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Friday, April 25, 2014

Why making it to this birthday is so special

By Ted Slowik

What a special day! It's my birthday, and this is the 100th post of the Blues Musings blog! Regular readers will know I'm very fortunate to celebrate a birthday this year, having barely survived a heart attack on Feb. 17.

In the nearly 10 weeks since the "widow maker," I've been feeling much better. Physically I'm doing fine. I exercise, mostly by walking. I haven't smoked a cigarette since March 11. I'm eating better, having lost more than 30 pounds and avoiding processed foods, salt, red meat, fried foods, sugar, flour, milk chocolate, bacon and other unhealthy foods. Yeah, it sounds miserable but it's not bad.

I'm also taking lots of meds to help lower cholesterol and thin my blood. This week I finally started cardio rehab and I'm hoping to sail through the next couple weeks so my cardiologist can authorize me to return to work.

Because admittedly I've felt like a fish out of water, not working these past couple months. For most of us, our careers define who we are. Without the structure and discipline of a daily work routine, one easily feels out of sorts. I've done my best to not dwell on factors beyond my control and staying focused on doing all I can do to improve my health and expedite my recovery.

Which brings us to a topic all the medical professionals as well as several friends and family have asked about: depression. Apparently it's quite common for heart attack survivors to experience depression. The American Heart Association even addresses depression on its website, saying it's important for patients to participate in recreation and social events.

I appreciate the concern but can honestly say I've managed to cope with the situation very well, thanks in large part to my huge and very supportive family and many close and caring friends. Being an artist/writer/musician also helps, I believe, since we're used to coping with ups and downs and the creative outlets provide an opportunity to channel those negative thoughts in a healthy way.

I will say I was pretty active until a bout of flu last week kicked my ass and immobilized me for three or four days. THAT was depressing! I couldn't keep down any food, I had the worst aches and chills and couldn't sleep. I'm feeling much better now, but I realized some days it's a struggle for many just to get up, get dressed and leave the house.

I will say that the time off has provided some healthy perspective about what's really important in life: family, health, thinking about others. I try not to take for granted the wonderful opportunities life offers every day--the chances to share love, help others and make a difference in some small way.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes and messages of support!