The Scleroderma Chronicles: The BLZ gets a CPET

The BLZ had some anxiety going into this test…

Last month I had a right heart catherization that showed an unexpected problem with my heart… there is a cardiac shunt that is allowing blood from the left side (you know, the one that is always colored red because that blood is rich with oxygen) to shoot over into the other side of the heart where it disrupts blood flow and adds pressure to the (blue) right side of the heart; that is a little tough on the right side because it isn’t built to handle the extra pressure. Houston, we have an explanation for all that blue panting that is going on.

Cool. Finally we were getting some answers and my doctors were taking my symptoms more seriously. My cardiologist ordered up some more tests to collect data and clarify the issue.

The test that I have been the most concerned about was the cardiopulmonary exercise test that was scheduled for last Monday. I hunted for some cool links to explain the test to use in this post and came up with a bunch of technical articles for physicians and specialists. Okay. Let’s not go there. I’ll try to explain what this test was all about. I was hooked up to a bunch of monitoring equipment that tracked my breathing and heart while I was riding a bike. As part of the test my lung function was tested, my heart monitored (like in an EKG), my blood pressure was tracked, my respiration rate, and the actual amount of oxygen I was using and the carbon dioxide that I was expelling for each mL of blood pumped. It was a lot!!

I was a little concerned because of my bad boy hip, but that wasn’t really a problem at all.

I shared my catnip with the Mother of Cats so that she wouldn’t have any trouble with the test.

The test went great for about 7 minutes: then there was an emergency stop. My blood pressure had suddenly zoomed up into the stratosphere at about 6 minutes into the test, and then 30 seconds later I began panting like crazy and the technician pulled the plug. Remember that cardiac shunt they found in the cath lab? When I exercise the direction of blood flow in that shunt reverses and blood from the right side is shooting into the left side where it interferes with the pumping of oxygenated blood to my body. No wonder I turn blue and pant.

The BLZ is both happy and sad at the same time.

The specialist who did my CPET was great at explaining the data to me; when he sent the report to my doctors he also included me in the email group. For the last week I have been reading the back and forth discussion by my doctors about the test and what the next steps for me will be. I am really pleased to be included in this process and feel that this option should be available to everyone; it is also kind of scary as I get a glimpse of what is coming down the road for me later in the testing department.

The gear and set-up for the CPET was pretty impressive. I joked with the specialist about it and he told me that there was an even more extreme version of testing that included a right heart catherization at the same time as the exercise test. Yep. You guessed it. That’s what my docs are considering to do next. It is clear that I have a cardiac shunt but they haven’t located it yet. The BLZ is pretty bummed. The word “profound” was used to describe my symptoms. There has also been some speculation about neuroendocrine tumors… The good news here is that no one is even considering sleep apnea or me needing antidepressants because, you know, I complain too much…

The BLZ is both happy and sad at the same time.

I keep my eye on the Mother of Cats while she reads her email.

So, it was a kind of tough week. I pulled myself together on Tuesday and went to a new yarn store for a little pick-me-up and was so distracted I missed my turn twice and had to detour through Starbucks before I actually pulled up in front of the store. I almost didn’t go in I was so worn out by then, but I did a little mental slapping to put myself into motion, pulled out my cane, and went in…

…to discover a woman dragging out three big bags of yarn that kind of screamed “community knitting” because they weren’t the yarn being sold in the store. “Hey! I want to community knit! Please, can I come play with you guys?” I immediately said.

That is how I ended up in a new local yarn store this morning knitting with the most wonderful group of ladies in the world. They are all current or former employees of the Kaiser medical system that I go to for my care, and they are producing hats for all of the Kaiser clinics that have infusion centers; I know those centers because they are the same ones that rheumatology patients go to. These ladies are all vaccinated and they all wore masks because they knew I was taking a risk to come. They had donuts! I have found a new knitting home when I needed it like no other. I actually cried a little with joy and relief as I drove away at the end of the meeting.

If I hadn’t made all those bad turns and the Starbucks stop this wouldn’t have happened.

My yarn stash is full of yarn that wants to turn into hats. Hats with happy colors and a dash of cashmere. I am on fire with purpose to produce as many hats as I can for other people who are facing down serious medical situations. I want to make them arm warmers and fingerless mitts. I have tapped into the best, most perfect group to produce useful gifts for other people like myself just when I needed to be grounded, inspired, and calmed by the peace of knitting.

The BLZ is happy.

The Saturday Update: Weeks 39 and 40, 2021

The days are still warm, dry and sunny, but the nights are finally getting a little cooler. I spend my afternoons in the swinging garden chair on the deck, reading and knitting in the strange silence that has now descended on the garden: no more crickets, cicadas, migrating geese, or even the pit bull next door. All are now gone, and the only sounds I hear are the squirrels racing through the trees and the occasional drifting fall of leaves. The maple tree out back, usually a blaze of red color by now, is slowly turning a golden brown with a few flashes of red. Seriously? This is how you are going to finish up the year? Figures.

This is as good as it is going to get this year I guess.

The ground is covered with dead leaves as these sorry examples of autumn glory drift off the tree. We never had a freeze, and I think that these brown leaves coming down are the result.

The baby bunny of the summer has found a mate.

Over the last weekend I noticed lots of digging in the yard from the bunny, and then one night the flood lights revealed that there were two bunnies in my yard! My little guy was not all alone any more! Now my bunny, all grown up, is gone.

Next week we will finally get colder weather and perhaps some rain. There will be snow in our mountains and all of my leaves will be gone off the tree.

Summer, truly, is finally over.

Knitting

I finished the second Rock It Tee this week!

Can you see how I blended the three skeins of yarn from light to dark as I alternated them through the sweater? The lightest is at the top.

I am now down to only one knitting project left, the second Snark-O-Meter that I am rapidly finishing off with lots of cat help.

I finished up clue 4 last night and will start clue 5 today. This baby should be done in just a few more days of knitting.

Yesterday I cleaned out my little project bags, sorted yarn in the stash, and organized myself for a prolonged sweater knitting campaign. I’m tempted to start the Stephen West MKAL (Shawlography), but as I sorted I realized that I had the yarn to make several sweaters all stocked up and waiting to go. It isn’t all that cold yet, but eventually sweater weather will get here and it is time for me to switch over to sweaters and to start working my way through the stash again.

I also, through great serendipity, located a community knitting group last week that makes hats for patients going through chemo at the infusion center where I used to go to my (old, kicked to the curb) rheumatologist’s office. I know that center, located between oncology and rheumatology, as I used to sit in that waiting room every rheumatologist appointment. Why is the infusion center next to rheumatology? Because, little known fact, many rheumatology patients (along with other people struggling with autoimmune disease), receive chemo and infusions of biologic drugs. I know, only too well, what a struggle it is to control Reynaud’s Phenomenon while hooked up to an IV in air conditioning. I’m joining the knitting group and will be knitting as many little fingerless mitts and arm warmers as I can for drop off to the center along with the chemo hats.

There. Knitting plans for the rest of the year all worked out. 🙂

Garden

This is ridiculous, but all of my mental energy is focused on planting all the potted plants into the gardens (Where should I put them? This is a big decision.) and making an indoor home for the jade plants that have been outdoors all summer.

This plant tripled in size over the summer. I moved it to this large pot, but now it is… large.

I recently discovered that jade plants are poisonous for cats. Oh, no. I have had jade plants in the house for years with my cats, and never had an issue, but now that I know I’m worried about a cat/plant interaction. I have an indoor garden shelf system established to keep the plants indoors over the winter, but this pot won’t fit now. I’ve decided to use chicken wire to keep the cats away from the shelf with the smaller jades, but this one plant is going to be challenging. Ugh. I can move shelves to create more space, or I can build a cage to put over the plant, or… these are the days when I miss the greenhouse I had in my biology classroom.

Books

This is an amazing book!!

I loved, loved, loved All the Light We Cannot See, so when I saw this book was coming out I preordered it right away. When it dropped into my Kindle library I forced myself to take a break from The Murderbot Diaries to read this. Holy, Moly! Best decision ever. Cloud Cuckoo Land is a book to read and savor.

So you probably have already guessed that I am really enjoying this book. It is the tale of a ridiculous comedy written by an ancient Greek author that is preserved over time and that connects people separated by centuries who are caught up in the jaws of history. Sounds improbable when I write it down, but this works and it is really good! I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but the story moves right along at a perfect pace, going back and forth between the characters and the Greek tale in a way that links them together and brings meaning to their lives and the Greek comedy in an unforeseen manner that eerily connects to my life also. Owls are a recurring element of the stories in the book: as I read in the night it is to the sound of booming “who-who’s” from the Great Horned owls in my neighborhood. (Bunnies: make good choices tonight!!) I read on in this book that is essentially about the power and of legacy of books as I consider which of my books to leave in one of the community Little Free Libraries next week. The power of books, the legacy of lives, the preservation of who we are: a big message contained in a book that immerses you in a powerful story.

Have a good week, everyone.

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

Mateo the CoalBear: and hug a cat!