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Mike's Blog: The Heart of a Runner, Part 04

Can I trust my heart?

Editor's note: Mike Ashland loved running. But after he moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Oregon, and began working on a home renovation with his partner, he found himself more and more exhausted. Medical tests revealed that without his knowledge, he had suffered a massive heart attack that destroyed nearly half of his heart muscle. Within a month, Ashland went from being a marathon runner to a critically ill heart patient. With no job and no health insurance, he found himself facing the most serious crisis of his life. Ashland chronicles his perilous journey in this blog.

February 11

What does it mean when I feel better? This morning I feel stronger. I want to get out and move. Test my body. But can I trust it? My doctor told me that it will take a few months for the ACE inhibitors to kick in, so that can't be it. Digoxin is the drug that is supposed to make my heart muscle stronger: Is it the Digoxin making me feel better?

Last Monday, I lay on the couch all day, feeling deathly ill, not wanting to even move my eyes. Some of my ACE inhibitors have been jacked up, my blood pressure is hanging in there (98/64 -- high for me!) and I'm hardly coughing at all. My weight has dropped to 184 -- below my high school and marathon running days -- and I'm still losing about a pound a day. Decreased appetite is common with heart failure. But I'm eating pretty well and the diuretics have long since wrung every spare drop of water out of my system.

We're going to go to the coast today. I want to walk and test my wind and heart, as well as taste the ocean air. If I can't walk very far, I'll be happy to sit on a bench and watch the sea gulls and dogs and couples and kids. But there's a part of me that wonders if the risk of "blowing out my heart" is just as high today, when I'm feeling stronger, as it was last Monday when I couldn't get off the couch. My heart is permanently damaged. Is this some new trickster heart coaxing me into trouble, or a hopeful heart drawing me into the sunshine? I don't know.

When you suddenly can't trust your heart, every day --every moment --is so much more important. Today it feels almost imperative that I get out and move and play with the people I love. Seems like a fair risk. So I'm going to the coast on a spectacular blue sky day with my favorite people and my dog. What is better than that?

On Wednesday I go to my first appointment with the cardiac transplant team. If I'm feeling better, will it hurt my chances for getting on the transplant list? That day, should I hope to feel very well -- or very ill?

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