Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Heart Attack, Ack, Ack, Ack

It has been two years since my heart attack. This event certainly came as a surprise to me. I never smoked cigarettes nor did I drink alcohol.
For most of my adult life I have led an athletic lifestyle. Hang gliding, playing racquetball, running, and most recently for 20 years I was active in mountain bike racing.

It was about 5 years ago that I finally had completely given up on bicycling. I had developed some neck and back injuries that prevented me from being able to ride the long hard rides. My weight slowly climbed from 165 pounds to nearly 190 pounds.

I was trying to deal with the weight gain and was doing a little bit of running, but it was not that big of a deal to me. Now I am not sure exactly how long the chest pain events went on. It crept in so stealthily that it was easy for me to pass it off. What is crazy, is that even though I had spent most of my life employed as a respiratory therapist, I was able to pass the mild twinges in the chest as "indigestion" or "muscle spasms". As a health care provider, I had seen many patients admitted into the ER, that had complained of similar symptoms, and like me passed it off as anything but what it was. An impending heart attack.

The pains never came when I was exercising, but only when I was mostly at rest. Here is how the week preceding the "big one" went.

The week had been good. No "heart burn" or "muscle spasm". My oldest son was going to come down this day (Thursday) and we were going to go sailing on Lake Sardis in Oklahoma on my Hobie Cat. It is early morning and I go out to hook up the boat trailer and I get hit with a pretty strong chest pain. Wow! What was that! I sit down for a while and the pain subsides... I am now starting to get to the point where I can no longer deny what these pains might be. But how can that be. I was an athlete most of my life. There just has to be some other explanation. I put it to the back of my mind.

Justin was on his way and I did not want to spoil the day, so it was off to the Lake. It was probably one of the best days of sailing we have had. Strong steady winds and were were ripping the lake up. Then the pains hit again. Justin was managing the tiller and mainsail and I was jib man. I gave Justin a heads up to let him know I was not feeling well and wanted to head back to shore. He figured it was one of my migraines coming on. I was feeling pretty sure about these pains being cardiac related now and wanted to get to shore.

I am encouraging Justin to sail with best speed settings and we are in a far-reach setting with me hiked out in the harness trying to keep both pontoons in the water. We are really ripping and the pain is not subsiding. And then disaster!

The left pontoon hit a wave and started going down into the water like a submarine diving. As it is diving, Justin is trying to release the sail and turn into the wind but it is too late. The right pontoon lifted high out of the water as the boat tumbled over and I was cast through the air on the trapeze wire. Coming up out of the water, I immediately started talking Justin through the tasks that he would need to do to get the Hobie upright. Release the mainsail, release the jib, get the mast pointed into the wind. Stand on the lower pontoon and use the righting rope to lean out and pull the boat upright. He is a big boy and I new he would have the weight to do it himself while I shouted instructions. Only thing I forgot to explain was that as the boat comes down, you need to position yourself to be in between the pontoons when it rights, and not try to jump out and away. So he takes a good whack on the head. Wow! He has a strong head.

During all of this the chest pain has gone away. I think the splashdown into the cold water did something. I was feeling fine. We set course again and made it back to shore without any other incidents or chest pain. I kept it to myself as to what I was fearing about the chest pains. Maybe I would set up and appointment to see my General Practitioner next week. I simply told Justin I was feeling better and we headed on home.

My wife has been a nurse all of her adult life. I had not even mentioned to her the pains that I had been experiencing over the past few weeks. It was the following Saturday morning that all my denials and secrets came tumbling down. We are both awake in bed watching some Saturday Morning TV. I get up to go to the bathroom and bamb.... I am hit with the "Big One". Nothing like Fred Sanford's "Big Ones", but enough pain that I sat down on the side of the bed. Sue noticed and asked if something was wrong. I told her I did not feel well. I guess her being a nurse gave her a level of intuition beyond normal, and she immediately stated, "Your having a heart attack!". I guess just by my body position, she was able to tell. Or maybe she can smell heart attacks.

So it was a mad dash to the hospital which was only 4 miles away. She stops at the red light and I told her to run the red light. I was now hunched over with the pain. It was not a real strong pain, but there was no denying it now.

At the Mena Regional Health Center, they took me in immediately and rapidly had me diagnosed with angina and indeed having a "Heart Attack". Some Aspirin and Nitro Glycerin and the pain subsided. They insisted that I immediately be transferred to Little Rock where there is a center that is just for Heart Emergencies. By that evening I was in surgery having an angiogram and two stints where placed in the left descending coronary artery.

My surgeon explained that I had 100 percent blockage of the Left Descending Coronary Artery. This is usually referred to as the "Widow Maker". Very few survive a blockage of the Left Descending Coronary Artery as it provides blood to a very large amount of heart muscle. What saved me from suffering large amounts of heart damage was what is called collateral circulation. Collateral circulation is a process where other blood vessels are formed and branch out over time to supply extra blood flow to and area of the body. In my case, all my years of endurance athletics had developed a lot of collateral circulation in the heart muscle. Thus when I shut down the left descending coronary, there were some other vessels that were still providing some blood to heart muscle that is normally only fed by the left descending coronary. A few days recovery in the hospital in Little Rock and I was back home at work.

So how did this happen? Well I am 100% convinced that my diet was too blame. Sure there are genetics that may lead to a predisposition for coronary artery disease, but there was not history of this in my family. For decades, I ate a horrible diet. You know.... a normal American diet. So I eliminated the red meats, the doughnuts, the candy bars, the bacon and egg breakfasts, the soda pops, the Big Mac's. We also had to start screening food for Sodium content. It has been a challenge, but I feel a lot healthier, and my weight has dropped back down to 165 pounds.

It has been two years since my heart attack. I have felt great, and am taking my magic medicines my doctor has subscribed. Blood work looks great, and I stick to my diet with only an occasional cheat. I am hang gliding, sailing and I have even returned back to bicycling by way of a couple of recumbent bikes. One is for riding the streets and one I built myself for riding off-road on our lovely trails in Arkansas.

And the downside.... Well, I did destroy some of my heart tissue. Not a lot but that is a pretty stupid thing to let happen. My cardiac physician also explains that at the time they performed the angiogram, they also saw the other coronary arteries to be 60% occluded. He says that even despite the drugs and the exercise and the diet change that more than likely I will be looking at the prospect of these arteries occluding and possibly more surgery. Well, I am not buying that story.... I am hoping that with my good diet and exercise and all the magic pills I take, I will be able to avoid any further plaque build up in my arteries. Will I prove my good doctor wrong? I am hoping so, and I am making every effort to achieve that goal.

Lesson learned

Just because you exercise, you will not prevent the disastrous effects that our American Diet has on the body. And there are many other diseases besides coronary artery disease that a poor diet can cause. Diabetes and cancer and more....

It is never to late to change ones course. I have set my sails on a new heading. I am hoping this new heading will keep me away from the storms.
Related Links

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Do You Still Want a Smart Car?

This was the title of the E-mail that was forwarded to me by a good friend. It obviously was one of those E-mails that gets forwarded about the Internet. Usually they are political or sometimes representing a religious point of view. But this was about an automobile. I had seen the Smart Car and had expressed some interest in the little car. My friend, he feels it to be appropriate to pass on this bit of information for my consideration. I usually will not bother to open E-mails that look to be one of these forwarded messages, but this was from my buddy and indeed indicated that the topic was of interest to me.

With a Click, I can now read the content of the e-mail. The body of the email was comprised of the following text and a couple of photos.

"Below is a photo of a wreck in Jefferson Parish, LA (near New Orleans )between two trucks and a Smart Car. Think I ll pass on the Smart Car."

Followed by the these photos showing a horrible wreck.

Dang! What a horrible mess! But, I was suspicious. With Photo-shop experts out there, it is possible to create any illusion. So, I visited a couple of my favorite web sites that debunk urban legends, scams, and outright lies.

And debunked it was! Not only was there evidence of the original story clearly pointing out the make and model of the vehicle, (Not a Smart Car) but also that the person fortunately survived the crash. Another interesting note that was pointed out, was the fact that the only identifiable feature of the crushed car is one of it's wheels. It is clearly shown to be a 5 lug-nut wheel, where the image of the intact Smart Car is clearly sporting a 3 lug-nut wheel.

Now I know my friend probably forwarded this without checking out the validity of this e-mail and I do not think he was trying to deceive, but the question in my mind is this.... Why would someone take the time to lie about the photo shown saying that this was a photo of a crushed Smart Car, when they very well knew it was not? So, a little more investigating and I started getting an idea of what was going on.
I quickly was able to find a large number of web sites and forums that are dedicated to bashing the Smart Car. And by the discussion that was going on at these various forums, it appeared to me that the general political persuasion of those bashing this little car were of the right wing. The level of disgust and hatred for this little car was astounding. The Smart Car, to these right wing zealots was the symbol for all that is evil and was the start of the loss of all our liberties in these good United States of America!

Wow! That is a very big burden for a single car to carry on it's itty bitty shoulders.

Personally I do see a need for a "City Car". That is, a car that gets excellent fuel mileage, would carry 1 or 2 persons maximum. Good tool for that daily short commute, taking advantage of great fuel economy, and finding parking in limited parking areas.
While I do keep my options open in considering a small vehicle, I am not sure the Smart Car is the vehicle of choice as it really does not get that great of fuel mileage when you consider its size. Barely challenges some of the mid-size vehicles. Plus the price would have to come down.

Now I have observed several crash tests on YouTube of the Smart Car, and it gets high marks for protecting the passenger space in frontal and side impact. But it is a very small and light weight car, and in the business of crashes, mass will win the battle every time, thus demonstrated in the above photo of the crushed mid size car. I doubt that any car would fair well being crushed between two trucks. The physics of the situation simply will play out. Somethings got to give!

So again.... why the lies! If you would rather not drive a small car then don't. And why fret about someone else driving a small car.... It only makes it safer for those that drive the behemoths! In the near future many will be faced with the possibility of unreasonably high fuel prices. Many will of course at that time seek more fuel efficient transportation.

A good debunk site-

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What Michael Vick Needs.

I don't know much about Michael Vick except for what has been covered on the news. I don't follow football so when the news of the "Animal Abuse" conviction a couple years ago, well..... this was the first time I had probably heard of him. Like I said I do not follow football.

Most will find Mr. Vick's involment with dog fighting appalling as do I. I can can only imagine that individuals involved with such activity, in some convoluted way, find a way to justify the practice of Dog Fighting. They may say.... "Hey! This is what dogs do! Dogs in the wild will establish the pecking order. We are just letting dogs do what dogs do!" Same I guess with cock fighting.

So the news will follow Mr. Vick's every move. They will watch him on the practice field. They will follow him about as he goes about his life. Waiting for him to slip up. He will be booed when he starts playing football again. He will be booed when he fumbles the ball, and he will be booed when he scores a touchdown.

He served two years in prison, lost millions of dollars, lost his reputation, maybe has lost his career, and has apologized for his behavior, but overall the vast majority seem unable to forgive Mr. Vick. I have seen men forgiven for much greater offenses, but this will not go away for Mr. Vick. Many will never be able to forgive his offense. All the community service and apologies and touchdowns, will be of no effect for those that have not been able to forgive.

I do have an idea though that may be Mr. Vick's path to redemption. No.... not accepting Jesus.... I am guessing he has already done that.... No! What Mr. Vick needs is a puppy. Not a Pit Bull puppy, or a Rottweiler puppy, but something like a Poodle or Pomeranian puppy. Something that he can love and take care of. Something delicate and cute that you have to be careful with. And months down the road when he takes his little Pomeranian puppy for a walk in the park and all see the love relationship he has with the little puppy, it is then that he will be forgiven.

See the little Pomeranian puppy I gave to my Daughter-in-law in the YouTube Video below. Yeah! This is what Mr. Vick needs. Got to love the little bugger!
Click on the above Video to see a very cute puppy.

Friday, August 14, 2009

There is a Tick on my Dog!

We were a bit naive, when we first moved to Mena, Arkansas to live in the country. After about a year there, we figured we needed a hound dog to watch over our home in the woods. So we bought a mixed hound from the pound and became fast friends with this pooch.

So I am in town working when I get a call from my wife, Sue.... She is a bit frantic and was telling me about this huge tick that was on Judy's head, (the hound dog, nearly full grown now). It had really dug itself in deep and was all swollen with the sweet blood of Judy. I have no idea as to what to do, so I told her to call the neighbors across the creek. So she calls "Bud", a local retired Baptist preacher who we visited on occasion for some sound advice.

Bud instructs Sue that the way to get that tick out is to hold a lit match near that little bugger. "You don't want to burn or kill the tick, but heat him up enough to make him uncomfortable", says Bud. "Shortly ,he will back out to get away from the discomfort". Sue calls me and tells me she went through a book of matches with no effect.... I tell her to try another neighbor.

She calls Oren, the father of a large Mennonite family that lives across the dirt road. Oren stated "to get that tick out, you need to pour alcohol on the tick. The alcohol will irritate the tick, and he will back on out of there." So Sue tried the rubbing alcohol, completely exhausting the whole 12 ounce bottle on the head of our poor Judy. This again was to no effect. The tick remained dug in deep with no apparent desire or intention to vacate our poor Judy. In frustration, Sue decided to go back to the matches, not realizing the flammability of alcohol. As soon as she again held that match close to Judy's head, there was a poof!!!, And Judy's head was ablaze. So Judy is running around on fire and Sue is chasing and beating on the poor dogs head trying to put the flames out. Must have been quite a sight.

She did not call and tell me about this incident, but when I got home Sue looked like she had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. I asked her what the problem was, and she sheepishly admitted to setting Judy on Fire!

So we go out to inspect the damage to the dog. Eye lashes are gone... eyebrows are scorched and the hair on her head took on a curly-cue mess of burnt hair. She smelled kind of bad too. Kind of like burnt dog I guess. But she looked okay, and it did not look like there was any damage to her eyes. Sue felt so bad, and I could not stop laughing. Especially when I looked close at Judy's forehead, and low and behold, right there in the middle of the scorched forehead was the tick.... still holding his ground! Man.... that was one tenacious tick.

This was some great story to tell through the years.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Potato Rock

It was 1984, and I was exploring the wild woods of Arkansas. I would ride my mountain bike in from my home where we were building our home in the woods in the Ouachita Mountains near Mena, Arkansas. Now I have never been much of a rock collector, and probably could not find a valuable stone if I tried. But sometimes just being in the wrong place at the wrong time ends up being right.

I was attempting to cross one of the creeks on my mountain bike, and had popped my front wheel up on the other side when all of a sudden my rear wheel slid out and I went down in the creek. No harm done to bike or body. As I was getting up, something caught my eye. It was up on the bank, and I could not believe my eyes! What was a Potato doing out here 12 miles from anything. It was nestled in the pine needles, just like an egg in a nest. So what to do.... Well much to my, and surely your amazement, I walk over and without a second thought, I picked up the Potato. Boy was I in for a surprise. That Potato weighed as much as a rock. Well gosh darn it, that Potato is a rock.

I stuck it in my hip pack and finished my adventure without any other odd occurrences. I did keep glancing around, thinking I might find another Rock that looked like a Potato.

When I got home I took the Rock out to look and to see if maybe my eyes had been playing tricks. I washed off the dirt and much to my amazement and surely to yours, this thing looked even more like a Potato than ever. It has a couple of small dents, like “eyes” in a potato, and even has a small groove in one side that looks like a potato that had taken some damage to the skin.

Later I showed Susie my treasure, and she was very impressed with my find. Or at least she acted that way. She sure knows how to stroke my ego.

Since that day I have dedicated myself to finding more rocks that look like food. Maybe a rock that looks like a strip of bacon, or maybe a rock that looks like a carrot would be neat! But as the decades have passed, I have come to the conclusion that there just are not that many rocks that look like food. That’s what makes this rock so special.

I have had some good times with the Potato Rock. My favorite is playing practical jokes on unsuspecting house guests. Aha! Let’s cook some baked Potatoes. Imagine the surprise on their faces when they try to cut into their fresh served Baked Potato. Hey! This thing is as hard as a rock! Mu aaah haaa haaa haaaaaaa!

Many have offered me money for my unique rock, but I have declined. Sure I could take their measly hundred dollars, and then what would I have. I would spend the money foolishly and I would no longer have my beloved potato rock.

So I have built a Web Page for my Potato Rock with hopes that others can marvel in this mystery of creation. Is it a fossilized potato? Is it a petrified potato? Well whatever it is, it is very cool, and it is mine. Over the years, I have been contacted by others that have also found potato rocks. I now have the largest web based museum showing potato rocks from around the world.

Take a look at all the potato rocks at

Broke Down In Williams, Arizona

Finally! A long awaited hang gliding vacation out to Southern California to fly some of the sites that I flew in the 1970's. Traveling with fellow Arkansas, Jason Gray, we were provided with nice accomodations by my long time flying buddy, Kenny Westfall and his lovely wife Megret in their beautiful mountain cabin near Crestline, California. A great adventure of hang gliding, but that is another story. Flying at Torrey Pines!

Heading home from our many days of enjoyable flying, our adventure was just beginning! About 45 miles from Flagstaff, Arizona, My 2001 Chevy S-10 simply quit running. Trying to crank it over, it sounded like a motor that was out of timing. On my I-phone I was able to locate a tow service only 14 miles away in Williams, Arizona. This was on a Saturday and was glad to have found some service so near.

The truck was towed to Malone's Auto in Williams, Arizona on a Saturday, where they ruled out any fuel problem and found that the distributor gear was trashed and that the timing had jumped gear. They worked on the truck on Sunday (open 7 days a week) and had it all ready for when the parts arrived on Monday.

During my stay in Williams, Arizona I busied myself with riding my bike, monitored the progress on my truck and partook of Williams, Arizona. I enjoyed the great eats available in the many restaurants and browsed through the many shops in this quaint little western town. The good folks at the Highlander Motel gave my buddy, Jason a ride to Flagstaff so that he could rent a car to get home and back to work, while I wait on my truck to be repaired. I was hoping to take the scenic train ride to the Grand Canyon, but the truck would be ready on Monday afternoon and thus I would be hitting the road.

Excellent service by the good folks at Malone's Auto in Williams, Arizona. Overall a very nice little town in a very picturesque setting. Called the Gateway to the Grand Canyon!

My next time out west I will really want to spend a couple days in Williams as a destination point for visiting the Grand Canyon.

Check out my YouTube Video, highlighting my adventure of being broke down in Williams, Arizona. A nice town in which to break down.

Visit Williams, Arizona.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Torrey Pines Flight Park/Glider Port

Cannot believe it had been over 30 years since I had last visited the Torrey Pines Glider Port in La Jolla California. Things have changed a lot, now with a very well developed facility. Large set-up area for Hang Gliders and Paragliders. Also present now was a concession stand, as well as a pro shop where you register for flying, buy your souvenir coffee cups and T-shirts and videos.

Winds were light when I arrived with my long time friend and California native, Kenny Westfall, and Jason Gray, my fellow Arky traveling buddy. We set up our gliders and watched the Paragliders floating around on the light breezes coming up the cliffs. We would certainly need a bit more wind before we launched. Eventually some Hang Gliders were launching, so we registered and paid the very reasonable day fee of $7.50, and committed ourselves to the cliffs.

Had a great time, and recommend this facility for all pilots. A well managed flight park with great facilities and friendly and helpful people on site.Launches were very casual into 12-14 mph breeze, and within minutes we joined the other few dozen gliders in the smooth coastal air. We had amazing views of the multi-million dollar mansions that line the cliffs. At the base of the cliffs is the famous Blacks Beach, where clothes are optional. We all made several launches and landings, landing back on top. Jason has some nice Bacon to take home with him after his last late evening landing finished with a belly landing.

Torrey Pines Flight Park also appears to be the perfect location for that first introductory Tandem flight. They had 2 or 3 tandem flights going at a time and they really gave them a good flight for the money.

Torrey Pines Glider Port Web Site:

YouTube Video our fun day at Torrey Pines Flight Glider Port: