Wellness and Unwellness

Is there a way to stop this pain?

The new buzzword, especially around the start of the new year, is “wellness.” We are often reminded by our health insurers of the need to get a wellness exam with our doctors. Many people make resolutions to conduct their lives in a simpler, cleaner way (“Dry January;” “Monthly workout challenges”).

I was reminded of the importance of listening to one’s own body a little more carefully this year.

Ablation Rhymes With Inflation

If you know me well, you know I’m a serious bicycle rider and that I race time trials (races against the clock) regularly. These are all-out efforts over a fixed course of roughly 10-25 miles. Typically, I can average 26 miles per hour or more. The training is brutal. And I love it.

But about a year ago, I began experiencing shortness of breath and spikes in my heart rate while training or racing. It took a while to diagnose, but a cardiologist was able to perform an ablation, in which a small tube is inserted through the groin up toward the heart. Basically, a frozen balloon is sent into the heart to freeze the abnormal electrical pathways causing the irregular heartbeat (“a-fib”).

I had that procedure on January 3rd and was back working out in a week. Felt myself getting stronger every day, no instances of a-fib!

So I was practicing wellness, right?

Not exactly.

Appended to That…

One requirement after an ablation is that you have to be on blood thinners for a few months. They are known to cause some nausea.

So when I noticed some nausea and abdominal cramping, I assumed it was the blood thinner.

I kept working out. Even when the cramping was interrupting my sleep and making me weak for well over a week.

Then, on Monday (1/30), I lifted weights for an hour and a half. Went out to dinner with friends. Got home and felt lousy.

Walked the dog a mile the next morning, but I knew I wasn’t feeling great because I didn’t feel like working out. In fact, I didn’t feel like eating. Which is like breathing for me. I LOVE food! I was so weak, just lying down on the couch was difficult. I couldn’t look at my phone, could barely speak, and kept moaning in discomfort.

My wife Beth suggested I try some soup. I did, and this began the vomiting that let me know I was not okay. That continued for a few hours. I kept insisting I’d be fine. Fortunately, my wife is smarter than I am and ignored me!

Later that day, she took me to the Emergency Room. I assumed it was no big deal, but the doctors and nurses knew it was. Ultimately, they told me I needed emergency surgery to remove my appendix.

They had to wait until the next day, Wednesday, to perform the surgery, to ensure there was no blood thinner still in my system. I had had nothing to eat or drink since Monday night and I was in pain until the surgery about 1:00 p.m. Wednesday.

A few hours after surgery, I was able to go home. Fortunately, laparoscopic surgery is less invasive than the “old type” of appendectomy, but that doesn’t mean it’s fun, comfortable, or a quick recovery. In fact, I am not allowed to exercise for two weeks, which is about as bad a bit of news as I can hear.

Why You Should Care

Human beings tend to minimize bad things. People like me tend to minimize almost everything. People like me with an extremely high pain tolerance and an inherent stubbornness and hatred of losing control minimize medical events to every extent possible.

That is stupid.

I know it.

I can’t help myself (says the man who literally ran and finished a marathon—in 2:38—with a fractured metatarsal bone in my foot).

I listen to my body better than when I was in my 20s and 30s. But I’m still far stupider than I should be.

Realize that a burst appendix could have killed me. If I had waited until my wife was out of town or out of the house working, I could have died.

The lesson, if it isn’t already blindingly clear, is this: listen to your body and use your doctor as a positive resource rather than someone to be avoided at all costs!

What You Should Do

Get an annual medical exam, including all the tests recommended for your age, like colonoscopy, EKG, pelvic exam, mammogram, cholesterol blood panel, prostate blood test. If your doctor suggests it, do it. If your doctor isn’t sitting on you to do these things, get a doctor who does (mine sure doesn’t let me leave without all the stuff he wants done!).

Know your family history for cancer, strokes, heart ailments, and the like.

Make sure you have comprehensive health insurance coverage. Be aware that if your employer does not offer health insurance, you can obtain coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”) exchange. If you qualify, you may be able to get Medicaid (need-based) or Medicare (age-based). Don’t blow off preventative care because you are worried about saving a few dollars. That could kill you!

Have a full estate plan! In particular, be certain to execute a power of attorney for health care decision making. Create a list of emergency contacts in your phone. Tell these people about their status, tell them about your power of attorney, and tell them who your doctor is!

If you feel something odd, tell your doctor. Don’t ignore it.


  • Take care of your own wellness
  • Get annual wellness exams
  • Plan for contingencies and get those powers of attorney in place now
  • Never ignore or minimize discomfort, pain, or an ill-feeling. Sometimes, it really can mean life and death!

Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman

As in all cases involving injury, medical malpractice, or other injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.

If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has over 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.

Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything up front, and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day: contact Stephen now.

Categories: Current Events