Hooded Merganser Showing Off

The weather has finally improved here in the Pacific Northwest and we’re getting some sunshine between snow flurries.  I’ve always said that the best part of being retired is that I can take advantage of the occasional sunny days we get during Fall and Winter.  As it turns out, I also feel much better when I’m walking while they adjust my blood pressure medicines. So, it’s been a good two weeks.  So good that I’ve spent considerable time at the beach and managed several local walks, too.

The birds haven’t always cooperated, particularly at Theler Wetlands, but I did manage to get some shots that I liked at the Port Orchard Marina. On one of our visits there was some obvious courting going on among the Hooded Mergansers.  This fellow seemed particularly handsome.

I was impressed, but unfortunately the female seemed less so and kept paddling away.  

Not gonna be that guy

If it’s been a little quiet around here it’s because I’m not going to become THAT OLD GUY, the one who always talks about his ailments every time you see him. I’ll have to admit after last week, though, I’m beginning to understand why that’s all he talks about.  When we weren’t dodging snowy roads, we were sitting in doctor’s offices waiting to see where we would be sent next.  

Avoid the Emergency Room if you don’t want to spend weeks on follow-up appointments.  First, the Emergency Room cardiologist referred me to a cardiologist. Although the first two appointments were cancelled because of snow-covered roads, we eventually got to see Dr. Chen on Thursday.

Meanwhile, I also got a request to see my primary care doctor.  The first appointment with her was canceled, too.  And the next appointment, an early one, was moved back to later in the day.  We started the week at her office where she took x-rays and blood tests to compare them to the ones taken at the Emergency Room.  The x-rays seemed to suggest that I might have pneumonia, so she started me on antibiotics Apparently my body hates antibiotics almost as much as it does blood thinners and blood pressure medication I had just started taking. She insisted that I also make an appointment with my pulmonologist, the third doctor I would see in a single week.

I finally got to see the cardiologist Thursday.  He confirmed that I had had an aFib attack and was still experiencing an irregular heartbeat which he thought could probably be eliminated with a drug that he gave me to slow down my heart rate.  If not, they may have to shock it to “reset” it  (pretty sure I don’t like the sound of that). Since my father had multiple heart attacks and both my older and younger brother have had heart-related incidents, he scheduled me for two heart tests in April.  I won’t know anything definitive until then, but I found it reassuring that he said I could exercise as much as my heart would allow until I saw him in April.  

What I didn’t find out until I hit the gym Tuesday was that the medications make just walking challenging.  My blood pressure is regularly down below 120/80, but I get dizzy when I lean over to tie my shoelaces, and  I can no longer walk up a flight of stairs without resting in the middle.  Hopefully these symptoms will be short-lived while my body adjusts to the three new medications.  Until then, my activities, especially at the gym, will obviously be curtailed.  

If I had more energy, I’d probably be reading and posting more, but when my heart rate drops below 50 bpm while I’m sitting I find myself drifting off into sleep.  Everyone I’ve talked to says this is perfectly “normal” and not to worry about it, but considering that getting old and dying are also “normal” … I’m going to keep pushing back trying to get back on track as soon as I can.  

Like I said, I’m not ready to be “that old guy” quite yet.

Where’s the Reset Button?

I’m beginning to think I may have to hit the reset button on 2019.  Things are not going the way I thought they would, certainly not the way I wanted them to — and I’m not even talking about Trump’s Reign of Stupidity.  

Two of my grandkids’ grandfathers died in January.  Jen’s father died New Year’s Day and Cory’s father died recently. Although both had other health problems, they ultimately died from heart attacks.  I’m sure their deaths played a part in why I ended up at the Emergency Room at Allenmore last Tuesday night.

My doctor switched my blood pressure medication after I complained of repeated episodes of gout from the diuretics.  About four hours after taking the new medication, my heart decided to explore new territory and started racing up to 140 BPM though I was just sitting on the couch watching television.  After an hour of monitoring it and having no luck getting it to drop back to normal with controlled breathing, I pushed the aFib button on my Apple watch and, for the first time ever, it flashed that I had aFib.

I debated calling 911, but since the pain didn’t seem as bad as it had been during my Father’s heart attacks,  I went to the nearest Urgent Care center instead where they “confirmed,” sort of, that I was having an aFib attack.  They sent me to the REAL  Emergency Room.  Because they sent the results ahead, I was seen promptly and blood samples and another EKG were taken. There were no rooms available, and we were sent to the waiting room.  After about an hour I was taken in for chest x-rays and sent back to the lobby to wait another two hours.  After awhile it became clear that this must not be an emergency because I wasn’t dead.  I assumed that if I’d really been having a heart attack I would have been seen much sooner — since I had medical insurance.

No longer focused on my imminent death, I started to look around. A woman approached and asked us if we had “a dollar.”  I thought she might need to make a call, but she came back with some food from the vending machine, laid down and went to sleep on the bench across from us.  I couldn’t  figure out if she was merely sleeping there because it was safer than sleeping in the streets or if she was waiting for someone who had been admitted.  Though she appeared to be one of the poorest of the people in the lobby, it was clear that poverty was a common denominator for many of the people there, which probably explained why she asked Leslie and I for money instead of someone else.  

There were a lot of very sick looking people who looked like they had avoided going to a doctor until they woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t stand it anymore.  Many doubled up in pain spent nearly as long in the lobby as we did. Mostly I was struck by how many of those awaiting care were young, too young to have to go through what they were going through.  I suspect that if they’d had more money, or medical insurance, they would have been sitting in a plush doctor’s office weeks ago and would have been able to avoid their current situation.  

I was even more shocked as I was finally escorted to an emergency room, the 14th room on the left.  Not only were all the rooms full, but hospital beds lined the opposite side of the hall with patients receiving transfusions and God knows what else.  I tried to keep my eyes pointed straight ahead, not wanting to look anyone in the eye. Meanwhile, Leslie and I both prayed we wouldn’t contract something far worse than what I already had.

We must have waited another thirty or forty minutes for a cardiologist to finally appear.  Despite the Urgent Care diagnosis, he wasn’t sure I had actually had an aFib attack at all; in fact, he seemed quite sure that it was a different kind of problem.  I think he wanted to leave it to me to decide how I wanted to go from there, but I replied that I would trust his judgement.  In the end he prescribed a blood thinner and referred me to a cardiologist, while suggesting it might take a month to actually get an appointment, another sign that whatever I had it wasn’t a true “heart attack.”

Relieved, but still a little shell-shocked by the whole evening, we started down the long hall to the lobby and our car.  Before we could escape. a loud buzzer went off just in front of us and a doctor raced past us announcing that the patient’s pulse in room 2 had just stopped.   Nurses came running from every direction, and we did our best to stay out of their way while still trying to leave without seeing any more than we had already seen.  

When I read “I can count my blessings and still be utterly overwhelmed and defeated at the same time. Just sayin’ “ on Facebook the next day,  I was amazed at how well it described my feelings as we drove home.

I’m a Birder — Today, at Least

Though I describe myself as a “photographer”, not a birder, because I’m not nearly the expert that people I hang around with and spend more time working on my photography skills than my birding skills, I am also a “birder.”  That was a good thing on a recent visit to Ft. Flagler because we spotted more birds than I was able to get good shots of

The first thing I spotted was this Bald Eagle

sitting on the posts usually reserved for cormorants.  I suspect he was a reason we didn’t see many of the usual birds on the sunny side of the spit, though I did spot this male Red-Breasted Merganser on the other side.

Unfortunately, the low-in-the-sky sun was right behind him and no amount of photoshopping could reveal its brilliant colors without underexposing the blacks.

The only way I could identify this loon nearby was by its profile.

I had to walk all the way to the end of the spit in order to shoot some pictures with good lighting and the high tides made it impossible to approach without chasing the birds away.  I ended up capturing a few shots of Black Brant in flight that would almost pass as a good shot.

The photographer in me wasn’t really happy with any shot except this one of a male Harlequin Duck taken after our initial walk and a short drive.

Thankfully, as I’ve aged I’ve learned that not everything has to go right in order to have a good day.  Seeing birds I seldom see at home, basking in sunshine, and indulging in an excellent lunch can make for a wonderful day.