Sometimes it is nice to just get immersed in something other than upcoming heart valve surgery. I am a University of Oregon grad -- Go Ducks -- and I am loving this Rose Bowl Game. I am trying not to get too excited LOL. It makes my heart race 😄
December has flown by but I will try to add a few lines that might be helpful to someone else: After my October appointment with the cardiologist, I was still feeling fine (no symptoms). He assured me that scheduling surgery for January was still OK but that, according to the most recent echocardiogram, things had progressed and he didn't want to wait longer than January. I was supposed to see him again in early December to set things in motion. However, the scheduling desk did not have their book for December and assured me they would call in early November to set an appointment. In the meantime, two weeks after that October appointment, I began to have all of the symptoms on the list and they weren't subtle.
November came and I called in the second week to see about that appointment only to be told that they were in transition (???) and still couldn't schedule. Another week went by and I called again only to be told that they had set the appointment for January 14. I explained that that wouldn't work but got nowhere. Since I like to have all the facts before doing battle, I called the surgeons' office to ask about the time line necessary between referral and surgery: anywhere from two to four weeks. Back to the cardiologist's office scheduling desk--this time the person I talked to suggested that my only recourse would be to talk to the doctor's nurse. I left a message and she did call me back. I explained my situation, she checked my records and said she would try to get me in at the first available cancelation.
The second week of December, I called back and luckily got a scheduler who had talked to the nurse the day before and knew the story. He said they had not had anything come up yet, paused and said he would check one more time. He came back on line and asked if I could come in the next day -- someone had literally just called the person sitting at the next desk to cancel and he overheard the conversation. Divine intervention?
Saw the Doctor and scheduled the cardiac cath for December 12. The instructions indicated that I would not be staying overnight. I have had an angiogram previously and wasn't too worried -- I remembered the "flat on your back" part as being a bit uncomfortable but not bad but then I was much younger.
My cardiolodist had assured me that I would be given something for the discomfort if needed and I was glad for the opportunity to try a pain reliever that I hadn't previously had before the actual surgery. I cannot take "Tylenol" type products because they make me sick to my stomach and don't do anything for the pain. Being on coumedin (which I had to be off of for 5 days prior to the cath), I can not take ibuprophen or asprin either. I do take Celebrex for my RA but it is only minimally effective. I also am very sensitive and often only need a minimum amount of anesthetic. That all worked out well for a trial run. The cath was not at all painful, I got a slight headrush from the half dose but it was fine and best of all, no other problems were found.
Then the cardiologist said that I would be staying overnight for observation. What? He said that it was just a precaution and that he didn't want to take a risk of the cath site causing any problems. OK. Back to the lab prep area to wait for 30 minutes until they could take the sheath used in the procedure out of my groin. It came out with no pain but I went right into what they called a vagal response -- it felt like going into shock and that is just how they treated it: lowered the head of the bed and opened up the saline in my IV. They didn't have to use the atropine (sorry if my spelling is off). I felt much better immediatly. I guess that some people's bodies do that and they were prepared. Whew, enough excitement for one day.
So up to the Cardiac Care floor. I thought OK, I'll just check this out ahead of time; I had considered coming up for a look around anyway. I called my ride and let her know I would be staying. I checked the clock and started counting the hours -- thinking it would be four right? Wrong. It would be six--groan -- even with the pain relief. My arthritis just doesn't do inactivity well. I was not supposed to lift my head off the pillow or bend either leg. I forgot a couple of times but thankfully didn't do any damage. Now for the worst part: the dye and the meds you are given and not being able to drink anything before hand leaves you very thirsty. You are allowed and encouraged to drink as much as you like afterward. Can you guess what the problem here is? Bedpan -- ugh. Your imagination can fill in all the blanks and you wouldn't be wrong. The nursing staff were angels of the best order: very caring and understanding. I was told to order from a menu (it was now 12 hours with no food) but could choose only the items that had a little heart next to them. And since I couldn't sit up, it had to be something I could hold in my hand. I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and carrot sticks. I could drink water from a huge mug that had an extra long straw.
The hours dragged on and each was worse that the last. I was wired to a monitor that remotely recorded every heartbeat. My vitals were taken as were blood samples. I had to ask for meds that I thought I would be home to take and that presented some problems -- they didn't stock some of them and my records were not correct in their system.
At one point, the nurse came in and asked if I was feeling OK. I said yes and she explained that their monitor had shown a 9 second bout of Afib. I felt nothing. So another blood test -- it seems that I was low on Potassium. I was given something to drink that tasted a bit like prune juice but was intended to quickly raise my potassium level. It did some but later that night, I was told I had had another 3 second afib. New problem.
I also discovered that I am extra sensitive to the cleaning solvent used in the room and ended up with an asthma problem.
The cardiologist came in the next morning and said he wanted me to take Metropolol-- a drug that I'd had a bad reaction to earlier. He said it would be a smaller dose than before but was necessary because my valve was so compromised and the afib was a complication. So far that has been OK. Thank goodness. I got to go home with strict instructions about not lifting anything heavier than 5 pounds for several days and not more that 10 after that. I really did rest for a couple of days -- no energy.
The surgeon popped his head in the door and I got to meet him. His office had scheduled my appointment with him, before I left the hospital, for the following week. My first impression was positive and I haven't changed my mind since. I feel secure and confident.
At the appointment with the surgeon, he addressed all my concerns and had a way to fix all the problems I encountered. Big worry off my mind. I will be placed in an isolation room with superior venting and I will bring my own meds in their original bottles with me. I also discovered that the pre-surgery wipes have aloe in them -- you guessed it -- I am allergic to aloe. He gave me something else to use.
All in all, it was a trial in a lot of ways but now, I think I have a good chance at a much better experience when the big event gets here: January 16. I go back to the hospital for a day of "pre-op" on the 8th.
With all the help I've gotten from this site, I think I will be as ready as anyone ever can be. I am optimist and thinking about the recovery now :)
The other day when I saw my cardiologist, I asked how active I could be. It hadn't come up previously and I had read that others on this site were told to take it easy. I'm very competitive--mostly with myself. I think he had already figured that out because he laughed. But he did tell me a) that I should back down on any activity that made me dizzy, short of breath or caused chest pain -- symptoms I've never had and b) that I should not push past what I am normally comfortable doing (as in not adding extra weight on the machines at the gym). That made me feel more secure. I have noticed that I do have less time before I get tired -- bummer for a type A :(. So that being said, I spent 3 hours out in my yard (3/4 acre) getting some Fall chores done. I'm tired but feeling very proud of myself😀.
I said I would start this journal today so here goes. Talked to my cardiologist today and got the OK to wait until January -- but not longer. He said that because I'm healthy and not having symptoms, I should be OK. Got the usual "but if you start to develope symptoms, no waiting". That was a relief -- I've got a lot to do between now and then. The bad news was that I can't get an exact date yet because they haven't printed their schedule that far out -- I like to have a clear target so I'm a bit frustrated -- not really a big deal I guess. Considering. Thanks to all of the great input on this site, I had two pages of questions for him which he answered with a smile and reassurance. I like his manner and patience. My husband went with me today -- I think it finally became real for him which will now give him time to process all of it. So now I can tackle my list -- got the next three months mapped out.