August 12th, 2006


My first angiogram...

(Ack. That sounds like a heading on a page of a scrapbook for aging baby boomers, analogous to the scrapbooks they make for newborns. I think I grossed myself out.)

Wednesday night I had some intermittent chest pains. Previous chest pains were one shot, but this one repeated at (admittedly long) intervals, and came back a time or two Thursday morning, so...irpooh took me to the Mercy West Urgent Care Clinic at 7:00 a.m. At first they talked about running some tests at the Iowa Heart Center office down the street, and a friend was there to take me (irpooh had to go to the State Fair to work—I was feeling bad about being a bother on the first day of the fair), but they changed their mind and decided to hustle me downtown in an ambulance for an angiogram. I apologized to the friend, and had my first (and I hope only for a long time) ambulance ride.

Once at Mercy Hospital, I spent a long time on a gurney ("Are you hurting anywhere?" "Only my tuchis, from being in one spot on this gurney for a long time...") and then ended up spending the rest of the day and the night in a hospital room, wondering which of the possible treatments after they saw what was going on would be chosen... there's drugs, there's the balloon that mashes all the gunk to the outside, there's the arterial Roto-Rooter, there's the stent... and then there's open-heart surgery. I was told the last was unlikely, as I showed none of the enzyme that dying heart muscle releases (yay!).

Of course, they have to tell you all the horrible things that can happen... "Well, you could have a stroke; the artery could rip open; you could have a heart attack; oh yeah, you could die." I was assured that the horrible outcomes were unlikely, and finally got a probability estimate from someone, so that I amused the people wheeling me down by calculating the chances that none of the horrible things would happen in my head out loud.

They did the arm rather than the groin. (Double yay!) They taped my arms into position, and we waited for the surgeon.

Lesson #1: they've heard them all, and they have comebacks.

Me: "You've done this before, right?"
Them: "Sure, hundreds of times. The surgeon, now..."

(Exception to Lesson #1: if you're as good as Isaac Asimov

The Good Doctor, of course, was an exception; just before he went under for thyroid cancer surgery, lying on the gurney he grabbed the surgeon and declaimed

Doctor, Doctor, in green coat,
Doctor, Doctor, cut my throat.
When you've cut it, Doctor, then,
Won't you sew it up again?

The surgeon needed some time to stop laughing.)

They put me on my BiPAP device for the operation... and either I went to sleep or the guy in the ambulance was right, and the sedative they use induces amnesia. I think the latter, because somewhere along the line I read that you have to be awake for the procedure.

Anyway...I got wheeled back up to the room with a big honker bandage wrapped around my arm, and was told to keep my arm straight for, uh, I think an hour. They handed me a diagram showing what they found... namely nothing. My coronary arteries are OK, so I got none of the treatments. Now I feel like I shouldn't have bothered to go in at all.

Current status: I think I've made it past the next hurdle, namely the dressing swap. After a day, you remove the dressing they put on there (which I really was glad to see go, because it made bending my arm to any degree very uncomfortable) and put a bandage on in its place.

Scary part: I'm by myself, and there's the possibility of bleeding. If it continues to bleed after ten minutes of pressure, you dial 911. It was bleeding a little when I pulled the dressing--many layers of blood-soaked gauze, with a springy adhesive band wrapped around it that I really wish they'd use all the time instead of that [expletive] tape that irritates my skin). I put on the bandage and applied pressure for ten minutes...

It's been about forty minutes, and I think that the bleeding stopped; the places where blood soaked through look just about like they did half an hour ago.

In a week, the sutures get removed. Thanks to everybody who responded to irpooh's post (except for me, of course...).
  • Current Music
    "Mercy Street", Peter Gabriel

How soon we forget...

The speakers on my computer are flaking out, or more likely, a connector has lost continuity somewhere. I just went rummaging around trying to figure out what's going on, but there's so much accumulated stuff that it's darned near impossible to get to the speakers and the cables. Reconnecting seems to show that the left speaker is out, and I started muttering under my breath...

...and then it occurred to me that about thirty-six hours ago, I was concerned about whether my heart was receiving sufficient blood, and whether or not I'd survive the next day.

Suddenly the speaker wires seem far less important.
  • Current Mood
    embarrassed embarrassed