Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Not All That Hilarious Heart Attack, Part 2: The Cardiologist Strikes Back

So, when we last left our hero, the seriousness of the situation was finally - belatedly - registering (because even I can't have a discussion with a cardiologist about the risk of death associated with a medical procedure versus the risk of death associated with doing nothing, without it sinking in that something important might be happening), and I was being taken upstairs on a stretcher.

While I was being prepped for the procedure, the cardiologist explained a few more things, including that I wouldn't be able to drive for some time afterwards. 

"That's not an issue for me," I said, "I don't drive."

"Oh," he replied, "You got here in an ambulance?"

"No," I said, "I took the bus."

A look of pure incredulity flashed across his face. "You took the bus? Why wouldn't you take the ambulance?"

"It seemed excessive," I told him.

He laughed out loud. "It seemed excessive," he said, shaking his head. 

So yes, everyone: Point taken. The Head of Cardiology at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre agrees with you. The bus was not one of my better ideas. Sheesh! Can we move on to the procedure? 

This was the procedure: I would get a local anaesthetic on my right wrist, and a sedative - but not a general anaesthetic. Then a camera would be inserted via my wrist and snaked up to my heart. They'd have a look around and take further action as needed.

The further action, I learned afterwards, was the insertion of a stent. One of my arteries was totally - one hundred percent - blocked. They were able to clear out the blockage and re-open the artery with the stent. So there's a tiny plastic tube in my artery. It releases medication, too, over time, to ensure that my body doesn't try to heal it over.

Yeah, how amazing is medical science? Based on information obtained via a tiny camera that went to my heart via my wrist, I had a stent inserted - again, it went in via my wrist - into one of my heart's arteries. All of this without being cut open (the tiny incision in my wrist healed within days) and without needing anaesthetic. This all  took an hour. I was conscious throughout the whole process.

It didn't even hurt.

My one regret is that I couldn't see the monitor myself from the position I was lying in. Although with the sedative, I'm not sure I would have been able to make much sense of it. I was flying pretty high, except for the time I fell asleep.

Fun as it was, the sedative wore off quickly and I was able to talk to the cardiologist and debrief as soon as the procedure was finished, which is when I found out about the stent, and the extent of the blockage in my arteries (in addition to the total blockage of the right anterior artery, two others had partial blockage - one was forty percent blocked, one fifty. These didn't require intervention as they're considered treatable via medication and lifestyle change.

So, the procedure was done and I was ushered into my post-heart attack era by being taken down to the Cardiac ICU. There I was moved into a bed - the nurses who got me settled in told me that the bed cost more than both their cars, put together - and hooked up to a bunch of machines that go ping: An ECG, a blood pressure monitor, oxygen, an IV feeding me blood thinners, and a blood oxygenation monitor (which, in another "Sweet FSM modern medicine is freaking astounding!" moment, is a little clip that goes on your finger, shines a laser at it, and via that process determines how oxygen-saturated your blood is).

That's when they let Sarah in to see me.

I probably looked a bit hellish by that point, even if she hadn’t already been scared half out of her mind. We were both pretty emotional. She hugged me - gently - and sat with me, and held my hand. We talked a bit - not a lot, we were both exhausted. The kids had school in the morning, or later that morning, really, since it was after 3:00 am by then, so after a little bit of just being together, she went home to take care of things, and I went to sleep in a bed that cost more than two nurses' cars. 

Exhausted, weak, with a tube in the artery next to my heart. And alive. 

Next: The first day of the rest of my life (in a post-heart attack world)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like this "rest of your life" part the best, even though you haven't written it yet. Maybe it's partly because you haven't written it yet? ;)

Love you. <3