Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Grounded No More

My Mom left this note for Sweetie when she left for Manila last January after my surgery. My eyes welled up when I read the note since my Mom is quite reserved, so this note spoke volumes.

I just came back from a check-up. Both my cardio and surgeon have finally allowed me to go home to Manila (yay!) but cautioned I shouldn't go back yet to my rigorous travel schedule. My surgeon declared that the ordeal is finally over after seeing that there was no more water in my heart sac. Both my doctors said they were really worried about me and were both very happy about my recovery.

Dr. Shankar, my surgeon said that I'm where I am now because sheer willpower, my positive disposition and my beautiful family. I said that it was the only way to go and I'm lucky to have such a loving and caring family.

The secret sauce though is faith. The best decision I made in my life was to turn over the navigation and purpose to God. When I did that my life got so much better and any challenges did not seem so overwhelming. Aside from love my faith was the only thing I held on to during my surgery. I told myself that I would survive it if it was God's Will and if I didn't then I thought my mission has been completed and it was time to be reunited with my Dad.

I did survive, so I'm now praying for my new mission. It hasn't come to me yet probably because I should focus on fully recovering first. It will come in good time.

A blessed Holy Week to everyone!

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Review

I stopped listing down resolutions at the beginning of the year. The last one I made was in 2011 and I even made a disclaimer that it's not just for the year, but for a decade. I'm happy to say that I've completed about half of it. Most of the things I've completed are the big ticket items:

- do something about my leaky heart (check!)
- buy a car (Minnie! check!)
- do the writing project (started!)
- travel (too much last year! check!)
- time with family (last year was bad, so started rectifying things this year)
- work on investments (moved into new home! check!)
- work on service (finished Parish website! choir duties every time I'm home. check!)
- cooking (not much last year, diet has changed this year)

2 things I'm not able to complete:
- grow an organic garden (all the plants died, I have a brown thumb, cry)
- work on crafts (I've lost interest and gave all my stuff to my Mom)

With my leaky heart behind me I've been thinking about what to do in the next few years. I'm still trying to figure it out and hopefully I'd be able to come out with a plan in the next few weeks. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Things I'm Going to Do When I'm Back Home

If you follow me on my G+, Twitter or Plurk you'd know I can't wait to go home. I've been grounded for a few months now in Singapore because my doctor wants to make sure I'm okay before I leave. My doctor did say though that I could probably go home by April! Hooray!

I think I look much better now and my colleagues can attest that I don't look greenish anymore. Some have said I don't look like I went through heart surgery. I still hug a pillow though when I walk around so that's my dead giveaway. In any case I realized after spending two half-days at the office this week that I still need to take it slowly and conscientiously do my exercises (like malling!).

Here's my progress in the last 10 weeks.

There's a lot to do when I'm back home so I thought I'd make a list:

(1) Do groceries so I can cook (with assistance from Miguel who now knows how to cook adobo).

(2) Buy a couch. We have a long way to go before we complete the furniture needed at home. One missing item is a couch. I need a couch because I'm a full time couch potato!

(3) Visit the nail salon. I can't reach my toes yet. I need to get rid of my monster toe nails.

(4) Visit the salon. The weeks spent in the hospital has damaged my hair and I badly need a trim. Mom says my hair has reached mermaid length.

(5) Thank God by hearing mass on Easter at our church.

Of course I can't wait to see the rest of my family and friends ;)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why I Continue to Blog

I was half-asleep early this morning when I felt Miguel checking on me. I sleepily asked, "Why?" and he said that I was too quiet (probably because I wasn't snoring). He then promptly went back to sleep when he saw I was okay.

These are moments I want to remember and that's why I blog and continue to blog. And my primary reason for blogging is to document things/events that are important to me. Sometimes I re-read old posts just to see what I've been doing years ago. Sometimes I come across old posts from search results and I laugh at myself for forgetting I had the information all along.

I have been managing a number of blogs. I have one for travel, tips for planning a wedding, a marriage blog and a smattering of tiny blogs that cater to my other interests. I don't really remember how my blogs multiplied, but I see it as a repository of information I think I'd find useful in the future. My travel blog covers the places I've been to and I write mostly about food. I have a lot of photos from different hotels I've stayed at but I haven't gotten around to posting about them.

I've been exchanging some blogging tips with friends on Twitter the past few days and they were asking me how I've managed to continue writing despite being busy. I haven't been really conscientious about blogging since I write only when I feel like it. I never run out of content though since I keep a journal through photos and by writing down on my planner significant things that have happened. I usually just go back to check photos and my planner to see if there's anything I could write about.

So, I basically blog to entertain myself and I keep it as a repository of information I may need in the future. And well I guess my grandkids and great-grandkids can get to know the younger me when I'm old and gray. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Proposal: Four Years After

Four years ago today Sweetie sprung the biggest surprise of my life. We were in Davao for the first DFAT (Davao Food Appreciation Tour) and I had no idea that he had planned the culmination of all the clues he's been giving for me for so many months. His co-conspirators were our good friends Andrew and Blogie. Here's what happened:

(Skip to 4:22)

Time flies so fast and Sweetie and I have since tied the knot, bought our own cars, moved homes thrice, got our very own place (no more renting!) and have a son in university. Sweetie has endured a number of home disasters - my cooking, a dancing washing machine, me getting poisoned several times, cycle of dying plants, abusive real estate agents etc. - all captured in our marriage blog. We can't say that things have settled down because there's always something new everyday.

True to his promise Sweetie continues to court me every single day. When I'm home in Manila he writes me short notes everyday (to replace all his love letters which perished during Typhoon Ondoy). And after all that we've been through I just thank God everyday for writing my love story.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

90 mapUps in the Philippines in 2012

Filipino mappers are the most active in the world (that's my opinion) since we had over 90 mapUps across the country.

I'm just so proud of them ;)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Malling is My Official Sport

I remember when I first met my cardiologist ten years ago he asked me what sport I played regularly. I said, "Malling." with a big smile. I thought it was usual for him to get that reply because he went on to say that it was good I had a regular sport. He then paused when he saw me smiling and said, "Did you say malling?" I replied in the affirmative and then he laughed out loud. He said that he thought that I went bowling regularly. He declared I was his funniest patient but I said that was really my favorite "sport".

I hated PE classes. I always tried to get out of it from elementary to high school to college. Sometimes I'd feign sickness just to skip school. I do remember though being one of the fastest runners when I was in first grade, but for some strange reason my time eventually slowed. I guess my condition was already making itself felt when I was still a kid.

I did try out some sports. I love swimming. My Mom usually had a hard time pulling me away from the water when I was very little and I didn't care if I got sunburnt. I spent a lot of time biking with my yellow BMX bicycle. My brother taught me how to play tennis when I was a teenager. And I took up badminton when I had to drastically lose weight to fit in my gown for my friend's wedding. My badminton trainor though gave up on me because he couldn't make me run.

Unlike my Dad and my brother who either played tennis or basketball regularly I've always preferred to stay indoors. I guess it's because I just hate perspiring (haha). When I was discharged from the hospital the physiotherapist told me to make sure I did the exercises they taught me and to keep walking. The exercise was pretty easy so I did it, also to prevent my feet from swelling and I knew it was the only way to regain my independence. The first few weeks though were very hard.

I have rediscovered my favorite sport in the last few days, albeit in very limited capacity. My Mom was so bored taking care of me and I just had to bring her around. I brought her to IKEA one day, treated her to lunch at Marche after my check-up the next day, accompanied her to Daiso and brought her to the airport. The times I was out was quite limited and I made sure to rest whenever I felt tired, but going out has proven to be helpful in my recovery because I was forced to walk more.

I'm still very wary of crowds because I'm scared I might catch a cold or a virus. I didn't want Jay to be stuck at home tending to me when he visited last week so I made it a point to eat lunch out as my exercise for the day. The doctor told me to do what I think was my body was comfortable with so I naturally went back to my official sport, malling. It's been quite helpful for my recovery although a bit expensive since I still need to take cabs, but at least I can happily report that I've reached the spirometer level my doctor wanted me to reach in the last 2 months.

Hopefully I'd be able to go home in a few weeks and work from Manila so I can go for my second favorite sport - swimming. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I Will Make You Hungry with this Post

Warning: this is an epic post about food, gathered from years of travel and eating.

My doctor was very happy yesterday to see my progress. He said that he and my cardiologist were very worried about me, but seeing me walking and smiling again have relieved them. After doing a quick 2D echogram with his handy gadget he said that my lungs are clear and I just have 1 millimeter of water in my pericardium which should go away in time.

I've actually been feeling much better in the last week. I just stayed home for five days straight to rest and started venturing out for walks in the last 3 days. I think it's really helped regain some of my strength and I was really surprised that results from my spirometer exercises have increased to 1,250 ml (yay!). I can also raise my arms straight up now and wear a tshirt without wincing in pain (wearing though is a different ballgame from taking it off).

Anyway so since I've been stuck at home and been ordered to take my mind off work (and keep away!) I've just been watching TV, reading, blogging, updating my journal and dreaming about my favorite food.

My doctor said it'll be safe for me to travel in about a month. Ahh, aside from seeing family and friends back home I look forward to finally eating food I like. Here's my itinerary:





Spaghetti from Makati Supermart Coffeeshop in Alabang

Cheeseburger from Dayrit's

Jollibee, of course

And my first glass of cherry beer at Shift Restobar in Guijo, Makati

Pad Thai at Krung Thai in Marikina


Strawberry Shortcake from Cafe by the Ruins (and loads of strawberries)

Buffalo Wings from Don Henrico's (it has to be in Baguio because I can eat the chicken there)


Pasta Pinangat in Albay

Chiffon Cake and Pambonete from Casa Moderna

My Tita Olive's cooking


A feast at AA Barbecue with my AA buddies Jerome, Andrew, Sweetie and hopefully with the girls, Chelle, Anne, Celine, Mitch and Jomar (no Jomar isn't a girl haha)

Boneless Crispy Pata from Dessert Factory


Bottomless cakes from Calea

Eating mangoes at Carbin Reef


Tuna Taco at Bauhinia (I hope it's still open!)


Pork Marinara, Unforgettable Pork Ribs and yummy cakes at Lachi's

Cagayan de Oro/Bukidnon

Cakes and pizza margherita at Candy's

A feast at Panagatan

Steak at Del Monte Golf Club

General Santos/Saranggani

A feast at Saranggani Highlands with my friends

Tuna kilawin and grilled tuna at Ranchero Grill

Making this post has seriously made me hungry.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Humpty Dumpty

A few weeks back I felt like Humpty Dumpty. I felt my body was broken and seriously needed to be put back together again. I had to walk around clutching a pillow to support my chest because if I didn't I felt my heart might just disengage. Of course I exaggerate, I'm pretty sure my doctor made sure my heart wouldn't just fall off. It just needed to heal together with my broken sternum.

I'm happy to report that from 8 to 6 to 4 tablets of painkillers per day I've been making do with just one now. My doctor (and Sweetie) was pretty concerned that I might get addicted to it already. Well, I forgot to drink the painkiller last Saturday evening and decided I was ready to just drink it whenever I felt pain. It's Monday today and I've just been drinking one painkiller per day now.

I've also been feeling like the old me. In the last few years I've had to live more simply. For those who've just met me in the last 6 years you'd probably think I never wear high heeled shoes or wear make-up. Ten years ago in my former job I used to come to work in stilettos, fully made up and I was very much like Elle Woods. Kikay. I had a gazillion accessories (most of them I made) and had closets-full of clothes and more than a hundred bags. I was a good 10-15 pounds thinner then (blame the Google 15 for my current weight) and was having so much fun going out with friends. I can say I was a totally different person before 2008.

In the last few years I've just felt feeling more tired every day especially after I had pneumonia/heart failure. Typhoon Ondoy took away my shoe collection and most of my clothes and ever since I just thought it would be better to live my life simply. My quality of life had become affected. Now I feel much more like the old me and the first indication is I'm writing more and I feel like there's a well of energy inside me wanting to be released. And I seriously want to go out and shop for a new set of clothes (but I don't want to wear high heels anymore), accessories (maybe I'll start making some again) and bags. Well that's just on the surface level and I think the practical person in me wouldn't really splurge (I'm planning to follow my VP's wife advice about how much stuff to have).

The last few weeks I've been home since my second discharge from the hospital has been therapeutic. I've managed to re-connect with friends (through social media) and I can say I have a social life of sorts. I'm stuck at home but have been getting a lot of visits. I realized that in the last decade I've shied away from opening myself fully to new friendships. I've been very cautious because of some traumatic experiences that broke my heart figuratively. I'm so happy I've been given this break to re-connect and strengthen old ties. This has helped me avoid the post-heart-surgery depression trap which a lot of patients go through.

But unlike Humpty Dumpty with the grace of God and love of my family and friends I'm slowly being put together again.

So this is what 100% blood flow means ;)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Faith and Love

Last night I forgot to drink my painkillers. I just took one tablet in the morning yesterday since I thought it would be good to aggressively wean away from drinking painkillers. My cardio also said that it would be really good if I stop drinking medicine already so I will likely be off my meds by end of this week.

When I woke up in ICU the day after surgery my reaction was, "OMG I survived and I'm alive!" I immediately said a prayer of thanks. I did not expect though to experience a lot of pain weeks following surgery. From my readings I missed the fact that the surgeon would break my sternum during surgery and this would cause a lot of pain. I was given different kinds of painkillers but sometimes the pain would just be unbearable. I would just pray for healing and strength whenever this happened.

I surprisingly woke up today feeling much better than a week ago. After a short trip to have lunch at the office I just stayed home the past few days resting. My new found friend Eng, a pharmacist based in Australia, mentioned that I need lots of rest so my heart and other organs can adjust back to each other. I didn't know that going through surgery requires a lot of rest and physiotherapy. I had to re-learn how to sit up, walk and breathe.

I couldn't do things on my own. I couldn't bath myself nor dress myself, couldn't lift a mug, couldn't open the fridge. I couldn't get up without help. Sweetie had to spoon feed me when I was in the hospital because I kept falling a sleep and lifting the spoon was just hard. I've been pretty useless the past 2 months. I'm better now though. I can breathe better, can walk, can bath and dress myself, done some cooking with help, can lift a glass of water and can lift my old laptop (but not yet carry it around). All these because of the love and patience of my family and friends who have been cheering me on.

Faith and love, important ingredients for recovery :)

Friday, March 1, 2013

My Heart Valve Surgery Timeline

Each patient reacts and recuperates differently according to the book I read. I'm definitely one of those who deviated from the process since it's taking me a long time to recover. Thought I'd post and update my timeline here on my blog:

Photo taken while I was waiting for surgery time.

January 7 - surgery day. Admitted in the morning. Surgery originally scheduled at 1 in the afternoon but started at 3 in the afternoon. It was supposed to last just 2.5 hours, but mine took 4.5 hours. Doc mentioned that I had responded differently to the heart-lung machine and they had a hard time getting to my heart because of the lake of veins I had inside.

This was a nervous smile.

January 7 - 10 - 4 days in ICU instead of just a night. I luckily woke up without a tube in my mouth, but was very thirsty. Nurse made me some Milo and I luckily didn't have an allergy. Actually saw doctor take out 2 long tubes from my tummy. He said he had to leave it in longer because I had difficulty breathing. Started to use the spiro, dismally at only 400 ml. Started wearing stockings to prevent DVT.

Taken the afternoon I was transferred from ICU with my good friend Tappy.

January 10, afternoon - moved to a 2-bed ward. The other patient was so noisy and causing me stress. Had a hard time coping alone in the evening. Started to feel extreme back pains.

January 11 - moved to single room. Felt much better but still couldn't get out of bed. Noticed I had a lot of things stuck on my body. Most of the meds were coming in through my neck (meep). Spiro results started to increase. Started to have a hard time sleeping.

January 12 - finally got to stand up and start using the bathroom to pee. Badly wanted to wash my hair. My brother flew in from Jakarta for a surprise visit.

Google Hangout with my nephews in Jakarta. (Had to teach my brother and the kids how to use it)

January 14 - Filipino nurse Ate Yoly who reminds me on my favorite aunt, Tita Olive, gave me a full bath. Felt much more human after she washed my hair. Started walking around the ward with assistance (short distance). Took several breaks in between (more like every ten steps). Started to feel more back pain and couldn't sleep lying down.

My first full bath! 

January 15 - 22 - Doc said I had water in my lungs so they gave me meds to reduce it. Practiced walking everyday. Spiro results were at 750 ml maximum. Pain in back more apparent in the events. Barely sleeping at night. Also started to have asthma attacks. No appetite.

My former team mates come and visit with lots of goodies. 
These slippers certainly kept me warm and became popular in my hospital wing.

January 22 - Doc thought I'd recover faster at home and I was discharged after 16 days in the hospital. The first car ride was horrific, felt nauseous all throughout the trip home. Took several breaks walking up to my apartment. Promptly had an asthma attack when I got home. It lasted until evening.

I was pretty cheerful because of meds, but was having severe back pains 
during this time and was barely sleeping.

January 23 - 27 - recurring asthma attacks but still managed to sit up all day. Took naps after lunch and had to walk around the house with assistance. Could not take a bath and dress up independently. Gained back my appetite slowly. Had to use wheelchair when I visited the doctor and couldn't lie down on bed. Had to sleep sitting up.

January 28 - February 3 - had good days and bad days. Bad days meant I'd be coughing all day. Lost appetite whenever I was coughing. Jay went home on February 3.

February 6 - check up with doctors. Ended up getting readmitted. Emergency surgery done to remove fluid in my pericardium. Two drains were installed to drain fluid from my lungs. The 20 minute surgery lasted 2.5 hours.

February 7 - 11 - 5 day stay in ICU. One of the drains were taken out after 3 days. Received blood transfusion.

February 11 - 18 - moved to a single room after 5 days. Felt sad leaving the nice ICU nurses. Spiro results improved to 1,250 ml but went down to 1,000 when the drain was taken out on February 16. It was a relief to get rid of the alien fluids and this is the time I felt I was really on the right road to recovery.

February 18 - discharged from the hospital. Able to move the house unassisted. Filipino nurse Ate Jona gave me a complete bath.

*Didn't have much photos during this period because I felt so sick.

February 18 - 24 - was able to take a bath and dress myself independently although had to wear lose clothes. Some of the newer wounds still felt painful but the painkillers definitely helped. Didn't need a wheelchair when we went to see the doctor and to have my xray taken. Survived eating out at Marche and IKEA (separate days), but still walked very slowly.

February 24 - was able to drink coffee without having an asthma attack. Medicines greatly reduced, but had chest pains all day.

February 25 - made an emergency appointment with doctor because I still had chest pains in the morning. Doctor said it was probably because of the change in medicines. Felt much better after spending time with friends who visited.

February 27 - ventured out and had lunch at work. Went down the stairs and promptly got extremely tired.