2019 – healing.

UPDATE April 4, 2019

Today is four months post-surgery.  Within the last few days, Mick Jagger announced he’d be having valve replacement as I had.  He thinks he’ll be hopping around by summer.  I wish him well.  It takes time.

Each day I feel more “normal” but there’s still much room for improvement.  The first day of Spring, March 21, I did my first full-length walk on the route I usually take in the winter.  I completed the route in a little longer than “normal” for me, and a little bit more tired.  But it worked.  I’ve done the route three times – it’s still a bit chilly – and all other days have been indoors at Lifetime Fitness, doing about 45 minutes total on the stationary bike and treadmill.

At Church last Sunday I was enlisted to help out with ushering, and it went well.

Not 100% , but not 50% either – somewhere in between.

March 19 the Minneapolis Star Tribune had an article about the TAVR heart valve which initially was the one I was to receive.  TAVR Strib Mar 2019001 The article speaks for itself.  In the end, it was determined to replace my valve with a portion of a bovine valve – a standard procedure.  Whatever the case, there is a new valve which apparently is functioning better than the previous.

Nothing is without risk.  As the article points out, things can happen, (as they can happen to anyone, any time).  But all goes pretty well, and I have no regrets.  Next report, Lord willing, will be in a month, on my 79th birthday.

 (earlier posts continued at March 12 at the conclusion of Jan. 1 post, below.) 


The pillow, Fairview Southdale Edina MN week of Dec 4, 2018


Jan. 1, 2019: Happy New Year!

This morning I filed a reply to a Facebook post about Grandson Bennie from Robin and David:  I am most grateful with Bennie’s visits at the time I was hospitalized and here at home in recovery. Thank you all so very much. 2018 had a long and uncertain ending; 2019 begins at least with promise. There is the famous song lyric of John Lennon “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” (Beautiful Boy). Apparently the specific quote traces back to Allen Saunders in a 1957 Readers Digest article. No difference, it is so right on. The three of you are models for me as 2019 begins. Let’s have a great year!”

Bennie’s accident and my heart diagnosis effectively happened on the exact same day, May 25, 2018, perhaps an hour apart.  For me, my primary physician noted something about my heart at my annual physical.  I have doctored at the same clinic since 1991, and I’m forever grateful to the annual physical which were, until this year, basically routine.

These days there are so many ways to communicate.  Cathy has done a great job with Caring Bridge (Bennie’s Caring Bridge is here). As the resident caregiver, Cathy is the one who makes sure I take the proper meds and she keeps the personal ship more or less on course.

I finally decided to use this blog as my personal platform, (most recent post Dec. 28.)  Facebook is another platform, which I infrequently use; good old-fashioned e-mail is one of my most common means of connecting person to person, dick_bernard@msn.com.  So it goes in these wired times.

Succinctly, I’m doing better.  As I commented to my sister, Sunday I successfully walked more than a city block each way to/from Church, the Basilica of St. Mary.  No walker, no cane, under my own power, no balance issues.  Of course this is no foot race.  On the other hand, my ticker worked just fine.  The small stroke seems hardly an impediment (though I still have to watch for typos ib tge [on the] keyboard.  (I’ve left two genuine typos for illustration.  It is vexing.)

Today we’ll go to a movie – Mary Queen of Scots.  It looks interesting.  At this New Years Day, 2019, normal seems to be slowly returning.

Yesterday was a visit to my primary care physician; a scheduled followup to the heart surgery.  Cathy came along – good to have other eyes and ears to deal with nuances of medications, some of which are new.  I was impressed with the thoroughness of the post op assessment.  You have to work to escape notice as the notes of each attending person at every level are on line and visible to the attending staff.  No ‘dog ate it” dodges!

Friday is the first appointment for the requisite therapies – PT and the like.  There is a cost to vacation.   This month seems to be a time of work; I’ll be somewhere in the near neighborhood, so no need for long drives.

More reporting as the month goes on.  I appreciate everyone, most especially Cathy for keeping me on track.

Happy New Year.

PS:  I have been irregular on blog posts, and, of course,  my personal circumstances have changed.  I do plan to continue publishing, and get back in to the regular routine.  Just check in once in awhile if you’re interested.  The calendar at right will reveal whether/which dates cover a published post.

March 12 and following, continued.

March 12, 2019: My post-operative appointment with the Cardiologist was yesterday.  She was the physician who started me on the march to surgery last October.  I admit to being nervous beforehand.  I didn’t know what would be said.  There had been echocardiogram, blood test and x-ray before the appointment. The report was very positive (I had to ask for a second opinion, and Cathy concurs – she was there).  Succinctly, the doctors Instructions:  “1.  No changes to medications..2.  No problem with traveling.  3.  I will plan on seeing you back in my office in six months.”  The surgeon who did the surgery on Dec. 4 stopped in unexpectedly.  No, not because I’m a prize-winning “specimen”; rather to take a look at a minor post-op issue.  The cardiologist said a reasonable expectation was to give the recovery process a year.  I’ve heard that from others who’ve “been there, done that”.  Now, basically, it’s up to me.  Mental and physical activity are encouraged.  I think I know what I need to do, and the coming spring (some day fairly soon, I hope, will get me outside again.)  Recovery is a team process.  I’ll try to do my part!

Thanks for reading.  Check in once a month or so.

March 4, 2019:  Three months ago today was the open heart surgery that still manages my life, and probably will continue to manage in the longer term.

Coincidentally, in today’s mail came two items laying out billings related to the surgery and after care.  Thank goodness for Medicare and Blue Cross/Blue Shield supplement that we are fortunate to have.  I haven’t tallied up the total at this point.  Most likely out of pocket will be minimal, particularly compared with the “retail” bill.

I last reported on Feb. 4, one month ago.  The recovery process continues.  A week or so ago I gave an informal assessment to a friend: I’m probably at about 50% pre-surgery now.  Actually, this is an it depends number.  Today I was at the gym, and for the last few times have essentially performed at pre-surgery levels on the tread mill.  But I know I’m not anywhere near 100% yet.  My norm used to be an hour a day walking outside.  With our record-setting winter, such has been impossible to even imagine.

Feb. 25 I had a couple of appointments at Fairview Southdale Hospital, and asked Cathy to show me the “the scene of the crime” – the ICU and Hospital Rooms where I had spent the first three or four days after surgery on third floor.  Just imagine a hospital room where your environment is a bed, and your horizon is mostly the ceiling and the wall in front of you, by yourself….  For a short time I had a roommate, but he was in about as bad shape as I.  I’m normally not much at casual talk, so being quiet was not unusual.  But it was good to at least see the places I resided.  I likely won’t forget the different world one lives in coming out of anesthesia.   Burned in my mind’s eye is the outside world which I saw once in awhile from the hospital bed.  It was nothing more than another part of the hospital building, maybe a couple hundred feet away, but it was the real world!

February was Cardiac Rehab month at Woodwinds Hospital, which is only about three miles from here.  There were 18 or so one-hour sessions, each supervised by a physical rehab therapist.  Maximum patients were five, each with one therapist.  The basic equipment was treadmill and other similar equipment, and weights.  The objectives seemed to be two: supervised activity so we got a notion of what we could do; medical management with heart and blood pressure, etc., monitoring to make sure the ticker was working.  I gave them highest compliments.  Before the therapy, I had no idea what it was about.  Now I do.  I recommended it to a friend this morning.

Before Woodwind Rehab was rehab in a satellite clinic building and, of course, the initial rehab at Fairview Acute Rehab center.  Each place was staffed by remarkable people, who deal with broken folks like myself – relearning, sometimes, the bare basics of living, starting over…..

I have been getting into more of a ‘normal’ routine.  Only recently have I started to re-claim my place at Caribou Coffee – a place I’ve been at almost every morning for near 19 years.  I was there this morning from about 6:30 – 8:30, which was my ‘standard’.  I am a creature of habit.  But I had almost never been back there till the last week or so.

As mentioned above, I’ll likely be at Lifetime Fitness, where we have a membership, but had seldom used for a long while – I liked to walk outside.  I will do the outdoors, but also indoors.  There is also an indoor walking opportunity a few miles away at the Bielenberg Sports Center – three soccer fields under one roof.

I’m not pretending all is taken care of.  Tomorrow morning is a sleep study consult.  I don’t think I’m a candidate for C-PAP, but I’ll wait for the consult (not a sleep study tomorrow, just a prescribed consult).  The Sleep Study Center is across the parking lot from the coffee shop, so close by.  Cathy will be along.

For a week, one to go, I’m wearing what’s called a Zio-Patch.  It records every heart beat.  It’s ZIO XT if you want to look it up.    I think they are mostly monitoring to make sure AFIB or the like is controlled.  (I’ve never had AFIB, but it was a post-operative complication for a short time.  I’ve observed nothing unusual.  It will be interesting to see what it shows.

I’m getting more into normal routine, though I think I’ll slowly become somewhat less engaged in my assorted passions, like Citizens for Global Solutions, French-American heritage and the like.  I’m closing in on 79, so if I have a few more years left, I want to do other kinds of things as well as the tried and true.  I know myself too well, however, to predict that I’ll be a couch potato.

One closing note, hopefully with a good outcome:  on February 4, the exact date I did the last update, our friend J. Drake Hamilton was discovered unconscious near her home in St. Paul.  She had slipped on ice, apparently, and had a very severe head injury.  As I write, she is slowing rejoining the world.  She’s a brilliant climate science person, and has been involved at highest levels, but to my knowledge, she has not yet said her first word since the accident.  Visit her Caring Bridge site at least once.  She is walking the same kind of walk Grandson Bennie took, and is still taking.  [PS, March 5: I just read Pat’s update on J, and it seems like yesterday was a remarkable day among every remarkable day in recovery.  Having experienced Physical and Occupational Therapists at several locations the last three months, I can say from experience, they  are absolutely remarkable people, doing their own kind of magic!]

Count your Blessings.  And thanks to everyone for your support and interest.

Consider donating to Caring Bridge.  It is a remarkable service.  I wasn’t much aware of it till Bennie’s injury became noteworthy.  His site remains on-line here.  The last update was Nov. 20.  I need to remind Robin and Dave to add to it.  Bennie’s is a continuing story.

Feb. 4, 2019 Yesterday (Sunday) I was at the Men’s Retreat I have attended the last four years.  It seemed a good time to do a “selfie” about the actual person a few weeks after heart surgery.  It took a few tries…here’s the one I decided to “launch”.

Dick Bernard, “selfie”, Prior Lake MN Feb 3, 2019

Right before going to the Retreat, I made a brief post on the occasion of the beginning of “Heart Month”.  If you wish, it is here.  The recovery process continues.

Jan. 29, 2019. Today begins the 9th week after the surgery.  Yesterday I was at Cardiac Rehab (part of the recovery program – there are five in my group, and we do an hour at 8 a.m. M-W-F) and the therapist was introducing me to weights.  She asked me to put my arms over my head.  I told her I’d been told not to do that.  Well, she said, you’re more than six weeks post-operative and it’s fine.  It was a good reminder, I’m sure not an unusual one to people in the same boat I’ve been: “you’re healing.  Time to try something new….”   Day by day, confidence returns, a little at a time.

I write in the first day of subzero – way below zero – weather in my area.  The norm for everyone here will be limitd mobility for three days or so; stay home if you don’t need to go out.  Cardiac Care is only two or three miles away; the walking place not much further.  We’ll see what the a.m. shows: the class is at 8 a.m.

I’m not feeling 100% yet, but really feeling pretty good.  There is really not much else to report.  Life is beginning to seem like it’s returning to normal.

Jan. 19, 2019.  I returned home from the Rehab Center on December 21, 2018.  It was great to be home.  Of course this was also in the midst of Christmas-New Years season.  This particular end of year was completely dominated by earlier events in December, and as most any family knows, there are visits, events, etc., which make up the family rituals called, usually, “Christmas”.  I deeply appreciated all of the visits, etc., but the healing process was really delayed until after Jan. 1.  “Christmas time” was more than a bit foggy.

Today, it is a month and a half since the surgery on Dec. 4 – it seems like yesterday…and like a year ago – odd how time is both compressed and extended in my minds eye.  The most recent medical appointment was yesterday.  I think that if you actually saw me these days I would look and act basically the same as before.  I hardly used things like the walker and a chair for the shower, and never used a cane.  I seem to have passed muster on the assorted sensory and cognitive tests.  I’ve already walked near a mile in one outing (which may have been a bit much, though I’m glad I did). Yesterday I took a brief solo drive in my car (with Dr. knowledge and permission).  I did just fine.  But extended forays are a ways in the future yet.  I’m not pretending that all is the same as it was Dec. 3, 2018….  Healing is a process.  One day at a time….

Yesterday was appointment with Neurologist at University of Minnesota Health..  His function was to assess my “cerebrovascular accident (CVA) due to bilateral embolism of middle cerebral arteries  and Gait disorder.”  Of course, I was “eye witness” to this small stroke not long after I began to come out of the fog of the surgery: I had no ability to use my left leg – it is an indelible memory.

There was an immediate brain scan, and yesterday we had a look at the results of that scan.  It is interesting to watch one’s brain on parade on the computer monitor, with little markers attached to show what had happened where at the time of the surgery.

Dr. took me through all of the usual tests yesterday – hand-eye; peripheral vision, reflex, walking and the like.  Best I know, I passed everything easily (always a point of nervousness as I age).  We talked a  bit about stuff – open heart surgery is not like a dentist appointment!  Next week is complete echocardiography (which is where this adventure began back in the summer of 2018), with Ziopatch monitor, probably to keep track of the early concern of AFIB (never before a problem for me).  They drew some blood for Methylmalonic Acid and vitamin B12 assessment (apparently no problems).

(I noted the clinic was about a block from where first wife Barbara died July 24, 1965 of Kidney Disease.  Back then it was the main University of Minnesota Hospital; the structure remains, of course, but has been extensively changed over the years.  It is still a teaching hospital, as it was then.)

And then back home.

I am thankful to be around at this stage in my life, and feeling better each day.  Enjoy and use well the time you have left.  We are all on the trip.

Here’s a good reminder: The Station001

Possibly down the road a piece, I’ll attempt to describe how life looked to me as a patient.  Possibly….


Jan. 12, 2019:  Jan. 4 was the one month anniversary of heart surgery.  Jan. 12 seemed like far more than a month.  Looking at it reflectively I’m actually making progress.

Four mornings ago I walked a full quarter mile indoors at the local Bielenberg Sports Center, where the perimeter (the walking area) of the three indoor soccer fields is just under a quarter of a mile.  That is one-tenth of what I used to walk, (at a slower pace, so far); But I now have a goal, and for me announcing the goal is a good incentive.   The second day I walked two laps; yesterday, three.  Yesterday I took a break due to other appointments (four days next week I have one appointment or another); today I was back to the routine of slowly regaining strength and confidence and doing a 4-lap session….  I’m no hero at fitness, but as anyone knows, if you’re going to improve, there is a certain amount of “pain” involved.  On I go.

The last few days the occupational and physical therapy folks have checked me out.  Things like balance and the like seem in pretty decent shape; a little out of kilter in some instances due to the stroke.  Actually doing something (activity) will be the best remedy, it seems.

There is little else to be said, than to repeat the gratitude I have earlier expressed for the entire ‘system’ – family, friends, professionals, on and on.

I will continue to do updates from time to time, all at this page.  Check in once in awhile.  The first will be later today.

Let me leave it at that.

I’ll keep you apprised.


15 replies
  1. Dick Greene
    Dick Greene says:

    Glad you are feeling better and have good care. Keep it up. I’ve been having major back problems since August. Two injections and one surgery…all of which have failed. Am seeing a specialist next week to talk about an electronic devise for my spine.

    Hope you keep feeling better.

  2. Michelle Witte
    Michelle Witte says:

    Go Dick Go! Here’s to a PEACE-FILLED 2019 for you, for Bennie and his family, and for our country. The latter is likely the most challenging to achieve… Hugs to you and Cathy!

  3. Leila Whitinger
    Leila Whitinger says:

    I am happy to hear that you are progressing well. I’m sure that you and your positive attitude will make it easily through whatever challenges you have remaining with this “bump in the road.” Happy New Year to you and to your entire family.

  4. Rebecca Janke
    Rebecca Janke says:

    There’s nothing like a great spouse to make our healing journey be the best it can be. Couple that with all the talented people who are part of your therapy team and your determination to do what you need to do, you are on a good path – a good path, for a good man.

  5. Larry Gauper
    Larry Gauper says:

    Thanks for the update, Dick, and it’s good to hear that you and Bennie are on the mend. We, not Bennie, are ALL getting to those ages where the warranty has expired and you know what that means with a vehicle. Our bodies start to creak and things happen. So glad they found your problem and addressed it. I go in for an annual physical and am always anxious about what my doc may find. So far, I’ve been extremely lucky..and I mean just plain dumb luck.. SO far. God knows what’s around the corner. Keep up the recovery and the reports. Think of you often with your situation. All the best! – Larry

  6. Jim Knauss
    Jim Knauss says:

    Thanks for the update, Dick. I’ve been keeping up with Bennie on Caring Bridge. Glad both are getting better. Here’s to a very Happy New Year!

  7. Lois Woelfel
    Lois Woelfel says:

    Lois Wilke Woelfel
    Thanks, Dick, for you/family updates. The best wishes to all for a continued speedy recovery and better 2019.
    Do keep the blogs coming…………enjoy each one.
    Shalom, LW

  8. Mary Busch
    Mary Busch says:

    Remembering Henry setting his walking goal of a 15 minute mile in his 80’s…Good news about your movement and balance return….A fan of pt, I hope you enjoy the medical”personal TRAINER…
    I’ve started action in HCFAMN for increased MN care…Heard Senator Marty this AM

  9. Florence Hedeen
    Florence Hedeen says:

    DITTO to what everyone else has said. Keep up the great efforts at healing. I think it’s a plus that you see all of us as an incentive to meet your goals. We’ll keep that in mind!


  10. Bill Haring
    Bill Haring says:

    Really glad everything is progressing well for you, Dick. I appreciate reading your posts. We’re leaving for FL for two weeks on Saturday – looking forward to a little warm weather. I had a little pleasantry in having coffee with Jane Krentz and Len Price on Monday PM. It would be great to do coffee or lunch with you when I return FROM FL.

  11. Florence Hedeen
    Florence Hedeen says:

    Can just imagine how great it feels to be able to drive yourself, again! Weather is challenging, however, driving or walking, so be hyper-alert. Hope to see you and Cathy at either or both ends of our upcoming trip to France, February 18-28.

    Love to you both!

  12. Florence Hedeen
    Florence Hedeen says:

    You’re never far from my mind and always in my heart! Thanks for keeping in touch. Even four hours is too far away when a loved one’s health is compromised! Give your body, mind and spirit the best of every day. Healthy habits will be rewarded!

    Love always!

  13. Madeline Simon
    Madeline Simon says:

    So glad to see you are doing so well in recovery. Your regular posting and relationship with Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers are missed. Wishing you all best in continuing increasing strength, and you are so fortunate to have Cathy at your side.

  14. Jermitt Krage
    Jermitt Krage says:

    Thank you for the status report on your health. I’m please you are progressing toward full recovery. As you stated it requires a great deal of work on you part and on the part of others. I wish you the best as spring and summer is on it way and will give you an opportunity to get back into the great outdoors.

  15. mary busch
    mary busch says:

    My mom had her hip replacement at Fairview in the early 90’s, which was interrupted because her heart stopped, Then successful the next day with cardiology added. I did not wish to remind of this before your ordeal…Rehab is great-I did ST Joes where all the heart unit nurses rotate into the rehab unit….I survived five days at abbott acclimating to aspirin before my procedure in 2011…Helpful was a cover your ears radio that also covered hospital sounds…So I am somewhat familiar with your reported experience….Our parents have bravely shown the way to relish life in the ups and downs….Kudos Dick for sharing so literately


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