My Damaged Heart: Surgery Blog – Part 1

This is very difficult for me, because I have no idea what I’m going to write.  I usually have a few points; a few ideas or moments I want to convey before I sit down for something like this.  But I’ve not a single moment that stands out among the rest.  This is kind of the reason I am doing this; to connect back to it, to embrace it, to understand what made a difference and where I detached.  My therapist tells me this is important.  I agree.  I wasn’t going to do this.  I never seem to write about the big, huge events in my life.  Not because I intentionally try to avoid them, but because by the time I realize I should write about it, it’s not affecting me and seems boring and self-gratifying.

It’s also not usual for me to preface something prior to writing it.  My prefaces usually are written afterwords.  Maybe I’ll add something here before giving it to you.

So, as I attempt to even think of where to start I’m realizing there wasn’t a single moment where I had any heightened emotion and to try and document this thing one step at a time would be the absolute most boring thing I’ve ever written and you’ve ever read.  So this may go a little differently than we expected.

I acknowledged what was about to happen.  The week leading up to the surgery was pretty hellish.  It began with a dental examination and pulmonary (lung) exam on Thursday which was made in an attempt to figure out why I cough up blood all the time.  Without much warning I would just begin to feel my lungs fill up with blood and I’d have to cough it all up while I wait for it to stop.  It went on for 2 and half years and no one could figure out why.  I was giving these doctors a week to figure it out.  They told me to have the surgery and see if it still happens.  So I wasted 4 days worth of hotel costs.  Hotel costs that, by the way, were up in the 3 star price range but 1 star quality.  Thanks for that, doc.

The wind chill outside was -22.  Temperature was -1.

The dental examination led me to an emergency endodontist’s office the next day, Friday, where this other guy could give me 3 root canals, back-to-back-to-back in one sitting.  This resulted in a missing tooth just left-of-center in my smile.  Except for dealing with the missing tooth, there wasn’t much pain involved and it didn’t affect me too much.   They needed to do this in order to ensure I’d have no infections in my mouth which could travel down to my heart while it was vulnerable during post-op.  A fairly common precaution, actually, and could be fatal.

The sprinkler system malfunctioned in the hotel on Saturday.  The alarms were going off everywhere.  I rushed out of the room and attempted to find a stairwell. No one else was out of their rooms.  No one was in the stairs.  Wh… ummm…what?  The stairwell I found led to an alarm-sounding door to the outside.  This didn’t seem right.  The fire alarm stopped. I went back upstairs.  Still no one was around, so I went to the elevators and took them to the lobby where there I saw the glass vestibule walls were cascading with a constant flow of water.  I had no idea what was going on until I asked the girls at the front desk.  Seems to me this would have been a good time to utilize their P.A. system and announce there was no fire, everything’s OK.  But apparently those types of thoughts don’t occur to these girls.  I developed a severe migraine and the Eagles ended their playoff run that night.

Sunday night began a fasting.  I had a bunch of tests the next day and wouldn’t eat again until Monday afternoon.  I also met with my cardiologist who promptly ordered a neurological exam and colonoscopy because of some passing comments I made about two recent, odd events: a Transient Ischemic Attack and a little blood in my stool one day.  Nooooooo.

After the testing I’d fast again because I had a heart catheterization the next morning, which turned out to be a bigger procedure than I expected.  That’s where they shave your groin area, cut a hole and shove a tube into your femeral artery.  They guide the tube all the way up your torso and into your heart.  Then they inject dye while they take x-rays to see how the blood flows.  I was in the waiting room for this procedure while Barack Obama was being sworn in.  First I stood with another 20 or so people as we all gathered around a TV hanging on the wall.  Then was guided to another area where I was sitting with another 10 or so people, some of which were foreign.  The swearing in occured and there was some silence for a moment until one lady decided to start clapping.  I would have started it myself, but really, when you don’t know other people’s feelings on the subject, I didn’t want to get into any arguments.  But most everyone joined in the lady’s clapping for a few seconds and we continued to watch the ceremonies until I was led into the cath lab, which was pretty much an operating room.

I awoke to the inaugural parade and enjoyed it from my recovery bed.  This was not exactly how I wanted to enjoy these historical events, but whatever.

A couple hours later I began the preparation for a colonoscopy which was scheduled for the next day.  But I hadn’t eaten!  So I ate something and then waited a certain amount of time before drinking the god awful “medication” to clean me out.  Talk about binge and purge.  This was literally like drinking water straight from the ocean.  It’s not that bad if you get one or two mouthfulls. But a gallon?  In like, an hour?  Can’t be done.  Not by me, at least.  I drank about 75% of it and went to bed.

Woke up Wednesday morning and went to the neuro exam.  He orders a CT scan on my head and declares the TIA I had was probably not TIA and just random numbness.  Then the waiting began as I was unable to get to my next appointment on time to meet with the surgeon and had to wait until he got through with a surgery.  When he finally showed up, it was brief but friendly.  I also got to meet with his scheduler who’d been more of a help to me throughout this whole process than anyone else.  I had every intention to send her a thank you card, but still haven’t yet.  Dammit.

Well, I ran from his meeting downstairs to where my colonoscopy was schedule and to which I was late for.  I gained some sympathy from the attractive, young nurse — which reminds me… holy crap, the nurses throughout this complex were all so pretty.  Many could easily have a side career as models.  My completely deshevled appearance made for a much easier time interacting with them because I knew I had no chance in hell.  And yet, I was conflicted because I was still embarrassed by my situation and even still OK with gaining their sympathy, like it would somehow lead to some fleeting romance while I limped from the hole in my crotch, smiled awkwardly due to the hole in my smile, and tried to contain the air buildup from the probe that was just inside my ass.  Yes, yes… please love me.  Aren’t I adorable and helpless??? 

*pause for sarcastic effect*

So it was all done.  All the testing, at least.  I could finally eat again, too, but not for long because tomorrow was the big surgery; the reason I was really there, 400 miles away from home and 400 miles from anyone I knew.  To repair a damaged heart, in the most literal of ways.

You can see all the photos from this period in my life here:


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