Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?



Guest: Dennis McKinnon

Episode 223 "How am I doing doc?"

"How am I doing doc?" I asked my doctor on a routine visit in June of 2009. I submitted my usual blood sample the week before and expected to hear much the same report I had been hearing  for years.  "Everything looks ok.  Blood pressure, A1C, Cholesterol, blah, blah, blah.  See you in three months."

Retired in April of 2008 at age 57, I continued to work part time. I became accustomed to the freedom of not having an 8-5 full time job.  To me retirement didn't mean to quit working, but to concentrate on those "wait until I retire" activities people in the work force only dream about.
Freedom to read more books, check-out some new computer software or gadget, take an afternoon walk or nap, enjoy doing nothing if I so desired.  Ah, the good life. How things can change in an instant. 

As most of us know, especially if you're of retirement age, is how the unexpected can come at any time and in any form.  Going from driving in an RV for an extend visit with family to ending up in a hospital bed being prepped for surgery in less than 10 hours.  This was about the last thing on mind.  But there I was...

With my new found retirement freedom, I had spent months checking the internet for a good deal on a go kart for my two grandsons, then 8 & 6.  Retirement affords one more time to look for those really good deals.  Finally, there it was a barely used go kart for $100.  A quick phone call, directions and I was off to pick it up.

A week later, July 7th, 2009 6:00pm.  RV loaded and ready for camping and karting, we were on the road for a 6 hr drive north to hook up with my daughter and grandsons the next day.
A couple days prior to this I had noticed a strange feeling in my jaws and what felt like indigestion.  I figured it was something I had eaten and was tired.  Janet was concerned, but I said "I'll be fine".
7:00pm - I’m driving the rv and we stop for a quick mocha at Starbucks and a couple of drive though tacos and back on the road.  We wouldn't arrive at our destination until midnight and the next day would begin days of visiting and fun.

As I pulled out on the freeway, a very "strange" feeling came over me.  Not painful, but one of the feelings that your body tells you, "something's not right".  I pulled to the right lane of the freeway, slowed down and Janet looked over and said "are you ok?" .  "I don't think so" I said.  Janet could tell immediately something was wrong.  She said to pull over and stop and she would take me to a hospital a couple miles back. I did.  I got out walked around the front of the rv and the next thing I remember was dirt and rocks on my forehead.

It's amazing how many people are willing to stop and offer help to a stranger in need. One fellow offered to load me into his car and he'd take me.  911 finally came through and within minutes paramedics surrounded me, hooking up sensors and monitoring equipment.  And off I go for my first ever ambulance ride.

The bad news they tell me, is I may have had a heart attack.  The good news is they are taking me to one of the best Heart & Vascular Centers in the bay area.  My first ever hospital stay will be in a 5 star hospital.  Yeah, I guess.

Having never been a patient before, I wasn't sure what to expect.  Being a little weak and tired seemed to soften the impact, along with having Janet at my side assuring me everything was going to be fine.

A spiffy gown, a little less blood and a few tests later, a doctor came in and said, "based on some type of enzymes in your blood", he was pretty sure I had a blocked artery on the right side of my heart.  They would monitor me all night and prep me for surgery first thing in the morning.  I was moved to the head of the line!

Bright and early I was being prepped and informed how and what was to happen.  "You will be awake for the whole procedure," I was told.  That got my attention.  I figured at least I'd be out for this.  But it was not to be.

Showtime.  Lights, equipment, masked people and computer monitors.  They verified the blockage and in they go.  "Try to lay as still as you can.  We'll be inserting a large needle into your groin area."  Oh, yeah I'm still.

Within the hour I'm back in my room.  The procedure wasn't as painful as I had imagined. Everything went well and I was the proud owner of two brand new stints.  I would spend a couple of more days in the hospital and be released on Friday, my 59th birthday.

As most folks know, sometimes it takes a major event in our lives to get our attention.  Those flashing red lights of a highway patrolman in the rear view mirror can do it.

Just before I left the hospital, the cardiologist that had operated on me, sat down and had a short but memorable talk.  He said "You were lucky, this time.  You were close to a good hospital and great care.  But, you need to change how you eat.  Not your exercise habits.  Although exercise is great, don't get it confused with eating.  If you don't change and you're lucky again, you will be back."

It's been over a year and a half and I'm happy to say, I've lost 50lbs; from 224 to 174 lbs.  My blood pressure is 100 over 60, my cholesterol level is down to 160, etc.  Even though my numbers were "ok" before, I wasn't as healthy as I thought.

We see in the news.  Obesity is rampant.  Eat more fruits and vegetables.  And on and on.  But for some of us, it's hard to break old habits and create new ones.  But it can happen, especially when you see the red lights in your rear view mirror. If this event had happened a day later, we would have all been in a remote area and I might not be here to tell my story.

As I was losing about a pound per week and getting healthier, people began to take notice and the question would come up, "how are you doing it?".  "Are you going to the gym?" There will be a link in these show notes to a web site I created explaining the details of how I did it.

Basically, don't eat so much, (portion control), and eat healthier.  This is a little over simplified, but true.  There is no magic pill.  I did hours, days of research on the internet, in book stores and watching shows like The Today Show, The Doctors and Dr. Oz.  I still review the links on my web site as a reminder of how this works.  Juicing has been a major factor in this process.  Thank you, Jack Lalanne.

Being in charge of my weight gain or loss, is probably the most empowering feeling I've ever had.  There are many things on my retirement bucket list, I didn't realize that weight control would be number one.  It should have been number one on my pre retirement list.

I’m Dennis McKinnon, a guest on Retirement Talk.



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