgery than when I came out:
During the first few hours after the surgery, apparently some of the surgeon's handiwork began to leak, and I lost a lot of blood while recovering in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. They decided to wait a while to see if my body could solve the problem without either a transfusion or further surgery. By the next day, the leak had stopped, but by then I had lost half of my blood, and they decided to just see if my body was strong enough to recover rather than take the risks involved in a transfusion (hematocrit dropped to 23% the day after surgery). I was very weak, and ended up staying in Cardiac Intensive Care for four nights (rather than the typical one night stay for most people).
And, as if that wasn't enough stuff going wrong, some debris in the blood stream, likely caused by the surgery, found it's way into one of my eyes, and produced a rather annoying (and distressing) blind spot, a small portion of my right eye vision is now just an opaque gray blob. Oh... heavy sigh.
My sister took me to the surgery, and she stayed with me for about 6 hours in Intensive Care after the surgery, although I have no recollection of her being there, or of most of the things that she tells me I did during that recovery period. She said that even with all the tubes, hoses and wires hooked to me, I would abruptly sit up, look around the room and start talking about all kinds of stuff. But, then at one point I opened my eyes (with a grateful sense of wonder and delight), looked around the room, and simply announced: "I am alive!" And that I do remember!
I can certainly understand if that does not seem to be much of an epiphany, because every fool clearly knows that they are alive. But this was something entirely different. I'm not even sure if I can explain it.... It arose not merely from observation, or learning, but it arose from a deep inner sense of gratitude and wonder. It was a total change of viewpoint. It was not a thought from the intellect, it was a message of wonder and awe from depths of the heart. Out beyond all concern for the mundane events of life, out beyond all clinging or resisting, out beyond all manner of thinking, there is the awesome wonder of life itself and our corresponding gratitude for the opportunity. Wow, what a treat it is to have this gift of life!
The biggest personal change that I've noticed since the surgery is a sense of wonder at the beauty of everything, the beauty of people, the beauty of nature. Over the weekend, the snow began to fall, and I found tears in my eyes as I gazed out into the beauty. And there I sat, crying at the beauty of a snowstorm!
I was released from the hospital, severely anemic from the blood loss, after a total of 6 nights. Arrrgg. Heavy sigh. This experience was not like the brochure! But at least I'm alive!
Didn't take any photos in April, I was totally occupied with recovering from last month's heart surgery, which created a variety of problems that I never expected.
After being home for only three days after the heart surgery, yet another pesky problem arrived in the form of Atrial Flutter, where the atria of the heart were wildly beating at around 260 beats per minute continuously, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Needless to say, that is not good, and the heart was not very efficient in that condition, making me feel even more tired. The surgeon's office gave me some drugs to try to help control the heart rate, but the medications were largely ineffective (and in the long run apparently caused considerable loss of muscle mass in the heart).
The surgeon said that sometimes the Atrial Flutter will stop on its own, but in my case it has not. So, all I can do is try as best I can to recover from this unfortunate mess.
I am grateful to all who have helped me during this great adventure, and to those who sent get-well cards. The kindness, good wishes and prayers have truly been a blessing in my life.
I bought a new camera, a Lumix ZS60, to play with while this heart heals from the surgery.
Blue Heron looking for a meal along the irrigation ditch behind my house:
Not really doing in very much in May because my heart is still in Atrial Flutter, with the atria flapping away at 260 to 280 beats per minute, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and even walking for just a few minutes at 1 mph makes me feel terrible. Nonetheless, I am enjoying the new camera.
I've lived a life of good health for the most part, and as a
result have no doubt failed to fully comprehend the challenges
and difficulties which other people encounter with their health
issues. So, this whole process of recovery from surgery has made
me much more aware of what it's like to have an uncooperative
body and to be faced with challenges which are greater than
one's own self and/or greater than what the medical trade knows
how to treat. This isn't anything that I can fix, nor can I find
any doctors who can fix it. It brought me back to faith... faith
in Nature, faith in the body's God-given healing abilities. What
a blessing! This continues to be a very humbling process!
Saw this lovely pelican on little Lake McIntosh near my home. I'm always amazed and amused that pelicans come to Colorado! In this image, I especially like the suggestion of a heart shape that the the neck and beak make with the reflection:
A few days ago, when my heart rate was pounding out of control, beating like crazy due to atrial flutter, I went for a calming ride through the countryside, and when I got back home, these lines came to me, which attempt to summarize the feeling of that little journey along some delightful Colorado back roads:
Now that it has been 12 weeks since the heart surgery, and this Atrial Flutter still persists, it's time to try a procedure called Electro-Cardioversion to see if they can stop the Atrial Flutter. They couldn't do this procedure sooner because the heart, aorta and ribs needed time to heal before doing this procedure in which they basically electrocuted me using a defib machine to see if the heart would happen to restart in the proper rhythm... which it did! Yea! Now the Atrial Flutter is gone, hopefully forever. So, now I can begin to get some exercise, after three months of doing very little.
A Western Grebe, a fresh water diving bird, which seemed to spend more of its time underwater than on the surface...I especially enjoy the glowing red eye!
Yippee! My heart rate difficulties have now settled down enough that I'm able to go on some short hikes in the mountains. This is my first hike since the heart valve surgery, a total of about 7 or 8 km (4 miles), to see the wildflowers along Long Lake, at an altitude of about 3200 m (10,500 ft):
Another hike in the glorious Colorado mountains! Stopped at this lovely spot for a picnic along a hiking trail, not far from Mitchell Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area.
Here are some of the first wildflowers that I've been able to meet in the mountains this month:
A look back at the recovery process:
And even now that I
can walk at normal speed, and have been able to go on a few short hikes in the mountains, I can't help but be amazed and
delighted that beauty is everywhere, if only the eyes and heart
will respond to it! The wonders of hiking to Blue Lake up near Brainard were marvelous to enjoy, but they had no greater
intrinsic beauty than the flowers and people and sights right
here in my own little neighborhood.
On my window screen, seemingly looking at me, wondering what a strange creature he (or she) has encountered:
A spectacular sunset over the Colorado mountains with brilliant crepuscular rays, as seen from my backyard:
What a great adventure, this life! I had my 70th birthday this month... wow. That is a very big number! But, despite that big number, and despite the physical annoyances of aging, this has been a marvelous adventure so far!
Perhaps next year will be even better!