How did I get here?, Part 3… The Great Leap to the next step

The doctor (my cardiologist) gets my attention, and pulls me out of LaLa Land, and tells me the procedure is over.  I’m just a little taken aback… when did they start?  He then proceeds to tell me, very matter-of-factly, that I need to have heart by-pass surgery.

My reaction:  😐  Oh.  Ok.

I had to absorb this a bit.  The whole process up to this point from the tennis elbow up to this moment has been pretty mundane, almost kind of funny.  “Juuust to be safe”, now took on a whole new meaning.  It was serious.  We talk for a bit, they show me the photos they took, and explain that they went in, found several near-blockages (four or five, something like that), knew a stent or two wasn’t going to cut it, took the photos, and got right back out.  Took all of twelve minutes.

I listen.  It all makes sense.  Somewhat shocking, but it makes sense.  come back to the moment and ask the doctor directly, “Ok, so why haven’t I had a heart attack already?”

Without missing a beat (no pun intended), he says, “You’re lucky.”

I can buy that.  I also like his sincerity and forthrightness.  Just tell me straight up.

Fast forward a few minutes and, after they put this inflatable device on my wrist to ensure the artery does bleed out, they wheel me and my bed back to my room.  I’m reunited with Missy, and for reasons that are blindingly obvious, she’s upset.  Or, rather, was upset.  She has spoken with the doctor, called her mom, but has calmed down now.  When I see her she has sort of a “We have work to do, but we’re going to get through it.” resolve, which is exactly what I needed at that moment.

Most of the rest of the afternoon is somewhat relaxing.  I’m still in bed.  Still wearing the stylish hospital gown.  Almost kind of ‘chummy’, as we’ve gotten along quite well with our nurses.  My primary nurse comes in every so often to let some pressure off the wrist device and check up on me.  Another nurse comes in and does some sonic listening of my heart that I forget the name of.  Another nurse comes in and checks out the veins in my left arm.  This is where they will get the veins for my by-pass.  The nurse also checks my legs for the same reason, as a Plan B.  All this is unplanned, of course, but they’ve been through the drill before and are clearly competent at what they do.  It’s actually impressive at how they can keep their spirits up working in an environment where there is so much potential for disappointment and grief, not to mention that your ‘clients’ keep changing on a daily basis.

Anyway, a couple more hours pass as things are done, I’m eventually disconnected from all the wires, get some more information and explanations.  I meet the surgeon who will perform the actual operation.  Very serious man, but also has a very good reputation.  He says prognosis looks good, but since my blood glucose numbers have been up lately he wants them to come down a bit before he schedules the surgery (which has been going well), otherwise it would have been done in just a few days from then, almost immediately.  They want my A1C down to 8 or less, and it had been a bit above that.  An appointment is set for about four weeks away, and I should get a date scheduled then.  It will probably be pretty soon after that.  Until the, I wait… though it is nice to have some time beforehand to get things in order instead of having life take a sudden turn with no warning.

How did I get here?, Part 2… The Angioplasty

Actually, the nurse was trying frantically to call me late Friday afternoon.  And I’m the kind of person that rarely hears their phone, and I was driving anyway, so I missed the call.  They also called Missy, and she missed it, but she did hear the voice mail.  After an hour of phone tag we settled in with the notion that I would call Monday morning.

I finally get a hold of the nurse on Monday morning, and she’s kind of upset.  Says it’s urgent that I go in for an angioplasty as soon as possible.  She told me what was up, but most of it I didn’t catch.  I knew they wanted to possibly… probably… put in a stent.  We schedule for that Thursday.  I arrange to take the day off as I’m told the whole process will take about five-ish hours.

No eating after midnight the night before.  Only clear liquids… which includes coffee, soda, tea, etc., caffeine was ok this time, who knew?… only up until three hours prior to the procedure, which was scheduled for 1030 am.

We get to the hospital and sign in.  It was as if everyone was expecting me.  haha  I get a room and nurse… I’m going to call everyone except the doctors a nurse as I have no idea which ones were and which ones weren’t… and am told to undress to a certain point and put a gown on.  And let me say that hospital gowns have not changed for at least the last 50 years.  Anyway, eventually a second nurse comes in, who I believe was my primary nurse, and they poke and prod and hook stuff up and get all kinds of vital signs.  Everyone is super friendly, and professional at the same time.

Come time for the procedure they wheel my, still in my bed, out into the hall and down the hallway, around a couple corners, and into a room that looks like a surgery room.  It’s very sterile looking, but also very large and has an enormous set of equipment.  I have an IV in my left arm that was put there in my room.  The nurses… I must have seen a dozen different nurses that day, except for a couple they all seemed to have a single purpose… are all doing various prep-type things to get ready for the procedure.

Time for the procedure comes, and I had been paying attention to my surroundings and all the bustle up until then, and one of the nurses tells me they’re going to inject the anesthesia into my IV now.  I say, “Ok.”, and off we go.

And I mean “off we go” very literally.  This is the same kind of anesthesia that they use for procedures like colonoscopies.  You’re ‘out’, but not out cold.  It’s kind of hard to explain.  Anyway, I say “Ok.”, and they keep bustling around, and my mind wanders a bit.  I think I’m still with it.  Before long I’m no longer aware of my surroundings, though I think I am.  They did tell me when they were going to insert the tube into my artery in my right wrist, I do remember that.

As a side note they go through the wrist now, preferably the right, instead of the groin, though the groin is sort of a ‘Plan B’, if necessary.  And it strikes me as odd that they have to go through an artery, though maybe that’s the only place big enough for the tube, I don’t know.

So there I am with my mind wandering… and wandering… and wandering… thinking I’m aware… and wandering… when they suddenly get my attention.

To be continued.

How did I get here?, Part 1

This has been an interesting journey, so far.  It started around Memorial Day weekend, I was experiencing some sharp pain in my left elbow.  It would at times radiate down to my wrist and/or up to my shoulder.  I lived with it for over two weeks trying ibuprofen to keep it in check.  It was affecting my sleep, keeping me awake at night.  After a couple weeks of no discernible improvement, I finally gave in and went to the doctor.  Urgent care, on a weekend.

The doctor diagnosed me as having tennis elbow.  I was not expecting this, but it made sense.  It felt muscular, not heart related.  Got some advice to take lots of Alieve and use occasional cold compresses.  I also got a rest pad for my elbow at work.  Over time my tennis elbow improved, and is very manageable now.

Anyway, while there, juuust to be safe, the doctor wanted to do an EKG.  We get the EKG done, and he has it read by an on-call cardiologist downtown.  The results come back normal, except a small abnormality that he has concerns with.  They think that maybe I had had a heart attack previously and never knew it.  The set-up an appointment with a cardiologist for a better exam the about five weeks later.

I get to the cardiologist appointment and he essentially says the other cardiologist didn’t know what he was talking about.  I had definitely not had a heart attack previously.  Everything was fine.  However, juuuust to be safe, we’re going to do a treadmill stress test… a nuclear stress test.  So we set it up for the net week.

This nuclear stress test is a two-day stress test.  The first day is a resting stress test.  They take my vital signs.  They inject me with the nuclear stuff.  I go eat a light meal… I ask what the meal is for and they say it’s to ‘push’ the nuclear stuff through to the heart and kidneys, or something like that… then I go in and get pictures taken of my heart from a very expensive looking piece of equipment.  Then I go home.  No caffeine for 24 hrs, btw, for the next test.

The next day I get more vital signs.  I get hooked up to ten electrode things, and they put me on a treadmill.  It starts somewhat fast, I thought, and increases speed and incline as I go along.  Once I get to a certain point they inject more nuclear stuff and keep increasing the speed and incline.  No meal necessary this time, as the higher heart rate pushes the nuclear stuff through just fine.  This did not go well.  I am very out-of-shape.  Once finished I did calm down fairly quickly.  Then for more photos of my heart, for comparison.

The next day I get a phone call from the nurse.  They did not like the photos.  There was a dark area near the bottom of my heart.  I am told I need to go in for an angioplasty, and maybe get a stent, or two.  It’s scheduled for later that week.  At this point, Missy is worried.  I’m, somehow, unconcerned.

To be continued.

Hello!

Hello.

I’m Ken.  I’m normally a very private person, so my sharing of personal stuff will be surprising to some, but I feel compelled to share my experiences with my current heart health situation.  Maybe my experiences can help someone understand what they’re going to go through.  Maybe my experiences can help calm the feeling of uncertainty and of the unknown.  Maybe my experiences can just be a little educational.

Please note that my experiences are just that, my experiences, nothing more.  These are NOT any form of medical advice.  From time to time I may share an article that I come across, but I am not a doctor.  Please consult your doctor for medical information and advice specific to you.  This blog is intended to help those get through a tough time regarding ancillary issues that you may not hear from medical professionals… i.e. how you feel physically and emotionally, potential timelines, what you may expect in recovery, and so on.

The plan is for my wife, Missy, to also be a contributor here.  I will give the perspective from the patient’s side, Missy will give the perspective from the other side, the person taking care of the patient.  You don’t normally see it from the other side, so this will be great.

So sit back and enjoy.  Comment, if you like.