Posts Tagged ‘Batman’

imageI have had many heroes and mentors in my life growing up. From fantasy and books; Batman, Superman, Wolverine and the X-Men, Captain Kirk, Luke Skywalker, and on and on. There were heroes from life; Walt Disney, Teachers, Family Members, Co-Workers, and friends. Heroes who inspire me, affected me, motivated and challenged me. I know them fairly well, either through a personal relationship or reading and studying about those heroes.

Which makes the Hero I have to add to the top of my list a bit of an anomaly. I have never met this person, but I have as personal of a physical connection to this person as a person could possibly have. I don’t know anything about this Hero, not even his/her name. In fact I may never know, even though I hope to find out some day. This new hero is my heart donor.

On May 2, 2014, my journey of living with heart failure after a virus first settled into my heart 12 years before that, has entered a new phase as I was blessed with the gift of a new heart.

I don’t have any information about my donor. I will be able to write a letter to my donor’s family and hope that they would want contact and then share some info so I may better know this great person. In the U.S., the organ donation process is completely anonymous and protected. Until then, I don’t know if it was male, female, what age, where they lived, what they did, or anything else.

Here is what I do know.

I know this person is selfless and generous. They cared enough to pass on a piece of themselves to afford me to continue and improve my life. They chose to do something that hopefully provides a positive out of any negatives that their passing has caused their family.

For that simple fact, this person will be the greatest hero I may never meet.

You too can become a hero to someone just by becoming an organ donor. You can sign up any time you renew your driver’s license, or online sites such as http://www.donatelife.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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I have been called “big-hearted” many times through my life.  Up until 2002 I took it as a compliment…a good thing. Then I caught a virus while travelling for business and wound up with an infection that settled into the enzymes in the fluid that surrounds my heart, causing the heart muscle tissue to inflame and enlarge.

I had always thought that big muscles were also a good thing.  Several coaches and trainers over the years tried to beat that fact into my head while working out in gyms for football, wrestling, and fitness in general.  What they never tell you, is that it is bad for your heart muscle to get so big!  Mine had swelled to 2x the normal size easily, and the fact that it had grown bigger than intended, it became an inefficient pumping machine, and became less capable of pumping the life-sustaining blood through my body. My EF (ejection fraction) rate – the amount of blood that is pumped per one beat or squeeze of the muscle, had dropped to 12%.

I (being a typical guy) thought that the weakness and fatigue were related to the pace I was keeping for work, and a remaining effect of the flu type virus.  It only concerned me when my body swelled up with edema (water weight) by over 40 pounds. When the heart is weaker, and the blood flow is slower, the body goes into preservation mode and starts shutting down other functions, like the liver and kidneys so I was not “evacuating” all the water. I ended up in the emergency room where I was diagnosed with non-ischemic cardiomyopathy (potentially viral related, but the docs were never 100% sure of that) also known as chronic or congestive heart failure.

It was controllable in the first few years strictly through medicines. Another lesson I had always learned from Coaches was that the best offense was a great defense, so I started assessing heart health to see what could be done.  Snoring and sleep apnea can greatly damage the heart by reducing/cutting off oxygen supply to the body. So after a sleep test was conducted, I began to use a bi-pap (constant air pressure flow device) and started to experience the best sleep I have ever had.  Now it is like second nature to use, and the children know it as “Daddy’s sleeping mask” (not as cool as Batman’s cowl, but I can live with it).

Another line of defense that happened in 2004 was to install an ICD (Implanted Cardio Defibrillator) as an “insurance policy”. 90% of people who suffer from heart failure (cardiomyopathy) die from not receiving a life saving shock from first responders, so I got to carry my own on board. I only felt the shock on the first night it was installed when they tested the device.  It feels as if you are hit in the chest by a baseball bat swung by a home-run hitter.

Things were progressing fine from there, until 2010.  I went through a bad streak of illness from November of 2010 to February of 2011.  I had a misdiagnosed infected gallbladder, that wasn’t removed until January of 2011.  In February, we found out that the infections from the gallbladder had spread and attacked my already weakened heart, once again.

My cardiologists recommended installing a pacemaker to help retrain the heart how to beat correctly and become a more efficient pump, and so it was added into the mix, and into me. The new device seemed to do the trick.  I had lost over one hundred pounds by May of 2011. The pacer was helping the heart to pump correctly, but we soon found out that the medicines were starting to become less effective.

The medicines were changed, increased, decreased, swapped, and monitored in order to get the heart failure back under control.  It wreaked havoc on my system.  My electrolytes were going crazy, especially my potassium levels, which triggered several instances of heart trouble, where I received shocks on six different occasions. Not a fun experience.

Finally, it was determined that I needed to go to the next level of heart health care and I was referred to the Cardiologists at the University of Minnesota to determine if I qualified to get a spot on the heart transplant list and begin the process of waiting for a donor heart to become available. I did qualify, and I am on the list, but I also needed to have a LVAD (left ventricular assist device) to help my heart pump the blood as I wait on the list. More on the LVAD in future posts.

71233-11910-104231-1-walter-lantz-andy-pa_mediumI have a passion for reading.  I tend to read mostly fiction – tending along the lines of suspense-thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, and the occasional action books.  While growing up in the 70’s, I could never get enough to read just from novels.  So I filled the gaps in between with comic books.  My collections started with a few cardboard boxes of comics from my Dad.  He had collected them, or was given them by his father who happened to own a drug store. So I now have a few Looney Tunes, Hi & Lois, Andy Pandas, & Dennis the Menace books dating back to 1956.

I liked all the classic DC heroes, although Batman, Flash, and Superman happened to be my favorites, until one day in the late 70’s I went over to Boyd Hooper’s house, and for the first time, I saw a copy of the X-men. I was hooked. The stories were unlike any I had ever read. The concept that we all had the “potential” to have a1938-actioncomics1 mutant gene that could give us superpowers when we entered puberty was very influential on a boy (going through puberty at the time).

Wolverine quickly became my favorite.  I then would cross over to other Marvel books to follow any other appearances of any of the X-men.  I quickly got caught up in all the other titles.  Marvel just seemed to have better writers than DC at the time.  The characters were a bit more flawed, and closer to being “human” than the near indestructible Superman.

I hope to share this addiction/passion with my children, to a degree of course.  If they love it, then great, if not, then I guess the collection all goes on e-bay someday (Yikes!).  Supergirl has shown the same passion for reading, so when she’s older, we’ll see what she thinks. What hobby from your youth are you inflicting on your v5feat_211-x-men_133spouse/children?