Good Things in February: Kindness

An interesting thing at the end of this first day of February – a relief, and a miracle of sorts.

The husband has a condition, Lewy Body Dementia, which wreaks havoc with his autonomic nervous system, among other things. This is the system that controls blood pressure, and it shows up as giving him unstable pressures from time to time. He has been on medication, but even that is trial and error in keeping him stable. So we check it fairly often.

This morning I found his medication from the night before. He had missed taking it with his other pills and it was still in the container. Sure enough, his pressure was on the high side, so he took a diuretic in addition to his morning medication. Late this afternoon I asked him to check his pressure again and he got this:

A scary blood pressure reading, 197/116, yikes!

For those who might not have had to know anything about blood pressure, the top number is the pressure in the system when the strongest part of the heart, the ventricle, is squeezing. The bottom number is supposed to be the pressure when the heart is “resting” in between beats. The top number is ideally below 120 and the bottom number should be less than 80. The husband’s reading of 197/116 – not so good. I blinked a bit, held my breath and tried to get my plan in mind in case he stroked out. He’s had this happen before, but knowing that it changes quickly, I’m not one to speed him to the ER.

We prayed. I told God we would check Dennis’s pressure again in a few minutes and asked him to please let us know whether to stay home or get help. I gave him another diuretic, hoping it wouldn’t keep him up all night going to the bathroom.

About 15 minutes later, after we had finished eating dinner, his pressure was 128/84. His medications had not had time to work yet so we either had faulty equipment or a miraculous change. The equipment checked out okay. I have no trouble believing that I was spared spending an evening in the hospital, even spared the decision of whether or not to go. That’s really the hardest part of my caretaking role, deciding if it’s time.

There were other good things in this day, but this was probably the most dramatic. I’m happy to share it because it wouldn’t be right not to give God thanks for doing me a favor. And I would encourage anyone – don’t be afraid to ask him for things like this because he really is kind. Just sayin’…

Back to watching his phone. Not a worrier, that one.

On Riding a Bike

When do I really get serious about taking care of my body?  I’m asking the question because I really don’t know.  So many years have gone by when other things came first on my list.  There was only so much time and other things were urgent.  And didn’t I get enough activity in the course of daily living? I wasn’t a couch potato.  I lifted, pushed and pulled, walked and ran and stood up most of the time.  I had a young body and it took care of itself (because it had to).

Time has changed a few things.  Specifically, my blood pressure is higher and I think it’s having effects on other systems, like my vision.  I don’t want to start medication and deal with all those side effects, and of course, there’s the problem of my hating to swallow pills which I avoid by never remembering to take them. But I can exercise. Walking would have been my first choice but after feeling a few twinges of pain in my right knee, I’ve switched to riding my cheapo bike.

Because I am on the way to being more serious about exercise (I’m not totally there yet…) I give the bike ride a priority place in my “somewhat retired” daily schedule.  Morning, right after the gate to the nearby mobile home park opens for the day, I strap on my fanny pack, turn on the health app on my phone and get going.  It’s a fairly safe place to bike a large loop and not surprisingly, I am one of the fastest things moving on the road.

Biking in the mobile home park reinforces my desire to take care of myself seriously.  There are lots of people there who are trying to be active.  Many of them have been “not serious” longer than I have judging by the fact that their exercise consists of riding to get coffee and donuts at the clubhouse in their golf carts. The other bikers I see are usually stationary, talking to their neighbors.  Lots of people are walking but it’s the kind of walking where you can hold hands with your walking partner and take long looks at scenery.  And today I saw an elderly woman, probably the most serious exerciser I’ve seen there in a long time, who could barely stand upright and had a decided list to the right.  But she was moving as best she could.  Every time I think, “get serious now or this is the next version of you”.

I’ve had people (the husband) say “well, you’re not getting much exercise riding a bike here in Florida where it’s flat”.  But they are wrong.  First of all, it’s not flat.  I know there must be some kind of incline when I ride east.  I imagine there might be one riding north as well (because north is “up” on the map). And then there is wind resistance.  Pushing air is exercise and don’t let anyone tell you differently.  It’s true that wheels make moving easier but they don’t move by themselves – as evidenced by the husband’s bike which has not moved an inch in months.  I push hard and go fast and I feel the burn.

Which brings me to the part where I challenge myself, to keep it interesting.  My health app SHealth, Shea for short, is my co-conspirator in getting serious about my health.  In fact, she nags me to the point of irritation.  I’m always being asked if I want to record my sleep, or add a meal.  And she gets downright bossy when it comes to exercise.

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Yeah, just be more active yourself!

Shea gets on the job when I’m biking and talks me through the whole painful process, starting with a little five second countdown.  At each mile she announces my progress and tells me how long I have to keep going to reach my goal, which is five miles, at my present speed.  Behind the scenes she is mapping where I’ve gone and the places where I’ve gone the fastest.  And in a world where I will take any little bit of encouragement I can get, I love hearing her sweet voice at the start of the last half mile “Almost there – you can do it.”

Today I broke a speed record with my fastest ever average of 10.6 mph.  I found out that several of my gears actually work and I really booked it (going west, remember the incline) which brought it up, along with the fact that I didn’t have to wait 5 minutes to cross the highway before getting to the gate. If I get much faster I’ll have to leave the park where the limit is 15 mph.

I sweat when I bike so don’t tell me it’s not a workout, and do encourage me to keep it up.  It only takes half an hour and I’m breathing hard the whole time.  It’s better than a pill for my blood pressure – certainly doesn’t have as long a list of adverse effects – and it does make me feel a little more serious about taking care of myself.  (But it doesn’t mean I’m not looking for a used golf cart. Those things are handy.)