Heart Disease For Dummies …or… Miracles can be fun

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ROBO Pop
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Re: Heart Disease For Dummies …or… Miracles can be fun

Post by ROBO Pop » May 5th, 2012, 3:09 pm

Episode 5
I certainly didn't want to offend people with my rambling story, but Suzanne scares me so here's another episode.

I’m now at the third hospital in as many weeks, and absolutely no forward progress in resolving my condition. Started feeling like the kid who never gets picked when choosing teams. I broached the subject of weight loss in an earlier episode, and during my stint my weight dropped by 50 pounds. A close friend stopped by to see me, and after just moments, broke down in tears and rushed from the room. She never returned during the balance of my internment.

It was at about this time that the hospital staff decided I looked like the angel of death and felt some additional bling would reduce the revulsion people experienced when they viewed me. Bear in mind they had never seen me before this episode so had no idea I’m really just ugly.

The nurses’ creativity kicked in and I was accessorized with such designer items as a second PICC line in the other side of my neck. The nurses informed me the drugs were for their comfort more than mine. Oh and let’s not forget the heart monitor and telemetry device with 12 adhesive patches that were attached to the chest. Actually they had difficulty getting the patches to adhere to my hairy chest and finally used Gorilla glue to attach them right over the hair. Three years later I still have 12 bald spots there

Coupled with the IABP heart pump, relief tube catheter I already sported in the groin, and other sundry decorative items, you would be challenged to see me. After viewing their handy-work, and probably hearing my continuous whining that the color scheme was all wrong, someone else decided the finishing touch would be a the piece de resistance. An endotracheal tube used for mechanical ventilation was crammed down my throat, and I’m reasonably certain they pushed it a bit too far and it exited the opposite end. I swear that sucker was the diameter of a vacuum cleaner hose at the local car wash, and the intent was more to keep me quiet than for breathing.

To think Linda Lovelace did that voluntarily, the thought gives me shivels. Ever attempt talking with one of those down your throat, I mean an endotracheal tube dummy. Finger gestures were all I could accomplish, and believe me those nurses got many of those.Unfortunately, my grasp of sign language was severely limited to a single word, but it spoke volumes.

Another hospital, more paperwork, more co-pays. I hated that movie Ground Hogs day.

Heart disease was new to my family, and frankly I believe they should be required to provide a book like Heart Disease for Dummies to all new customers so we can study up before going through all this and decide whether we want to take the course or not. Maybe AARP should do something productive and automatically issue the book when we turn 50. My wife and I have discussed last wishes in the past, but like most people, never got around to documenting those desires.

While doing paperwork, my wife asked if they had a DNR for me. The hospital administrator nearly fell over. It would seem a DNR for open heart surgery is not the best possible choice. Your heart is stopped during the surgical procedure and a DNR would technically preclude them from kick starting it again. The surgery was a success, but the patient died due to a DNR. Probably the same holds for a DND (Do Not Defrost), you wouldn’t want to refuse them thawing you out as they cool the body to slow respirations and other functions.

While it’s true that my pneumonia was a key factor in all the delays, still even in my drugged state, I recognized that I was slipping away and struggling more daily. My family was a key factor in helping me during this difficult adventure. My three kids are all funny, no idea where they get that, and they come up with some of the most ridiculous antics, their contest to see who could be funniest annoyed some of the nurses. Apparently the rule book says when dying you should go quietly into the night without bothering others. My daughter is the ring leader, and frankly one of the funniest, positive, upbeat people I know. The kids alternated with my wife spending each night at the hospital with me in spite of the best efforts of some of the hospital staff. Still with all the attention and childish humor the most pain I experienced during my hospital stay was seeing the fear in my family’s eyes whenever a quiet moment struck. Making light of the situation was the only way we could all deal with the reality we faced.

My family was wisely taking turns visiting me so they all could get some much needed rest in between their assigned rotation. I rarely had any time alone to feel any self pity. I know I vowed to find the humorous side of everything while undergoing my ordeal, after all, you aren’t living if all you do is worry about dying …but still it’s unavoidable, there will be highs and lows. I remember one nurse reading my chart for the first time, looking into my eyes as tears flowed freely down her cheeks and saying “you poor bastard”. Here’s a stranger, accustomed to dealing with all the ugly facets of disease on a daily basis, and she felt sorry for me? That’s difficult to laugh off, even for the cardiac comic.

You’ve probably figured out by now that I have a special family, special needs. They’re a bit off center but you couldn’t ask for more love and compassion when the chips, or ROBO's, are down. I recall an incident with my two sons. I have what most guys in my age group refer to as a Pony Car. It’s a Mustang GT convertible, and while it’s aging, it has very low miles and is in pristine condition. I love that car, and what makes it dear to me is that it was a gift from my wife. While I was traveling for extended periods on business, she ordered the car as a surprise for me.

The boys were talking to me in preparation for their departure for the evening and comforting me. They told me to rest and take it easy, not to worry and there was no reason for me to rush home, everything was under control. They said this straight faced while one of the culprits twirled my car keys with the distinctive Mustang key fob, around on his finger. I was about to stroke out, however, the boys informed me they chipped in and bought new tires to replace the bald ones on the rear. Those tires are $300 each, so my anguish was calmed a bit when I heard this, how could I be upset with these two characters when they had been so generous. Then the light came on in my brain and I realized I had just replaced all of the tires, so why do you think they had to replace them so soon again. Are you getting the probable source of my heart condition?

In spite of our best efforts, my family and I were pretty stressed by the time everything finally got sorted out and I was ready for surgery. Been at club Med one day and finally I’m scheduled for surgery tomorrow morning, my wife’s birthday, what a gift.

My wife was a wreck and had been at the hospital fifteen hours straight. She decided to run home and freshen up prior to my surgery as we knew it would be a long procedure, and wasn’t scheduled to start until 9am. While she was at home Dr. Blunt called her and berated her for not taking my condition seriously and demanding she get back to the hospital. They had moved up my operation supposedly due to my deterioration, but more likely for an early tee time. The guy may be a great cardiothoracic surgeon, but obviously he missed the day they taught bedside manner 100. No charm.

While we waited in pre-op for me to be wheeled into the OR, a new doctor came up to speak with my wife and I. Dr Death was a very likeable woman who reminded me of our primary care physician, charming and lovely with a great bedside manner. Apparently I was a rare candidate who met all the criteria for a research study she was conducting. She wanted me to participate in a study of heart patients who undergo the type of surgery that was planned for me. Of course the caveat being I couldn’t participate if I survived. I’m not sure, but isn’t that comparable to your doctors betting against you with a bookie? I think that’s called the hospital incentive plan. I don’t really know why, but we agreed to allow her to use my case in her study. I’m guessing she wasn’t really rooting for me, but Dr Death turned out to be a great person and actually assisted and comforted my wife in many ways while she waited.

It really is heart wrenching to peer into a loved one’s face and see the cold fear and dread in this situation, that’s the last thing I remember as I was wheeled into the OR. Some nine hours later they broke the bad news to my wife, I’d survived and now sported four new coronary arteries, a pig valve to replace my mitral, and coat hanger wires twisted together to repair the damage from the median sternotomy. As a side note, the wires make nice hat racks when they protrude through the chest. Two battery cables also protruded through the incision and were routed to an industrial defibrillator to allow them to jump start my heart again should the need arise.

They had performed what is referred to as on pump surgery on me. That’s where the heart is stopped and a heart lung machine takes over cycling blood through your body while they operate. A potassium solution is used to stop the heart, are you getting that too much potassium is bad? My wife has been buying tons of bananas for me since we discovered this. Student surgeons performed the harvesting of veins to be used in the grafting. The great saphenous vein, a Large vein in legs and thighs, was harvested to use to redirect my plumbing around the clogged arteries. They use that vein when a large number of grafts are required.

The saphenous nerve is a branch of the femoral nerve that runs with the vein and is often damaged during this process. I’m pretty sure that in the haze I realized the student grabbed one end of the vein, pulled it across the room, cut it and let it snap back into place. I no longer have feeling from the knee down on my right leg as a result. Makes it difficult to compete in dancing with the stars.

Finally the marathon surgery was over, and they kick started my heart again with minimal problems, although I have heard when it started there was quite a bit of smoke coming out the other end. I was still in critical condition, and the surgeon decided to keep me in a drug induced coma for the next three days to allow my heart to recover from the ordeal. I doubt the nursing staff complained about that decision. Things were touch and go, but I beat the odds so far, through the skill of a dedicated team of medical professionals, amateurs, janitors, and blind ass luck.

Next episode; The Soprano’s…git outta hea
Broken Heart
Nobody has ever survived life, but I'm trying...
My story and sticking to it
http://www.icdsupportgroup.org/board/vi ... 97&p=91375

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Suzanne
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Re: Heart Disease For Dummies …or… Miracles can be fun

Post by Suzanne » May 5th, 2012, 8:26 pm

Wow, this episode was intense.

The way you told this episode, I could almost feel like I was there... :cry:

What a great family you have...funny and loving just like you :)

Thank you again for sharing your story with us ROBO Pop...looking forward to more.
~ Suzanne ~

St Jude ICD and Lead Implanted Feb.20/09
8 Shock Storm March 21/09
Lead Dislodged, so Replaced with Medtronic Lead June 16/09
ICD and Lead Explanted Nov.23/09
Medtronic Reveal XT (Cardiac Monitor) Implanted Jan.25/10...explanted and new one reinserted on July 21/11

Cardiac Monitor explanted Sept.9/14

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Eric
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Re: Heart Disease For Dummies …or… Miracles can be fun

Post by Eric » May 6th, 2012, 10:44 am

Wow Robo,

Dramatic episode, cannot wait for the next installment, hopefully I can turn on the radio tonight at 5' and hear the next installment..... :D

Eric
Eric [bot]

Idiopathic CHF/ EF currently @ 53%, Low point 26%
St Jude ICD implanted 6/2008 Device changed 6/2009
1 Shock (innappropriate), ICD reprogramed 6/2010
Lead revision 3/2011 due to fractured lead
53 shock storm 4/21/2011 (Inappropriate)
ICD turned off May 20111 through 8/16/2011
Lead revision 8/16/2011
VT episodes starting in August 2012
ICD Changeout 2/25/2013 St. Jude Inspire Assura
Too many meds to count
Life is too short, live in the moment and make the best of it :)
Intro is here:http://www.icdsupportgroup.org/board/vi ... 271#p75271

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madison
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Re: Heart Disease For Dummies …or… Miracles can be fun

Post by madison » May 6th, 2012, 11:01 am

Maybe you should also make this a podcast?
At first I wondered why the frisbee was getting bigger and bigger .......... And then it hit me!

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Re: Heart Disease For Dummies …or… Miracles can be fun

Post by 4EverHopeful » May 6th, 2012, 12:27 pm

ROBO thanks so much for sharing your wonderful family with us! You are soooooooooo blessed to have such a loving lighthearted family, and I'm sure many heartfelt prayers went up that day:)

Yes again I say, your a walking miracle....and again I say, am anticipating the next chapter (even though I know eventually how it ends!:)
Phyllis

God's prescription for the heart:
O LORD, You have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit
down or stand up. You know my every thought when far away. You chart the path ahead of me
and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment You know where I am.
Psalm 139:1-3

Non-ischemic DCM 09/11
PVCs, LBBB, leaky mitral valve
St Judes CRT-D (Bubba) 02/12; (Bubba II) 09/17
EF 20% 09/11; 25% 07/12; 35% 02/16
Failed PVC Ablation 11/12
Coreg, Zestril, Asprin, Aldactone, Lasix, Zocor, Levothroid
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CeeBee
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Re: Heart Disease For Dummies …or… Miracles can be fun

Post by CeeBee » May 6th, 2012, 1:44 pm

Another cliffhanger! oh boy. this is better than my current favorite TV show -- The Killing -- and a MUCH more positive outcome, which I like. Thanks for the story.
Diagnosed with HCM 2008; ICD 2009
Female, live in Midwest
College professor, mystery reader; take college students abroad at least twice a year. No shocks from that -- yet.
Do our ICDs mean we'll survive a zombie apocalypse??

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Re: Heart Disease For Dummies …or… Miracles can be fun

Post by Ann Marie » May 6th, 2012, 5:39 pm

OK I'm hooked! This is better than some of the books on my Kindle. Maybe you have another profession brewing. Thank you for sharing your story. You family sounds absolutely wonderful. Waiting on the next chapter....... bunnydan
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notvaporlocked
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Re: Heart Disease For Dummies …or… Miracles can be fun

Post by notvaporlocked » May 6th, 2012, 5:52 pm

Robo

Great stuff, you are a good writer.

Just finished reading the story and sharing it with my beautiful wife. We laughed, we cried, we stopped in the middle and had ice cream, we can't wait for the next installment!

Terry
Man Prayer
I'm a man.... But I can change.... If I have to.... I guess.

Red Green Show

Loving with all your heart is the only way to love somebody, Otherwise its not worth all the trouble!
Cary Grant

May those who love us, love us. And those who don't love us - may God turn their hearts. And if He cannot turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles, so that we may know them by their limping. (From the movie, Keeping the Faith)

Medtronic Protecta XT (Second ICD), 3 leads (1 unhooked Fidelis) Sept 27, 2006, Feb 12, 2013

3 V-fib therapies. It works, I'm still here.

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ROBO Pop
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Re: Heart Disease For Dummies …or… Miracles can be fun

Post by ROBO Pop » May 7th, 2012, 10:52 am

But will I ever be able to dance ...Chapter 6

I promise this story is winding down, even I'm wondering when will it end...

While I’d like to provide some insight to the operation for anyone who might be interested, fact is that you are technically dead during the procedure. Being mostly dead, I was pretty much out of it and though small snippets will pop into my addled brain periodically, I suspect those are false memories. I do however wonder what all the laughing and snickering was during the procedure. Like your life flashing before your eyes, the sounds took me back to memories of my vasectomy long ago. I would love to have a video of the operation simply to see how they could possibly have squeezed all those med students into that small operating arena.

Many people have become cynical about the medical profession, and believe the doctors are in it strictly for the money, but you have to admit, as disappointed as my surgeon must have been that I had declined a transplant, and the instant loss of prestige he could have gained, his team put forth an extraordinary nine hour effort to save my life.

The odds against my survival were so high, I understand no bookies, in New Jersey or Las Vegas would even take bets as the outcome was considered fact accompli. Some were even planning the follow up services with a 21 lid salute as my ashes were flushed. I had many medical visitors who marveled at the accomplishment of my team. Then again, before the surgery, my lovely bride informed me, in rather blunt terms, that if I died, and left her behind, she’d hunt me down and kill me. My money’s on her threat being the impetus I needed to remain in the world of the living.

After surgery, I was moved to the intensive cardiac care unit (ICCU) to recover. Nurse to patient ratio in this unit is 1:1, each patient was assigned a personal nurse so they could be monitored carefully and any issues remedied immediately. Things were touch and go and I was heavily sedated for the next three days due to the severity of my condition. Normally patients are brought out of sedation within the first few hours of surgery. Anytime I began to show signs of coming out of my coma, they pumped more chemicals in to push me back into a state I can only describe as nonexistent. In my delirium, I felt severe panic that I was going to choke to death, and whenever I could muster the strength to overcome my medications and look at the nurse, she was away from her station. Unfortunately, I couldn’t convey that to anyone, because of the darn the trachea tube, and my arms were restrained to prevent me from flashing my single word vocabulary and dislodging any of the multitudinous wires and hoses projecting from the entire surface area of my now shriveled body.

I slipped in and out of reality, hallucinating and experiencing bizarre thoughts, fear, anxiety, anger all boiling to the surface for the next three days while my family stayed by my side. Then slowly the staff began allowing me to surface back into the world of the living. Apparently I was creating as shortage of anesthesia and they had no choice but allow me to come out of my quiet state. After nearly a month, the first real sign I just might make it didn’t come from any prophetic words of wisdom, it was when that sadistic intern ripped the trachea tube out of my throat, and while the nursing staff were probably disappointed, it was done. Seems there was other hardware attached to the tube and it was painful when they pulled the drilling rig free of my throat.

For those who may not be familiar, when those breathing tubes are removed, your throat is so sore and the muscles are strained such that you cannot immediately speak. When the dryness finally subsided, and I was able to spew my first words, my voice sounded like it did when I entered puberty. Varying between a squeak and booming baritone. Mickey Mouse on helium. Damn hard to be authoritative and command people around while sounding like that.

My oldest son was by my side and for some reason, I told him he was a trampoline baby, then laughed hysterically. To this day we’re trying to figure out what I was thinking. A friend suggested that meant “Bouncing baby boy” – Guess that’s as good an explanation as I can expect, then again it could be in reference to all the times I dropped him off the dressing table.

Slowly the fog continued burning off and I started to comprehend the reality that I had survived…, and would have to face that damned IRS audit. Life just isn’t always fair.

My critical care nurse was a sweet lady who genuinely cared for her patients, but, of all things was squeamish. She told us she could not watch as patients coughed, hacked, and dredged up the slime and sludge that built up in our lungs during the surgical process, and she’d actually stray away from the observation window whenever she thought I was going to do so. I must admit that it grossed me out as well. Still it’s critical that fluid not be allowed to build up or deadly complications can develop. I was cantankerous and refused to cooperate with this aspect of my treatment.

I guess every hospital provides a pillow for open heart patients to squeeze while they cough. The coughing frees up all the crap inside you so you can clear your lungs and the pillow is supposed to reduce the pain you feel in the incision from your thoracotomy. My heart pillow was a cutesy thing shaped like a heart and hand made by sweet loving older hospital volunteers. I’d like to choke the living shit out of those people. I absolutely, undeniably, irrefutably, positively hated that damn pillow. It terrified the shit out of me and frickin hurt when I coughed and no stupid little heart pillow is going to mitigate the anguish when a cough racks your chest. Even the pillow decorated with race cars wasn’t comforting. What am I five again? Still if patients don't clear that sludge build up on their own, they go in and pump it out of the lungs to prevent pneumonia. One of the nurses threatened me with that procedure and told me it was unpleasant. Oh like this whole process isn't unpleasant?

I could tell I was improving by leaps and bounds when I began to plan and execute the great escape, even with my hospital gown open to public viewing I was willing to make a run for the parking lot and get out of there. Unfortunately, my daughter forewarned the staff, and they kept close watch on me. I don’t think they wanted me to stay so much as they were concerned that my daughter told them I was going to skip out on my hospital bill. The girl knew exactly how to get them to do her bidding, I told you she is devilish. Gradually, I started becoming more and more coherent, and began taking jaunts up and down the halls, at first escorted by Arizona Militia Men, and tons of electronic gadgetry, then gradually venturing out on my own. Unfortunately they kept an armed guard by the elevators to prevent me slipping out that way.

I discovered they gauged your progress by how far you walked. I’ve done hard time now for what seemed an eternity, and want time off for good behavior, or bad, either one, I started walking as much as I possibly could and made sure to pass by the head nurses station as well as the coffee pot, where the wannabe doctors hung out, though they didn’t have the right ID to actually be allowed to drink caffeine. You wouldn’t believe the amount of pain I was willing to accept quietly just to convince the Warden I was rehabilitated and ready to be released on my own recognizance. Let me tell you, be careful what you wish for.

If ever I felt sorry for myself, it stopped one morning when I headed into the hall for an early jaunt, and bumped into my new neighbor. I had seen a young man, carrying an infant, go in and out of the adjacent room. While children are prohibited from this ward, I didn’t give it much thought. My neighbor turned out to be a 20 year old girl who’d recently given birth to the baby who frequented her room. She was taking her first walk accompanied by a team of staff maneuvering a machine the size of a kitchen stove. The monstrosity, affectionately known as Big Blue, was the artificial heart they were using to keep this young mother alive. In spite of her obvious challenges, she gave me a warm smile and wave as she struggled past. What right do any of us have to complain when seeing others adversity?

Obviously surgeons don’t make much money for follow-up visits, because I didn’t see Dr. Blunt much after surgery, maybe I should have dubbed him Dr. Dick. Still all in all, I was getting stronger, and couldn’t be mad at him. I will admit some disappointment when they removed the catheter and I had to go to the bathroom on my own, too much effort, then again, I had been emptying my own sewage bag so there were positive aspects in the trade. I worked very hard at proving I was ready, and at last they moved me to the step-down unit, or as the nurses lovingly call it, the CABG (Coronary Artery Bypass Graph) Patch. Much more freedom in this section and they expect you to fend for yourself, hey great.

The new digs I was moved to were a suite with two beds, but nobody else was present so I was placed right inside the door. Later, the same day, I inherited a roommate. Finally after all this time in solitary confinement, someone to share with. Unfortunately, my new cell mate and I couldn’t communicate. He didn’t speak any language I am familiar with. Just my luck, I can finally talk, and he didn’t understand a thing I said, a lot like marriage. My new friend is a native American who lived on the San Carlos reservation all his life, and I’m assuming he only spoke his native tongue.

I discovered my room mate's story during numerous discussions with one of the residents who frequented our luxury suites. Frighteningly, he also told me the man next to me had some medical issue they had yet to define and therefore could not yet perform his procedure. Seems I was being exposed to some unknown disease while my chest was still raw from the chain saw marks left behind. Sorry but it was unsettling to say the least to find out the situation. Still, there were fringe benefits to having a room mate.

When I woke up early one morning, I decided to take my first unassisted shower in what seemed an eternity. So proud to be able to do such a simple chore. I knew how to unplug all my monitoring equipment and prepared for my cleansing, grabbed a towel, and quietly headed into the shower so as not to wake my neighbor. Imagine my surprise when I opened the bathroom door to discover a naked woman standing there. My doctors have developed some interesting stress tests for heart patients. The new prisoner’s wife was availing herself of the shower. She seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom after that incident, maybe she was embarrassed. Didn’t matter to me at this point, at best they could maybe accuse me of; assault with a dead weapon. To avoid further incidents, I started using the nurses bathroom until they got fed up and found a private room for me, and I was transferred once again.

As I had mentioned, this is a teaching hospital with many young college students hoping to make the grade and become nurses, doctors, and technicians. Because of my long list of features, i.e. cardiomyopathy, low EF, CABG X4, MVR, and so on, I became quite popular with local tour groups from the Medical school, and had doctors and students flowing through my room at all hours. I found out from a few nurses that part of my popularity may have been the fact word got around about my flippant remarks and digs against the immortal staff, but most likely it was my long list of defects that made me a popular tourist attraction.

One morning, fairly early, two teenage boys sporting white smocks and pimples were standing at the foot of my bed when I sensed their presence and awoke. The obvious natural leader of the two children introduced himself and informed me that they had been on my surgical team, and wanted to introduce themselves. Obviously they were Pediatric doctors.

The leader went on to introduce his colleague and informed me that his subordinate had harvested of the vein from my groin for the bypass grafts. Not being one to pass on opportunity, I pumped up his ego by complementing his surgical skills at such a premature age. I found that a kind word and pat on the back often boosts employee morale. It worked, the young doctor beamed with pride. Then I dropped the bomb. I told him unfortunately, my wife was very angry and it might be in his best interest to hide as that wasn’t a vein he had harvested from my groin. There was a definite puzzled look on their faces as the two departed the room. The nurse behind was in stitches laughing and shaking her head at me.

A bit later the same two youths were with the daily tour group making rounds for show and tell. Both sported broad smiles and gave thumbs up signals. Seems someone explained to them what I was talking about. In true spirit of a teaching hospital, they were just taught humility.

Next up: Home again, home again,… jiggity jig
Broken Heart
Nobody has ever survived life, but I'm trying...
My story and sticking to it
http://www.icdsupportgroup.org/board/vi ... 97&p=91375

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Jim and Sparky
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Re: Heart Disease For Dummies …or… Miracles can be fun

Post by Jim and Sparky » May 7th, 2012, 3:49 pm

Oh Man! "Assault with a dead weapon"..?.. Too Funny

But then you said something that made me tear up a bit.. "What right do any of us have to complain when seeing others adversity", when speaking of the mother in the next room.

Robo, I gotta admit to what a fine piece of writing this is. I may be from Kansas and haven't seen a lot of the world, but I have read a few things in my life, and this is really damn good. Thanks for sharing all of this.

And by the way, it appears that when opting for death or taxes, you picked the right alternative. Is there a chapter on the IRS audit?

Jim
MI 1/21/11; SCA's 2/3/11 and 2/4/11
I have a Boston Scientific Teligen ICD and a Boston Scientific Promus stent,
I guess my cardiologist is sort of a BS kind of guy.

Two rules to live by:
1) Don't sweat the small stuff!
2) It's all small stuff!


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mrag
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Re: Heart Disease For Dummies …or… Miracles can be fun

Post by mrag » May 7th, 2012, 5:10 pm

Robo wrote:I guess every hospital provides a pillow for open heart patients to squeeze while they cough. The coughing frees up all the crap inside you so you can clear your lungs and the pillow is supposed to reduce the pain you feel in the incision from your thoracotomy. My heart pillow was a cutesy thing shaped like a heart and hand made by sweet loving older hospital volunteers. I’d like to choke the living shit out of those people. I absolutely, undeniably, irrefutably, positively hated that damn pillow.
Mine was made by students at Penn State University (or the correctional facility there, not sure). It was not manufactured in China with slave labor, it was made in the US with slave labor. When they told me about the coughing I first thought I was supposed to put it between my legs. This item, carefully cared for and maintained, will soon be available on Ebay to benefit the 'Send Mrag to the Bahamas' Society.
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Ann Marie
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Re: Heart Disease For Dummies …or… Miracles can be fun

Post by Ann Marie » May 7th, 2012, 6:12 pm

Bravo! I hope it doesn't end too soon. I'm loving this. :awesome:
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ROBO Pop
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Re: Heart Disease For Dummies …or… Miracles can be fun

Post by ROBO Pop » May 8th, 2012, 1:27 pm

Free at last ~ Chapter 7

I had a fairly frequent flow of visitors during my stay in the hospital, and now that I was conscious, it made enduring the long term imprisonment more bearable. Initially, the nurses would ask my permission for each visitor, but after a couple incidents where I told them someone was my mistress, proctologist, and other such nonsense, they realized that it was easier to just pass them in.

A charming couple who I knew from business dealings stopped by to see me unexpectedly. They had heard from one of my employees that I had broken my arm and came to wish me well. Imagine their surprise when they finally tracked me down, and found out it wasn’t quite that serious. One of those stories that, gets handed down, and distorted with each phase of the relay process, until there's no reflection of reality.

Employees began visiting and soon forgot my condition. They began discussing business, in some instances hoping I would be back at work within a few days and straighten out issues that had arisen during my absence. Somebody should explain to visitors about stress and heart patients, but I think that it took my mind off of my travails and actually helped the days pass.

Those of you who’ve had major surgery will probably attest that the most frequent words uttered by the doctors, and nurses you see afterword are, “how are you feeling, you look so much better today.” Frankly that’s a little psychological game they play to boost your spirits, but it doesn’t take long before you get sick. Sick and tired of hearing that little ditty, especially when you look in the mirror and are frightened by the image staring back.

Dr. Blunt was one of the guilty who loved that phrase. Once when he arrived to check me out I beat him to the punch and said oh doc how are you feeling, you look so much better today. I swear, the man got a panicked look on his face and asked why, what do you mean, how did I look yesterday? Did I look like I was sick? Once again the nurses shook their heads as they explained to the Dr.

In one of the many twists in life, an ancient surgeon, who put the hospital on the map for cardiac innovation and transplants wandered in with a mob of student gawkers making the rounds. This guy has sainthood status locally among the community and in fact was my surgeon’s superior. Dr. Saintly had performed the first heart transplant in Arizona many years ago, the twist being he performed the transplant on a friend and co-worker of mine who had a heart attack during a Boy Scout camping trip. I kid you not.

Anyway, Dr. Saintly and the students lined up along my bed discussed my condition and long term prognosis. They test students by throwing out scenarios and possible solutions are offered up by the students. Probably not the best decision on his part as the patient was lying there listening to their grim thoughts. On a positive note, he did assure me I should be able to dance. Funny thing I never did before the surgery so hey, I’m ahead of the game. He was a little put out that I got him with one of the oldest pranks known to mankind, and made him look a bit foolish in front of his students.

My wife and I were chafing at the bit for me to get kicked free, my lord, neither Paris Hilton nor Lindsey Lohan did as much time as I had by now, and I'm fairly certain their crimes were more severe than my transgressions. When we enquired about my status, Dr Blunt informed me that he was shooting for the following Tuesday, just four days away. He was still concerned about my condition and not comfortable releasing me yet. He wanted to keep me for observation at least until then. While not as immediate as I would have liked, at least we had a target to shoot for, and I had no intention of dying between now and then and spoiling my chances for early release through the work furlough program.

On Sunday, the hospital’s Chief Resident, another irony he’s actually a Pasqua Yaqui Indian, stopped by, he had chatted with me several times before and told a bit about his career and his hopes and aspirations for the future of his people. Very inspirational man. Anyway when he dropped in Sunday, the first words out of his mouth were; "What are you still doing here?" I explained what Dr Blunt said, but took the opportunity to lobby for early parole. One of my best sales pitches. He told me they’d contact my Doctor and get approval for my release.

Shortly after the Resident’s visit, an intern came in and yanked my defibrillator wires out of my chest. At first the doctor tugged gently, but because of the amount of time that had passed, the wires were embedded in the heart muscle from scar tissue growing over the electrodes. He started pulling, tugging, and yanking with more authority. Some will think I exaggerate, but I’m reasonably certain he stood on my chest for leverage while gripping the wires and putting the full force of his weight into ripping those suckers free. Those in doubt, I have photos of the size 12 boot prints on my chest.

Ever wonder how your heart is held in position? Well I think it is attached with an elastic bungee cord and swings freely inside your chest cavity. I assure you that while he was pulling on those cables, my heart slammed into my rib cage and was trying to squeeze itself through the minute opening left for those wires. When the leads finally broke free, my heart slammed back so fast, my teeth rattled as it hit the backbone before rebounding and hitting the front ribs again. Picture in your mind if you will those super balls that would bounce for an eternity, that was the sensation. Thankfully, they had used the industrial strength gorilla glue to close my incision and it withstood the forces exerted against it while the intern strained to free those cables.

Five hours later, they popped in to tell us my doctor was fine with my release and presented us with a stack of paperwork that would make an accountant cringe. I began to fear it would take until Wednesday to get through the paperwork and the net effect would be a delay of one day to my original release plan. We buckled down and spent the next hour signing away. I think one of those was a document signing over our first born in the event they couldn’t collect from my insurance company, but I figure either way I was a winner.

The nurses provided copious amounts of instructions and stacks of prescriptions for the medication I would take for the rest of my life. They patiently went over the instructions repeatedly until my wife and I both were comfortable we were fully confused.

You really feel that you are well informed, armed with knowledge, and ready to once again face life’s challenges…right up until your car crosses off the Hospital property, then the panic sets in.

OMG, how could any competent medical person just release a patient on their own like that…what will we do, how will we cope. Dead man walking. The euphoria of survival rapidly became a distant memory. Five weeks after my admission, and three hospitals later, I was free at last, whether I liked it or not...

The drive home was a white knuckle 45 minute exercise in fear for my poor wife. Every little bump was painful for me and frightening for her, but finally we made it, and nothing looks so beautiful as your own home after a long incarceration. Having been bed ridden for 5 weeks, the last thing I wanted was to get back into bed, so I pretended I was fine and laid down on the sofa. Within minutes, one of my wife's cats, AC, who I have dubbed Assassin Cat threw her whole body from the back of the sofa, square onto my incision. That cat has a precise aim let me tell you.

On the following day, Monday, one of my friends called to impart the following story. She had stopped by the hospital to see me Sunday late afternoon, and discovered someone else in the room I had previously occupied. Her heart sank as she thought I had passed away. AS she was not a relative, the nurses would not provide any information. She wandered over to the information desk to enquire about me, and found my surgeon standing there trying to ascertain if I had died…Inspires confidence.

Next chapter ….The finish line
Broken Heart
Nobody has ever survived life, but I'm trying...
My story and sticking to it
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Re: Heart Disease For Dummies …or… Miracles can be fun

Post by ROBO Pop » May 9th, 2012, 10:59 am

CHAPTER Ocho…
Finally the Electrifying end...

I'm sure many will be relieved to know this chapter wraps up the season for never ending story.

After all the jockeying and pushing to be released from what seemed to me to be an eternal hospitalization, reality set in, and being home alone without medical professionals to look after you is frightening. Every little twinge and anomaly brings panic to you and your nerves become frayed. My children, greatly disappointed there would be no reading of the will scattered back to their little corners of the world, and Tracy and I were left to face recovery alone.

I felt worse than I looked, which is pretty bad. In spite of my best efforts to withhold complaints for my bride’s benefit, I was struggling and finally admitted it to her under duress. She contacted Dr. Hairdo, the Cardiologist whom we hadn’t seen since the second hospital on my world tour. I guess now that the doctors were out of range of her wrath, they lost their fear and were less than cooperative. The Cardiologist refused to see me earlier than scheduled, 1 month hence.

I was struggling with palpitations, arrhythmias of all sorts, angina, a temperature, and my heart rate was through the roof while blood pressure was lower than a politician. To the uninitiated, a resting HR of 200 with BP of 70/45 can cause some anxiety. The wellness nurses my insurance sent to visit me daily were becoming nervous and pushed for me to go to the hospital, however the last time I went, I was locked up for over a month and had no desire to repeat that exercise. Finally out of frustration and concern, my wife took me to our primary care physician. Within minutes of seeing me, Dr. Cold finger immediately got on the phone and contacted the Cardiologist. She wasn’t taking any crap, and demanded Hairdo see me immediately.

An emergency appointment for the next morning was arranged, and we were there well ahead of schedule in case of a cancellation the next morning. After an interminable wait in his torture chamber called a waiting room, the Cardiologist commenced to lecture me that he couldn’t hold my hand, and made me feel like I was an imposition on his valuable time. Had I not felt so miserable, I would have probably cleaned his clock. However, I was vindicated after he examined me. He walked me down the hall to see his partner, an Electro Physiologist.

The EP evaluated me and then sent me to their lab for tests. When the results were in, he expressed surprise that they didn’t install an ICD when I had open heart. In sorting it all out, it was in part due to my change of mind on a transplant combined with my Cardiologists lack of privileges at Club Med that caused the over sight. He explained to me that due to the damage to my heart, I needed a new technology called a bi-ventricular ICD. I was also at high risk of SCA and was in ventricular tachycardia in excess of 200bpm at rest. The EP did admit that while an ICD is contra-indicated so soon after open heart, there was no choice in my case. Within an hour, I was scheduled to visit another prison ward across town.

Guess I finally got their attention, that or they found more medical people who wanted a cut of the money my insurance company and I were forking out. In fact, total for the open heart and three hospitals up to this point was more than $500,000.

I was admitted to the fourth hospital in town. The Hospital itself is what one would call a concierge facility, catering to those of wealth and prestige, and owned by the first hospital I went to when this whole episode began so many chapters ago. No idea how I was admitted through the doors of a luxury facility, but I would say I was totally unimpressed with the quality and service. I checked in at 3pm, was given a gown and a bed, then nothing. No information, no human contact, just waiting. About an hour later, a nurse came in, gave me a sedative and that’s all I recall. I never saw the EP, but was put under general anesthesia and was out for the count.

After the implant, I was kept overnight. The next morning when I awoke, a St. Jude’s rep showed up and introduced himself. He performed an interrogation, and then without warning, he graciously demonstrated a full Jesus Jolt to me. The defibrillator most definitely gets your attention, so those getting one take my advice and don’t ask what it’s like, they’re too willing to demonstrate. Now I know there are those who insist a manufacturers tech would never do this, but I know otherwise, and frankly couldn’t care less what others think. After checking it out, he sent me on the way home to finally begin the real recovery from my long adventure. A nurse came in after his departure for me to sign release papers then pointed me to the door, they didn’t even wheel me out. Guess my history preceded me.

When I arrived home, I was still sluggish from the anesthesia and lay down on the sofa to rest. How does it go, the height of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results? Sure enough the assassin cat targeted my ICD and pounced from the back of the sofa. Bullseye! My recovery had more ups and downs, but was far less eventful after the ICD was installed.

Life slowly settled down and I began adjusting to life with heart disease. I never saw, or heard from the Electrophysiologist again. He did bill my insurance $244,000 for the hospital and all services. A bit pricy considering a little over a year later I did find out he had put in a dual chamber ICD instead of a bi-vent, and nobody understands why. Real caring Doctor.

The Barbarians, I had gone to Yellowstone park with, retroactively voted me, forgive the expression, bad ass of the year. To their knowledge, nobody had ever survived an excursion with ladies designer luggage, a head on collision with a tree, and a hair transplant gone so terribly wrong, and still stood with a smile. I gained their grudging respect, and no longer need to prove myself to those youngsters. Still, no sense pushing it, I don’t plan to use my wife’s luggage ever again, or go snowmobiling for that matter. I don’t need to prove I’m macho, I have a zipper to prove that.

Some of you may wonder about that lottery ticket my surgeon suggested I acquire. Well, indeed I bought one at the very first opportunity when I was released from my prison. Couldn’t believe it, I sat with my wife casually watching the drawing on TV. First few numbers you can’t get too excited, but then they call the fourth, okay now my interest is piqued, fifth, oh my gosh this is unbelievable, then the tension rises to its pinnacle as we move to within inches of the screen and the sixth and final number is drawn. After all I’d been through, I doubt anyone would deny I deserved this. UNREAL, I didn’t hit one frickin number. Guess I used up all my miracles.

Frankly, I often think of that youthful mother and wonder how she has fared through her ordeal. Patient privacy (HIPPA) laws in the US preclude me from finding out. I fervently hope she is well and enjoying her baby and life. Thoughts of her still bring a tear.

I’m sorry for the length of this rambling story, I really didn’t intend for it to be so many episodes, but like most of my posts, there is a hidden message. I rarely talk about my journey so openly, as to me it’s no big deal, it is what it is. I survived, I’m alive, and I’m enjoying every minute of my life. No complaints. I still have numerous issues just like many of you, and can no longer do many of the things I could before this arose, but I’ve made the best of what I have. I strongly believe in the premise, quality over quantity.

Moral of the story ~ no matter how deep they pile the fertilizer, smile… roses will still grow. For those who don’t get my analogy (mrag), it simply means no matter how grim the prognosis, there’s always hope ~ don’t you dare just give up.
Broken Heart
Nobody has ever survived life, but I'm trying...
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Re: Heart Disease For Dummies …or… Miracles can be fun

Post by mrag » May 9th, 2012, 12:35 pm

Well maybe yes, but will they be freakin great roses?
"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge" S Hawking

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