Monday, January 4, 2016


I've been running and hiding from the dissection issue.  Fear has driven me away from this blog.

Marinated mushrooms are chewy and filling like meat, but contain zero fat and keep me satisfied for about two minutes.
Over the past two years I've reasoned if I don't talk about living with dissection then I won't be affected by it any more.  I have told myself that if I talk about aortic dissection and aneurysms then I am giving the issue more energy and problems may be more likely to manifest.

However I see more and more people who are joining Facebook support groups with many questions about dissection life.

So I am going to come back with pen in hand and journal my challenges.

Hopefully someone will be helped by the ramblings.

2016 is starting off just a little over 4 years beyond my second open heart surgery.  I am still alive.

My latest challenge seems to be gallbladder issues, caused directly or indirectly by a number of factors possibly including my aortic valve.

During extensive testing last month my GI doctor diagnosed me with red blood cell (RBC) hemolysis due to my St. Jude aortic valve.  The valve is chopping up RBCs.

I've known this since January 2012 and even had transfusions just after my second open heart event.

The damaged RBCs are filtered out by my liver, scavenged by haptoglobin.  In fact, most of my haptoglobin produced by my liver is constantly being used up scavenging RBCs.  That is why my haptoglobin levels are low.

My bilirubin is conversely high.  Seems there is a correlation between too many damaged RBCs and bile production - bilirubin levels.  This imbalance may also affect bile stone production in my gallbladder, hence the presence of my gallstones.

Gallstones hurt.  When I eat fatty foods my gallbladder constricts.  Ouch from the gallstones.  Big time ouch.

So for the past two months, since well before Thanksgiving 2015, I have become a vegan.

Yes, that's right, a vegan.  I swore I never would or could become a vegan.  I am a meat person and always have been a meat person.  But thanks to my aortic valve, I am a vegan now.
Typically it seems, when I meet a vegan the very first thing they say after telling me their name is 'I am a vegan'.  This seemed very silly to me in the past.

However after two months of being a 'non-fat' (including no EVOO or other oils) vegan I am finding the first thing I want to blurt out when talking to someone I haven't seen in a while is, "I AM A VEGAN!"

Believe me, the vegan thing is not intentional.

But I do feel very different after having just eaten non-processed mostly raw foods for the past two months.

I feel much lighter (as in twenty pounds) and full of much more energy.  Really the vegan trip is a little exciting, like discovering something new in life long after I thought I'd seen everything.  In that sense I feel a little like a life loving twenty something year old.

To prevent the excruciating gallbladder pain I am avoiding most all fats.  Natural fats, like avocado I seem to be able to handle OK though I haven't added nuts back into my diet as of yet.  If the label indicates any total fat content above '0' grams I avoid.

There really are so many good foods that are high in protein and good carbs without fat.  I didn't know this when I started the vegan diet but am learning fast.  Blackeye peas for instance do not have fat yet are full of protein and carbs.  Black rice is another food I've come to enjoy.  I can make some really good California rolls.  Dates and figs are like candy to me, an easy replacement for chocolate.

Watch those labels though as some foods you'd think would be free of fat actually have quite a bit of fat.  Nori seaweed for instance.  Some brands contain zero fat while others are full of hidden vegetable oils (like the ones I recently saw at Costco).

How long will the vegan diet last?  Probably until I have my gallbladder removed ( a week long hospital stay with higher risks since I am a Coumadin patient) or until I find the vegan diet heals all my ills.

Check back often for more updates.

And have a most blessed New Year and 2016!  I AM A VEGAN!  Kevin

1 comment:

Dawn said...

I had no idea about the RBC hemolysis! Did that show up on your CBC as an issue with your RBC's or more extensive testing needed? Regardless, congratulations on navigating the new diet, giving up meat would be tough for me too! I can also totally relate to not blogging so you can avoid the issue. I'm back this year too. :) I love your thought processes and enjoy your writing.