Hi guys! This is the last one — the 6th and final (and possibly the longest) installment blog of my “Cabbage Chronicles” (“kwentong repolyo” sa Tagalog, c/o JM De Leon). I think I mentioned in one of the previous installments that the last one will be when I get clearance to go back to work. And that’s the good news from yesterday! My good cardio doc gave me said clearance to finally go back to work — “pwede na,” he simply said after my check up and reviewing my recovery log.
- I’ll return to work officially on Monday (Mar 5), though I’ve been working from home when I can since Feb
- I can swim again mid-March (yeeee!!!)
- I’m cleared to fly (wala po akong pakpak, pwede lang po akong sumakay sa eroplano)
- I need to continue my diabetic medication, I can stop some meds in 1 more month
- I’m not yet allowed to drive
- Tennis po? (“Hindi pa,” doc said. 8 months from surgery daw. Sad, but ok, will follow. Soon it will be September.)
- The pain I’m feeling around my wounds on my chest and left leg will remain for another 6 to 8 months (that’s how long it takes for the wounds to heal, especially the breastbone, and especially for a diabetic)
- My CABG grafts can deteriorate in 7 years, depending on how I behave (diet, exercise, lifestyle changes)
I’m happy. Now, I have to figure out how to squeeze in my exercise into the schedule once I’m back full time at work. I’ve gotten used to my exercise routine during recovery. Will find a way. (Pag gusto, may paraan. Pag ayaw, may dahilan.)
Anyway, allow me to use this blog to share some more of the things I and people around me did to help me get through my CAD and CABG experience.
I Could Have Died, You Know
I’m not sure how some of you may view this. Some will possibly cringe at the thought, but it’s part of my being practical about my situation.
Last year, months before my CABG operation, a friend gifted me with a book entitled “I’m Dead, Now What”. It’s published in the US (not sure if we can find it here), and available from Amazon. Cringe-worthy, but practical — it allows you to write down instructions about your belongings, your business affairs, and wishes — in case something terminal or incapacitating happens to you, i.e., you die or become incapable of making decisions yourself. It doesn’t mean one doesn’t have faith in God or his doctors. We know that our days are numbered, but we never know for sure when our time to go will be. So weeks and days before my CABG, I filled up the book to supplement my holographic will (a will and testament entirely written in my own handwriting). I have a holographic will because I have not had the chance or capacity to pay a lawyer to manage this for me.
The book “I’m Dead, Now What” is meant to make matters easy for those that we will leave behind, or when we cannot speak for ourselves. It keeps in one place vital details about our contacts, legal matters, health information, financial affairs and day-to-day practical concerns. It has sections for:
- Key Personal Information (important identification numbers like TIN, SSS No.; family members’ names, occupation, citizenship, etc.)
- Medical Information (blood type, medical conditions, medications, health insurance, doctors, organ donation instructions, do not resuscitate orders, etc.)
- Key Contacts (lawyer, accountant, insurance agent, health care providers, pastor/priest, employer, etc.)
- Instructions at time of passing (e.g., who to contact, get death certificates, desired funeral arrangements, etc.)
- Dependents (people who will be affected by your passing, what they depend on you for, information about them, etc.)
- Important Documents (e.g., where your will is located, who knows about it, where your driver’s license is, your passport, birth certificate, phone/address book, user names/ passwords for your personal computer, etc.)
- Financial Information (bank accounts, credit cards, store credit/membership cards, investments, stocks, bonds, shares, frequent flyer, rewards cards, safety deposit box, what you owe, what is owed to you, regular bills to pay, etc.)
- Business Information (name, location, employees, location of keys, who to contact, accountant, lawyer, etc.)
- What Beneficiaries Can Expect (from insurance, employee benefits, social security, etc.)
- Personal Property (real estate, vehicles, heirlooms, valuable personal effects, storage locations, location of titles, registration documents, certificates, etc.
- Insurance (life, property)
- Pets (name, vet, who will care for them)
- What to Pay, Close, Cancel (credit cards, bank accounts, utilities, cable, subscriptions, autopay accounts, charity, memberships, etc.)
- Internet Accounts (email, facebook, social media accounts, blog, websites, e-groups, domains, usernames, passwords, etc.)
- Personal Wishes
- Miscellaneous Information
Believe me, it’s not easy to fill those up. We need not complete it though, and can go back to updating it regularly, at least once a year.
Thanks again to my good friend, Clouds, for gifting me with this one. It takes a real friend to give you a gift like this and you take no offense at all (lab ka nya, te, hindi ibig sabihin gusto na nyang mamatay ka, wag kang ano!).
No Visitors, No Flowers
Except for my immediate family, my best friend and my nurse, I refused to accept visitors during my hospital confinement. In fact, even before I was admitted, on the second blog of these chronicles, I’ve already expressed my preference not to be visited at the hospital. I know Philippine Heart Center is far, parking isn’t easy, and it’s quite busy. Although I would really appreciate the visits, I wanted to spend more time resting and recovering, rather than entertaining visitors. It was hard to speak because it affected my breathing and led to coughing (which was really ouchie!).
I also declined offers by some to send flowers and other well-wishing stuff. Thanks guys, for courteously asking first. Flowers are lovely and I usually love receiving them, but they could bring pollen and other allergens that can affect not only me, but other patients and visitors in the hospital.
I hope no one thought of these preferences as being snobbish or anything like that. Thanks.
You Can Gain Weight from the Hospital
I learned when I was discharged from the hospital that you can gain weight during your confinement. In my case, the fluids and the blood pumped into me during that 1 week in the hospital got me bloated to 142.2 pounds.
I was only 123 pounds when I was admitted. So when I checked my weight when I got home, I was worried somehow about losing the almost 20 pounds I gained. I was expecting not only to sleep a lot, but to also eat a lot to regain weight and strength after discharge. Most of the extra weight was on my leg — the vein extraction leg, with 6 healing gashes.
Hence, my post-discharge regimen included exercises that would get rid of all that extra weight.
No Fancy Diet, Just Back to Basics
There are so many diet programs out there — vegan, various forms of vegetarianism, Cohen, Atkins, South Beach, ketogenic, after six, raw food, boiled eggs, and so on. It’s always a personal choice which diet program we want to follow. Before I was discharged, the PHC briefed me and provided me guidelines for my diet — for recovery and maintenance. Nothing fancy about it, it wasn’t any of those programs I mentioned — it was mainly back to basics for a diabetic and heart patient like me — low sugar, low fat and cholesterol-controlled, sodium-controlled, high-fiber.
These guidelines are nothing new. For example, low-sugar means I avoid:
- Baked products (cakes, cookies, doughnuts, etc.)
- Ice cream, non-dairy creamers
- Native kakanin (biko, sapin-sapin, etc.)
- Sugary food, e.g., chocolates, candies, sweetened desserts like leche flan, macapuno, kaong, etc.), yema, pastillas, etc.
- Sweetened drinks, beer, punch, other alcoholic beverages
- Canned fruits in heavy syrup, candied fruits
- Pickled vegetables
- Processed, sweetened meat (tocino, ham, etc.)
Low-fat, cholesterol-controlled means, among others:
- Eating more vegetables and fruits
- Steaming, boiling or microwaving instead of frying
- Sautéing in minimal amounts of vegetable oil
- Eating lean meats in smaller portions, trimming off skin and fats
- Avoiding processed meats and internal organs
- Eating more fish, especially those high in omega 3 fatty acid
- Skim or low-fat milk instead of whole milk
- Limiting hard cheese
- Home-cooking instead of dining out
Sodium-controlled means things like:
- Limiting salt intake to 1 teaspoon a day
- Avoiding food products with labels that include salt, sodium soda, MSG, soy sauce, etc.
- Using herbs and spices like garlic, onion, ginger, calamansi, lemon, basil, vinegar, etc. for flavor instead of salt, patis, soy sauce, bagoong
- Avoiding fast food
- Limiting food in brine, pickled food, smoked meat, salted dried fish, chips, salted snacks, bouillon cubes, Worcestershire auce, barbecue sauce, catsup, mustard, canned/instant soups
High-fiber means things like:
- Eating vegetables like broccoli, carrots, string beans, spinach, potato with skin, peas, cauliflower, salad greens, etc.
- Eating fruits
- Snacking on fruits, vegetable sticks, nuts or seeds instead of chips
- Eating cereals and whole grain (oatmeal, bran, whole-wheat breads, muesli, etc.)
- Drinking lots of water
- Eating at regular times and eating slowly
Thanks to my best friend Nons, who’s my personal chef during my recovery. She still is — she read all these guidelines and tries to follow them in preparing our meals, with some modifications here and there.
I do cook, but I have my own raw food concoction too. This is my go-to snack or meal for when I don’t have enough time to cook, or when I just feel like it. Sharing my recipe here. Just put all the ingredients together in a blender with some ice to make the smoothie.
- 3 medium-sized leaves lettuce (Romaine, iceberg or green)
- 1 raw banana saba
- other fruit pieces (e.g., kiwi, papaya, orange, apple)
- unsweetened fruit juice and/or non-fat milk
- some nuts (walnuts or almonds or chia seeds)
- sweetener like stevia or honey (optional)
Walk, Walk, Walk
For me, the key to recovery was having the desire and the initiative to keep taking steps towards getting well, i.e., know what a recovering patient can safely do and don’t rely on the doctors, nurses or rehab team to initiate routines for him. It was mainly walking that helped me get back to normal activity.
I started with walking several rounds around the nurses’ station in my hospital wing while my wounds were still bandaged, wet and raw. I just increased the number of rounds each time I did an exercise session. Then I graduated to walking around the whole 4-petal hallways of my hospital floor.
When I got back home, I started with several rounds around Velasquez Park in Salcedo Village, doing 1.5km, then 2km, and so on till I reached my walk target of 4km per session. I usually did it twice a day. At this time, I’m doing 4.5 km per session and 12K to 13K steps a day.
Walking, walking, walking helped me eliminate the 20 pounds extra weight from fluids in just over a week. Walking helped me further bring down my weight to my desired level and get my BMI (body mass index) back to normal range.
The Samsung Health App
During my recovery, I discovered and learned to use a mobile app on my Samsung S8 which I would have ignored had it not been for my CABG. It’s the Samsung Health App. Have you tried using it?
I used it to track my calorie intake from the foods that I eat, count the calories I burn from walking, exercising, dancing, and other physical activities, measure my heart rate and oxygen saturation levels during or after exercise or while resting. The S8 has a sensor on the back that allows the device to measure HR and SpO2.
It keeps a history of all those measures so i am able to track trends and adjust food intake and exercise duration if I need to.
Don’t Miss on The Meds
Being a diabetic and heart patient means that I have maintenance medication to take consistently. Although I have the help of a nurse to dispense my medicines, I also use a practical method of packing and scheduling my meds to make sure I don’t miss taking them.
Instead of using those 7-day compartmentalized plastic containers for meds, I use small zip lock-type resealable transparent plastic packs. Small (size 0) packs contain meds according to time schedule for taking them, e.g., 6am, 9am and 9pm. Then those 3 packs go to a bigger pack (size 2) labeled with the day of week that I’m supposed to take them.
This simple system helps me take with me the packs that I need when I am not home.
Well, there you have it, friends. I hope my “Cabbage Chronicles” help someone, somehow, one way or another, if not today, who knows, maybe in the future, for themselves, or for someone they care about. If these “kwentong repolyo” or parts of it helps one person in one way, I’d be happy it has served its purpose. The time I spent writing it down will be well worth it.
So thank you, keep healthy everyone!