Dr. John Gough

Taming the widow maker

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Recent sunrise from the deck of our condo. Probably my all-time favorite to date. I take this as a good sign that  good things are ahead. Of course, at my age, I take every sunrise as a good sign ....
Recent sunrise from the deck of our condo. Probably my all-time favorite to date. I take this as a good sign that good things are ahead. Of course, at my age, I take every sunrise as a good sign ….

The “Widow maker” has been tamed.

That would be the left anterior descendant artery in my heart.

The artery that has been giving me problems since — what? — last October?  Last week, two talented doctors deployed a 33×3 mm stent right through what I imagine looked like a fairly long, ugly, and unwanted cheerio of calcium that was blocking 95 percent of this particular artery.

Success! Read the rest of this entry »

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

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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.

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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.

So, I didn’t have a heart attack after all, Part II

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Water taxis to Caye Caulker and Belize City at the ready in San Pedro, Belize.
Water taxis to Caye Caulker and Belize City at the ready in San Pedro, Belize. Those seats on top? The best when the weather is good.

The San Pedro Belize Express water taxi pulled out on time Wednesday, 11 a.m., and pointed its bow toward Belize City — with a stop, of course, at Caye Caulker on the way.

This one had forward facing seats, rather than benches.  Much preferred for the 90 minute ride. Up top on the bridge in the open air would have been even better. Except that on this day a two-person kayak occupied that space.

Last week, when  we took the water taxi, the captain did a U-turn at sea  to pick up some fresh lobsters from a boatman, then dropped off a guy on  Caye Chapel. He was late for his foursome at the country’s only golf course. You never know.

Rose read her Kindle. I did my best to meditate.

Thoughts kept intruding. Read the rest of this entry »