Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, a 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992 when he had a year sober. He's in his 27th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he sometimes disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Health Update

I was in the emergency room the other day for a non-life-threatening condition I've had for over 50 years,. But as always, when a 74-year-old goes to the hospital, those who care start getting nervous. And I appreciate that because at one time nobody cared much what happened to me because I wasn't doing anything positive.

The condition I have is called atrial flutter. And once or twice a year it flares up and causes my heart rate to increase to over 140 beats a minute for a while- a state which causes anxiety and discomfort. It's not painful, but it allows my alcoholic imagination to run wild about my impending doom.

When I'd tell prison doctors about it, back in my 20s, they'd label me hypochondriac. That nothing was wrong with me. And for years I believed them. I thought I was a hypochondriac having a panic attack.

But it so happened, in a moment of serendipity, that when I arrived for a medical checkup last June I was in atrial flutter. After the nurse took my EKG I was sent to emergency. There they did tests, including a video of the inside of my heart, and told me what I had. They also gave me medication, something that works most of the time.

However, after this last event, in order to avoid the inconvenience of going to the emergency once or twice a year to have my heart rate slowed, my cardiologist scheduled me for a procedure that will eliminate the problem. It happens on an outpatient basis, is painless, takes less than an hour, and involves burning the electrical nodes on the inside of my heart through a catheter they insert into a vein near my groin.

Why am I sharing this? Because many who read this blog have been a part of TLC for a long time. Many of them depend upon us for housing and employment. I believe I have a responsibility to not raise their anxiety by having them wonder about my health.

So in pursuit of transparency, I still enjoy the same six day a week fitness routine I’ve had for 23 years. I do 15 to 20 chin-ups in a set. I work out on the elliptical or treadmill 45 minutes at a time. I do reps with 60 pound dumbbells. I ride my bicycle 20 miles without stopping. And when I left the hospital I asked the doctor should I stick to this routine. They said yes - keep doing what you're doing.

So for those who are concerned, I think you're stuck with me for a while. But I appreciate the love.

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