Day -1: Cardiac Catheterization

Today was the day.  Bright and early we headed over to the hospital where the cardiac catheterization procedure would be performed.  I had an 8:30am Monday appointment and with possible traffic we all left early:  my Mom, Step Dad, Girlfriend, and a bag packed in case I needed to stay overnight.  The procedure is considered fairly routine though recovery after can take some hours until they are sure the bleeding has stopped.

I was hoping they would go in through the wrist vs the groin as I heard the former was easier.  We found the place where I was to check in and filled out more paperwork and was admitted deeper into hospital waiting rooms.

I didn’t have long to wait until they ushered me in.  It was the typical routine.  Put your shoes and clothes in these bags, put on the gown and lay on the gurney.  I did so and they took my vitals and got an IV installed in me.  Then they brought in my entourage so we could wait together.  The doctor who would be performing the procedure stopped by and shortly after I was wheeled away.  I ended up in a busy OR with music playing in the background (typical) and everyone was getting setup.

My memory of events gets a little fuzzy after this, partly due to what happened of more significance over the next few days (I’m writing this from the future).  I do remember the doctor and one additional person appeared to be wearing lead lined suits since the procedure involves radioactive imaging.  I was hooked up to some devices.  My wrist was numbed and something was being done there and a large box was moved over my torso.  And then a very short time later the box was removed and I was being wheeled out.  I don’t know what I was given to calm me down during the procedure but I definitely had some missing time with very little physical side effects.  Weird.

Soon after the doctor came out to report on what they found.  They found four blocked arteries that would require 5 stents to control.  (Stents are little wire coils that can be implanted to hold a blocked vessel open.  They are typically added during catheterization).  However the outcome with that many stents to hold the blocked vessels open isn’t very good in the long term so they weren’t crazy about that solution.  We could also choose to do nothing.  Or they could do 4 way bypass surgery.  Tomorrow morning since there is an opening at Mercy General hospital in Sacramento.  Gasp.  I was glad to be laying down.  And probably still mellow from whatever caused me to lose that time during the procedure.

My team and I conferred.  This really wasn’t the outcome I was looking for, of course.  On the other hand, we had planned the appointment with this in mind as a possible worst case outcome.  I had visited DaughterA the week before on the East Coast and DaughterB was in town for the week.  I had put my affairs in order before the Norway trip (will, living trust, etc.  highly recommend you put all of that together anyway).  I understood the surgery was the option with the most likely chance of long term success.  I also knew it would completely change my life.  I agreed to go forward with the surgery so they scheduled medical transport to get me to the next hospital.

I’ve never driven down the highway strapped to a gurney in an ambulance looking backwards out the back of its big windows.  I was amazed at how closely people will follow an ambulance on the freeway.  I commented about this and the driver confirmed his own amazement with how people drive.  Please, dear reader, don’t drive that way…

I arrived and was in a temporary room until my room for the night was ready.  Lots of routine questions were asked through a couple of nursing shifts and vitals taken and re-taken.  Near the end of my time in the temporary room I asked if there was any food around and they found a sandwich and a drink.  I hadn’t been able to have food since the night before.  Then I was moved to my room for my night and more questions.  I later had dinner.  Hospital food was fine.

Later I was shaved from the neck down since hair gets in the way of surgery and they needed my arms and legs clear since it wasn’t known ahead of time from where they would harvest veins.  The fact that one of the nurses doing the shaving was a trainee, though, was a little nerve wracking.  Nothing got nicked.  And it turns out I have pretty nice legs.

I had company of family through the evening and DaughterB was able to visit and I was able to FaceTime with DaughterA and everyone generally tried to put up a brave face alternating with some understandable tears; mine included.  Family didn’t stay too late because we all needed sleep, especially them.

I had a lot on my mind so I didn’t sleep well.  I was glad the surgery was going to be early.