By Christopher Green
It was the kind of long fifteen minutes when you keep looking at your watch or your cell phone or I-pod screen to check on how long you have actually been waiting and since he was now fifteen minutes late, you now have to ask yourself how much longer will I wait?
It’s the kind of fifteen minutes when you are at the doctor’s office and the receptionist says that the doctor is running behind today. You ask how much longer and she replies fifteen minutes which, when initially stated, doesn’t seem like all that much because, after all, there are 96 individual fifteen minute intervals in every single day and if you look at it that way, well, what’s fifteen minutes.
No, it wasn’t the cavalier kind of fifteen minutes that you can dismiss because you say to yourself that I have all the time in the world today.
It was more like the fifteen minutes that goes into a quarter of a football game, especially the second and fourth quarter when the play actually stops when the clock runs down. These fifteen-minute segments are so valuable to the football team that time management has become one of the most important skills a head coach can have.
Fifteen minutes can be seen as a lot of time especially if you break it down into seconds because there are 900 seconds in fifteen minutes.
It is also the amount of time that Andy Warhol once stated that each of us, in the future, would be famous. Thus, the saying Fifteen Minutes of Fame entered the common lexicon. About this fifteen minute business, we all like to say the clock is ticking when someone most of us easily dismiss as not having talent or the right to be in the limelight at all, let alone for fifteen minutes bursts on the scene. Think of Joe the Plumber.
Then there is that horrible statistic that says, “Every fifteen minutes in this country someone dies from an alcoholic related traffic accident.”
Of course, there are the people who always say they will be some place in fifteen minutes, but we all know from experience that fifteen minutes to those kind of folks is really twenty, if we are lucky, or half an hour if we are not.
But for me, at least on this past Tuesday, fifteen minutes was a milestone.
You see before my last stay in the hospital back in November of ’09, I was able to exercise for at least fifteen minutes without much effort. It was not as it was back in 2004-05 when I could get on my stationary bike and ride for a full half hour. Or lift weights for more than a half hour before getting winded.
But I was getting older and my disease was progressing. By the end of last summer, I was happy if I could exercise for 20-25 minutes.
When I was released from the hospital back in early November, my regular pulmonary doctor, Dr. Haddad, told me it might be a year before I fully recovered from the illness. The infection was so deep and so pervasive that I had to have a port put in so I could treat myself at home with strong anti-biotic for three more weeks.
I wasn’t off the port until after Thanksgiving.
I have been trying, perhaps not as hard as I should, to exercise on a fairly regular basis. But it is so discouraging when you consistently perform so far below normal level. There were days that I could not get around the house without getting short of breath and this was with 3-4 liters of O2 per minute streaming into my nose.
So after waiting for the recommended week or so after my second heart catheterization to start exercising again, I straddled the bike and started pumping the legs.
Over the last four months, when I was able to ride the bike, I would feel my arms weaken slightly around the four-minute mark. I just pushed on but that was knowing that at about six or seven minutes in, I could start to think about stopping. The bike I have is one of those combo arm and leg machines.
So I was averaging about 6-8 minutes on the bike. Remember I was also having trouble keeping up with the 70-year-old brigade at the rehab I was attending. Having two heart catheterization procedures in the space of three weeks really interrupts the exercise schedule.
This time, last Tuesday, I blew right on through that four-minute mark with no feeling of weakness in my arms. In fact, I did not check the stopwatch until far into the six-minute mark.
To make a long story shorter, I hit fifteen minute for the first time in at least 11 months.
It may not seem like much, but it was a milestone for me.
Of course, I could not move my arms today without feeling a good amount of discomfort, but this too shall pass and on Thursday, today, I will mount that bike again to see if I can repeat Tuesday’s performance.
If I can, I will feel even more that I may be getting better. It’s also another hint that I will not have to be listed for a transplant anytime soon. This is why I called the blog My Transplant Years. Wishfull thinking never goes out of style.
This is the same way it was back in 2005. Only then, I was sure I could put off the transplant for years. I felt great and I was able to do a lot physically.
Now, tempered as I am by the reality of my illness, I would be happy just to kick that can of transplant down the road a bit.