Bad night…Afib returned…Not much sleep…

There were several bird cages with parakeets in the restaurant in Marrakesh.

Last night, Tom dropped me back at our place around 7:00 pm after spending the late afternoon at Colleen’s place. Something wasn’t quite right with me, but I didn’t want to say anything in front of the eight of us while playing cards and socializing. Once back here, I changed into my pajamas and settled down to watch American Idol.

Within about 40 minutes of settling in, I felt the Afib hit. I did an ECG on my Fitbit, and it indicated atrial fibrillation. I did every technique possible but couldn’t get it to stop. It felt awful, as always. A few nights ago, the same thing happened when Tom and I were streaming a show at about the same time in the evening as last night. It took about two hours to return to normal sinus rhythm.

Last night, it lasted for about five hours. At 9:00 pm, I took my usual dose of Afib medication, and then around three hours later, it kicked in and stopped. I never called Tom to return to be with me. I know it’s very frustrating for him when he can’t do anything to help me. So, I kept it to myself until he returned about 12:30 am. By then, it had stopped, and I was anxious to sleep.

We’d planned to do laundry this morning, but I didn’t have the strength to sort the clothes and ride in the car to the laundry room. Tom always does all the lifting and putting the clothes into the washers and dryers. But I was too weak to fold the clothes. We’ll do it another day.

After moving around this morning and chopping ingredients for tonight’s taco salad, I feel better but not quite well enough to walk today or do my usual yoga exercises. Tom cooked the ground beef for the taco salad, and all I had to do was chop onions, celery, lettuce, and tomatoes.

I seasoned the meat, and it’s now in the refrigerator to be reheated at dinnertime. It looks like we’ll be staying in tonight. Today, Tom will drop Mary and Eugene at the airport in Mesa and return here for dinner. I’ve insisted he can go if he wants to return to Colleen’s home after dinner around 5:00 pm. But he sounds determined to stay with me.

Last night, I sent a message to scheduling nurse Tina at Cleveland Clinic, asking if she could speed up getting us an appointment date. Having this Afib is indicative that my failing valves are worsening, a sure sign that something must be done before too long.

Cleveland Clinic has the highest survival rate in the US. I am committed to going there instead of any other facility in the country. Sure, there are many good heart clinics in the US, and if it becomes an emergency, I may have to choose another clinic, but right now, I am willing to wait.

I don’t have any of the urgent symptoms indicating surgery must be done immediately: swollen ankles, breathing issues, chest pain, or other angina, although Afib is a known symptom for many patients. I think I can wait a little longer. They’ve seen my reports and surely would get me in sooner if they felt it was urgent. At least, I hope so.

Emotionally, I am fine, although I check my phone each time I hear the email notification ping. We plan to continue our US travels, leaving Arizona on May 1. It’s still 13 nights until we depart Arizona. If anything worsens, we’ll go to emergency at one of Cleveland Clinics’ associated hospitals in Arizona.

Otherwise, today’s weather is beautiful with a high of 88F and sunny skies. We use the aircon at night but turn it off in the morning and open the screened sliding door for fresh air. A few minutes ago, almost at noon, Tom turned it back on when it started getting very warm here. Park models can get hot quickly, but the excellent whole-house aircon units cool it down in minutes. Whenever we leave the unit, we turn it off.

I will try a little walking now and see how that goes. We hope all is well your way.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, April 18, 2014:

in Marrakesh, a complimentary bowl of spicy olives is served at Arabe restaurant. For more photos, please click here.

We’re back…News on test results…What does the future hold?…Four days and counting…

An ornate mirror in the master bedroom of the riad in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Yesterday, when I returned three hours after the cardiology appointment after I had another echocardiogram, the third in a year, I couldn’t bring myself to write the post. I needed to talk to Tom, devise a plan, and get to work on implementing a plan to ease our minds.

No, the results were not good. The status of my mitral and tricuspid valves had worsened progressively in the three echocardiograms I had in the past year. The state of the valves progressed from “moderate” to “severe” in less than a year, indicating that I need surgery, according to the cardiologist, the second such cardiologist making this diagnosis since November 2023.

My hope would have been that I could have the easy repair done through the groin with a few devices, but I am not a candidate for that procedure based on my prior open heart surgery in February 2019. Here we go again, another open heart surgery which, last time, took me a year to recover.

I had plenty of time to prepare myself for this eventuality and wasn’t shocked when the doctor told me yesterday that it was too risky to wait. Sure, I might get lucky, and it wouldn’t get worse. But leaving it, when it doesn’t heal by itself, would put an end to our ability to travel again and could result in a fatal heart attack or severe damage to my heart from which there would be no coming back.

At this point, my heart is healthy. However, the valves pumping blood through my system have caused serious regurgitation. Most seniors have some degree of regurgitation, a normal aspect of aging, but mine is far beyond that safe zone.

Even if we didn’t travel, there are too many risks to either ignore or postpone this scenario. I could have a fatal heart attack wherever we may be at any given time. I’ve thought about my age at 76; maybe my life expectancy isn’t very long anyway. Living with this and worrying about it is not my style. I want to be active and able to tackle whatever we do in whatever upcoming years we may have left.

I have faced this reality over the past year since I was diagnosed with Afib (the bad valves are causing the Afib) and researched options if I did need surgery as to where I’d have it done. Ultimately, I chose the Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Mark Gillinov, the top valve surgeon in the US, if not worldwide.

The question would be, could I get a timely appointment with him in Cleveland, Ohio, to address this situation? Yesterday, after Tom and I had discussed the problem at length, I decided I’d get to work to get an appointment with Dr. Gillinov, knowing he’s booked months in advance.

The process has started. This morning, we headed to the UPS store to make copies and mail all the documents I’ve gathered and questions I’ve answered according to their requests on a comprehensive checklist. Once he receives the documents and reviews my situation, he’ll determine when he can see me and when the surgery is likely to occur. After a lengthy conversation, his assistant Tina assured me yesterday that July might be the soonest I can get in.

That’s only three months away. If I started having bad symptoms, they’d get me in sooner on an emergency basis. The symptoms are being tired and having swollen legs and ankles. I have neither of these symptoms now. They can occur in a day or gradually over time.

Here’s our plan. We will continue to travel in the US to see family, starting in four days when we depart Lake Las Vegas. When we hear from Dr. Gillinov, we’ll drop everything and head to Cleveland, Ohio. It could be in a month or, as mentioned above, in three months, most likely not later.

Last night, I called Louise to tell her we are postponing our trip to Marloth Park after I have been cleared to travel on the long flight and feel well enough to tackle it. I told her to hang on to our deposit. As always, she was always wonderful and supportive. The house on Ratel will be waiting for us once we know when we can get there.

As travelers, it’s easy for us to find a place in Cleveland where we’ll stay for the surgery and subsequent recovery. Also, the clinic has accommodations for reasonable rents, and it would be comforting to be close to the hospital after this extensive surgery.

How do I feel? I’m ok, not depressed or feeling hopeless at all. I’m anxious to get this over with, but I will enjoy our family members and friends during our travels in the US in the interim. Tom is always supportive and will do everything he can to help me during this process.

I know we’ll lose many of our readers over the next six months, and I fully understand your reluctance to continue reading our posts until we’re on the move again. Please start checking back with the news of when we’ll return to Africa.

For those of you who will continue to read our posts through all this mundane news, I will continue to do a daily post and update you on the surgery dates, during which I may not post for about two weeks.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow. I guess it’s time to start packing.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, March 28, 2014:

Today, we’re posting the 17 mirrors in Dar Aicha, Marrakesh, Morocco, which we believe may enhance the appearance of the narrow sizes of some of the rooms surrounding the central courtyard. For more photos, please click here.

No news yet…

The Medina, The Big Square in Marrakesh, Morocco, at night. Quite a sight to see!

As it turned out, the cost for the Uber round-trip from our condo in Lake Las Vegas to the cardiology clinic in the center of Henderson, a 25-minute trip, was less than I’d anticipated. The total was $62, including the tips. One day for a rental car would have been more than that.

For the first time, I rode in a Tesla. I observed many different features in the car, including a weird difficulty opening the door to enter the vehicle. Maybe it was me, but that type of door handle was confusing and unnecessary. Certain things, the old way, were just fine and efficient.

I arrived 45 minutes before the scheduled appointment. I filled out many pages of forms, including health information and HIPAA (privacy forms), which I’ve never filled out in other countries. Of course, with my awful handwriting, I struggled to write in the blanks, doing my best. I figured they’d tell me if they couldn’t decipher my writing.

When done, with 30 minutes before my appointment, I played with my phone for a few minutes until they called my name. The nurse weighed me and took me into a room to check my blood pressure, which is always high, at the doctor’s office (“White Coat Syndrome”) and performed an ECG.

Shortly after, the doctor entered the room. Dr. Adeel was very thorough and oddly interested in our world travels when I explained why I had my last cardiology appointment in Ecuador and last April in South Africa.

I brought the test results from the last ultrasound from South Africa, performed 11 months ago in South Africa, for him to see. After reviewing it, he couldn’t assess until I had a new ultrasound, which is now scheduled for March 27, a full three weeks from now—more waiting time.

The receptionist had difficulty finding an appointment for me when the doctor would be available. They have several locations, and next time, I will go to a different location, a little further away. I didn’t want to have the ultrasound and then have to schedule another appointment with the doctor on another day. That made no sense.

That’s why I ended up with the March 27th appointment. I wasn’t thrilled with the 8:15 am appointment time since I tend to sleep late and get up late, but I’ll manage to accomplish it. After all, once on the move again, plenty of early morning flights and travel days require us to start early in the day.

I was back at the condo by 2:30. Around 3:30, I received a phone message stating that my Aflac Plan G policy was no longer in effect. I missed the call when it came in, and when I heard the message, I freaked out. I just had a $1000 medical appointment and another $3000 appointment on March 27.

Immediately, I returned the call, but their offices were already closed since they are on the East Coast. I called my agent, but she couldn’t reach anyone that late in the day either. Thus, I spent the evening and the night, wondering if I was insured and what had happened to my policy.

As soon as I was up and ready for the day, I received another call, which ended in a conference call with the agency and Aflac, only to discover nothing was wrong. I am fully insure. Apparently, there was “human error.” I thought I’d have trouble sleeping with this on my mind. Much to my surprise, I slept through the night, awakening at 8:00, bolting out of bed to hurry and get the call made to hopefully ease my mind. What a relief to discover all was fine.

Today, as always, I’ll do my exercises. I’ve already wrapped up everything needed for tonight’s dinner. Soon, Tom and I will work on the rental car for the end of this month so we can begin packing and loading the vehicle for our drive to Arizona, where we’ll drop off the car and take an Uber to the resort, where we’ll stay for about six weeks.

Tomorrow is our 29th wedding anniversary, and we plan to go out to dinner after all instead of over the weekend.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today,  March 6, 2014:

This was the view as we dined in an outdoor café on Tuesday in the Medina in Marrakesh, Morocco. For more photos, please click here.

My health hacks…

This door led to our riad, only a short distance from the souk in the Medina in Marrakesh, Morocco, in March 2014.

As most of our readers know, I spend a lot of time researching every interest that comes to my mind. It’s not unusual for me to spend hours each day when something new piques my interest, which is more often than not. At times, I find myself so engrossed in a topic that hours can fly by, to my amazement, when I stop for a break.

Again, one topic in particular, as our regular readers know, is health and well-being. No, I am not a purist. I subscribe to specific modalities to which others may not agree. I am okay with that. It boils down to a few simple realities: sleep, diet, exercise, sufficient water, minimal alcohol, and harmony in my daily life with minimal stress.

I strive for the optimal benefits from these basic principles, but, like many of us, I falter from time to time. However, my next meal, exercise session, and night’s sleep is an opportunity to begin again, never feeling guilty for slipping, knowing I’m one step away from returning to my chosen path.

My recent goals have included improving my heart health, regardless of the outcome of my cardiology appointment tomorrow afternoon and what is to come in the future regarding the condition of my heart valves, which is precarious at this time and cannot be improved by lifestyle enhancements.

However, whatever treatment I may face down the road can only be successful if I continue improving my overall health daily. Over this past year, I have improved several aspects of my health. Although, at times, I went kicking and screaming, all the while knowing what I had to do.

Today, I will share some “hacks” with you that, without a doubt, have helped me substantially:

  1. Sleep – I have never been a sleep-though-the-night kind of person. Invariably, regardless of what I do, I wake up five out of six nights wide awake, anywhere from 2:00 to 3:00 am, feeling alert and unable to go back to sleep. But in the past several months, I’ve adopted a new state of mind when this happens…I don’t worry about it; trying to get back to sleep. I have trained myself to let my mind be free of concern, implanting the knowledge that eventually, I’ll be sleepy again and have sufficient hours of sleep for excellent functioning during the day without feeling sleepy. This state of mind has changed everything. I always fall back to sleep with seven to eight hours of good sleep. Sure, I have to sleep later, which may not work for everyone, but as a retired person, generally, I do not need to get up at 7:00 am or earlier.
  2. Diet – Since November, when we were in Ecuador and I was desperately struggling with Afib around the clock, I’d read repeatedly that losing weight can help reduce the incidences of Afib events. Over the past several years, since I had cardiac surgery in 2019, I’d gained about 25 pounds, creeping up slowly, partly from medications, partly from being less active, and partly from eating portions that were simply too large. Even on a keto diet, one can overeat and gain weight over time. I cut back on portions, and slowly, since November, I’ve lost about 22 pounds with five more to go. In the meanwhile, in November, I went on medication for Afib and have not had an event since then. I try to eat organic when possible, healthy meats, fish, and poultry, along with healthy fats, and every evening, I have a bowl of Fage Greek Yogurt.
  3. Exercise – Although I tried exercising in Ecuador, the Afib was a severe deterrent before taking the medication. Once we arrived in Nevada in mid-December, I committed to working out as much as possible while keeping the Afib in check. Recently, I escalated the program by adding an app called Better Me with guided exercises suitable for me. I am only on day nine of a repeatable 28-day program. Wow! Is this working for me! In this short period, I’ve noticed a considerable improvement in my stamina and flexibility. I’m still walking but have found ways to increase my daily steps, making reaching my 7000 daily goals much more manageable. For example, this morning, when I was folding and putting away the dry clothes from the drying rack in the second bedroom, I folded one item at a time and walked to the drawers or closets where that item was meant to go. By doing this, I added 1000 steps to today’s goal. Soon, we’ll walk to the market in the Village for more steps, and when we return to the condo, I quickly walk around the center island in the kitchen. It takes about 18 times to add 1000 steps. That sounds like a lot, but we usually listen to podcasts that occupy my mind.
  4. Sufficient water – I quit drinking coffee and flavored zero-calorie drinks a month ago. Now I only drink room temperature water, I never liked drinking water. I always reached for flavored drinks with lots of ice. But I am already feeling better and less bloated and have a better sense of when I am thirsty. No, I am not drinking gallons of water since I am not forcing it. Also, I eat a lot of vegetables, most of which have a high water content, and those, too, count toward a daily goal.
  5. Minimal alcohol – If I have wine, I don’t drink more than one average-sized glass (last Friday night was the exception) of a non-sweet wine such as a Cabernet, Merlot, or Pinot Grigio. There are carbs in wine, and I don’t care, or need, to use my daily allotment of 20 to 30 grams by drinking wine, nor is it healthy to drink more. I am having no ill effects from the one glass.
  6. Harmony in my daily life with minimal stress – I avoid stressful situations at all costs. That doesn’t mean I am unwilling to work through a stressful situation. Since Tom and I get along so well, our daily lives are relatively stress-free. We talk, laugh, and have a good time. But sometimes, things happen over which I have little to no control. During those times, I could feel my heart rate increasing and cortisol (the stress hormone) running through me. Those times, I realized how significant stress reduction is to maintain good health.

I don’t have any easy answers on how to live one’s best life. Nor do I rely upon “internet” suggestions on what we “should” be doing. Those suggestions change almost daily, and it’s impossible to decipher what is suitable for each of us. Even medical studies can be misleading when sponsored by companies trying to convey a message to increase sales of their less-than-ideal products. One must be very careful about the modalities they adopt based on skewed studies and opinions not backed by science.

When I say this today, I especially wish every one of you to “Be well.”

Photo from ten years ago today, March 4, 2014:

The sunlight in the open courtyard of our Moroccan riad provides a welcoming warmth as we acclimate to the cooler weather. For more photos, please click here.

Funny thing happened with Tom’s five-days-a-week contribution to Garage Logic…Where were we yesterday???…

We took this photo of a horse that offered this hysterical post while we were in Costa Rica in February 2015.

If you click on this link for yesterday’s Garage Logic podcast in Minnesota and move your cursor to 1 hour, 16 minutes, and 11 seconds on the February 5, 2024 podcast, and you will hear how popular Tom’s contribution to Garage Logic has ended up getting a Minnesota-based company to be advertisers for Tom’s segment on Garage Logics podcast.

The company is one we know so well: Anderson Windows/Renewals by Anderson described as follows:

“Andersen Corporation
Headquartered in our backyard in Bayport, Minnesota, Andersen Corporation is North America’s largest window and door manufacturer. Founded in 1903, Andersen is an international corporation employing more than 9,000 people in locations across North America, with sales worldwide.”
No, Tom doesn’t receive any compensation for his daily contribution to the show, nor will he from Anderson Windows, but it has driven many readers to our site since Joe Socheray always mentions the link to our site when he broadcasts what Tom sends in daily, “This Day in Minnesota History.” This news is fun and exciting to us.
The little morsels, along with support and comments from our readers, provide us with the commitment to continue to post day after day, almost 365 days a year. Sure, we miss a day here and there, and yesterday was such a day.
I hesitate to write anything about my (our) health these days, after all we’ve written in the past. But, in an attempt to be transparent with our readers, as we always have been, I decided to share why we weren’t here yesterday. But, my biggest motivation, as always, is the hope that if even one person can benefit from what we share, it will be worth revealing these somewhat personal details.
Over the past few weeks, I have been suffering from a bladder infection. This is a common condition suffered by many, as stated below:
“Are bladder infections common in the elderly?
Your UTI risk increases with age. According to one study, more than one-third of all infections in people in nursing homes are UTIs. More than 10 percent of women over age 65 report having a UTI within the past year. That number increases to almost 30 percent in women over 85.”
For the younger population, bladder infections are described as follows:
“Bladder infections are common, especially among women. Research suggests that at least 40 to 60 percent of women develop a UTI during their lifetime, and most of these infections are bladder infections. One in 4 women is likely to have a repeat infection.”
The odd thing about it is that people seldom share that they are suffering from these infections since there is a stigma associated with mentions of illnesses and infections regarding certain body parts. I didn’t tell anyone. I had a bladder infection (other than Tom) until yesterday when I was waiting at the urgent care facility where Tom had gone for his respiratory illness over a month ago. My friend Kathy wrote to me on WhatsApp, and I told her where I was and the reason for the trip to urgent care.
Now, here I am, sharing it with the world. Oh well. As I said, if one person gains a bit of insight from today’s post, it will have been worth it.
I figured out how I got this infection, which was vital for me to know since I hadn’t had such an infection in over 40 years, from what I recall. In the past seven weeks since we arrived at Lake Las Vegas, I started working out about a week after we arrived, starting on the stationary bike and adding the treadmill a short time later. I’ve added some light weightlifting and been thrilled with my progress.
However, the infection took hold as I increased the time on the bike. After some research, I found the following portion of an article from Women’s Health Magazine here:

“Can spinning – and exercise in general – cause UTIs?

It is a possibility. The tube through which urine comes out – the urethra – is only around 4cm long in most women, making it relatively easy for the infection to get into the bladder. During a spin class, the urethra and the surrounding area can come into contact and friction with the saddle.

This, combined with the hot and sweaty atmosphere down there, along with possible dehydration, can make a perfect climate for bacteria not only to enter the bladder but also to grow and multiply.”

For the balance of the article, please click here.

So, I had a reason “why,” but I didn’t have immediate means to end it. Recently, while in the US, I’ve noticed several online sites offering appointments with doctors who can prescribe medication to be filled at a local pharmacy. I went to work to find a service that would be suitable for me.

Many of those services don’t treat patients over 65 years old. As a result, I spent a long time going through the details of one such service after another. Finally, I found a company, Sesame Care, found here where my age wasn’t an issue. For a small fee, I spoke to a very helpful doctor and sent a prescription to the closest CVS in Henderson.

When I received a text from CVS, I was able to go online and request the prescription be delivered to me. Within two hours, I had the prescription and carefully followed the instructions for the five-day course of antibiotics. In the meantime, I continued working out but didn’t use the bike and may stick with the treadmill and the weights.

I took the last pill last Thursday, but by Saturday, the infection had returned with a vengeance. I took an antibiotic that didn’t work. On Monday morning, I was miserable and decided I had to have a lab test and see a doctor. First thing in the morning, I tried arranging an Uber to take me to the same clinic Tom had visited, as mentioned above.

(Also, as mentioned in a prior post, I won’t have health insurance until March 1 since it’s taking a long time for Medicare to process my Part B enrollment.” I preferred to go to Urgent Care rather than an appointment at a doctor’s practice).

Getting an Uber to come out here, 25 miles from the Strip, was challenging. Uber drivers don’t necessarily hang out in Lake Las Vegas, and with over 300,000 additional visitors here for the Super Bowl, getting an Uber was a challenge. After 30  minutes of trying, I finally got a confirmation for the one-way trip to the clinic. I told Tom he didn’t have to come with me. With his lung condition, hanging around a germy waiting room made no sense.

When I checked in, the receptionist handed me a little brown bag with a specimen bottle and a sanitary wipe. Once the specimen went to their in-house lab, my condition was confirmed. especially when I had blood in my urine. The doctor was very kind and prescribed a different class of antibiotic, and after less than 24 hours, I can already tell it’s working.

It took about two hours for the round trip with the drive-through at CVS for my new prescription until I returned to the condo. Tom was waiting for me in the lobby after I texted him, as he requested, to let me know when I was on my way back. I gave the second Uber driver an additional tip for going through the drive-through so I could get the prescription right away instead of waiting for a delivery. I’ll be on this drug for ten days after taking three pills a day.

By the time I returned to the condo, I didn’t have the energy to do a new post. But today, I am already so much better, I didn’t hesitate.

The cost of the appointment at Urgent Care, plus the two Uber trips and the prescription, was around $206. If I had insurance at that point, I would have had to pay about $500 for February’s premiums (Part B and supplement for Plan G) plus the once-yearly $240 deductible. Overall, it was well spent, and I am happily on the mend.

If we lived somewhere permanently and were no longer nomads, most likely, we’d have seen a doctor more than the few times we each have in the past year. I’ve been to two doctors, and Tom’s been to one.

We are grateful for each day as we continue to enjoy our lives.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, February 6, 2014:

Many times, we’ve seen Vervet Monkeys holding their babies, most often from a distance. Rarely staying still long enough for a photo, we were so excited to get these shots at Khaya Umdani. We’d left yogurt out overnight for the bush babies, forgetting to bring it back inside in the morning. Suddenly, we were surrounded by over a dozen monkeys only feet from us. I asked Tom to avoid scaring them off until I got a few photos we shared with our readers today. For more photos, please click here.

Today, I won’t be talking to Tom…

One year ago, Hal was looking around the side of the house to make sure we were on the veranda. When he saw we were there, he approached, looking for pellets.

Oddly, I feel fine but cough quite a bit at night, often awake for a few hours. The only help I’m getting is from Hall’s sugar-free cough drops, which surprisingly seem to help quite a bit. When I tried to talk to Tom this morning, I noticed I had lost my voice. I sound like Minnie Mouse, very squeaky. I suppose it’s best not to talk and strain my voice further.

Many times in the past, I’ve lost my voice. It usually happens when the illness is nearing the end rather than at the beginning. I’m hopeful that this cold/flu/virus is nearing its end for both of us. Tom is a little better today but still coughing and napping throughout the day.

Today, he’ll take the third dose of the Z-pack antibiotics. Most often, it seems to take three doses to see improvement. We’re up and about; neither of us is bedridden, and we can eat and hover around the living room as we did when we felt well.

On Tuesday night, we couldn’t get the TV to turn on in the living room, which we use for streaming shows to keep us entertained, especially now that we are laying low. I am more adept and patient in figuring out digital problems and have spent hours trying to get it to come on. Finally, yesterday morning, I called Dish Network and spent no less than two hours on the phone with them and Samsung, the TV brand.

Neither company could determine what was wrong, and Dish Network implied the account wasn’t active. That was ridiculous. The TV in the bedroom was working and wired from the same satellite box. After two hours on the phone, most people would have given up trying. Not me. I was persistent, but neither company could offer any assistance.

I started playing around with the remote settings and got the TV monitor to come on. From there, I called Dish back, and they said it appeared some update came through and caused the dysfunction. They walked me through the fix from there, and finally, we were back on.

Last night, we streamed a good movie on Amazon Prime, the “Sound of Freedom,” Right now, our only streaming services are Netflix, Hulu, and Prime. Amazon Prime sent a message a few days ago stating that members must pay an additional $2.99 monthly if they’d like commercial-free content. We aren’t interested in paying more and will live with commercials. At least they didn’t make it a mandatory increase.

We often use the perks of Prime, including free shipping (in the US only), often same-day or one-day, excellent new content streaming, and free monthly books (we don’t read many books these days), and when we’re in the bush and don’t stream much, we enjoy Amazon Music while sitting on the veranda in the evenings.

I canceled Paramount Plus this morning since we’ve already streamed everything we wanted on that service. From time to time, we’ll add a streaming service to watch a specific series.

It may seem as if we spend most of our time streaming shows. We do not. In the evenings, when we aren’t out or with people, we stream a few hours of movies and TV series. During daytime hours, we are busy with work on our laptops, planning for the future, and reading news and information relative to our lives. Also, we listen to several podcasts during the day while we are researching.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, January 4, 2014:

Like the main photo in this post of December 14th, we again looked toward the driveway to discover giraffes coming our way. What a glorious sight! For more photos, please click here.

Guess what?…Nine days and counting…But, right now, life is good…Reading books?…

Our photo was taken in December 2014, when our kids and grandkids came to visit us on the Big Island in Hawaii, at the observation point while Mount Kilauea was erupting. What an adventure!

We wouldn’t have complained if everything at the beginning of our visit to Mirador San Jose had been like it is now. We’ve had power for 36 hours. We have plenty of food to get us through until we depart in nine days when the little store stocked up on meat, and yesterday, we made enough purchases to round out what we need.

I feel like myself again now that I’m back on two pills a day of the antiarrhythmic drug Flecainide again. I know I will be able to get a prescription to hold me over until my ProgressiveRX order arrives at the end of the month. Yesterday, I called a CVS Pharmacy Minute Clinic. Their medical professionals will prescribe the above drug to fill the gap I was concerned about. Finally, I can stop thinking of this.

Based on the two visits I had to a highly qualified cardiologist in the past month, who continues to check on me on WhatsApp and who says surgery is not required immediately, I will wait until we get to South Africa so I can see my cardiologist there, whom I trust, and have another ultrasound to see if my situation is worsening. If it’s not, I’ll have a scan every six months. If it is, I’ll have to decide if I want to go through another open heart surgery.

But I am not worrying about that anymore. I let it go to continue enjoying our lives now that I feel so well again. The only side effect I’m experiencing from the drug is a little sleepiness about four hours after taking each of the two doses. I can live with this. This helps me sleep better at night, and after the morning dose, a nap is all that’s needed during the day—no big deal.

Today is an easy day. All I have to do is chop and dice for tonight’s dinner and make our little mid-day lunch of sliced ham and cheese rollups. Tom has watermelon with his snack, and I may have cooked broccoli on the side with mine. I haven’t been hungry for breakfast lately, but Tom continues to enjoy his buttered toast with strawberry jam, so we have our little lunch around 11:00. This holds us until dinner.

I continue to stay on my diet, motivated to help with my condition, and so far, I’ve lost 15 pounds and started noticing how better my clothes are beginning to fit. I still have ten more pounds to return to where I was when we first started traveling. These next ten pounds will be the most noticeable. But, as most know, losing the last ten pounds is challenging. Right now, my weight loss is at a snail’s pace, only at about one pound a week, if I’m lucky.

Overall, I am not hungry since I continue to keep my carbs at bay, although I’ve had to up them from 20 grams a day to about 40 grams a day to ensure I get full with lots of vegetables and strawberries. Calories do count whether we like it or not, regardless of how and what we eat. Based on my lowered level of exercise at this point, as I slowly improve my heart health, which is ultimately most important for me, the weekly loss is minimal to keep the Afib under control.

But I will persevere. If I only lose ½  pound a week for the next 20 weeks, I will reach my goal by April 24, 2024. As quickly as time flies, it won’t be long before I get there. Once I achieve my goal, I will adjust my intake to maintain what I’ve lost. Health concerns have been a massive motivator for me when I had little motivation in the past to keep me on track. My clothes fitting better and appearing less chunky didn’t help motivate me to reduce my food intake. Now, it’s somewhat easy.

We enjoy listening to various podcasts while working on our computers during the day, and when there’s a lull, we both get a kick out of playing fun games on our phones. Since neither of us reads many books these days after binge-reading in the early days of our world travels. I can’t seem to focus enough to get lost in a fiction book, although I will occasionally read a non-fiction book, most of which I received for free from Amazon Prime on the Kindle app on my phone.

When lost in a fiction book, the time passes way too quickly for my liking, and at this point in life, I’d prefer to eke out every possible moment of my day being present instead of being lost in a book. In the first three or four years of our world travels, I read over 300 books that are still on my Kindle App.

That’s it for today, dear readers.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, December 5, 2013:

We encountered these two wildebeest as we rounded the corner from our house. Enormous, it was taller than a horse, much larger than any of the wildebeest we’d seen at the tail end of the Great Migration at the border of Kenya and Tanzania. For more photos, please click here.

No post tomorrow…Heading to Manta for doctor appointment and shopping…Easy grocery app we recommend…

Gosh, we miss the bush.

Based on the stops we have tomorrow, we won’t have time to do a post, especially when we’re leaving the house at 8:30 am, most likely not returning until the late afternoon, leaving little time to start a new post. Here’s what we plan to do:

  1. 10:00 am: Cardiologist appointment
  2. 11:00 am: Stop at the pharmacy to fill the prescriptions
  3. 12:00 pm: Return the rental car for another, with a different company
  4. 1:00 pm: Grocery shop at MegaMaxi, at the shopping mall on the outskirts of town
  5. 3:00 pm: Begin the return drive to Mirador San Jose
  6. 4:15 pm: Arrive back at Mirador San Jose – unload groceries
  7. 5:00 pm: Head to Kokomo for dinner

As you can see, these tasks take up the entire day. It will be the first time since we arrived almost a month ago that I will have such a full day out and about, and I am hoping I don’t have an Afib event since they tend to almost paralyze me. Right now, the drugs I changed back to and increased the dose seem to be working, but I am tentatively optimistic.

This female is protecting her kill.

It seems as if I move around too much or walk too far, the Afib kicks back in, so I am limiting the amount and how fast I walk right now but making sure I do some each day. I am a little concerned about shopping in the Costco-like MegaMaxi, but I will use the trolley for support as we wander through the vast store.

Sometimes, I feel like an old woman, as much as I try not to be. As I muddle my way through this process of discovering what works and doesn’t work to avoid Afib, it’s challenging. Some people never find out their triggers, but one by one, I am figuring out mine.

Tomorrow, the doctor will tell me if I need surgery or not. If I don’t, I will jump for joy since I am not ready for another open heart surgery. If I was able to have the robotic, minimally invasive surgery, it still required a massive incision in the right chest and cutting through ribs, which takes months to heal.

After the nightmarish recovery from open heart surgery in South Africa in 2019, I am not looking forward to going through that again. We shall see what transpires tomorrow. I am trying hard not to worry and doing well, staying hopeful and optimistic.

It will be so exciting to eventually return to the bush, at this point in seven months, health-providing.

Over the past several days, I’ve put together a comprehensive grocery list on the online app on my phone, which doesn’t require an internet connection. This app has served me well over the years, and a simple one-click knocks items off the list or saves them for later if the item is not found. The app is called “Bring” and can be found here at this link.

Since most of us take our phones with us when shopping, it’s a lot easier to go through an easy list on the phone than using a pen while shopping to check off found items while shopping. Plus, I often think of an item I want to add while shopping that may be in another aisle. It’s so easy to add an item to the list.

I have been using this app before we left Minnesota in 2012. It’s free, fun, and easy to use. During the week, when I notice I am out of something, I pick up my phone and add the item(s) I need.

That’s it for today, folks. For those in the US, we’ll be back on Thanksgiving day, most likely long before you tackle your first piece of pumpkin pie.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, November 21, 2013:

The two little dogs in Kenya, belonging to property owner Hans, spent most days with us. Jessie was sticking out her tongue, trying to kiss Gucci. I’ll miss them. For more photos, please click here.

The days and nights seem to blend together and the weeks are flying by…

A pelican in the Galapagos Islands, working on a fish.

With only 51 days until we depart Ecuador to head to Tom’s pulmonology appointment in the suburbs of Chicago, time is flying by so quickly, much to our surprise. I don’t believe that we’ve discussed Tom’s health issue yet. However, it appears he may have pulmonary fibrosis caused by asbestos after 42½ years of working on the railroad.

We will share more about this situation when we know more after January 10, 2024. At this point, all we know is that his appointment is on January 10, 2024, and no matter what, we were heading to Illinois on about January 8. We’ve yet to book the flight, and will do so after I see the cardiologist next week on November 22.

Gosh, we sound like a mess! No matter how hard we’ve tried over the years, we couldn’t avoid our current medical issues and have decided we need to address them in the US, not in a foreign country. My heart issues are a result of heredity and Tom’s…well, from asbestos exposure. We found this out when he had a second x-ray when we were in Minnesota, and he went to Urgent Care for a bad cough.

But we carry on, hoping to get some answers and make decisions based on those answers. This doesn’t necessarily mean an end to our worldwide travels. But, we may decide to make some adjustments that coincide with the necessary imminent and long-term medical care.

Of course, this is at the forefront of our minds, but neither of our situations requires we leave any sooner than planned. Tom is feeling okay right now, with occasional coughing, and I am working on finding a combination of medications that will work for me. I have had to stop two of the drugs the cardiologist in Manta prescribed for me since they made it difficult for me to breathe, a common side effect.

The one drug, a blood thinner, is not causing issues, and another drug I had with me, with an increased dose, seems to be working for part of the day, which, after seeing the doctor next Wednesday, another increase in the dose may do the trick. We shall see.

In the interim, we’re staying positive and doing our best to enjoy the remainder of our time in Ecuador. It’s still cloudy and rainy every day, so we aren’t using the pool as we’d hoped. That would have been an excellent exercise for me. But, for now, I am not doing extensive walking since it seems to exacerbate the Afib. Once the drugs are adjusted to my needs, I should be able to walk longer distances.

A few readers have written asking if we’ll still do the posts if we stop traveling for a while and, as in the past when we had obstacles to bear, we’ll continue to write each day as long as our readers are still interested. This is life. No, it’s not easy, and a certain amount of worry and concern are to be expected now. However, it doesn’t hinder our joy of life, of being together and thinking about the future.

We intend to return to Marloth Park in June, as planned. By then, we’ll have a better handle on managing our healthcare, and with excellent medical care available to us there, we feel comfortable making the trip. Between now and then, we aren’t so certain.

We have many friends our age who continue to travel with medical concerns, some with major medical issues, and we applaud them for their courage. We hope to use them as role models and continue our lifestyle as long as it makes sense. We won’t take any unnecessary risks that could cause harm to either of us and fully support this with one another.

So that’s our news for today, dear readers. We’ll be back with more soon.

Be well

Photo from ten years ago today, November 17, 2013:

My parent’s wedding photo. Please read the post from that date that explains why I posted this photo. Please click here.

Trip to Manta to a highly rated cardiologist…On a new plan…

Once we arrived in Manta, there was considerable traffic.

I continue to write about my heart problems to be transparent with our lives of world travel and also to share the path we’ve chosen for those who may be experiencing similar issues. None of the information we share is suggestioning “what you should do.” Please see your medical professionals for your specific needs.

So here’s the story as it rolled out over the past few months. The day we arrived in Mirador San Jose, on October 24, the Afib started again. I didn’t experience it at all while we were on the Galapagos cruise or in Quito, even during the difficult days of seasickness on the cruise and during the four days of high altitude in Quito, at 9350 feet above sea level. I was grateful I had no problems at that time.

It’s easy to figure out what road signs are saying.

Once we got here and the Afib wouldn’t stop, I started taking the drug, Flecainide, that I’d been prescribed last April when I was in the hospital for three days, having many tests with no specific answers as to why I had Afib. Many times, I read that Afib doesn’t necessarily appear for any particular reason, making it difficult to treat and tolerate. We all want answers.

I only had enough pills for three months of Flecainide at one per day, which I’d only taken once after getting out of the hospital, which I stopped when I had awful side effects. I had one bad episode on the airplane from South Africa to Florida and never had another bout until I had a few events on the cruise to Norway. Those bouts resolved on their own after a few hours. Then, after the cruises, I never had a bout while we were in Nevada for nine nights, but then I had a few events in Minnesota during the month we were there.

A man walking with his horse or donkey carrying a load of supplies.

After reading that exercise can help Afib, I gradually increased my daily walking steps. After one week, I was in a constant state of Afb. The one Fleacainide a day wasn’t enough. I knew I needed to up the dose to two pills a day, 12 hours apart, per the suggestion of the cardiologists in South Africa. When I took the second dose 12 hours later, without any improvement, yesterday morning, I knew I needed to see a cardiologist.

Immediately, I got to work searching online for a five-star rated cardiologist and found in Manta Dr. Alfredo Zambrano. I called their office, but they spoke no English. When they saw my call coming in, to which I hung up when I couldn’t communicate with them, they immediately sent me a WhatsApp message, translated into English. My appointment was for 3:00 pm yesterday, only hours after our initial contact.

With a high poverty rate in Ecuador. The national poverty rate in Ecuador is estimated at 25% of the population, while the extreme poverty rate stands at 10.7%, with the highest incidence in rural areas. Many homes and buildings are distressed.

Of course, I was still in Afib when we arrived for the appointment. I had written down all my questions in Spanish using Google Translate and handed the doctor my phone to read the questions. One of his assistants spoke excellent English and translated for us.

He did a lengthy ultrasound and an ECG. My appointment lasted one hour. The bill was $100, which included the tests. A few years ago, I had a similar appointment to get checked out in the US, and the 15-minute appointment was US $480. Hmmm…

An old boat in a side yard.

Well, anyway, the doctor showed me on the ultrasound screen that I have a problem with my mitral valve, referred to as a regurgitating mitral valve, which medication can help at this point. It’s what is causing the Afib. He prescribed three new drugs and had me stop taking my current blood pressure and Afiib drugs. I started the new drugs yesterday on our way back to San Jose.

These drugs all have side effects, some more than others. By the time I went to bed at about 10:30 pm, I had taken all three drugs, spaced out for specific times as prescribed, and never taken all at once. One by one, as I took the drugs, within about 45 minutes, I began to feel the side effects. After taking a second dose, it’s taken until this morning for the Afib symptoms to stop.

A typical shop on the side of the road.

Yes, I feel drained and exhausted, but the doctor said I can start walking again once I’m feeling better. It may take weeks to adjust to the meds, but I am not giving up. This is my life, and I will do whatever it takes to get through this. Down the road, I may need surgery, but he said not right now. Thank goodness.

After the pharmacy, we began the one-hour drive back, heading directly to the restaurant for dinner at Kokomo in the gated community. We hadn’t prepared anything for dinner. It was busy, and we had an opportunity to chat with some locals. I wasn’t myself, but I did my best to smile and be cheerful. We didn’t stay long. I was anxious to get back to the house to put on my pajamas and relax for the rest of the night while I waited for the drugs to work. So far, so good. We did the right thing going to the cardiologist, who, by the way, had a very professional office and staff.

Today’s a new day. I feel relieved and hopeful. Sure, I am feeling the side effects, but I will work through them in the coming weeks; I am looking forward to being able to stop thinking and writing about this troublesome condition. Thanks for listening, dear readers.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, November 9, 2013:

This goat in our yard in Kenya was definitely not camera-shy, practically stepping on my foot as she approached. For more photos, please click here.