Has anyone diagnosed with congestive heart failure been able to return to cycling, and how did you manage it?
Apparently after a bout of pneumonia about 5 years ago, and as a result of prolonged anemia due to untreated uterine fibroids, I have developed CHF. After the pneumonia I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma. This diagnosis never really satisfied me but being a student without money or insurance I didn't have the option of getting any actual medical help. Inhalers they gave me just made me dizzy and sick. I had a very nearly constant dry, hacking cough which no one seemed able to explain. I felt weak, extremely fatigued, and had periods of sudden unexplained dizzyiness. I put much of this down to the anemia. Doctors told me being anemic wasn't important. Apparently that was wrong since it seems to have contributed to the development of this heart failure.
I was caring for my elderly father and couldn't really pursue my own health issues. Then I couldn't get the necessary surgery done because - well, student - no money - no insurance. At this point (after a full year of trying) I've had the surgery, but now I the hospital is forcing the sale of my home (which I built myself, so that should be some indication of how little it's worth) to pay medical bills as apparently someone with no income is not eligible for charity care if they have ANYTHING AT ALL the hospital can take and sell. Apparently one's home is considered a "liquid asset".
On top of this, the surgery didn't even solve the problem. Just walking around the corner to the bus stop has me gasping for breath so hard people are terrified I'm having a heart attack (that is less than 0.4 miles). Riding the bike the same distance (previously I rode 30 to 50 miles per day 3 to 5 days per week) and I can barely walk (almost fell down when I got off the bike). I do not recover. It takes several hours for me to catch my breath and I'm dizzy, faintly nauseous, and weak. I have pitting edema, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, and it's harder to breathe lying flat so I don't (3 pillows on my bed, I used to use none).
To top it all off, I cannot afford the tests to see how bad the CHF is because I already have tens of thousands of dollars of unpaid medical bills, not to mention the 80k in student loan debt for a PhD program I am now no longer healthy enough to complete. The doctor at the (not free but at least cheapish) clinic for poor people doesn't feel comfortable treating me with anything more than just the hydrochlorthiazide for BP (I lost 25 lbs the first 2 days on that) without having further test results.
There are no cholesterol issues. To my knowledge my last EKG was at least normal-ish - but CHF doesn't show up very well if at all on an EKG hence the doctor's desire for me to get the echocardiogram that I can't pay for. BP was 148 over I forget which may not sound all that high til you realize that my normal BP is usually about 100/75. Since the surgery, my heart rate is down from between 100 and 120 (at rest, due to the anemia) to around 80-something, which I guess is good - but too little too late, apparently.
I'm pretty depressed about all this. I don't know how treatable the condition is (if at all) without further testing which I am not going to get, at least not until sometime next year IF the Obama health care bill actually goes into effect. I'm sure there's some way that'll be "fixed" so it screws over people like me just the same (did I mention I'm not terribly hopeful right now?)
Has anybody managed to overcome this? Is there any hope for me at all to ever get back on my bike?