26 February 2017

My Recent "Procedure" -- You Gotta Have Heart



I had an atrial flutter. An anomaly in the heartbeat. Potentially not at all serious. In fact, I didn’t feel it. But it was there and it was a personal embarrassment. I’ve taken on all manner of mental and emotional disorder and don’t even mind sharing my struggles, but physical maladies are not my thing. I instructed my immediate family to close ranks on this one. No one was to know. (I think my secret will remain safe given the number of readers this blog has, or should I say, doesn’t have.)

The flutter was discovered at my annual physical just before Christmas. This necessitated three visits to a cardiologist and the determination that I needed to have an electrical cardioversion, a simple out patient “procedure” in which a shock is sent to the heart in order to restore its natural rhythm. Meanwhile I could continue to run to my heart’s content. How big a deal could it be if I could keep running? Frankly not much but still needing to be tended to.

I had the procedure last Friday. I was not to eat or drink anything after midnight. I reported to the hospital at 7:00 where I was checked in. I sat in the waiting room for somewhere around 12 seconds. Hadn’t even got comfy. I was greeted by the first of nine medical professionals who would tend to me in the coming four hours. She led me to a changing room where I was to take off all clothing (mine) and put on two hospital gowns, one to “cover your butt” as the young lady put it. Emerging in my new duds she took me to bed where I was to lay under the strangest and most comfortable blanket I’d ever seen. It was inflatable and quite warm without being at all hot.

Another nurse came in and checked my vitals. Virtually everyone who I came in contact with asked me my date of birth and last name to make sure it corresponded with what was on the hospital issued wrist band. Also pretty much everyone checked my blood pressure, pulse and temperature. All were always fine. I’m like that. I was also given an EKG to see if my heart had corrected itself, but alas such was not the case. The show was to go on.

A third nurse came in and she was very cute and very nice. She stuck the IV into me which hurt for somewhere around one second. My wife was allowed to see me. Her presence ended my flirtation with the cute nurse. It’s for the better, I would have only broken her heart. The missus is a great person to have around in any circumstance. I wasn’t at all nervous about the procedure but it still felt good to have her calm, reassuring demeanor in the room. I love her with all my heart whether its fluttering or not.

Finally the doctor himself entered. He was an old fogey as many of the best doctors are. He was also somewhat of a chatterbox, which was okay by me although I heard a little bit more about his grandchildren than I needed to. He explained the procedure and made it sound like pretty pedestrian stuff. Then the anesthesiologist made his appearance. If I hadn’t known his profession I would have guessed anesthesiologist. Yup, looked the part to a tee. He was young and somber and reassuring. He asked a few questions about my medical history (for the millionth time, I have no allergies!) and because of my experiences with panic attacks he gave me a mild sedative, intravenously.

The anesthesiologist and yet another nurse wheeled me to…I wanna say operating theater but it was probably just a room for “procedures.” A mask was put over my face and I was instructed to breath in. The next thing I know a couple of people are saying my name and snapping fingers and looking me in the eyes. The “procedure” all two seconds of it, were over. I was very groggy but managed to assure one and all that I was fine. I was then wheeled to a recovery room by yet another nurse. We took a circuitous path that led us through Albuquerque. We bumped a few things along the way. The penultimate nurse was waiting for me and she checked my vital signs and did another EKG. I was finally able to have something to eat and drink. Crackers and juice, yummy! Then I made a big mistake. I started in on the crackers before the juice was delivered. My mouth was as wet as the Mojave Desert in August. I could no more swallow those crackers that were now caked in my mouth than I could dunk a basketball. The arrival of the juice was cause for relief and celebration.

After I was deemed fit to rejoin the human race, I was allowed to put on my clothes, which I did with some degree of difficulty being out of sorts as I was. Once clothed I was placed in a wheelchair to be wheeled out of the hospital and into my wife’s loving arms. I did not like the idea of being in a wheelchair but I understood hospital regulations. I was “driven” by a sweet young lady who seemed expert at pushing the conveyance. Much as I didn’t like it, the ride was smooth.

And that, as they say was that. Loving wife drove me home. I was as sedate and mild and weak as a newborn kitten, sans meowing. It should not surprise anyone that I parked my carcass on the sofa and watched TV until falling into a long slumber.

By the evening I was well enough to go to a basketball game. Meanwhile I now notice that those extra beats my heart would make as I plopped into bed and then hours later when I rose, were gone. For in the days before  the “procedure” I’d started to pay attention and finally noticed that there was what can only be described as a flutter. It’s gone. The miracles of modern medicine.

Throughout my four hours at the hospital (Alta Bates in Berkeley where I, my brother and my daughters were born) I was impressed by the efficiency and kindness of everyone with whom I came in contact. I thought the business of confirming my identity and constantly checking my blood pressure was overdone, but I trust in the professionals who made me feel relaxed and in good hands. True professionals working to the best of their ability. I like it.

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