Retirement: In Sickness and in Health

We often hear that you should retire when you are relatively young so you will have good years to travel and enjoy retirement. However, there are no guarantees.

Everyone knows as you get older, you are more likely to have health issues.  I retired this year with goals of traveling and adopting a very heathy lifestyle as primary motivations for leaving the workforce.  I loved working, but there were so many things I wanted to do.  “Life is short, even in the longest days” to quote John Mellencamp.  (Great song, by the way)

Our year started great, with both of us feeling good with trips to the gym each weekday.  Our days were slow and leisurely.   We had more time with family and to do those things around the house that we were always postponing.  We planned trips in our tiny trailer and worked on ways to make it more functional.

Just three weeks into the year,  I developed a respiratory infection that kept reoccurring and then I got the flu.   I was sick for three months with three separate episodes of fever over 101.  There were times when I was getting better-before the times I was getting worse.  During those better times, we were able to take a couple of preplanned trips, but had to cancel one.  But I was not really well during any of this time and it was very frustrating.  I felt like I would never be back to where I was before getting sick.  Finally, a diagnosis of mild intermittent ashma and it came as a relief.  Hopefully, next time I am sick I will be able to get medications to make me well.

We really love to travel.  We bought our camper because it allowed us to travel as often as we liked because it is so inexpensive.  While we did a good bit of traveling this year, we did not plan any big or long trips.   My husband has a knee that has been very painful for several years. Many have told him how much knee replacement changed their quality of life.  We planned for this to be the year to take care of that knee, so we spent a lot of time pursuing a knee replacement for him.

His orthopedic surgeon identified issues with the veins in his leg, which is why his leg has always been so swollen.  The veins increase his risk of a blood clot with knee replacement, but the risk would be less if the vein issue was addressed.

A vascular surgeon assessed him and an ultrasound identified a vein in his leg with a defective valve, technically called Venus Insufficiency.  It allowed blood to flow down into his leg, but not back up.  The pooling of blood in his leg is what was caused it to swell. We scheduled an ablation procedure to stop blood from flowing into that vein.  A long, painful recovery time was not expected and we would schedule the knee replacement after vein surgery recovery.

My husband had the surgery and went home with no issues.  He was also doing very well in his follow up visit.

Right before vein surgery

However, he had extreme pain in his chest a few days later and was spitting up blood.   The E/R visit confirmed blood clots in his lungs (pulmonary embolism) and in his leg.  This was a very serious complication and very painful.  He had to stay in the hospital for three days while they administered heparin, a blood thinner, intravenously.  They also had to manage his pain, which was very intense.

During the time in the E/R and the first day or so at the hospital, we were both very scared.  We could not be certain a clot had not gone to his heart, which can be deadly.   He hurt so bad, I think he must have felt he was dying.  It was so hard to watch and not be able to stop it.  They gave him very strong painkillers, but they only mildly relieved the pain.

Prayers of many were answered and he was remarkably better by the time we left the hospital and continues to get better every day.  There was some damage to his lungs, but it is expected to have a minimal impact when his lungs heal.

I too have had some recent issues:  a high heart rate during exercising and dizziness after working out.  For awhile, I feared that something was wrong with my heart, but recent tests have not identified any issues.  I still do not know the specific cause of my symptoms, but thankfully it is not related to my heart.

My husband and I have been sicker this year than we have ever been.  It  makes me acutely aware of the frailty of life.  I am so grateful that we are now looking at full recovery from his recent issues, though it is uncertain if he will be able to have the knee replacement surgery.  I would love for him to get his knee fixed, but his life is more important than his mobility.

We have been married for thirty-one years and have been fortunate that they have been very healthy years.   This is our first year with so much illness but at this stage of our life, there is no doubt we will have others.  I do not look forward to the sickness part of our marriage vow, but will definitely want to be there for that part as well.

Recent health issues have shown me not want to take anything for granted.  I cherish each day that I can spend with my husband and our family.  We may have many more good years or it could all come to a grinding halt in a heartbeat.  The future is not known, but each day should be lived knowing that it will not go on forever.  I will try to do that.










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