Sunday, March 3, 2013

Getting Back On The Horse

It's been two weeks and I've returned to "normal". I gained and lost the fifteen pounds of water weight and I even managed to lose a few more pounds to boot! I'm at 188 pounds now and look to get to about 184 by March 13, when Gaille and I leave for vacation.

During last week I did two leisurely bike rides and on Saturday March 2nd I did a fairly strenuous ride for just over 30 miles. You can view the ride here. I'll be picking up the pace of exercise over the next few days and I'm going to be back in the water for the first time since my accident on March 10. It will be a class in shallow waters so that's a good way to get back on the horse, so to speak.

I've got my backup dive watch all set with a fresh battery and I've also added some clips to my BC so I can more easily carry my underwater photography equipment and keep my hands free for more important things.

Then yesterday I did a quite intensive ride with some pretty stiff intervals. I'm pretty much back to where I was, which of course is nothing to brag about.

As far as my upcoming dive, it's a Search and Recovery class. I've done Rescue, Navigation and a bunch of other classes as I worked toward my Master Scuba Diver but never got involved in actually finding things and bringing them to the surface safely and securely. This should be interesting.

Friday, February 22, 2013

It's Clearing, Somewhat

After carefully reading lots of information about the circumstances leading up to my hospitalization I think I understand what happened.

There's no doubt that the diving incident brought some other circumstances to the forefront. However it appears the primary cause for kidney failure was extremely low blood pressure aggravated by the extreme diving conditions.

I was originally prescribed 10mg of Lisinopril which after a month or so was bumped to 20mg. This got my blood pressure to about 120/80 and seemed to work well. After a few months I had adjusted nicely to it. Initially, the Lisinopril slowed my heart rate and really limited my cycling activities.

If you can't get your heart rate up, you can't pump enough blood to keep the muscles going. It can be very frustrating at times. With this dosage it appeared my days of cycling would be limited to longer slower rides. Of course this is good for my general health but gone was my limited ability to try and climb big hills at a snappy pace or try to hold my place in a very brisk paceline.

On top of this I had recently been prescribed .4mg of Tamsulosin, better known by its popular name Flomax. Hey, I'm getting older and it's not easy to "hold it" as long as I could years ago. However, Tamsulosin also lowers your blood pressure.

The last bit of this was my weight. During 2012 I slowly gained some weight that I finally committed to losing. By the time Saturday the 16th rolled around I had lost ten pounds and had another ten to go. However, this also served to lower my blood pressure, although this is good. Very good.

The combination of two medications and the weight loss had probably lowered my blood pressure to the low side of acceptable numbers, 110/65 at rest. Nothing to be concerned about at all. However, throw in the extreme conditions of a failed dive computer on a deep dive which caused a decompression violation and an exceedingly difficult swim back to shore and you have the ingredients for disaster.

Not having a backup computer or set of gauges was the final straw when my primary computer failed. Of course, things like this should not fail. Period.

The final chapter is the return of the failed computer to Sherwood. Fortunately their headquarters is just a few miles from home so when I called them and sent them the dive data they immediately offered to replace the unit; after all it was still in warranty. When I arrived to do the switch the person that facilitated the exchange said "Yeah, I've seen this before."

YEAH, I'VE SEEN THIS BEFORE???" You're kidding aren't you. Just like that nonchalantly saying you're not the first one to almost die because of this problem.

So I have a new Sherwood Wisdom and I am honestly pondering whether I should pursue a legal solution. I've still got tingling in my lower extremities, gave up a week of work and possibly worst of all, I have that uneasy feeling about trusting my new Sherwood Wisdom. What would you do?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Storm Continues

I'm backing up a bit to Saturday afternoon to interject that at this point after coming out of the water I had no urge to urinate even though I hadn't done so for hours. In fact for the rest of Saturday I didn't urinate even though I made efforts to drink lots of water.

Sunday morning I still didn't feel a need to urinate. After finishing the 90 minute hyperbaric chamber session Sunday morning, I was checked for neurological disorders and everything seemed fine. Again it was stressed to take if easy for at least a few days, no strenuous exercising for two weeks and no diving or extreme activities for a month.

However later Sunday evening I just wasn't feeling like myself. For whatever reason I decided to take my blood pressure with my machine that I've compared to the doctor's and it passes with flying colors.

My blood pressure was 75/52 and I still hadn't peed a drop. Wow! I knew I relaxed most of the day but obviously that was way too low. So Monday morning I took my blood pressure and it was 72/48 and I finally urinated a couple of ounces.

I could barely feel a pulse on my wrists so I had to resort to reading my pulse on my carotid artery, the large artery going up your neck. Even there the pulse was nothing to brag about but at least readable. I got an 89 which is quite high for being first thing in the morning when my normal resting rate is about 60.

At this point I weighed myself and from Saturday at 6AM to Monday 7AM I gained 10 pounds! My ankles, legs, wrists and hands were not swollen at all. However my "love handles" now looked like water balloons filled to the point of exploding. I had already called in to work to take Monday off, which would normally be a busy day since it was President's Day.

So I called my regular doctor who said be there at 11:30AM. She confirmed my extremely low blood pressure and after a few minutes sent me to Hoag Hospital. She called ahead so they were ready to help me when I got there. I felt very special.

The battery of tests began. A telling number was my creatinine level which back in September 2012 was 1.2 (acceptable range is .7 to 1.2), it was also 1.2 on Saturday when I first went to the emergency room and now it was at 3.0. My kidneys had stopped functioning!

I was admitted to the hospital and the tests continued. Intravenous liquids, albumin via IV, antibiotics via IV, blood work, you name it. Before I continue on I have to say Hoag Hospital is the hospital to be in if you must be in a hospital. Everyone, at all levels of responsibility was friendly, they enjoyed their work and it showed.

By Monday evening my kidneys started coming back to life. I was able to urinate more than a couple of ounces at a time and my blood pressure was starting to normalize though it was still low. I had to get up twice during the night because now I was urinating like a russian race horse but that was a good thing. The testing continued as Tuesday slowly rolled along. More blood work and yet more blood work. My arms probably have more prick marks than Lance Armstrong's. The news was very satisfying. My creatinine level dropped consistently until the last test around 1pm showed it had dropped from 3.0 to 1.6.

When the doctor in charge walked in and said everything looked great and they wanted to observe me for one more day I was quite emphatic that all I could see them doing was forcing fluids into me which I was prepared to do at home. He didn't disagree so he went to consult with a few other doctors and the nurses and came back to announce I could go home. Eureka! As soon as I got home, I promptly stepped on the scale to realize that over the course of three and a half days I had gained 15 pounds. I look like a water logged loaf of bread so somehow I need to continue consuming almost a gallon of water a day AND lose water weight. This is not going to be easy.

The Perfect Storm is over but now I have to figure out what made this perfect storm of circumstances lead to my to my kidney failure. It's starting to clear, soon we'll understand.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Perfect Storm

I've decided to call yesterday's dive at Redondo Beach The Perfect Storm. A series of event contributed to near disaster. First the things that contributed to the making of the storm:

1) I was significantly dehydrated, I realized that just before the dive I was quite thirsty so I downed a 16oz water and went for a dive. I should have had a lot more because now over 24 hours later I still have only peed about 2oz even though I've been drinking water like a fiend, though I really can't identify why I was so dehydrated to begin with.

2) The other person that was supposed to show up didn't so I went solo. This was a mistake even though I dive solo fairly often. And yet I have to say that not having a buddy might have helped me on my return navigation but other than that I think I did the best that could be done under the circumstances.

3) The entire dive was spent kicking and kicking, pretty hard and consistent. First I had to get to my planned depth of 150' and then when things went wrong I had to kick back pretty aggressively also.

4) When I decided to abort my dive I turned around and took a heading of about 70 coming back because I had gone out at about 250. For whatever reason I drifted quite a distance from the stairs almost into the boat lanes in front of the pier. It was a very long swim back to the stairs.

5) Although I hate to admit it, all of this was exacerbated by my age. Although I'm in very good shape, I just can't do the things I used to do.

6) I once again had a failure of a Wisdom computer. See the screen shot of the dive profile.

Now the details:

I entered the water with 7 or 8 students along with Becky Anderson and her assistant. We kicked out to just beyond the end of the pier where she once again discussed the dive plan. When it was time to drop none of the students dropped right away, probably being concerned that someone else would have a problem and making sure they didn't go down alone. I've seen it before. Anyways, I waited a bit and saw two people start to release their BC air so I went down and landed at about 56 feet. I waited and waited, probably two or three minutes and decided to continue my dive. Obviously someone at the surface was having some issues.

Soft silty sand, no signs of life, so I headed at about 250 as had been recommended. Finally at almost 80' I saw one tiny fish. At 100' a dead shark of some sort. Look at this ugly thing and the silt on it. I didn't even try to get closer since I was on a plan to get to 150ft.

I finally saw 150' and still nothing to look at so I decided to go another 10'. I gave two kicks looked at my gauge and it said 220ft! All the indicators were blinking like crazy and I realized the computer was probably failing. So I turned around still with about 1600psi in the tank and headed back without any dilly dallying. The computer now was showing 50ft but I knew I was a lot deeper than that. So I kept on kicking and kicking. Of course it got lighter and lighter above but the couple of times I looked up I couldn't tell how far it was to the surface.

Eventually I got to 500psi and started getting a bit anxious. When I got to 350psi I decided it would be better to come up alive with the bends than never come up at all so I slowly headed for the surface. Ends up I was probably at about 30-40ft. I really wish I had known that since I could have stayed still on the bottom for at least 5 minutes and that would have tremendously minimized my DCS.

When I got to shore I walked out of the water and completely totally exhausted I said a thank you and rested for a few minutes. It took what seemed like forever to get my gear off since I couldn't even stand at that point. After that struggle I took all my equipment except tank and BC and walked up the steps where I met Gaille. She could tell immediately there was a problem and went to get one of the other guys to help me with my tank and BC.

I sat down while gasping for air, drank two bottles of water and gathered my wits about me. When I stood up to go to the car I had a tremendous tingling sensation in both lower legs and I had trouble walking. After more rest at the car and talking about it I realized my legs were better but now I had a huge headache at the very top of my head. I said to Gaille that I should go to the hospital and luckily Becky suggested Long Beach since it has a hyperbaric chamber. So she drove me there and Gaille followed.

On the way I call DAN and informed them of my situation.Dan is amazing! They called the hospital, alerted them to my condition and were very efficient. The RN at the hyperbaric chamber called me to inform me they were ready for me and wanted to know how far away I was.

I ended up spending two hours in the chamber and went back for another 1 1/2 hours this morning.

My muscles ache like crazy and the doctor says I will have symptoms for a few days so take it easy.

Thanks, actually a million thanks to the people that helped me through a very tough day. Becky Anderson, Eric Aubort, the nurses and doctors at Long Beach Memorial Hospital and especially Gaille Mintz.

I'm one lucky guy!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Canaries - Part One

When TradeWinds announced its Canary Islands schedule I immediately tried to sign up. After a bit of hurry up and wait, Gaille and I got booked for the 2nd ever sailing for the Canaries. The trip would start on July 7 and end on the July 14. Of course it's 1/3 of the way around the world, so our adventure started on July 6 with a 7AM flight from LAX.

Sometimes you get an inkling of what the vacation is going to be like by what happens right off the bat. Luckily, our check-in was easy and the flight left on time. Just over five hours later we were at JFK, so we had a nice dinner at Bobby Van's in the airport. We had already lost three hours of traveling against the clock and were about to lose six more as we crossed the pond.

The flight to Madrid was interesting because it never really got dark. As the route from JFK to MAD goes northerly, we always had some light and to top it off were flying at almost 550mph into an oncoming sunrise. This was truly a time warp. We hardly slept, both from excitement, anticipation and the fact that we were still on California time. Landing in Madrid at 8:30AM gave us three hours before our next flight to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Of course 8:30 in Madrid is really just past midnight in California so although we were tired we were still OK.

Madrid airport is interesting. First of all everything is oversized so when the airport grows, they'll be ready. It was interesting to compare the difference in size of the baggage carousels in Madrid to the tiny carousels of LAX or JFK. We were trying to figure out our gate for the last leg and couldn't get gate info. Well, in Madrid they don't post gate information until about 30 minutes before the flight. The advantage is that you don't run there and sit and wait. You walk around and shop! There were excellent stores and restauratns with very reasonable prices. Then every once in a while you would glance up to see if your gate had been posted. Awesome idea.
The three hours to Tenerife was uneventful except that Gaille and I were getting fidgety and antsy. Enough flying, I want to be there. Finally! All luggage arrived on time and in perfect condition. It's going to be a great trip. We hailed a taxi to take us to the marina. The typical taxi on the Canaries is a 2001 Mercedes Touring E300 diesel with manual transmission and about 300,000 km on the clock, perfect.
Wanderlust - A new 59er

Gaille and I finally arrived at Marina San Miguel where we were met by the Tradewinds base manager. We immediately felt at home and that's a really good feeling. Over the next few hours we met the other guests, the crew and a couple of "locals" that would be joining us for the second sailing of the Tradewinds Canary Islands cruise.

Boarding at 5pm, first cocktails at 5:01pm, some safety briefings and off for our first foray. By 9pm we had settled in at another marina just a few miles away.

The office at Marina del Sur where we spent our first night.
It's not often I sleep through the night, but this was one of those special occasions. Gaille and I had been up for almost thirty hours with only a couple hours of dozing here and there. I awoke at 7AM, re-freshed, ready to go and not at all concerned about any jet lag.

After breakfast, we left the marina and went only about two miles to the first dive site. There were two divers aboard, Alan and myself. In addition we had a local divemaster along for the trip to help scout out the best sites. Scott Lewis was young, energetic and well versed on the local dive sites. His input was invaluable throughout the week. We were also fortunate to have his right hand, Moises along for the trip. Moises is truly a local and was the one that could explain all the nuances of this magical Spanish archipelago that sits 60 miles off the western coast of Africa.

Of course, there's a tie-in to cycling. I had to record nearly the entire Tour De France since I was either working feverishly the last few days before leaving for vacation, on vacation (holiday, as they say in Europe) or working feverishly to get back in the groove when I returned.

I'm not sure how many postings will be needed for the entire story, regardless, stay tuned for Part Two, the sailing to La Gomera, some interesting dives, my best dinner EVER and some very interesting geography.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Breathless Agony Is Exactly That

Before I tell my sad story, I want to apologize for being delinquent on my posts. I need to simplify my life since I've got so much going on that updating this blog keeps getting put on the back burner. However, I enjoy telling my stories, it seems to permanently ingrain it in my mind. I'll try to be more timely for future updates.

So I trained and trained and then I trained some more. I posted about some of my training rides but mostly kept quiet about most of them. My goal was to train, vacation, train some more and go for all four passes.

After fourteen weeks of good solid training, I had planned a fantastic vacation aboard a small catamaran in the Caribbean with, a time share I absolutely love. So between the vacation and a side trip to Connecticut I was going to be off the bike for two weeks.

Little did I know that fourteen weeks of training would go out the window in fourteen days of vacation. My first ride after returning home was a very strange feeling. My legs felt like jello that had fallen out of the mold and just flopping around on the counter. I had only two weeks to get back in shape for Breathless Agony and things didn't look too promising.

Let's cut to the chase since this isn't really anything to brag about. I started promptly at 6:30AM and cruised along for the 5 or miles. Then it began... first Live Oak Canyon, then a respite. Jack Rabbit Trail is barely that. The pavement is so broken up that the potholes, are almost connected to each other. Navigating this maze was like trying to play one of those games where you have to get the ball bearing from A to B without falling in a hole. That was next to impossible and when you did manage to circumvent some potholes, you had to avoid sharp rocks on the little of pavement that was left. I wonder why anyone ever paved this "trail" to begin with. Jack Rabbit Trail was also un-nerving. It required total concentration because of all the hazards. At the end of the climb my back, shoulders and hands were more tired than my legs.

The scenery was like something I had never seen before and reminded me of a small version of the badlands of South Dakota but with dry brush everywhere. I could picture Hop Along Cassidy, The Lone Ranger and any number of wild west heroes chasing villains. The terrain was even fitting for a few episodes of Sky King. Am I dating myself or what?

From Jack Rabbit there was a short drop and suddenly we were on Hwy 60 heading for Palm Springs. There's nothing like tractor trailers just a few feet off your left shoulder to bring you back to reality.. pay attention or become road kill.

Now the real climbing began. Oak Glen Road is a very difficult climb. However it was made even more difficult because most of the road is under construction. Unlike Jack Rabbit Trail, Oak Glen Road had absolutely no pavement for quite some distance. The average grade was almost 7% with a few sections hitting over 11%. Add to that the construction vehicles moving about, one lane sections, etc. and Oak Glen was really tough.

From there a really fast drop to the second rest stop and then on toward Angelus Oaks. Angelus Oaks climb isn't all that tough by itself being an average grade of 4%. But after what I had gone through AND considering I wasn't really ready for a difficult ride like this, it proved to be my nemesis.

I soldiered on for a little over five miles and decided to call it quits when I was barely turning the pedals. Averaging only about 130watts for the last mile it would have taken me another six hours for the few remaining miles so I surrendered. It's not often I throw in the towel, but to continue on was just plain silly. The nice thing is when you decide you've had enough, you merely cross the road and downhill you go, all the way to the start.

OK, so next year I'll have to do a better job of coordinating, vacations and some of the tougher rides I plan. I am planning to do Breathless Agony again next year. You have to always get back on the horse.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Finally, Some Bubbles

For some not so very good reasons I haven't been diving for over a year. It was time to you know what or get off the pot because I had an upcoming vacation planned for early April.

Luckily, I happened to meet a young man by the name of Nazem Youssef. Naz works at the PADI international headquarters and is a certified instructor. With my work schedule and my cycling activity it seemed that something kept on coming up that kept me from getting back in the water. So in mid March I made the commitment to take the PADI Refresher course. I met Naz at the pool and a couple of hours later I felt completely comfortable.

The proof is in the pudding right? Well the pudding set perfectly. On April 2nd I did my first "real" dive in a long time. I knew all was good when I dropped in and felt totally at home. I don't like being out of the water with all my dive and photography gear, I guess like a fish out of water. It makes sense, really.

I was aboard one of the catamarans from Tradewinds Cruise Club and this would be my fifth trip. Each one of their locations has a flavor all their own. Four couples, the captain and mate; that's it. A week of relaxing, swimming, diving, eating and a little touristy stuff. No phones, television or radio and no wake up alarms.

You're catered and pampered while still staying active. It's nice to wake up in the morning and jump off the back of the boat for an early morning swim before breakfast. I could go on, but this is about the bubbles, so here are a few pictures from the various dives. Excellent viz, friendly eels, three different kinds of rays including my first ever experience with a manta ray and tons of "stuff"!

These dives were in Tobago and for the entire week we were the only people in the water. Lots of coral growth, sea fans, brain coral, nudibranchs, you name it.

Here you can easily see how clean and clear the water is. The Tobagonians are not really keen of water, not even fishing it. There isn't a marina on the entire island of Tobago although there are surely enough bays that could easily hold some. We did happen to catch two nice size Dorado that we had for lunch.

The Spotted Moray was almost as curious as I was. I managed to get four pictures before I move on. It sat perfectly still even though I got within a couple of inches.

This Flamingo Tongue Cyphoma was kind enough to show its underside as it hung precariously to a piece sea fan that had broken away.

Here, a Flamingo Tongue and a Fingerprint Cyphoma gather their dinner on a piece of coral growth. There were pretty abundant throughout all the dives.

There are many types of gobies. These two had their own little hideaway in the coral head. You don't go looking for scenes like this but you have to be aware that you'll probably find some very unusual things and keep your eyes WIDE OPEN.

For me, this was the one. One diver spotted a barracuda about 20 ft away. I've seen them before so I didn't pay too much attention. Another diver pointed toward a lobster... I happened to turn around only because I remembered to look behind me as much as in front, below and above. There it was, a beautiful manta ray about 20ft away. I snapped one shot and "yelled" as loud as I could. The divemaster heard me and off we went after the ray. This second picture was at a distance of about 30ft. Then with one or two real flaps of his huge wings the manta disappeared into the blue.

After that sighting on the third dive nothing else mattered. There wasn't a care in the world, I didn't care if I never took another picture of if I ran out of air. The four of us came out of the water like a bunch of kids that just had the time of their lives, carrying on and trying to put the moment in perspective for our spouses and the other people on our catamaran.

So that's it, I'm back in the water. In a few weeks I plan on taking a day trip to Catalina Island although I'm not looking forward to wearing a wetsuit since the water will probably be 60F, not 80F like Tobago.