Pushing My Limits

I was feeling really good about how strong my body seemed lately. My workouts were going extremely well; I was getting around town easily; I was even finding a reason to get out of my apartment each day. The only thing that wasn’t going according to plan is that I wasn’t staying awake all day. Contrary to my plan to stop taking afternoon naps upon returning home from Mississippi, I was still feeling sleepy after my daily trips to the gym. A year ago I had taken this as proof that my body was recovering; now it felt unnecessary.

One thing causing my sleeping problem was that my CPAP machine wasn’t working properly. The mask needed to be replaced; I had had it for over a year. Since it wasn’t adjustable, it was losing its elasticity. Where it had fit tightly over my nose before, it was allowing so much air in that I wasn’t sleeping comfortably. I would have to twist and turn in bed just to get the mask to stay on my face long enough to fall asleep. Inevitably, I would roll over at some time during the night, causing the mask to slip off and me to wake up gasping.

There was also a problem with the humidifier chamber. One day I had to pry it open its hatch to fill it with water.. After I finished filling it, it wouldn’t shut. It took me fifteen minutes to finally force it closed. It worked all night, but I had the same problem the next night. When Allene came to visit, she noticed that it was off its track. She realigned it so it would open and shut properly. It worked correctly after that, but that didn’t resolve my sleep issue. Luckily, I had made an appointment for a sleep consultation.

I took my CPAP machine as instructed so they could download its data. They soon called me back to the exam room and took my vitals. My weight was still in the mid 240s, but my blood pressure was exceptional. I revised my weight goal for the year to 240 lbs. By the end of 2020, I could easily bring it down to 230. With the amount of stationary biking I do at the gym, I really expect the doctors to put me on a less aggressive blood pressure regimen. Any additional weight loss and physical rehabilitation should be more manageable at that size and flexibility.

The doctor looked at my CPAP report and told me that the unit was working fine. His recommendation was to keep the machine set the same and get fresh supplies. An employee got me a new mask, filters, and humidifier chamber. I went home and took a nap that afternoon. I slept better than I had in a year. Over the next few nights and subsequent days, I slept as much as possible. My brain needed to recharge.

After sleeping most of the next two days, I started waking up refreshed, so I decided to start going to the gym again. This time when I went it was with even greater energy than I had found recently. Getting full nights of quality sleep meant that I no longer woke up feeling like my head was in a fog. I had often felt like climbing back into bed after letting Mary out; now once I was out of bed, I was up for the morning.

I would take a shower, then have a very modest breakfast. After eating, I would find that I had plenty of time before I had to go downstairs to wait for the bus. So I would normally sit on the couch and pet Mary for half an hour. Once I got on the bus, I would stretch my left arm by holding onto the bar. So by the time I hit the gym, my body was ready to go.

I was now warming up with thirty minutes on the stationary bike, then transitioning right into weightlifting. My leg was getting stronger, so I was partnering two heavy leg exercises every session. I started to notice that I was able to lift more weight each week. This translated into the ability to lift my left leg higher. Now when I walked, I almost never worried about falling. I concentrated lifting my left leg with my glutes and hamstring, flexing my calf, and stepping down with the heel. It was a lot to think about, but it meant that I was progressing along the path to recovery.

These workouts were so intense that they felt intoxicating. I would often set goals for weight and number of repetitions, then feel so pumped that I would exceed each. The more I lifted, the more I wanted to lift. I had come a long way over the last four years, but I still had a long way to go. As a result, I seldom saw the need to take it easy. So I usually rode home enjoying the fall colors of the city, but as soon as I got home, I would sleep a couple of hours.

Things were going really well for about two weeks. Then I started waking up with sniffles. The problem with having a runny nose while requiring a CPAP is that the mucus which would normally drain through the nose is forced back into one’s head. So I would spend all day gradually getting better only to place the CPAP mask over my nose and cause the congestion again. Now I had a dilemma. If I didn’t use the CPAP, I wouldn’t be able to breathe through the night. If I used the CPAP, I wouldn’t be able to breathe the next morning. I didn’t want to stop breathing for too long while I was asleep, so I opted to keep using the mask.

After a few days, the morning congestion started causing a sore throat. I decided that I would need to go to an urgent care soon. The only problem was that I didn’t know how long I might be there. If I took Metro Mobility, I would have to be ready to go at my predetermined time, otherwise the driver was required to leave without me. I could opt to take a taxi home, but I was low on cash and didn’t want to spend the money. I started calculating: If I go to the E. R. instead, maybe I can get my insurance company to pay for a taxi home. If I wait until my Medicare reimbursement check arrives, I can afford it outright.

I figured if I went to urgent care, they’d give me a couple of breathing treatments, then give me prescriptions for steroids and antibiotics. That was when I remembered that I owned my own nebulizer! I could give myself a few breathing treatments and hopefully not require a trip to a medical facility. So I called down to the assisted living and asked them to give me a breathing treatment. After ten minutes, my chest felt less congested. Since my breathing was still a bit labored, I asked for another. When the second one was done, I felt like moving again. I jumped in the shower for a few minutes and emerged feeling good as new.

Over the next three days, I would use my nebulizer three times a day. The congestion went away and I started to feel good again. I even went back to the gym a couple of days in a row. I didn’t work out as hard as normal; because I had recently been ill, I went about half speed. Then one night, I woke up with a stabbing earache. I knew exactly why: When I get respiratory infections that are only treated with steroids, I will respirate hard enough to blow the infection out of my airways. But it will gather in my ears and lead to an ear infection. Then I have to get antibiotics. I struggled through two nights until I had another visit scheduled with my ILS worker. Then I had him drive me to the emergency room.

When they took my vitals, not only was my blood pressure excellent, but I was down to 243 pounds. I had lost 15 pounds this year! This weight gain had started to feel permanent after the stroke. But then I had lost about 12 pounds through great effort. I had stagnated around 246. When that was my weight at the sleep consultation, I felt more disappointed than I like to admit. But now that I was only three pounds away from 240, my spirits were lifted again.

The physician’s assistant came and and examined my ear. She determined that I had an external ear infection. She wrote me a prescription for antibiotic ear drops. After two days of treatment, I felt good enough to go back to the gym. I was determined to lose the three pounds by the end of the year. And who knows what else the future holds?

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