Category Archives: fitness

When There’s Been a Heart Change

Above is the view from my hospital bed at Coliseum Medical Center in Macon, Georgia. It’s not a view that compares with those my friend David Welford posts on instagram, but at least it’s a view – there were no windows in the ICU.

However, this morning my wife and I will be driving the 4-or-so hours back to Chattanooga, enjoying the view through the windshield. FREEDOM!

A  New Era

Last Friday I entered a new era in my life, one that will require lots more medication, a radical change in diet, and a physical therapy program that will probably turn into a regular workout program. I went from living life a certain way to living it a totally different way. I went from life as usual to life unexpected.

That’s what happens when you have a changed heart.

How It Happened

My heart began to change the moment I realized I was in trouble and admitted my need for help.  Had my pride said, “I can handle this…I’ll be OK,” I would have been dead.  But the painful feeling in my chest convinced me nothing I could do was going to change my condition – I needed a doctor.

The next step in my change of heart came when I submitted to the recommendations of those with whom I consulted. There was the doctor in the first hospital in Washington County who told me: “We got the results of your blood test…there’s something going on…you need to see a cardiologist tonight.” Then, several hours later, after a long ambulance ride and a lot more tests in another hospital (Coliseum), there was the cardiologist who said, “You need surgery.”

If I had rejected the recommendations of either, I would not be writing this; someone else would be writing my obituary.

The final step came when I submitted to the wisdom and ability of Dr. Nisreen Jallad and allowed her to fix what was wrong by weaving a wire up through my wrist and arm, all the way to the blocked arteries in my heart. Had I just agreed to what was needed, nothing would have changed. It was only when I put my life in her hands and allowed her to perform the scary, painful, life-saving angiogram and arterial surgery that change actually occurred.

Reassurance

Over the next couple of days, as I lay in the intensive care unit (ICU), there were times when I felt pain in my chest. Was I having another attack? More surgery?

That’s when Dr. Jallad calmly reassured me, “You came in with problems, but you are fixed…don’t worry.” All I was feeling were a combination of soreness and anxiety, not a heart attack; my heart was working fine.

What’s the next step? Live like my heart has been changed.

Evidence of Change

With a changed heart I will no longer consume the same foods; I will be on a healthier diet, one which will demand I think before I eat.

With a changed heart I will require an ongoing relationship with a cardiologist, someone who knows how the heart works and how to keep it working.

With a changed heart I will have to maintain a very specific regimen of medications for the rest of my life, else the devices in my heart will cease to perform as designed. The change was permanent, but its usefulness could be thwarted by my complacency and lack of discipline.

Spiritual Change

Can you see any comparisons to the spiritual heart? Some people claim to have had a change, but where’s the evidence?

Was there ever a moment of crisis? A moment of need? A time when you realized something was seriously wrong and there was nothing you could do to fix yourself?

Has there been a change of diet and discipline? Has the change been taken seriously?

Was there ever a surrendering to the Savior’s surgical hand, or did you simply continue as you were with only His words to contemplate?

Is there an ongoing communication with the Great Physician, the Cardiologist of the soul? Or, was that one trip to His office enough for you?

Then did a heart change really take place?

All I know is that everything changed for me the day my heart was changed.

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Filed under Christianity, fitness, Life Lessons, Life/Death, salvation

I’m Not Dead…Yet

I was behind the wheel of our Toyota sienna when my wife looked over at me and asked, “Are you OK?”

We were in a little town called Sandersville, GA,  and we had just finished walking through a small grocery store just to see what it was like.  But when I got in the van and sat behind the steering well, my chest was burning. I was a little short of breath and I was staring straight ahead. My wife had good reason to ask if I was OK, because I wasn’t:

I was having a mild heart attack.

Over four hours away from home, not counting Atlanta traffic, the last thing I wanted to do was go to the emergency room in a little town where the hospital wasn’t much bigger than a Walmart.  But knowing that chest pain isn’t something to trifle with, and especially since my wife looked worried (Who’s kidding who? I was worried, too!),  I agreed to go get checked out.

The little hospital was the best it could be, I suppose, for a little town like Sandersville. They couldn’t do much for me other than do an EKG, a chest X-ray, and a blood test.  All of the tests that they did came back negative, as in nothing was wrong. So, we got ready to leave as we awaited the results of a second blood test that needed to be done, one which was supposedly only a formality.  The only problem is that the final blood test showed that my troponin levels doubled in the three hours that I had been there…evidence something was wrong.

The emergency room doctor came back with the results and said that I needed to go see a cardiologist. My wife asked, “Just schedule an appointment with one when we get back home?” “No,” replied the doctor, “he needs to be transported by ambulance to another hospital right now.”  Unfortunately, the nearest ambulance to the hospital was still two hours away! So, the waiting began.

When the ambulance finally got there, we decided to go to the nearest hospital that was in the direction of home. So, we decided on a hospital in Macon, GA.  An hour later I arrived at Coliseum Medical Centers. #coliseumhealthsystem.com

All I can say is that I praise God this happened down here when it did, because this place is so much better than Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga. Everyone down here, from housekeeping to the nurses to the cardiologist, has been absolutely wonderful!  They have treated me like I was their only patient.  If I had been at Erlanger, it would’ve taken me four hours to get a bedpan.  But I digress.

Anyway, long story short, more tests were run on me here which led to the discovery  that I had blockages in all four main arteries in my heart, two of which were blocked 90%.  A few hours later I was in surgery receiving 2 to 3 stents, depending on how you measure them (one was as long as two). Other than when they numbed my wrist, I felt everything. No kidding, it hurt.

But I’m alive.

Come to find out, I’ve had heart problems for a while. When I have had pain in the past, all that was done were EKGs and stress tests. But nothing ever showed that I had blockages of any kind.  None of the places in Chattanooga ever did a heart catheterization.

My dad died at 46 with a heart attack. My grandfather died at 53.  I’m 51. Am I blessed, or what?

But here’s the thing: I’m going to die one day, and so are you.  Unless the rapture takes place, everyone of us have an appointment with death. It doesn’t matter how many times we go to the hospital and get fixed, these old bodies will eventually break down the last time  and we will enter into eternity.

My only hope for you, dear reader, is that you have the same hope and peace that I have.  That hope and peace is found in my Savior, Jesus Christ. Because of Him, when I take my last breath, I know where I will spend eternity.

I’m not dead…yet. But because of the blood Jesus Christ shed for my sins, I’ll be more alive that day than I am right now.

I’m ready to go. Are you?

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Filed under Christianity, current events, fitness, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

I Did the Crane Kick. Yes, I did!

I’m still going to do a review of “Cobra Kai” on YouTube and then post it here on my blog, but first, this

The Karate Kid

Did you go see “The Karate Kid” back when it came out? I did! As a matter of fact, I went on opening day, June 22, 1984. Believe me when I say it made a profound impact on my life.

“Cobra Kai” just came out on YouTube last month (May 2), and it is worth subscribing to YoutTube Red just to watch all 10 episodes of the first season (I’ll talk more about that in the video). But before my youngest daughter was able to appreciate “Cobra Kai,” she needed to watch “The Karate Kid.” After that, she got a better sense for why “Cobra Kai” got me so pumped.

But what my daughters can never fully understand is what I felt when that movie came out. To them, it’s just a movie, but to me, it was a lot like real life…because I was a Karate Kid.

The Karate Me

Back around 1982, I think (maybe ’81), I started taking martial arts. My first lessons came from a man who worked at the hospital with my mother. As a favor (even though he did charge a fee), he took me on as his only student. For several months I trained with him at his house in a big room where he also sewed sails for sailboats.

The first style of martial art I studied was not Karate, but Hawaiian Kenpo. Training would start with a run through the neighborhood and then some wooded area, then some stretching. After that, we would work on various techniques meant to harm one’s attacker. Enough said.

After a few months with my initial instructor, he moved away and left me starting over. It was shortly after that that in 1983, a new Karate dojo opened up about two miles from my home. Walter Ward, a Marine combat veteran from the Vietnam War, became my new instructor (sensei). He was affiliated with Ben Kiker’s United Karate Studios in Dalton, Georga (Great people, btw. Highly recommend them).

I was Mr. Ward’s first paying student. The only other students at the time were his niece and another kid (if I remember correctly), and they went for free. This is one reason why “Cobra Kai” resonates with me, but you’ll need to watch the first episodes on YouTube to understand.

Real Tournaments

You may not have known this, but in order to make the movie set appear more realistic, the people who made “The Karate Kid” actually held a real Karate tournament during the filming of the last scenes. The “extras” in the crowd not only came to see a movie be made but to watch their own kids participate in a real competition!

Therefore, when I went to see the movie, so much of the tournament part struck a chord with me. You see, I had already been competing in martial arts tournaments and had won several awards. And, as a matter of fact, I had already been training for a tournament that was to take place the very next day!

Now, About That Kick

According to the directors, producers, actors, and stunt coordinators (including the guy who played the part of the main referee, Pat Johnson…9th-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do and affiliate of Chuck Norris), the “crane kick” was totally “bogus.” In other words, it was a made-up kick meant to look good on screen.

In other words, it wasn’t supposed to work in a real-life competition.

But it did.

Remember that tournament I was supposed to go to on Saturday, June 23, 1984? The tournament that took place one day after the opening day for “The Karate Kid”? Well, evidently one of my opponents hadn’t yet seen the movie… mwwahahaha!

Sooooo… Right off the bat, as soon as I squared off with my opponent and the judge said, “Fight!”, I made use of what has now become cinema legend. I took the position of the crane stance, one leg lifted, then waited for the unsuspecting fool to walk right into a front snap kick to the chest (no, I didn’t kick him in the face – that would have been illegal).

I scored the point and later won the fight! It was awesome!

Then everybody saw the movie.

Oh, well. It worked once, though 🙂


NOTE: As I mentioned above, I did most of my martial arts training with United Karate Studios. My dojo was in Chattanooga, but the main dojo was/is in Dalton, GA. I wanted to give them a shout-out. With UKS I learned respect and self-control. I learned how to fight, but I never had to – because I also learned how to walk away from one. It’s been over 30 years since I’ve worked out like back in those days, but what was instilled in my mind can be drawn upon in an instant.

It’s been a long time, but people with true character never change. I’ve got a feeling that Ben Kiker’s United Karate is still every bit the real-life “Miyagi-do” it was when I did that fantastic crane kick 🙂

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Filed under fitness, self-worth, wisdom

Have You Done a Self-Examination?

A Doctor’s Instructions

I don’t want to get too TMI-ish, but as we get older the doctors say we should do more self-examinations. Have you ever been told this?

Doctor visits can be depressing 😉

You ladies are regularly told by your physicians to check for unusual or suspicious lumps in certain places. We men are told the same thing, just not as often (it’s not a subject we’re comfortable with).

But despite the awkwardness, all of us need to be reminded that it’s our responsibility to examine ourselves in between doctor visits. Fact is, embarrassing as it may be to discuss, a self-examination can mean the difference between life and death.

An Apostle’s Instructions

But as awkward as it is to discuss our bodies, the spiritual lives of people tend to be much more private and less likely to be examined. Yet, what does the Apostle Paul (a true Doctor of the Faith) recommend?

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? – 2 Corinthians 13:5 (KJV)

Or, as another translation interprets it…

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. (NLT)

Believe it or not, there are many, many people who think they are in perfect spiritual health, but in reality, they are terminal. Consider the following examples.

  • Bob goes to church every day the doors are open, including cleaning day.
  • Henry gives 20% of his income and 10% of his time to the church. If there’s a need, ask Henry.
  • Margaret goes to a fundamental church, uses the “right” translation of the Bible, and never wears anything but a long dress (except when she wears culottes to the beach).
  • Mary would never say a dirty word, tell an off-color joke, or even permit foul language in her presence.
  • Sharon put aside marriage and gave her life to helping orphans in the streets of Mumbai.
  • Frank and Karen have Bible studies in their home, take the kids to Sunday School, have gold crosses in every room, not to mention on their necks.
  • A rich young ruler has kept ALL the commandments (not just the big 10), even since he was a boy.

Are you like Bob or Mary? What about Sharon or Frank and Karen? Are the above people spiritually healthy, or could there be hidden cancer not yet removed?

Remember Ephesians 2:8-9? Works don’t save people; faith in Christ does. It’s not about the life you live; it’s Who’s life is in you.

My Advice

Look, I’m not an M.D. or an apostle, but if you’d like my advice, here’s what I have to offer.

  • Listen to your doctor and do what you need to – check for those lumps and things. Your life could depend on it.
  • Listen to the words of Paul and do a spiritual self-examination. Is your faith genuine?
  • Go to the top of this blog and click on the “Eternal Life” tab and consider what is written.

Don’t neglect the health of your body… or your soul.

 

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Filed under Christianity, fitness, Life/Death, salvation

Obamacare (Affordable Care) Reality

For your information…

Today I am starting my first day of physical therapy for my shoulder (a month after rotator cuff surgery).

Being that it’s the first month of the year, and since I’ve not yet used my health insurance, here is what I’m looking at.

Up to 26 visits this year.

Each visit costs $100.

Insurance will pay 50% of each visit, up until my total out-of-pocket expense of $6,000. That’s six thousand.

So, just for 26 visits (if I go) I pay $1,300.

And all that for a policy that covers my two girls and me…

For $1,700 a month… for the “silver” plan.

$1,700 a month.

Thank you, Obama.

Truly affordable.

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Filed under current events, fitness, General Observations, politics, Struggles and Trials

Stupid Chest Pain! (Remembered)

The following post was written on 9/29/2013 – NOT today! But I’m thankful to the Lord for what He has brought me through over the last 4 years.


Not Again!

Earlier in the year (maybe late last year) I had been having chest pain. At one point I was literally afraid I was having a heart attack. Yet, after extensive humiliation, all tests came back negative (which is actually a positive).

Well, here we go again. More chest pain – in the same place – and more tests. Friday night I went to the ER just to be safe (and to make certain people be quiet). That’s when I got the same questions, the same initial tests, and the same evil looks from self-righteous, healthy, gym-membership-owning nurses who know I need to lose weight.

However, this time was a little different from times in the past.

What Am I?

When my wife and I first got to the hospital, I walked up to the desk and was greeted by a not-so-sweet lady with a clip board. “What’s the reason for your visit?” she asked. “Um, well, it’s a chest pain thing,” I answered. Then, without looking up she hands me a clip board and says, “Fill this out and sign at the bottom, then take a seat.”

In a moment or two I am triaged and taken to have chest x-rays. When I got to the room for the x-ray the technician asked to see my arm band (for identification). They had not given me one.

Later, while lying in bed and hooked up to monitoring devices, a hospital rep came in to ask me a lot of personal questions. They needed to know about any medications, whether or not I had insurance, and about previous illnesses or surgeries. Among the questions were the following:

  • “Mr. Baker, are you now, or have you ever been pregnant?” she asked. “I know I may look it, but no,” was my reply.
  • “Are you on any type of birth control medication?” That’s when I looked at her with the same look that Gary Coleman used to have when he said, What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?

Now folks, I have had little kids come up to me, touch my belly, and ask, “Are you having a baby?” But honestly, either my wife has been secretly poisoning me with estrogen, or this woman must have thought I was one ugly woman in a lesbian relationship. Why would she ask such questions? You’d think my facial hair, low voice, and Adam’s apple would be a dead giveaway!

Signing Out

Fortunately, the ER doctor decided not to admit me. He said they wouldn’t be able to do an arteriogram over the weekend, so I might as well go home and take nitrates until next week when I talk to a cardiologist. Who knows? I might be in bad shape, but we will have to wait.

So, after talking with the doctor, he said: “I’ll have them bring in your paperwork, then you’ll be free to go home.”

Guess what was written on the prescription?

Name: Anthony Baker   Sex: Female

Should I change my name to Antonia? !!


UPDATE: It is now 9/29/2017 and my name’s still Anthony :-)… and my chest is fine.

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Filed under fitness, General Observations, Humor

Focusing On Jesus, and the Art of Throwing Kicks and Punches

Physical Therapy

About a week and a half ago I hurt my foot – my Achilles tendon, to be precise. I was mowing grass with a push mower on this deity-forsaken hill (the front part of the same yard where I fell three years ago and tore my right rotator cuff) when I strained the tendon where it inserts into the right part of my right heel. The pain woke me up from my sleep.

And this is what the front yard looked like until someone else came and mowed it for me. Did you know the grass in Tennessee could grow to 30 feet?

Because I could barely walk, even with crutches, I had to go to the orthopedic doc to find out how bad I was hurt. Long story short, I ended up going to physical therapy to strengthen my ankle and receive treatment for the tendon. As of today, praise God, everything is going well and I’m back on my feet with little or no pain.

But I’m NEVER mowing that yard again! I’ll make my daughters do it!

Physical Observation

Well, as I was sitting with an ice pack on my foot, there was a woman across the room throwing a weighted ball onto a slanted trampoline. The object of this exercise was to strengthen her ankle and increase her balance.

Earlier, not long after I got to physical therapy, I, too, was doing something to strengthen my ankle and help with my balance. So, as I was waiting for the timer to go off so they could remove the ice pack, I had time to ponder something.

Martial Arts

I began a conversation with one of the physical therapists standing close by and asked a few questions similar to the following:

“Are you familiar with martial arts? Have you ever noticed how martial artists have great balance? Have you ever considered teaching people how to balance the way I learned?”

The physical therapist was not too familiar with what I was talking about, so I explained.

Amateur artist’s rendering of actual martial artist named Anthony.

“When I learned how to fight, I learned to keep my eyes focused on my opponent. I never looked down, or around, only at the person I was fighting, usually in his eyes. As long as I kept my eyes on the one I was fighting, straight ahead, I could kick, punch, do whatever, all the while keeping my balance.”

“That’s interesting,” the therapist replied.

And here’s the thing. In my therapy I had to stand on a soft cushion, putting all my weight on the heel of my right foot. As long as I focused on an object in front of me, I could stand there with no support on that one foot and never fall. As soon as I looked around or looked down at my foot, I would lose my balance.

And when I eat at Chinese restaurants I catch all the stray flies with my chopsticks.

Focusing On Jesus

If you are already a believer, and if you’re familiar with Peter and his stroll across the water, then you’ve probably already figured out most of what I’m about to say: When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we are less likely to fall.

However, I never thought about Peter when my foot was being iced; I just thought about Jesus. You see, I don’t get to ride in too many boats, and I’m not likely to get out of one once I’m in it. On the other hand, this old flesh gets distracted and falls every chance it gets, even when the ground is solid and flat.

Instead of glancing around at what’s going on in the world; instead of looking down and wincing at what causes me pain; instead of looking at the clock and wondering when it’s all going to end; maybe I should keep my eyes focused on my Heavenly Sensei (Jesus), bring this body under control, keep it in balance, and train it for the fight.

After all, I’d like to land a few more good ones on the Devil, wouldn’t you?

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Filed under Christian Maturity, fitness, General Observations