We booked a hotel at Cleveland Clinic…

A craggy shore in Madeira, Portugal.

With only 50 days until we leave for Cleveland, it was time to book something for at least our first week there. At this point, we have no idea how long all the tests will take before the surgery is scheduled or how far out the surgery will be scheduled. There may be many patients in much worse condition that will be scheduled ahead of me, of course, depending on how I am doing at the time of my first three appointments on August 28.

If I am “holding my own,” it could be two or three months until the surgery is scheduled. The question is, “Do we stay in Cleveland in case of an unforeseen event requiring immediate surgery? Or do we go somewhere else while we wait?”

Only time will tell, along with the test results determining the urgency of my case. Right now, my only obvious symptoms of valve disease are difficulty walking and occasionally being out of breath. I don’t have the classic swollen legs and chest pains, which are severe symptoms of the condition.

However, the two valves have been diagnosed by three cardiologists and echocardiograms as being “severe,” which, untreated, could result in a stroke or heart attack if left too long without treatment. There are no drugs that can prevent these potential outcomes.

In reality, regardless of how long we have to wait for surgery, we’re better off staying there than in some other city in the US. We must play it by ear and see what transpires during that first week or two.

As a result, we booked only one week at a hotel connected to the clinic with a shuttle service back and forth to the hospital. Finding an affordable hotel was a lot trickier than expected. We were willing to pay more than usual for the convenience of the first week of tests and may have to extend it if further testing is required. There again, we have no idea at this point.

This morning, we started searching online. We were particularly interested in the Intercontinental Hotel, Cleveland Clinic, since it is .2 miles from the hospital, which has a shuttle back and forth, preventing us from the necessity of renting a car for the first week. Here are the prices we encountered:

Expedia.com

InterContinental Cleveland, an IHG Hotel

$284
InterContinental Cleveland, an IHG HotelOfficial site
$329
DEAL

14% off

Hotels.com

$329
Hotels.com
Free cancellation until Sep 8

Priceline

$329
Priceline
Free cancellation until Sep 7
All options

InterContinental Cleveland, an IHG Hotel

$284
InterContinental Cleveland, an IHG HotelOfficial site

Hotels In America

$294
Hotels In America
With these high prices, most of which didn’t include taxes and fees, we searched further from Expedia on our website at the link on the right side of our page. Because we are Platinum members and use $46.00 in One Key cash, we could book the week for an average of $211 per night.
Of course, these perks may not be available to those using Expedia infrequently, but we’ve found it’s an excellent place for frequent travelers. Building relationships with various sites that provide excellent pricing for their frequent users takes time and effort.
Once we have completed the first round of tests after consulting with the doctors, we can make a plan for our future stay. We may stay a few miles from the clinic, where prices are considerably lower. We might stay further away during a waiting period and move closer once the surgery transpires. We shall see.
That’s it for today, dear readers. Thanks for all the well wishes, supportive comments, and emails regarding our Fourth of July post two days ago.

Be well.

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

Even a cloudy day in Madeira, Portugal, has some appeal. For more photos, please click here.

“Home Alone”…On the mend…

A beautiful lily in the garden at our holiday home in Madeira.

This morning at 8:30, Tom left to go to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds to meet up with his kids, Tammy and TJ, to participate in the “Back to the 50’s Car Show,”  as described, “Back to the 50’s Weekend is celebrating their 50th annual event at the fairgrounds! Stop by for classic cars, some fair food favorites, and more!”

TJ has a “classic” car, as shown in the photo below. Tom last attended this event with TJ on June 24, 2017. We wrote about it in this post here.

TJ’s 1954 Buick Special was next to his canopy at the Back to the ’50s annual event at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

It has rained almost every day since arriving in Minnesota in early May, and today is no exception. He’ll likely return before the next expected rainstorm around 2:00 or 3:00 pm. We’re scheduled to pick up our groceries at the local Cub Foods store when he returns.

We haven’t been scheduling delivered grocery orders at the Cub Foods store in Eden Prairie—the delivery cost here is $8.50 plus a tip, usually around $10. It makes no sense to pay $18.50 in extra charges when the grocery store is less than a mile from here. I place the order to be picked up at a specific time.

We drive up to one of the specific pickup parking spots, text our arrival to the number on the sign, and bring groceries to the car. They put together the order for the designated pickup time, so there is little waiting. It’s worth doing it this way, saving us almost $80 monthly instead of having the groceries delivered.

On another note, I am feeling better each day. My coughing has lessened in the past 48 hours since I started taking antibiotics and Prednisone. The only problem is that Prednisone has a severe impact on one’s ability to sleep. I’ve slept less than five hours the past two nights, making me sleepy during the day. But I make a point of not napping to possibly aid in sleeping better at night.

Taking the two tablets early in the morning is recommended, but doing so hasn’t helped. I only have to take them two more mornings until my five-day course ends.

As mentioned, we didn’t meet with Tom’s sister at Billy’s. In the afternoon, Tom drove to Chanhassen to pick up an online order for dinner from our favorite Chinese restaurant, Happy Garden. Their food is fresh and not overly processed. I ordered a dish with shrimp, chicken, scallops, veggies with sauce on the side, and pan-fried (not deep-fried) egg foo young, enough to last two nights.

Tom ordered his usual favorite, two orders of sweet and sour pork with fried rice, enough to last for two nights’ dinner. We’ll enjoy the delicious meals again this evening. We had a lovely evening streaming two shows on Apple TV, “Slow Horses,” a British spy MI6 spy thriller, and afterward, on Netflix, season two of Bridgerton, both of which we thoroughly enjoy.

As I continue to recover, we’ll do the same tonight. Hopefully, by tomorrow, I will feel well enough to make plans with family and get out and about. Tom is still coughing but is also considerably better than a week ago. He’s had the virus for two weeks, and it’s been one week for me.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, June 22, 2014:

An unusual type of cactus in Madeira. For more photos, please click here.

We’re back…Sorry for the lapse in posting…First day of summer…

We dined at this little restaurant in Benabbio, Italy. The service by the owner and the food was excellent. After dinner, we were served “comped” Limoncello, a delicious lemon-flavored liquor. Tom drank both his and mine.

Yesterday, we received countless email messages from our readers asking if something was wrong and why we didn’t post. I tried to respond to all of the inquiries. If I didn’t get back to you, I apologize. I know I’ll post again today to update everyone about our absence.

On Wednesday night, my coughing escalated so that I couldn’t sleep. I propped up two pillows under my head to lessen the coughing, to no avail. Not only was I coughing every minute, but I had an awful wheezing in my throat and upper chest. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it under control.

At 2:00 am, I got up and used the powered nebulizer with prescription medicine, but that only helped for about 20 minutes, and the hacking began again. There are numerous cough medicines I can’t use since they interact with the heart medications. I was a mess. And I was so frustrated to think I’d be posting about more health issues when all of you have heard enough already for so long.

Once up and about, I told Tom I needed to go to urgent care, and we headed to the facility we’d gone to for Tom when he was so sick from COVID-19 in 2022. Once we arrived, we noticed so few cars in the parking lot and knew something was amiss. The clinic was closed permanently.

Since the pandemic ended, they likely didn’t get enough business to justify staying open. Looking online, I found another urgent care center in Eden Prairie, which is not far from our hotel. About 15 minutes later, we arrived at Allina Health. I suggested that Tom return to the hotel, and I called him when I was ready to leave.

But, at this location, without an “emergency entrance” sign on the building, I asked him to wait for me until I texted him that they could see me. I asked at the reception desk on the third floor if they took walk-in patients as described on their website. The receptionist said. “Oh, I need to remind our web people again to take “urgent care” off our website. People keep showing up, and we have to turn them away.” Duh?

I texted Tom that I was coming out. Off again, we went to another facility, but this time, I called to be sure they were open and receiving emergency patients. They were and said we could come by right away. By this point, I was even more exhausted and continued to cough.

It made no sense for Tom to come inside and wait for me. With him still coughing, he was vulnerable to catching another virus and didn’t need to be exposed to more germs.

After checking in, the wait “in chairs’ wasn’t too long, and once situated in the room, after two nurses took my vitals and asked questions, a nurse practitioner saw me, not a doctor. I had hoped to see a doctor. But, when I looked online to see the requirements to become a nurse practitioner, I wasn’t so disappointed. It takes quite a bit of education to acquire such a license.

An infographic explains the pathway to becoming an NP, from a bachelor's degree in nursing to passing the NP licensure exam

Knowing I would have an x-ray, which a radiologist off-site would analyze, I felt more at ease. The NP listened thoroughly to my heart and chest sounds to say, without a doubt, that I had a lot of wheezing and chest sounds. The x-ray and radiologist’s diagnosis confirmed I have a raging upper respiratory infection.

Antibiotics and Prednisone were prescribed to be picked up at a nearby Walgreens Pharmacy. Tom arrived shortly after I contacted him, and we were off to the pharmacy. It had been about 45 minutes since the prescriptions were submitted to the pharmacy.

Once we arrived, we waited in the drive-through for a while, but I decided to go inside when the line of cars wasn’t moving. It was a long walk to the pharmacy section in this store. Once there, they told me it would be at least 30 minutes until they were ready. I returned to the car to sit there with Tom and wait. It took 35 minutes until I could go back in to get the order.

After all this commotion, I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel and get some rest. I took the meds as required and flopped in the bed, desperately needing to take a nap. I slept for over two hours while Tom listened to a podcast, the sound of which didn’t bother me a bit. By the time I awoke, it was dinner time; I didn’t have the energy to do a post so late in the day. Earlier in the day, I’d uploaded the notice that there wouldn’t be a post, anticipating it would be the long day it proved to be.

Today is a better day. After the long nap, I only slept about 5 hours last night, but I feel better. The coughing has lessened considerably in such a short time since I started the meds.

We won’t be going to Billy’s today, fearing that I may still be infectious and not feeling well enough to sit in a bar. Tom just finished washing and drying the laundry, and now I’ll fold it and put it away. There will be no cooking today. We’ll order Chinese takeaway from the fabulous restaurant in our old neighborhood.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, June 21, 2014:

The ocean in Madeira is behind this old vine-covered garage. For more photos, please click here.

There’s a price to pay for living outside the US…Disappointing day…

The view from the veranda at the holiday home we rented in Madeira ten years ago.

Yesterday, I was enthused about the physical therapy appointment at Wellspring Wellness Center. With exercise physiologists on staff, I felt confident they could help me improve my mobility while awaiting my future appointments at the end of August and subsequent open heart surgery at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

How little did I know that I’d be turned away? Based on the fact they had no record of me having treatment and tests in Minnesota, after consulting with their medical director, they all agreed it was too risky to treat me. They feared my heart condition would make such treatment too high risk and, let’s face it, the potential of liability if something went wrong during such a course of treatment.

I walked out of the facility disheartened and frustrated. They suggested I see a cardiologist (I’ve already seen three in the past year) for the type of treatment that would be suitable for me. With countless tests upcoming in August, I wasn’t about to go through the uncomfortable and time-consuming process of going through a litany of tests here in Minnesota, especially when Cleveland Clinic does its own tests.

The risk of a lawsuit is driving influence in medical care in the US. This is not the case in most other countries where medical malpractice lawsuits aren’t nearly as common as in the US.

But this was only the beginning of the day’s frustrations. I’d made an appointment at CVS Minute Clinic, which I called and assured me I could get prescriptions for my high blood pressure meds, which I am running out of. Remember, I got 13 months of prescriptions from Doc Theo in South Africa before we left at the end of April last year. Now they are running out and I have to figure out how to get them. They won’t accept written prescriptions from South Africa.

When CVS stated they’d write prescriptions for tourists running out of medication, I quickly made the appointment for yesterday at 5:00 pm, figuring at least this would be out of the way.

Alas, when we drove to the CVS for my appointment, and after waiting several minutes for my appointment upon prompt arrival, after filling out forms and signing privacy documents, I discovered, once again, that they couldn’t help me. They couldn’t find any record of any doctor prescribing any medications for me, nor was there a record of any tests or medical appointments to substantiate the necessity of my taking such medicines.

The PA agreed to give me a one-month emergency prescription as a tourist, but one month didn’t do me any good. I am not going to CC until the end of August, a full 3½ months from now.

I walked out empty-handed, frustrated and wondering what I would do. My only option, so I thought, was to book an appointment with a cardiologist or, in the worst case, a primary care physician and see if they’d write the prescriptions without having a litany of tests. I could run into the same scenario, and if I refused to take tests, I could walk out empty-handed again.

Deciding I’d think about this for a day or two since I had enough pills left to get me through two weeks. When I awoke in the middle of the night, I checked my old account at ProgressiveRX and found an old prescription in their records that could supply me with the meds I need. I had looked earlier, but I looked under the US names of the meds when, in fact, they are named differently in India, where most of the world’s drugs are produced anyway. They have everything I need.

Today, after posting, I will order the meds and have them in three weeks at the latest. After digging through my pill bag, I found the same unopened pills that could get me through until the shipment arrives at our mailing service, which in turn will mail them to me. What a relief!

This explains why living outside the US for the past almost 12 years has left us with no medical records to rely upon for future medical care in the US. We are left without medical records when we have had no US health insurance all these years, only carrying health insurance suitable for people outside the US. It’s another fact of life for world travelers. Any medical care we’ve needed all these years, we’ve sought outside the US, mostly paying out of pocket.

Thus, I’ll be able to get the meds I need, and yesterday, after all of this, I started working out, once again, in the upscale fitness center in this hotel. I will carefully monitor my heart rate and perform ECGs on my Fitbit each time I work out, being as careful as possible. Despite my current condition, all three cardiologists I visited explained that exercising is good for the heart muscle.

In less than an hour, my friend Chere is stopping by for a visit. We’ll hang out in the lobby and catch up.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, May 15, 2014:

No photos were posted on this date due to a travel day.

We’re finally made it…Quite a challenging road trip…Tomorrow, details of my upcoming appointments at Cleveland Clinic…

The snowstorm was much worse than shown in this photo as we left Layton, Utah.

We finally made it to Minnesota and arrived at the hotel last night at about 6:00 pm. It was a relief the long and stressful road trip was over after encountering 2½ days of challenging driving during a blizzard in Utah and Wyoming, the longest stretches during the four days of travel.

I tried to take photos during the blizzard but found it impossible during “whiteouts.” I was so busy hanging onto my seat that I couldn’t get a photo through an open window when the wind was blowing at 70 to 80 mph, nor could I get a photo through the windshield, which was covered with snow between each fast swipe.

Numerous accidents along the highway often slowed us down for long stretches, including cars, but more so semi trucks that toppled over in the high winds. What an ordeal. I couldn’t imagine how we’d get through it without being scathed. If we got trapped, we had a big blanket in the SUV, our mugs of Crystal Light iced tea, lemonade, and some protein bars. We were as prepared as we could be.

The Virgin River Gorge in Utah.

But, thank God, we made it through with Tom’s expert driving skills, although at times, I thought he took too many chances and asked him to slow down on several occasions. He was determined to get through it. We had a couple of close calls when vehicles started sliding toward us.

Thank goodness, living in Minnesota most of his life, he had acquired excellent driving skills in inclement weather. But, even for the more expert drivers, driving through this nightmare was a real challenge. After the blizzard, the high winds remained, and more accidents occurred.

Getting out of the SUV to go to the restroom at a petro station or rest area almost blew me away. I hesitated to walk outdoors on the way back to the car. Whew! The winds continued after we arrived in Nebraska but finally died down on the final day.

The Layton Utah Temple is a three-story, nearly 94,000-square-foot structure. It sits on a slope between the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains and the valley floor at 1400 Oak Hills Drive. The sacred structure is the second house of the Lord in Davis County.

We had a great dinner and breakfast with Marylin and Gary in their hometown of Layton, Utah. It was a charming town of 82,000 people with a strong Mormon influence. They drove us to see their new temple and showed us the snowy, peaked mountains surrounding the quaint and charming town.

When we went to dinner at a Mongolian-pot-type restaurant, I proceeded to order a glass of wine, reminded that no alcohol can be served in Utah unless under exceptional circumstances. I ordered an iced tea and forgot about the wine, or lack thereof, in seconds.

In the morning, we met up with them for breakfast and then were on our way. The skies were cloudy, and a light dusting of snow covered the car. An hour after leaving Layton, we were entrenched in what became the most challenging long drive in a blizzard neither of us had experienced, especially for such an extended period. As we read along the way, Wyoming is one of the US’s most deadly locations to travel. We certainly got a taste of that.

As mentioned above, once we reached Nebraska, the blizzard ended, and many miles later, the winds died down, and we could enjoy the remainder of the trip. We drove through Nebraska and Iowa and then entered Minnesota, encountering traffic. The last few hours seemed painstaking.

The Wasatch Mountains, also known as the Wasatch Range, border Layton, Utah, to the east. The Wasatch Range is a 160-mile mountain range from the Utah-Idaho border to central Utah. It’s the western edge of the Rocky Mountains and the eastern edge of the Great Basin region. The Wasatch Mountains are the most prominent landmarks in the area and define the east boundary of Davis County. The mountains are still rising today due to the Wasatch fault, which causes the earth’s crust to shift suddenly. It was beautiful to see.

Since Tom was still full from a massive breakfast at Perkins in Lincoln, Nebraska, he wasn’t hungry for dinner, but I’d only eaten a small omelet and two pieces of Tom’s bacon for breakfast. Nine hours later, I was ready for something for dinner. We walked across the parking lot of our hotel to the Pizza Luce restaurant, where I had an appetizer size of gluten-free meatballs with sauce and mozzarella. Tom ate my garlic toast.

Back at the hotel, I set up the room’s TV to work with the streaming apps on my phone, and we relaxed and watched a few shows until bedtime. We both had an uninterrupted good night’s sleep. This morning, we ate at the hotel “included breakfast” and met a lovely couple our age. We enjoyed a lively conversation with them for over an hour.

Tom headed out the door 30 minutes ago when he noticed a retiree lunch for railroad guys starting at 11:30. He didn’t tell any of them he was coming, and it will be a fun surprise for his old railroad buddies. At around 5:30, my son Greg will pick me up to join them for dinner and a musical at the Minneapolis Children’s Theater after that. All three of my grandchildren and Greg’s lovely girlfriend, Heather, will be attending. It will surely be a pleasant evening.

In the future, we’ll be posting daily as we have in the past. Tomorrow, I will share the details and dates of my appointments at Cleveland Clinic.

I appreciate your patience with the lack of posts in the past few weeks.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, May 9, 2014:

My friend Joan posted this on Facebook last night, and it caught my eye this morning. So true. For more photos, please click here.

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.