Archive for the ‘Experiences’ Category

Post Eclipse

04 Sep

After waiting decades for the opportunity, I started preparing for the total solar eclipse about 9 months ago. I scouted places to camp in the path of totality.  My initial thought was just to drive up to the sandhills in western Nebraska the night before, find a place to camp, then watch the eclipse.  But I started to grow concerned about the potential crowds and traffic.  Given that my friend Joel was coming out from California to join me, I decided something less impromptu was best.

I had learned about a bed and breakfast ranch in eastern Wyoming.  They were going to be opening the ranch to camping and were going to supply meals and port-a-potties.  Other friends had already made reservations, so I decided to join the crowd.  That was last January and I was one of the last to make a reservation before they sold out.

Eight days before the eclipse, there was the heart attack.  It didn’t seem prudent to be taking a journey to a remote part of eastern Wyoming only 5 days out of the hospital.  So arrangements were made for Joel to join other friends who were going to the ranch, and I would stay home alone.  The disappointment I felt was just icing on the cake of just how surreal everything was surrounding the heart attack.

I’ve seen a lot of partial solar eclipses, so I wasn’t terribly excited to see another one.  It was going to be 92% here. On the morning of the eclipse, the skies grew more cloudy and dark.  About a half hour before the maximum eclipse, I saw that the skies to the north were a little more clear, so I set out on the peak-to-peak highway looking for some sun.

I found a nice spot along the highway overlooking parts of the Switzerland Trail. I set up my tripod and camera, and with some neutral density filters for the lenses, pointed the camera at the sun.


92%-93% maximum eclipse from near the 39 mile marker of peak to peak highway.

It’s a pretty boring photo if you ask me.  I guess it’s proof that I was “there”. Looking around at the landscape was a more interesting.  I don’t think a photo would have captured it.  The subdued light was as dim as it would be around sunrise or sunset, but the shadows weren’t long, nor was there an orange glow.

It was noticeably cooler.  All of the clouds that were around before the eclipse had dissipated with the cooler temperature.

I headed back home as the light brightened up.   I guess now I should be looking forward to the next one in 2024.

As for me, I’m still trying to get my thyroid level stabilized.  Nothing corrects very fast when it comes to thyroid issues. And so many functions of the body are tied to thyroid levels. I’ve had central sleep apnea, where I just simply stop breathing. I have paresthesia in my feet and hands, and at times my entire body. My blood pressure has been running too low, which makes me feel pretty week.  My kidneys have been dumping fluids and electrolytes from my body. The recovery for these side issues has been more arduous than the recovery from the actual heart attack.  Everything was okay in the hospital, but some change in body chemistry associated with meds for blood and platelet thinners caused my thyroid level to tank.

There’s nothing like being a statistical anomaly when it comes to western medicine.  They just look at me and give me a shrug of their shoulders.




29 Aug

This past week was the total solar eclipse I had been waiting for, for decades. Back in the 1990’s I wondered if I’d still be alive in 2017 to witness the eclipse. It was so far into the future.

Fast forward to August 13th, 2017. A 12-hour eclipse of a personal nature unfolded.

Partial Eclipse Begins

It was Sunday afternoon; I had just finished mowing the lawn and was trimming the edges with the weed whacker. Around the corner of the house I came and suddenly I couldn’t take a breath. I felt a little faint. I set the weed whacker down and went into the house to sit in the chair. I broke out in a cold sweat and decided to lie down on the floor as my consciousness began slipping.

After a few minutes it passed. I called some friends and explained what had happened. Mike volunteered to drive up to the house which would take about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, I had a burning sensation in my chest. Was it the banana bread I had recently baked and eaten?

As I waited, I evaluated myself. I rarely get heartburn. When I do, it’s a little lower in my chest and there is a more vertical sensation to it. This burn was dead center behind my breast bone and tended to radiate a little to the sides. I finally concluded I should go get it checked out.

I pulled the salmon out of the smoker and put it into the refrigerator. I figured I’d be gone for hours. I closed up the house and was ready to go when Mike arrived. As we headed down the canyon, I suggested going to urgent care rather than the ER. It would be less crowded and less expensive for someone with no medical insurance.

A half hour later we entered the urgent care, no one else was waiting. They took me in right away and checked my vital signs. Nothing unusual was noted, but the nurse said the symptoms I was describing were all red flags for a heart attack. Me? A heart attack? I don’t have any of the risk factors. He urged us to head over the ER immediately.

So off we went, and as we did, I started to feel more poorly. Every little bump in the road or centrifugal force around a curve really started to press on my innards. I was growing concerned, but also closed my eyes occasionally to help me relax.

My blood pressure was dropping again as we arrived at the ER. The triage nurse took her time getting me checked in. I started to feel very frustrated with the questions she was asking me, and I told her so. I finally gave up and refuse to answer any more questions and just put my head on her desk. They had my name and medical history right there on the computer screen. She finally relented and wheeled a wheel chair around and took me back to the examination room.


It took the initial medical team just a few minutes to confirm I was in fact having a heart attack. The EKG was abnormal. I heard the alarm sound over the PA system for the cardiac team to respond to ER One. Before I knew it, there were a dozen people poking things into my arms, taking off my clothes, shaving me, and attaching electrodes. I had a nice view of the ceiling. Occasionally a face would come into view and ask me a question about the pain, or if I was allergic to something in particular, or if I had a family history of heart attacks. One guy complained to his coworkers two or three times to stop disconnecting his electrodes.  It was like someone disturbed the ant hill and the swarm began.  At one point I tipped my head up to look around and saw college students with notebooks along the wall.  I guess they had been waiting for a patient like me.

They gave me something in the IV to boost my blood pressure and heart rate. That sent the chest pain level up quite a bit.

Things from this point have a slight altered reality due to the morphine.  The report says I was in the ER waiting for the cardiologist about 45 minutes, but it felt like only 5 minutes.  I think I was unconscious for most of it.  I must have woke when they began moving me to the Cath Lab, which is short for heart catheterization lab. This is where they make the repairs needed to restore blood flow.  My bed was rolled into the elevator and up to the second floor we all went.  The cardiologist was waiting.

The next thing I remember is waking up and seeing blood vessels on a large TV screen and being wheeled out into a room the ICU (Intensive Care Unit).

According the report I was in the Cath Lab for a little less than 2 hours as they tried to remove the blood clot.  By this point it was quite large in the right coronary artery and one of the branches.  They accessed the artery through the femoral artery at the top of my leg. They ended up having to dissolve the clot with chemicals. In the process, they put in two stents.

It was a rough night in the ICU. My femoral artery started to bleed. They installed something called a Fem-Stop and told me not to move.  I couldn’t help but move when it came time to vomit.  More morphine.

Totality Ends, Partial Eclipse Continues

By dawn on Monday, I was doing much better.  I was walking around on my own.  By Tuesday I was feeling well enough to go home.  But as a matter of course, they don’t discharge patients directly from the ICU.  So it was another night in the PCU (Pulmonary Care Unit).

Wednesday noon, I was able to leave.  By then I had caught a cold from someone in the hospital. My dad came to visit for a few days. I was steadily improving except for the cold.

Saturday, a week after the attack, began the steady decline from which I really haven’t turned around.  Some of it seems to be medication related. For example, my thyroid level has tanked in just 14 days.  I’ve developed numbness in my limbs when I’m horizontal.  Central sleep apnea has made some appearances.

I’m currently working through these issues with a medical team that just doesn’t seem to care. You’ll have to check back for the next installment.


N160JN, Part II

16 Aug

Pilot, Michael “Myke” Henry Baar, 1942 – 1971.


Five years ago I hiked to the remaining wreckage of a airplane which had crashed December, 1971, in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. I subsequently wrote about it here in my blog. Earlier this spring, I was contacted by Suzy Holloran, the wife of the pilot who had died in the crash. Her 12 year-old grandson found my post while researching their family history. Suzy was surprised to learn that any wreckage of the plane still existed.  Back then, she had given permission to a salvage company to take the airplane. It appears they only took the stuff of high value, such as the instrumentation, radios, etc.

Suzy had asked me for the location and route to the crash, so that she, her husband, Mike Holloran, and her grown kids could go visit the site. I still had all of the GPS information saved of my hike to the plane five years earlier, which I passed along to Suzy, as well as an offer to take them to the site.  They took me up on that offer.

I met them at a nearby campground for dinner the day before our planned hike to the airplane.  A small anxiety had been building in me for weeks prior. Mostly it was fear of the unknown and unanswered questions like: were they going to be in good physical shape to do this hike?  Could they take responsibility for themselves? Were they going to blame me if someone got injured? Was I opening myself to liability?  Were they political or religious zealots? Did they wear flip-flops on long hikes? (This is an inside joke.)

My fears were quickly dispelled upon meeting them. They were welcoming, warm, gracious, fit and fun.  I would be joining nine on the hike: Suzy and Mike (both 72), and their grown children, Matt, Katie (and husband Damon), Michael, Greg, and Becky. (Note there are 3 “mikes” in this story:  Myke, pilot, Mike, Suzy’s husband, and Michael, son.) Also with us was Ron Baar, Myke’s younger brother.

When I left at the end of dinner and after the campfire, I was totally at ease and felt the the next day’s hike would go off without a hitch.

They picked me up bright and early and we caravaned to the trailhead. Suzy, who had physically trained for the hike, was full of energy and set off up the trail with all of us following. I had done several long hikes in the weeks prior to prepare, so I was confident I would be able to make it to the plane. Plus I had a better idea of the route after the hike 5 years ago, so it was going to be easier.

(All photos are clickable for larger versions.)

Mike and Suzy Holloran

Mike and Suzy Holloran next to Boulder Creek.

The mood of the hike was light and everyone was catching up after not seeing each other for a while.  Initially the weather was great.

Stopping to admire the views.

Stopping to catch our breath in the thin air and admire the views.

The flowers were gorgeous (after a dull season at slightly lower elevations) and the views spectacular.

Matt takes a photo of some Ptarmigan.

Matt takes a photo of some Ptarmigan.


Star Gentian

Star Gentian, one of the many species of flowers we saw.


It was a bit challenging as we approached the last rise. Five years ago there was more snow and in many ways it made it easier then. Now it was negotiating large ridges of rocks and boulders. I think it took a lot out of everybody.

Coming over the rocks and boulders. (Click for larger.)

Coming over the rocks and boulders. (Click for larger.)

We were a little spread out as we came over the last rise to view the lake and the airplane just beyond it. I felt an emotional weight upon seeing it.  I continued on, looking for the best route around the lake. Suzy was about 100 yards behind on the rise. I noticed she had stopped there with a couple of the others.  I’m sure it was an emotional moment for her.

Once past the lake, Suzy and the rest of the family approached the wreckage tentatively.  Some clouds had moved in and the wind picked up. Soon we were being splattered with snow pellets, which is not uncommon at this elevation (11,600 feet).

Approaching the wreckage.

Approaching the wreckage, with Suzy at the front.

Suzy rested her hands on the fuselage and recounted how she had sat in this seat with with her kids who were still babies at the time.  After the crash, she told of how a doctor was lowered by helicopter to save Myke, but he had already perished.  She was pregnant with their third child, who was born a week after the crash. I can’t imagine the emotional roller coaster she was enduring at the time.

Suzy had a simple plaque made and Matt and Michael affixed it to the fuselage. Ron is a firefighter and affixed a “Smokey The Bear” pin to the seat of the airplane.

After a while, reflecting the mood, the weather lightened and the sun came out. As I chatted with Suzy about another hiker who had found Myke’s wristwatch and sent it to her, her sons were analyzing the crash site trying to reconstruct in their minds what had happened.

Rear: Damon, Katie, Ron, Greg, Suzy, Mike, and Michael. Front: Matt and Becky.

Rear: Damon, Katie, Ron, Greg, Suzy, Mike, and Michael. Front: Matt and Becky.

We began the trek away from the inhospitable exposed rocks and back down into the tundra, flowers, forest, and eventually the trailhead. It was a nine hour hike, but all ten of us made it to the plane and back. It will be an unforgettable experience for the family and myself.  As Mike said at the end of the hike, “It was much bigger than I expected, big hike and big emotionally”.


Myke Baar was 29 years old, a first officer for United Airlines, a flight instructor, with 4200 hours of flying time.