Clear, three, two, one... Zap! Gimme a jolt of those volts. Hot watts, ready or not. PG&E, deliver power to me. From your giant organized electric mains to the tiny disorganized impulses in my pulmonary veins.
Charge me up! Heat my lunch up just enough and then top off my heart with a few milliseconds of your best hot stuff.
Today was the day to blow the bad heart rate away. To paddle me back to sinus rhythm. To defib the afib. To give me some current to charge my cardiac cycle.
Yep, a little shock to the heart or three and now I'm out of atrial fibrillation and finally feel free!
When I went to college, I learned to ask questions from Sophomores; Juniors and Seniors had already forgotten what is was like to be a Freshman. In that spirit, here are a few tips for those of you about to go into the hospital, which I learned from my surgery four weeks ago today.
Rest up before surgery. Meditate each day to find your calm center. You will survive this!
If you have time, lose extra weight. This will help both the surgeon and you.
Don't let them overwork you at your job. This is not a vacation, where you can rest up afterward. You need to rest up in advance. Cut back your schedule, work from home, take vacation time before hand, if possible. My employer and manager were really great about this and it definitely helped me prepare for the surgery, which in turn helps my recovery.
If you drink coffee, switch to decaf now. You don't need a headache and withdrawal symptoms after surgery. They won't give you caffeine in the hospital anyway.
Insist on pain medicines on a regular schedule. You have to ask for each pain pill, unlike all the other medicines. My doctor prescribed a pain pill every 4 to 6 hours and I insisted on getting one every four hours. On this schedule, I experienced no pain at all, which helped me get the rest and exercise I needed to recover. It is hard to remember to ask every four hours, especially when you need to sleep as much as possible. An advocate, such as a loved one, is a big help. Do not let yourself get into pain and then have to try and control it. It is much easier to prevent a fire than put one out. You'll just lose precious sleep time while suffering needlessly. Do not let well meaning nurses tell you to try and stretch out the time between pills. That is appropriate later when you are tapering off of the medicine. Right now, you have a broken bone (your sternum) and pain is the enemy, not the pain pills. Get your doctor on your side before you go in and insist on your right to a pain free recovery.
Take an eyeshade and ear plugs with you. Intensive care is a noisy place! Take a music player along also, it helps pass the time and is a great way to drift off to sleep.
OK, I admit that I am addicted to an iPad and really enjoyed it in the hospital. It allowed me to stay in touch through this journal, by email, etc. If you have a smart phone, even better. You can use it as a music player, to connect online, to record conversations with your doctors, and yes, even for phone calls (hospital phones are stuck in the 70s, are sometimes broken, or require someone to transfer calls to you). Take an inexpensive extension cord with you, so you can reach an outlet; the regular cord is not long enough without it.
The time in the hospital goes fast. Don't get psyched out by reading about every step of the recovery and dwelling on it. I fixated about having a tube in my throat and worried about that because of my unnatural gag reflex. But it was over within moments of waking up and was really a non event.
Similarly, don't worry about every complication you read about. If you don't have other existing conditions, it is unlikely that you will experience complications. It's like reading about a medicine's side effects. Just because someone had this reaction, doesn't mean you will.
Expect an uneven recovery. Some days are better than others and a setback or two may occur. Keep your eye on the long term. You didn't get sick overnight and you won't heal instantly either.
Don't let them rush you out the door. This is unlikely to happen, unless you insist on going home early. Don't! I stayed in the hospital a full eight days before going home and am the better for it.
Before you get home, get a power recliner. It is so much easier than using a bed. If you can't afford to buy one, rent it at a place like Rent-a-Center. You'll need a power recliner because you won't be able to use a manual one. You can't push, pull, or lift more than five pounds for awhile. Did you know almost everything in the world weighs more than five pounds? :-)
In general, don't worry too much. The surgery goes quickly and then you won't have to worry about it any longer. Oh no, what will I dread now?
Wishing you the best of luck and a speedy recovery!
Former aortic stenosis sufferer
The current Marin General Hospital is the former site of the renowned Bon Air Hotel, back when Gilded met Age.
Like residents of those times, I've enjoyed lavish treatments here, including basking in the light of the rare X-ray, enjoyed heart strengthening procedures, watched the deer on the hill turning the green Marin grass into..., well, into little deer, I suppose.
The food and service here goes well beyond "three hots and a cot." I give it 5 stars. I even overstayed my initial planned visit by a day or so at the insistence of management.
Even so, I may not hasten to return here soon. All good things must come to an end, you know, and for now, there is no place like home.
Enjoy your holidays with your family, if you can. I certainly will.
What date is today? I can't seem to find it on my old stone calendar. (Sure, it's getting a little old but they don't make them like that anymore.)
Guess it's a whole new era. New valve, new calendar, new lease on life. It *is* just a lease, pretty sure of that now.
Today, I may have to give up my hospital bed to the next lucky customer, but I do so willingly, and with a heart full of gratitude to my doctors and nurses. Who are these wonderful people who spend their life serving others?
As my friend Celia says, "Doctors cure; Nurses care." She should know, she's a nurse too. More than just a nice saying, it's really very true. That should be written in stone somewhere.
Thank you to all my doctors, nurses, and staff who have given me of your time, so that I may have some more of it myself!
Fifty years ago, my Father's Father passed away too young, perhaps of a similar heart condition. They just couldn't do anything back then to help. Today, they can and they do.
Porcine is Latin for pig. Not pig Latin, which is igpay atinLay. Actual Latin pigs, who are the most intelligently gifted of pigs. They are known for their dry wit, inexpensive hors d'oeuvres and generous hearts, especially the valve parts, which they often donate to the less deserving human species.
Yes, nice fat little pig valves, so delicious when lightly fried and added to a Spring salad or tender when added to an ailing human heart.
These valves are often praised for their tricuspid-ness and are considered vastly superior to carrot hearts, even for conflicted vegetarians.
Ouch, ouch, ouch, dammit!
Actually, the surgery went really well! They replaced my aortic valve and I feel better already. They didn't have to do the mitral valve. And they gave me a MAZE procedure to rid of the afib. Success! I am out of afib and have photographic proof that I have a heart.
It only hurts when I laugh. And I have a very fancy bed that does everything but vibrates. Too bad I forgot to bring some quarters.
Ha, ha, ha, ouch, dammit!
Got the call. Be there tomorrow at 5 am, so I can wait for the surgeon to get up and start around 8 am. Mmmm, can't really complain, he *is* working on Saturday. You know how hard it is to get a plumber on the weekend, especially one that does valves. So, imagine how hard it is to get a surgeon. Glad it's not a house call!
No, really, thanks Dr. K! Just kidding, you're the best! Nothing personal with that plumber crack. Oops! I mean.... oh, well, never mind.
I'd also like to wish a fond farewell to my original equipment aortic valve, now in its 21, 218th and last day on Earth. See you on the other side, valve baby!
Got a few high powered X-rays today. Came out nice! You'll see, we're using them for our Christmas cards this year. I forgot to smile, though.
Half a dozen more blood tests, an EKG, and Voila!, I'm all set. Almost got my blood test card all punched. One more test and I get the eleventh one for free.
Oh yeah, another prescription. For nasal sanitation. My luck, should have learned that in third grade. My medicine cabinet now looks like I'm a pharmaceutical representative. Free samples, doctors only!
Well, not anymore. Had a CT brain scan today and now I can't remember the third grade. Oh no, Mrs. Blank, what was it you said, "if you only remember one thing this year I want you to remember...." Ahh, what was it? The agricultural output of Agrentina? Proper nasal sanitation? The wonder of the monarch butterfly? Oh yeah, that was it. Never mind, I'm good now.
Had a few more tests along the way. Got an ultrasound tour of "Your amazing vascular system" just like the slide show they used to scare you with in elementary school. I miss those slide shows; I need the sleep.
Anyway, they checked my Venus and Carotid arteries and said they looked good enough to star on Broadway. I dunno though, I was watching and could swear I saw a little monkey face in there. Maybe I've got a little monkey baby in me, that's what's wrong with me. Like in the Alien movie, only cuter. Guess my surgeon is in for a surprise. Don't tell him!
Well, I have a date for surgery. Not a real date, like going to the prom or anything, although it would be embarrassing if I showed up for surgery and all the other patients had dates except me. Awkward!
No this is more like a date certain. When I will get the biological upgrade that Mother Nature didn't give me. All I want for Christmas is my two top valves. (And a car elevator.)
Yep, December 13th. My original "hit and miss" valve will be 21, 216 days old and ready to retire. Lucky valve.