Heart takes a licking and keeps on a ticking, an update from Belize

Posted on

Back in November, as many of you now know, I had chest and arm pains, shortness of breath and other symptoms that sounded like warning signs for a heart attack or stroke.

It was such a big deal (to me) that I wrote about it twice:

The real point of all this was to shed some light on medical care in Belize, through my personal experiences.

I have partnered with an excellent cardiologist in Belize City, Dr. John Gough, and together (with Rose, of course as team captain!) we are tackling this whole business. Since the questions keep coming — and I can’t begin to say how touched and humbled I am by so many of you and the concern you have shown — maybe it is time for a short update.

So here’s what’s happened since the last blog posting.

Two weeks ago I returned to Dr. John Gough’s Buttonwood Bay Medical Center for the exploratory phase of angioplasty. With another doctor beside him ans several nurses in attendance, Dr. Gough maneuvered the catheter to the coronary arteries where a dark dye was discharged. X-rays showed how the arteries and the heart chambers were functioning.

He found a significantly blocked coronary artery in one heart chamber and another that is almost completely blocked in the other chamber. Some time right after New Years he plans on inserting a stent into the first one. The second is more problematic. It appears to be a very old closure and one that has not affected my quality of life, according to John and some colleagues in Guadalajara with whom he consulted in real time. That artery has expanded significantly however and has resulted in an unusual blood flow pattern.

It may require a stent, a bypass or, given its age, nothing at all.

The head of cardiology at the Guadalajara medical school/hospital where John took his training is coming to Belize to visit for the New Year — so I’ll have both of them in on the procedure.

Meanwhile, my stay at the clinic (two nights, with meals — an odd case of timing and living on a distant island) ended up with a bill that is less than most deductibles insured people pay in the States. It should be about $4,500 USD when it is all done.

Meanwhile, I am on a steady regimen of drugs to keep the blood flowing, the pressure down and the cholesterol away. That includes no drinking alcohol and no bacon, as well as no heavy lifting, no exertion, no athletic endeavors …. ugh.  My life at the moment is sedentary and boring.

But I’m being a good boy. Not complaining and keeping my eye on the future. I want to live, be healthy and enjoy my life to the fullest with Rose for a bunch more years. This will help me get there. I’m certain.

     * * * * *      * * * * *       * * * * *

Postscript: Anyone who has lived on Ambergris Caye for a while ends up with a favorite cab driver or two in Belize City. Before you head over, you call one of your favorites and ask them to pick you up. The best will stay with you as you shop (or pick you up again at a set time) and get you back to the water taxi or Municipal airport in time for your ride back to San Pedro.

A while back, our neighbors Doug and Gail were kind enough to give us the number for their favorite driver, Tony, and I have had the pleasure of his company on several occasions, most recently when I went into the clinic for the angioplasty. Tony is my age. He is extremely well-read, thoughtful, funny and knowledgeable about the history and politics of Belize. A ride with him is always enlightening.

Yesterday we got a call from Tony in Belize City. He just wanted to know how the angioplasty went and how I was doing.

And that is just another reason why I love Belize so much.

11 thoughts on “Heart takes a licking and keeps on a ticking, an update from Belize

    johnhenryeast said:
    December 18, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Good to see you last night Bob to learn that they’ve identified the cause of your problem and, more importantly, what they are going to do to rectify it.

    Keep doing what you’ve been told to do. They know best.


      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      December 19, 2014 at 7:02 am

      John, it was great to catch up a bit the other night, even if for only a few minutes. I’ll see you at Estels one of these mornings, if you don’t mind watching me eat the “healthy” breakfast plate — do they have such a thing??
      When people ask why we like Belize you and Rose remain at the top of my list. Happy Holidays, my friend!


        johnhenryeast said:
        December 19, 2014 at 7:15 am

        Of course they have a healthy option – the fruit bowl. I understand (and I’ll trust those that have said so) that it’s very good.


    Jan B. said:
    December 19, 2014 at 6:17 am

    Bob – you are in our thoughts daily. Glad to hear you will be back into the swing of things soon after the new year! Happy holidays to you and Rose!
    Jan and Clive


      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      December 19, 2014 at 6:51 am

      Thanks, Jan! Hope we see you guys soon! Has the road south improved with the nice dry weather??


        Jan B. said:
        December 19, 2014 at 1:49 pm

        The road south is wonderful at the moment. They graded it a few days ago and it is almost like the 5 Fwy….everyone exceeding the 15 mph speed limit!


    Ruthie said:
    December 19, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Selfishly, I’m enjoying your sedentary and boring life. You are writing more!


      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      December 19, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      I must admit, I am too, Ruthie. Even on a tropical island life can get too busy and begin to whirl out of control. I like slowing life back down to walking speed.


    Karen Kelly said:
    December 19, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Thanks so much for the update Bob. You were so lucky to have had warning signs and not more initially. I am so proud of you for following through! Now I am certain that you should not have climbed those Mayan ruins!!!!Ugh.


      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      December 20, 2014 at 4:42 am

      I agree but I am so glad I made that trip with you all, Karen! Next time we shall all climb the highest Mayan temples together (in good health).


        Karen Kelly said:
        December 20, 2014 at 12:34 pm

        You have a deal!


Leave a Reply to Ruthie Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s