All my adult life I’ve had a fairly vigorous workout regimen (with various lapses, typically when I’d settled into a new relationship and was being well fed by the cooks that Charleyne, David, and Jerry all were). Gay men are required to be in good shape (since men tend to choose based on looks, unlike women, who, as a whole, are more genetically tuned to finer qualities), so I was always muscular, even when carrying too much weight. I also had periods where I was skinny. From 1999 until 2006 I was on the Atkins diet, kept to it religiously, and went down to 175 lbs, which made me look like a walking skeleton. People were very worried about me (“Does he have AIDS?” was heard among the law students) (no).
Coming out of the heart transplant, my weight dropped dramatically due to the extensive steroids I was taking, and I fell to 173(!), which had Emily, one of the nurses who runs the heart transplant program, telling me to drink Ensure to gain weight. I’ve now leveled out at 190, a good weight for me.
Part of the requirements for someone who’s had a heart transplant is enrolling in the OSU Center for Wellness and Prevention’s rehabilitation program, and making 36 visits to a well-equipped gym near Kenny and Lane, where one is under the care and instruction of many people who know how to deal with heart patients. Most of the patients in the program have had major heart troubles and are now trying to remedy that and avoid future difficulties and have no more “events” (the euphemism used by most patients). Since I was not having major health problems, I had to be careful in how I talked to those I was working alongside with. I’ve gone from dying to being perfectly healthy, and bragging about that would be a mistake. It they wanted to talk about their health, fine, but I didn’t bring up the subject. I also didn’t tend to mention the heart transplant casually, but it soon was known that I was a recipient of a new heart, and that did lead to me telling my story to people on the treadmill next to mine. Mostly they wanted to know about the Kindle I was holding in my hand on the exercise bike. I made friends too (one of them even went on Amazon and bought my novel, “Imaginary Friend”). Nice people. I wish them all the best.
The hour and a half these visits took were mostly cardio exercises (30 minutes on a treadmill, 20 minutes on an exercise bike) and finally stretching to calm down. My heart has no nerve connections, which means, as I’ve mentioned before, that it doesn’t take signals from me: it won’t speed up when I’m frightened, nor calm down with a couple of deep breaths. When exercising, I must start slow until the heart figures out it needs to start working harder; when done, I must slow down and help it decide it can rest now.
I enjoyed the workouts, but they took major slices out of my week, and, paradoxically, meant that I didn’t workout as often as I would have on my old schedule (to which I’ve now returned). Why not? Because my routine is to workout every other day, and the OSU sessions were at 11:30 am Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. That put me off rhythm. I tended to workout on Saturdays at home, where I have a universal gym machine and exercise bike in the basement, but that was sporadic (until about three weeks ago when I was nearing the end, and, like a “horse who can see the barn,” as my father used to say, I got excited about being in terrific shape, and figured out a way to work the OSU visits into a steadier schedule at home). I’m now back on track with the every other day exercises, and things are good.
Let me finish by saying how very grateful I am to the wonderful people at the OSU Center for Wellness and Prevention, particularly Sandy, Mary, Grant, and Ellen. On the last visit to the Center, I brought party hats and arranged for the above photo to be taken; Sandy Miller and Mary Bass are the happy women toasting their final day with me. Many thanks to them and to everyone who worked with them in rehabilitating Doug.
"About That Heart Transplant," January 24, 2010
"My Heart Belonged to Andrew," February 17, 2010
"Another Letter to Andrew's Parents," March 10, 2010
"A Toast to Andrew," May 2, 2010
"Mama, Biopsies, and My iPad," May 19, 2010
"The First time I Nearly Died," August 3, 2010
"The Purring Heart," November 23, 2010
"1999-2001: A Dramatic Story, " December 15, 2010
"Naming My Heart," March 24, 2011