Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Gamecock Football Predictions

I did a newsletter every month for about 15 years, and every year in the August issue I would give my predictions for the upcoming South Carolina football season. This was one of the most read and commented on articles in my newsletters, even though I was almost never correct with my predictions, actually I was never correct. Last year, I did a tongue-in-cheek article and predicted a 10-3 season which turned out to be pretty darn close to their actual record which, of course, was 9-4. I even predicted they would play Michigan in a bowl game and beat them. I think I predicted the Capital One Bowl instead of the Outback Bowl, but not bad, all things considered. So anyway, since I’ve been asked by numerous people – well actually, two – what I was predicting for this season and because I need to write a blog and I can’t think of anything else to write about, here’s goes this year’s fearless prognostications.

As I see it, Carolina should open the season 5-1 with wins over Coastal Carolina, Marshall, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Missouri. The Vandy and Kentucky games are on the road, but they should be winnable, although Kentucky has won four in a row. But I’m sticking with a 5-1 start. The Georgia game is doubtful, although they will be starting a lot of new players and it is a home game, but I have to figure the Bulldogs aren’t ranked number 3 in the nation for nothing.

Then the Gamecocks host Texas A&M with their new coach Jimbo Fisher. That will be a formidable opponent. If Debo Samuel hasn’t gotten injured by then, I’ll pick Carolina. Otherwise, all bets are off on this one. The next three games are hard to pick – Tennessee and Mississippi on the road and Florida at home. I think Carolina can beat Tennessee this year, but Ole Miss is better than a lot of people think. Still I’ve got to go with the Gamecocks. By the way, if you haven’t been to a game at Oxford, Mississippi, you should try to go. That’s a great road trip. So at this point, Carolina could be 8-1 or 7-2 or even 6-3. Let’s hope for 8-1.

Next up is what could be the biggest game of the year – Florida at Williams-Brice. I honestly don’t know what I think about this one, and since I don’t have a good read on it, I’ll go with my heart and pick a victory. That would make Carolina 9-1 on the season with Chattanooga and Clemson remaining on the regular season schedule. They will beat the Chattanooga Choo-Choos (not their real mascot which is actually the Mocs, short for Moccasins, I think), But as much as I’d love it, I don’t think the Cocks will beat Clemson, especially not up there in the cornfields.

So there you have it, except for the bowl game, and let’s go ahead and predict a victory in that as well, giving Carolina an 11-2 season. That’s what I hope anyway. But remember, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Florida could all be losses, as could the bowl game, so the worst case scenario would be 7-6. I think they have a better chance of being 11-2 than 7-6, but realistically, they will probably be 9-4 again. Let’s hope for the best though. Go Cocks!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

My Surgeries Journey

This has been quite a year for me physically.  It was almost exactly one year ago that I had cataract surgery, first on my left eye and two weeks later on my right.  Since then I have had two ablation surgeries and a cardioversion for atrial fibrillation and last week I had a colonoscopy.  That means in the last year, I’ve been under anesthesia six times.  That is a lot.

The cataract surgeries took maybe 15 minutes each and were outpatient procedures.  I am really happy with the results.  Before the procedures, I was wearing glasses and my vision was getting worse and worse.  After the cataract surgery, I have 20/20 vision in one eye and 20/30 in the other, and I know longer need glasses.  Dr. Stephen Cross was the doctor, and I’d recommend him to anyone.

I haven’t had the same success with my ablation surgeries.  I’ve experienced afib (atrial fibrillation) off and on for maybe 10 years.  If you’re not familiar with afib, it’s an irregular or fast heartbeat caused by something off in the heart’s electrical system.  Afib itself is not dangerous.  The danger is it increases the possibility of having a stroke and the treatment for that is taking a blood thinner like Eliquis.  I had what is known as paroxysmal afib which means it happens occasionally and converts to a normal rhythm in a fairly short period of time, maybe a few hours to a few days.  One of the best treatments for afib  when medications don’t work is ablation surgery.  It’s a fairly common procedure where a catheter is inserted into your leg through your femoral vein and up into the heart where the area causing the misfiring electrical signal is cauterized or frozen.  This requires an overnight stay in the hospital for observation.  The success rates are about 70 percent for the first procedure and about 90 to 95 percent for a subsequent procedure if needed.

Okay, I had the first one done in February and then I had more afib, plus heart flutters which is like afib, but not as severe.  So we did a cardioversion.  This is where you’re shocked back into normal rhythm.  This only takes about 10 minutes, but it still requires a trip to surgery with all that involves and more anesthesia.  It worked, but only for a couple of weeks, and the afib and flutters began again.  So in I went again for a second ablation on June 1.  Another overnight stay in the hospital and a week later I went into afib again.  Then I went almost six weeks with no afib and I thought I was home free.  But it was not to be.  As I sit here now, I’ve been in afib for the past 34 hours.  Before I have another ablation, I’m going to get a second opinion.  Maybe there’s more that can be done using medications.  And if I do have to have a third ablation, I’ll probably check out MUSC or Duke or the Mayo Clinic.  Any suggestions?  I don’t blame my doctor, but at this stage, maybe somebody else will catch something he’s missing.

As for the colonoscopy, I waited 16 years, and then noticed some changes that could have indicated colon cancer.  It took over a week before I could get the procedure, and that was a long week.  I was on an emotional roller coaster imagining everything that could go wrong.  Thankfully, the colonoscopy came out fine.  No cancer.  Not even any polyps.  But please don’t put this off.  If you haven’t had one in the last 10 years schedule it now.  If you’re high risk because of family history, it’s every five years.  If you wait till you have symptoms, it may be too late.  Getting this done before symptoms arise will save you a lot of anxiety and it could save your life.

This was a long blog all about me.  So if you made it this far, please accept my apologies.  May I just add that with all the aggravations, I can’t complain because there are so many people out there who are dealing with major problems.  Mine are minor. There is very little I can’t still do, maybe not as well as I used to, but that’s ok.  I just thank the Lord for how good my life has been and still is.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Garnet Goes Hiking


This week’s blog was written by Garnet, my son’s dog. His voice sounds like Scooby Doo would sound if Scooby Doo talked.

My name is Garnet and I’m a dog. Uh, last week on July 4th, I spent the day with Granmama and Pa Tim. My dad went to Savannah and he didn’t take me. But Granmama and Pa Tim took me to the mountains. We went to Table Rock. I’d never been there before, but we climbed a mountain. First we went to buy some fried chicken and had a picnic. Well, uh, Granmama and Pa Tim had a picnic, but all I got was a few bites of a Bojangles biscuit. I think it was good, but I didn’t really taste it, because I don’t chew much. I just swallow food.

Uh, then after the picnic, we got in the car and drove to Table Rock. Pa Tim went into a building and I stayed outside with Granmama. When he came out of the building, we started walking up the mountain. Pa Tim said we were going on the red trail. The man inside the building told Pa Tim that was a rigora, a rigara, uh, a tough trail, but Pa Tim said that was no problem. Granmama had a walking stick, but Pa Tim had me on a leash and I pulled him some. I’m a really strong dog, but uh, I’m kinda afraid of rain and thunder.

The trail was really fun for me and Pa Tim, but Granmama kept stopping to rest and drink some water. I was drinking water too, but I had to drink water from the river and I had to stand in the river to drink the water. It was good water and uh, very cold on my paws. Pa Tim kept telling Granmama stories about his backpacking days with my dad and my Aunt Darby. I don’t think Granmama enjoyed the stories. Her face was kinda red. Pa Tim kept telling Granmama to hurry up and Granmama kept telling Pa Tim to do something which I didn’t understand, but it sounded like it was hard to do and might hurt.

Finally after about an hour or it might have been a month – I have a hard time with time because I’m a dog – Granmama said she was turning around and Pa Tim said ok, cause when Granmama talks in that tone of voice, Pa Tim says ok. So we turned around and I led Granmama and Pa Tim back to the car. And we drove home and I slept in the back seat. Pa Tim told me we would go back sometime without Granmama and climb all the way to the summit whatever that is. Maybe there’s a treat there. He said maybe my dad and Aunt Darby would want to come too.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Older adults and strength exercises.

Older adults need to be doing strength exercises.  There are many reasons for this, among them the fact that lifting weights gives you about a 20 percent chance of living longer than people who don’t.  Unfortunately, only about 10 percent of adults over 65 years old meet the minimum requirements for strength training which is two full-body workouts a week.   A good full-body workout works the abs, lower back, legs, chest, back, arms, and shoulders.  You can use machines, free weights, bands, or just body weight, but every older adult needs to get in a couple of strength workouts a week.

In addition to the possibility of increasing your lifespan, strength training will build muscle which helps with activities of daily living.  Strength training also helps with blood sugar regulation which is important in controlling or preventing diabetes.  And it helps in the battle with arthritis by reducing joint inflammation.  So don’t neglect strength training.  Even people in their 80’s and 90’s can benefit.

This doesn’t mean you should do strength training to the exclusion of cardiovascular training.   Any kind of aerobic exercise is good – walk, jog, combine the two, ride a stationary bike or whatever you like to get the heart pumping.  Strive for 30 minutes a day, 3 or 4 days a week.

By doing your strength training and your cardio work, you’ll look better, you’ll feel better, and you have a 20 percent better chance of living longer too.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Walking and Surgery Recovery

Three weeks ago I had a second ablation surgery for atrial fibrillation, or afib.  It takes about 3 months to know whether the surgery is successful, but all indications are that everything went well this time.  In about 25 percent of the cases, it takes two surgeries.  I was one of the 25 percent.  In case you’re not familiar with afib, it’s an irregular heartbeat in the atria of the heart.  Afib itself is not life-threatening, but there is an increased risk of a stroke because some blood can settle in the heart and a clot can form.  The remedy for that is to take a blood thinner.  During ablation surgery, the doctor inserts a catheter through the femoral veins to the heart and freezes or cauterizes the areas causing the electrical impulses to misfire.  It’s considered minimal risk surgery.  There is no pain involved and the recovery time is very short.

Still I can’t resume regular exercise for another week.  I can walk though, and that brings me to the subject of this article.  We all know that walking is good for you, but how fast should you be walking to get maximum benefits?  Unfortunately, there are no studies for people under 65, but there are some studies that indicate how many calories are burned at different speeds.  For example, a 150 pound person who walks 30 minutes at 2.5 mph will burn about 107 calories.  At a 3 mph pace, 125 calories.  At 3.5 mph, 154 calories, and at a brisk 4 mph pace, 179 calories.

For those of us who are over 65,  one study (Verghese, Wang & Holtzer 2011) found that our walking pace provides a crucial clue to our functional status, which is defined as the ability to do normal activities of daily living.  Another study (Middleton, Fritz & Lusardi 2015) showed that slower walking speeds indicate frailty, functional dependence, cognitive decline, and mortality.   For instance a walking pace of 1.3 mph or less is considered poor.  A speed of 1.8 mph is the median walking pace for this population.  That computes to 33 minutes a mile.  Speeds of 2.2 mph or greater suggest healthier aging, and a pace in excess of 2.7 miles per hour indicates better health and a higher life expectancy.  A 2.7 mph pace is about 22 minutes a mile.   I guess I’m doing ok by those standards.  At 71, I’m pacing about 3.75 mph, or about 16 minutes a mile.  Still, I’ll be glad to mix a little running in with the walking.  That’s still a couple of weeks away though.

On other thing, whether you’re 25 or 75, just because you’re walking doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also be lifting weights.  For older adults, lifting weights is even more important than walking.  I’ll cover that in a future blog.

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