Valentine’s celebration tonight…Today is my three year “heartaversary” and thank goodness, the beat goes on…

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Last night, with eight of us at a big table on the veranda at Jabula, I had planned to take some photos. In my excitement to be seated with three of my dear female friends, Rita, Lynne, and Janet, I was so distracted that my photos didn’t come out so well. We plan to take better photos at my birthday gathering next Sunday, February 20, at Jabula, when we are hosting dinner and drinks for 12 of us.

Mick, Gerhard, Steve, and Tom were seated at the opposite end of the table, although we all shared in the conversation at times. This is a lively group of travelers, each couple with countless adventures and passions for the wild, nature, and stunning scenery.

We are always happy to see Big Daddy in all his majestic glory.

Lynne and Mick, and Steve and Janet live on the small English island of Jersey. They are all avid birders. Lynne and Mick just returned from a fantastic “birding” cruise, fulfilling a dream of seeing and photographing several species new to them. Janet and Lynne, who live five minutes from one another on the island, shared their stories of swimming together in the cold ocean in the early morning hours in Jersey during high tide.

The conversation was so lively. At times we were all talking at once. I even found myself rudely interrupting when I usually am more gracious. I will work on that!

As mentioned in yesterday’s post and as shown in the above image, tonight, we’re heading back to Jabula, just the two of us, to celebrate Valentine’s Day, which is actually on Monday. But, most establishments acknowledge the special day on Saturday night instead of Monday when operating at a lighter staff during the pandemic. We never mind going back two nights in a row.

Two generations of Big Daddies, scoping out the garden for pellets and possible threats.

On top of that, today is the third anniversary of my triple cardiac bypass surgery. On February 11, 2019, I posted the following from our link here to inform our readers that there wouldn’t be a post for a week or more. I wrote a quick blurb to say there would be a full post the next day. As it turned out, I didn’t do another post until February 23, when finally I left the hospital in Nelspruit with a massive recovery ahead of me.

But, the power was out the next full day, and it was so hot, and I was in such pain that I wondered how I’d make it through the day. Wearing the mandatory compression stockings in the 104F, 40C made life miserable. There was no place to get comfortable due to the pain, and the heat only worsened matters.

Finally, on February 25, 2019, I wrote my first full post since the surgery, as shown here. When I reread that post this morning, I couldn’t believe how hard it was, but between Tom’s loving caregiving and Louise’s thoughtfulness, somehow, I got through it. You can read more about it on the post if you’d like.

A young daddy with lots of growing to do.

Of course, I am grateful on this date, which patients on Facebook refer to as their “heartaversary.” Ironically, tonight we’re celebrating the heart concentric Valentine’s Day.

We just found out that the power is out tonight at Gate 1, which doesn’t impact us since we’re on the Gate 2 side. But, Jabula is located on the Gate 1 side, and if power isn’t restored by 5:00 pm, 1700 hrs, they may not be able to host tonight’s Valentine’s event. As always, we’ll play it by ear and decide what to do later.

Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, February 12, 2021

This male impala visited us in the garden. These animals rarely come close to humans, so we were pleasantly surprised to see him in the garden. For more photos, please click here.

A stunning discovery…Everything has changed…

In Madeira, Portugal, five years ago today, we wrote: “Nothing like a view from the veranda at dusk.”  For more details from that post, please click here.

Fascinating Fact of the Day About Ireland 
The Royal Cork Yacht
Club, founded in 1720, is widely recognized as the world’s oldest yacht club.
The club plays host to Cork Week, Ireland’s largest and most prestigious
sailing event, held every two years and attracting boats and sailors from
around the world. There is still a very strong tradition of sailing in many of
our coastal towns, and you can either hire small sailing boats for your own use
or sign up to sailing courses in towns such as Schull and Baltimore.”

In an effort to avoid complaining and becoming known as a “whinger” or “whiner,”  I haven’t disclosed here quite how bad my recent situation has been.  My painful legs and arms made walking or performing the simplest of tasks unbearable.

Yes, I walked everyday recording steps on my fitness tracker but each step took everything I could muster.  Also, I wasn’t noticing any improvement after all the walking up the hill, up and down the stairs, and throughout the house.

I’d mentioned this to Tom but didn’t emphasize how severe the pain was.  I didn’t want him to worry any more than he’d worried already.  As of several days ago, I was imagining life in a wheelchair along with an end to our travels.  Desperately, I tried not to keep mentioning it.
A summer rose in Madeira.
The only relief I had was when sitting or lying down.  When I was cooking or hanging laundry I could barely stand in one place.  I was trying hard not to let this get me down but I was teetering on the edge.

Each time we’ve grocery shopped or took off sightseeing, I could barely get my legs to move.  My arms and shoulders ached.  I did arm and shoulder exercises to no avail. Getting dressed took everything I had.

Each day I contemplated what we were having for dinner and how long I’d have to stand in the kitchen to prep the items.  I let carrots spoil when I couldn’t imagine peeling them while standing at the counter.  I know I could have asked Tom for help but good grief, it’s been over five months and I’ve needed to be more independent.  How would this ever improve?

I wrote to the cardiologist and he assumed something was wrong with my heart and I needed to make an appointment with a cardiologist.  But, my heart is fine.  When I’ve walked up the hill in front of the house my legs burned beyond description.  My pulse was exactly where it should have been.  I wasn’t out of breath any more than Tom would have been.  He’s very healthy!
Lush greenery, blue skies, and the sea create a colorful scene in Madeira.
At a loss, I didn’t know what to do.  Subsequently, I started reading the medical literature, kindle books, and reputable information by world-famous and highly regarded cardiologists and physicians…not public opinion, not forums, and not heart-related blogs.

After weeks of research, I discovered what I’d expected, that as much as 30% of patients stopped taking their prescribed statins due to side effects.  In the US, over 28% of people over 40 years old are on statins.  How much money Big Pharma has made!

Prior to the discovery of my cardiac issues, I was a stench naysayer about statins, having read volumes about them.  I’d pull out my statin “soapbox” from time to time (when appropriate) and express my views.

But, when suddenly I was a cardiac patient after triple bypass surgery, the first drug they gave me was a statin, comparable to a drug called Crestor in the US but known as Zuvamor 40 mg in South Africa.  
Rooftops, power lines and terraced hills are a common sight.
When I questioned the doctors expressing my aversion to statins during my followup appointments, who are often funded by “Big Pharma” they insisted the drug would save my life.  Frightened, while not feeling well, I acquiesced and took the daily dose.

Every day that passed, the pain escalated and I came to the conclusion it was the statins, for the very reason I was vehemently opposed to this class of drugs.  Conducting more research I discovered it takes 77 hours or more for the drugs to leave one’s system.

On Tuesday night, I took the last pill deciding I was done with statins.  If, and I mean, if, I believed that they’d protect my health, I might be worried about stopping.  But, after considerable research, I feel at ease knowing I am doing the right thing.

Please keep in mind my decision to stop statins in no way is a suggestion you do the same, nor am I soliciting any medical advice. Each of us must become well educated as to what works for us with the support of medical professionals you trust.
Banana leaves along the road.

That’s the keyword…”trust.”  I noticed in the medical report I received from the surgeon (upon request) that he stated I’d had a heart attack.  I did not have a heart attack and asked him to amend the report accordingly.

This morning, less than 77 hours since I stopped the drug, I got out of bed, hopeful.  Alas, after moving around I noticed an 80% improvement in the pain in my arms and legs.  I’m anticipating that as more and more of the drug leaves my system, I’ll continue to feel more relief.

This morning we grocery shopped and for the first time shopping since the surgery on February 12th, never once did I think about pain in my arms and legs.  Once back at the house I easily put away the groceries while Tom helped as usual.  

Previously, I had to pull up a chair to the open refrigerator to put things away.  Today, I easily bent over the under-counter fridge to load the vegetables in the drawer.

With few homes having clothes dryers, railings on verandas become clotheslines.

Am I taking a risk?  With no conclusive evidence that taking statins prevents heart disease, I don’t think so.  But, if I am taking a huge risk, quality of life is most important to me.  Living in a wheelchair due to side effects from a drug is no quality of life for me, especially for our lifestyle.

You may say, try another statin.  I appreciate the concern.  But side effects are many regardless of the brand name and even lower doses.  I’m done.  Done and happy to be so.

My legs are weak but now instead of walking gingerly and favoring the pain, I can begin to walk with confidence and finally build some strength.  No, I’m not totally 100%.  That will take time, especially at my age.  But, I will continue on this path with optimism and hope for the future. 

Thank you for listening…

Be well.  Very well.
Photo from one year ago today, July 26, 2018:
This giraffe was having a “bad hair day!”  The hair on the female giraffe’s ossicones is usually short and straight up.  For more photos, please click here.

Finally a diagnosis and..we don’t like it…Oh, my!..

Ms. Bushbuck always appears to have a smile on her face.  I love her and her offspring!

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

The four piglets certainly have grown over the past six months.  They are so fun to watch.

Sorry I didn’t post yesterday. With the news from the doctor on Thursday after the angiogram, I didn’t have it in me to sit down and write on my phone’s small screen. My laptop was in a repair shop in Nelspruit while I stayed overnight in the hospital. There was an issue with the electrical plug-in. Thankfully, they got it working again.

I’ll get to the bad news first to avoid drama and anticipation. I have three 100% blocked coronary arteries, including the “Widow Maker” (in this case, the ‘Widower Maker). Basically, I am a walking time bomb. I need coronary bypass surgery, and I need it fast.

It’s scheduled at the hospital with a thoracic surgeon that works with the cardiologist I’ve been seeing. They both will perform with the surgery. I feel as if I’m in good hands based on the number of positive comments from locals who know them well. I have no choice. At this point, I cannot fly on an airplane or even be active, for that matter…too risky.

We are both shocked. How did this happen? The doctors say there was nothing I could have done to prevent this situation. Heredity is the driving force, and as hard as I’ve tried to stay healthy my entire life, there was no way I could have prevented this outcome.

Of course, we are very grateful a diligent doctor, Dr. Theo Stonkquist, a GP in the tiny town of Komatipoort, had the insight and expertise to insist I have an exercise stress test at his office last Saturday when I complained of intermittent jaw pain, which was later described as angina. 

Although I breezed through the stress test with relative ease, barely out of breath, the printout didn’t look good. Dr. Theo immediately contacted Dr. Fanie in Nelspruit on “Whatsapp” and sent him the report. He was adamant we get to Nelspruit to the Mediclinic first thing Monday morning for more tests.

For the early morning appointment, we booked a hotel near the hospital and stayed two nights. On Tuesday, I had a CAT scan of my arteries and failed that test and others miserably. An angiogram was scheduled for Thursday. 

We returned to Marloth Park, spent one night, and called Dr. Fanie the following morning at 9:00 am. He was short and to the point. I needed an angiogram promptly when the CAT scan showed one artery had a 100% blockage.

In the cath lab the next afternoon, after a many-hour wait for my turn, I was told I’d be awake for the angiogram with only a mild sedative placed under my tongue. It was pretty interesting watching all the monitors showing my heart and its arteries. The doctor, anesthesiologist, and about seven support staff were informative and supportive.

Ms. Bushbuck’s baby has sure grown over the past many months as well.

We’d hope he’d insert a stent, and I’d be done. But, not the case. Before my own eyes, the angiogram revealed that three of my coronary arteries are 100% blocked. If I’d had a heart attack, he explained, I wouldn’t survive it. I’m so grateful this was discovered before we left for Kenya, known for not-so-good medical care.

Toward the end of the hour-long angiogram, the doctor explained (and showed me) why stents were impossible to place. The only alternative was a triple coronary bypass scheduled for Tuesday next week, a mere three days from now.

I’m on medication in the interim and was told to avoid anything strenuous or stressful. The strenuous part is a breeze. The stressful? Well, I can’t imagine anyone on the planet not feeling a bit stressed over such a thing as open-heart surgery, including striping arteries from their legs to replace those blocked in the heart. 

However, we are both so grateful this was discovered in time and pray for a safe and good outcome and speedy recovery.  As they say, “we may be down, but we’re not out.”  Hopefully, six weeks from the time of the surgery, we’ll be boarding our ship from San Antonio, Chile.  No pressure, just wishful thinking. 

No doubt, I will be a good patient and do everything I can to recover as prescribed, and we’ll continue with our world travels.

As for the posts??? We will continue tomorrow, Sunday, and again on Monday while staying overnight in the hospital for Tuesday’s surgery. I can’t wait for that day! As of Tuesday, February 12th, the posts will cease for five to seven days until I’m well enough to report.

Tom will be regularly posting updates on my Facebook page, which is open to the public. Please start checking back here by next Sunday.

Tomorrow, we’ll be sharing the news on how this situation has been handled by our annual international health insurance company, which information may be helpful for those traveling the world, ex-pats, and those contemplating traveling.

No words can describe how grateful we are for the outpouring of love and prayers from family, friends, and readers from all over the world. We can’t keep up with the email messages, comments, and texts. We’d love to respond to every one of you, but there aren’t enough hours in the day. We can only be humbled by your love, prayers, and kindness.

A special thanks to friends Kathy, Don, Linda, and Ken for inviting us for dinner last night (which was the initially planned night of our going away party – since canceled) and making the evening so filled with caring conversation, love and laughter. Tonight, we all meet up again at Jabula, our usual Saturday night out.

Thank you…from the bottom of my “heart.”

Photo from one year ago today, February 9, 2018:

A sea of penguins. For more details and final photos, please click here.