Heart Matter

PRE-NOTE: An outstanding film we saw yesterday: Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice


My friend, Emmett, sent a note overnight: “Hope your heart appointment went well.  Please let me know what the results were.”  The note jogs this post, which I was going to do anyway.

People I know, all know I had heart surgery Dec. 4, 2018 – trifecta GT tissue heart valve, says the card in my wallet.  I don’t know who knows what, if anything at all, so this seems as good a vehicle as any to send the update from the cardiologist appointment last Friday – the one Emmett refers to.

First, I had a barista take the below photo of me in my “corner office” at Woodbury Caribou Coffee this morning.  This same spot has seen me most every day for the last 19 years (the cup almost qualifies for Antiques Road Show – well seasoned).  Yes,  I’m a creature of habit.  (If you’ve ever gotten a letter from me – always handwritten – chances are it was written in this corner.  You’ll see no iPhone or such in the vicinity…my refuge from computer!)

Dick, October 14, 2019, 7:30 a.m.

Here’s the note I sent to family members after the appointment on Friday: Yesterday I had my scheduled appointment with my cardiologist to check out the ticker, etc.    It is coming on 10 1/2 months since the heart operation last Dec. 4.
Things are going well.  There were some changes in medication.  ECG, and related were essentially normal.  There was nothing of particular concern that wasn’t known before (my blood pressure was 140/90, which is a bit higher than it was before the surgery, and the adaptation was to increase dose of one med back to what the same med was before the surgery).
I am on a reasonably vigorous exercise program at the fitness place – about 45 minutes a day on tread mill, enough to increase the heart rate and get me sweating.  I’m pretty ‘religious’ about that.  I used to walk outside, but I have rosacea and decided to go to more indoor activities at least for now.  I think I need some work with weights to tone up other muscles.  
This summer had some trouble with bleeding due to anti-coagulant.  Had to deal with periodic nosebleeds.  Did finally do cauterization of a vessel or two.  It seems to have worked.  Urologist is watching a growth on kidney, but there are no alarm bells.  Next check on that is in January.  
I don’t think I look like ‘death warmed over’ – others would have to reveal that.
It is useful, though, to be aware of the fact that I’m one year older than last year, and at 79 [half way through my 80th year] that makes more of a difference than going from 15 to 16, or such.  Anything can happen at any time, and as we older people know from just watching our friends and relatives, stuff happens.

My outstanding cardiologist has 20 years in the trade; she’s the person who delivered the news to me about a year ago that the valve needed to be replaced.  I had no symptoms before hand – the potential problem surfaced in the annual physical in late May, 2018, ironically on the very afternoon grandson Ben and his Dad were in a horrible car accident.  I’m very fortunate.  So have they been.

There are endless people to thank and I won’t even try to list even a few.

One especially, though, is my friend Clarence, who was one of the first other than family visitors when I was in intensive care last December.  Some months later Clarence, now 88, was diagnosed with advanced cancer – pancreatic, and is certainly close to the end of his time as a friend to so many of us.  It won’t be long for him.  We haven’t seen him at church for some weeks now.  Great, great guy.  As I heard a minister eulogize a younger man years ago who’d died in a car accident, Clarence definitely ‘lived before he died’.  At 88, he won’t need the rest of that long ago eulogy “died before he was finished”.  Clarence has run the race with grace.

[Phone message overnite Oct 14: Clarence Birk has died.  Funeral at Basilica of St. Mary on Monday Oct 21 11 a.m. visitation followed by funeral at noon.  RIP]

I’ve become fond of saying that “the main cause of death is life“.  None of us are “forever young”, whatever the age.  Best to live as best we can, one day at a time, giving back in the sundry ways available to us, such as the young lady taking my ‘pitcher’ this morning!  Work for a better world.

My last photo of Clarence Birk, August 14, 2019, at Basilica of St. Mary, Minneapolis. We’d just spent two or three hours ‘touring’ his old haunts, one of the main ones being Basilica of St. Mary which was his lifelong parish.

Hands of Basilica of St. Mary parishioners. September 28, 2019. The parish is celebrating 150 years this year.

Clarence Birk (back row center) Feb 8, 2001, Habitat for Humanity group from Basilica of St. Mary. Clarence was very active in Habitat projects, and otherwise ‘handy’ in the manual arts!  This would have been about the time I got to know him.  One doesn’t keep tabs on such events – possibly I had just started working as an usher at the church, where Clarence was already involved.  I just don’t know for sure.

Downtown Minneapolis (zoom lens)as seen from Clarence Birk’s boyhood backyard in north Minneapolis August 14, 2019. Clarence and others walked to Basilica School.

Habitat for Humanity Construction Crew September 11, 2001, lunch break on the porch.  This photo probably was taken during the day, before any of us knew that the Towers were going to collapse.   There was a radio at the site, but that was the only outside communication.

COMMENTS (More in the ‘comments section, below)

from Dick: I’m really grateful for all the comments.  They mean a lot.  Thanks everyone.

from David: Thanks for the update. As you state so well, we are all temporary residents of life. I’m glad that you have mostly returned to your same old cantankerous self.  Take care. See you at the usual time and place.

from Kelsey:  Hello from St. Rose Care Center!  Glad to hear things are going well for you.  I especially enjoyed the quote on death you shared, “Main cause of death is life.”  Blessings,

from JoAnn: Good morning, Dick.  So glad that you are doing well and I appreciate the update.  Funny (?) that we are getting to know lots of -ologists these days (doctors of some form of -ology). 😄  I have certainly added a few these past few years!   Just a little update from me: I’m finally regaining my spirit, and health.  At least feeling like I can live a more normal life, exercise, socialize, engage(!) more than a year ago.  Basically I’m learning to manage my pain, which is mostly associated with my back.  So, little by little I’m working on the deferred maintenance of family and friend relationships, house projects, and re-engaging in communities – as energy allows.  Also continuing with RJ [restorative justice]and Civility work.

from Beth: Thank you for the update, Dick. You look well. I am so grateful for that. Also, for your post today, as it had some real nuggets for me. God bless.

from Juel: It is great to read that you are doing well. I had colon cancer surgery Dec.4, 2017. Dec. 4th is a good day for surgery as I, too, am doing well.

from Michael: You look great Dick!  Glad to hear the good news.  I’m in Amsterdam with my son for a few days before we head to Dubrovnik, where it should be warmer.

from Frank: Congratulations on the good report.  At this age it’s always nice to survive one more year.  The eternal question?  Is it time to start spending capital?  Maybe start flying first class every now and then and bump up one class in hotels?  Answer, of course, is no, not yet.  I can remember in my late 50s when I took a close look at retirement funds anticipated and deciding that max level savings weren’t necessary any more. So far, it’s worked.

from Emmett: Thanks for the health update.  I have to say that you look pretty chipper in that photo.  I understand what you are talking about when you say that you are a creature of habit.  I am getting to be as bad as Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory program when it comes to adjusting to changes.  It gets tougher every year.

from Carol: You will probably be around long after me… 🙂

from Peter: you look marvelous!

from Judy: Thanks my friend! You and Cathy are in my thoughts! Love you both!

from Paul:  It’s Paul C in Maine.  Just read your heart update – all very good news!

I just celebrated 25 years post bypass (the first one 1994) and 10 years this past July (the second in 2009). So much of this recovery is about a positive attitude, listening to your docs, exercise, and red wine… (HA!)
I noticed your blood pressure readings. Like you, I’ve historically been in that 140/90 range. My doc continued to be concerned and wanted to increase my meds which, quite honestly, always made me very tired. And even when I regularly exercise, my readings have historically been consistently high.
Up until about two years ago.
I’ve been using this device called the Zona Plus. You may have seen the ads on television. I bought one. Hard to believe, but now my average blood pressure is 107/70. Crazy! Met with my doc this past week and he’s impressed. There’s even talk about cutting back on my meds. Although the device is somewhat expensive, it’s worth every penny. The evidence based data that I shared with my doc proves this. Have a look. https://www.zona.com/
It’s now peak foliage here in Maine. Mornings are in the 20’s. Trust me, snow before too long.
Wishing you all the very best.
responding to Paul: I did take a look at that web site.  Actually, a relative who’s a trucker, and has blood pressure problems, had mentioned perhaps the exact same technique as is advertised.  Actually, the blood pressure spike came relatively recently, though I have taken medicine for years.  Normally, I’ve been more in the 130/70 or so range.  I do think I will ask about the zone.  I don’t dismiss these kinds of innovations.  Thanks for the tip.
from J: Well, I love the aided photodocumentation of your corner office! It seems perfect, especially with multiple pens ready at your fingertips!

I looked forward to reading about your Friday check-up. Thank goodness that you are so fortunate. I know I share your same kind forturn (apart from the No Good News and even some Very Bad News for almost three weeks that fell squarely on my husband).

You look and seem happy, and you are one of the writers I grow from reading.  You also strike me as resolved to embrace the sheer delight of living now.  Excellent report out!

from Gail: Thanks for the update, Dick.  Glad you’re doing well!  It’s also good to hear that you take a break from your ‘devices’ every day.
from Arlene: Thanks for the update!
from Tony: Wishing you great health my friend.

from Jane: You are looking hail and “hearty” in the photo , my friend!

from Jerry: Thanks for the update on your health, Dick.  It’s always great to see you at our meetings as I value your wisdom and experience.

from Nancy: Nice photo! I like being able to visualize you in “your” coffee shop.

from Joyce: Thanks for the update, Dick; we all have our expiration dates, but I expect yours is well into the future, and I cannot bear to think that we could lose you. Besides, you need to be here to watch every adult member of the Trump family, including Jared, but probably excluding Tiffany, doing the perp walk.

from Lloyd: Hi Dick,   I don’t reply to much on computer but I want you to know that I and Joanne(Sheldon) really do like your postings.
Do keep us on your mailing list.   Good luck with that heart also.   You have a true one.

from Bob: Glad to learn you are doing well after your heart surgery last year.  It’s time for another visit.

from Kathy: appreciate your musing on life and death almost a year post surgery…as well as your many sharings over the years.  I note with interest and amazement you are at your station at 7:30 in the morning!

from Deb:   The report from the doctor sounds great! Thanks for sharing… Exercise and walking is always key and feel better all the time and more energized… So glad to hear you take the program serious and doing so well!  It is very important to have the appointments and monitor dosages as body does change… Wishing you the best every day and continued success!  Love it that you have sat at the coffee shop 19 years… wow…

from J.P.:   Must admit you look very good.  Keep up the good work.

from SAK: I was happy to read your update & find that all is well with you & the “ticker”. Sad to hear about your friend but as you suggest he has had a full life & who can ask for more? Wonderful that you keep up your exercise routine: another important message you are sending to us all.
Will pray.




14 replies
  1. Larry Gauper
    Larry Gauper says:

    You look a lot better than one might expect, Dick. Certainly, not anything close to “warmed-over death.” Be assured of that! Thanks for the report. It’s interesting because many of us may face similar medical challenges on the road ahead. Self-interest always piques interest in how others, like you, have gotten through these problems. Your sitting in the coffee shop reminds me of what Garrison Keillor has told us about his solitary visits to a nearby coffee place near where he used to live. As you may know, he and his wife reside in Minneapolis now, moving to a new venue from almost a lifetime in St. Paul, so I suppose we’ll be hearing about a new haunt. I receive and love his emailed columns. Glad to see him recover from what I think was a total over-reaction by MPR. He’s an American treasure that has a lot to give. Just as you do. So hang in there, Dick. I’m trying to imagine being without my phone but you’re certainly on to something there. May give it a try. Best of luck and keep on sharing.

  2. Maryam Yusefzadeh
    Maryam Yusefzadeh says:

    I am so glad to hear you are doing well. All I want is to see is that you are well and as caring as always about this world of us.
    Please continue your progress and take good care of your loving heart, it is very precious. Maryam

  3. Anne Dunn
    Anne Dunn says:

    Gosh Dick, you look grrreat.
    I, too, am well enough.
    This morning I opened my eyes and thought… I’m awake but am I alive?
    It’s almost noon and I’m undecided. Am I living this brief spin the best I can? I’ve been busy but what has been accomplished?
    The crock pot, previously belonged to Eric, is preparing supper. The compost is out in the garden where one tall sunflower salutes the day with her ragged bonnet. I put it there to lure our wild rabbits out of cover. I like to see them huddled over a bit of carrot or a cabbage leaf. If they feel threatened, they dash in the lilacs.
    Soon I will walk my application and required information to the energy assistance office for consideration. Fred is fed and curled up in the rocker.
    I took chicken scraps out for neighbor’s dog, Bob. He has but one ear so must listen well with the remaining one.
    Last nightI started watching a movie about fascism . I’ll finish it later.
    Now.its time to fill my water jugs as I have no indoor plumbing.
    I look around my little acre and find a riot of color. I know winter will be a challenge. Perhaps it will be brutal and last too long but I will adapt.
    It seems like such a little life. I could squeeze it into a peanut shell.

  4. Donna Krisch
    Donna Krisch says:

    Hi Dick,
    So good to hear about a positive report. We need you around for many years with your wisdom to help us live a moral, purposeful live. Glad you have the spot in the coffee shop.

  5. MaryEllen Weller
    MaryEllen Weller says:

    Thank you for posting the update. This modern world does help us all keep in better contact. Looks to me like you wear almost 80 years with grace. Keep on!

  6. Ellen Brehmer
    Ellen Brehmer says:

    You’re certainly looking healthy. I need to get religious about exercise, I’ll be going to Bone Builders at the Senior Citizens After the DUI class that instruct is over on the 22. I’m still recouping from the stroke I had in March. My right side muscles were weakened. They improve every day, I just try do too much. So it goes. With winter being way to eager this fall – outside looks like January.

  7. Jermitt Krage
    Jermitt Krage says:

    I greatly appreciate the up-date,,,,,,,,and very pleased everything is looking pretty good. At “almost” 80, you have a few more years to go to catch me. Age is not relevant anyway. Keep up with your good work.

  8. Kathy McKay
    Kathy McKay says:

    I appreciate your musing on life and death almost a year post surgery…as well as your many sharings over the years. I note with interest and amazement you are at your station at 7:30 in the morning!
    Kathy McKay

  9. Charles Woolery
    Charles Woolery says:

    My wife and I just watched a new movie called “Game Changer”. OMG! It will change the behavior of most men if they watch it (hint…it talks about improving erections). This combined with the multiple other benefits to health, fitness, job performance, combat readiness, wise economic investing, protection of endangered species, and combating global warming… it’s a movie everyone should watch.
    https://gamechangersmovie.com/ This movie is one of the best examples of how our culture has led us to believe (and our political system to legislate) false hoods based on ‘rational’ sounding principles that are entirely inconsistent with fundamental principles of (the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God). Any competent scientist or engineer should appreciate civilizations need to engineer a new system of national and global governance — if we really want to prevent the waste of time and resources persistently reacting to catastrophic disasters (heart attacks, extreme weather conditions, terrorism…). Codifying fundamental principles into US foreign and domestic policy is essential to preventing of most of the problems we face today and preserving our cherished freedoms for generations to come.

    • dickbernard
      dickbernard says:

      The tendency would be to suspect that this comment is spam. It is not spam; Charles is an occasional correspondent and I’ll certainly check out the film which is advertised. Thanks, Chuck.


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