Operation Gratitude Care Package Weekend!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Not Every Texas Hospital is Dallas Presbyterian...


So, as I've mentioned in a few places before, I've had myself a little medical adventure.

But to tell the truth, I thought I was on top of it, watching my caffeine, exercising, keeping half an eye on what I eat.  I kept seeing my doctor and my cardiologist, even got an audio echocardiogram (like a sonogram for your heart, they watch it while it's working, very cool).

But somewhere between the audio echocardiogram and two Fridays ago, something changed.

I had been having respiratory problems for a few weeks, that I ascribed to the changing seasons (Spring cedar blooming in TX kicked my ass).  But it didn't get better, to the point where I couldn't sleep at night because I couldn't lay or sit down and breathe.  Deborah finally dragged me down to our doctor, the one who had recommended our cardiologist.  He ran an EKG and promptly pulled out his telephone.

"You could probably get there alright if Deborah drove you," he said, "but I'd feel better if there were a couple of medical professionals with you..." So I wound up in an ambulance headed for Methodist Texsan (sic) Hospital in San Antonio.

Turns out that my "irregular heartbeat" was a massive dose of PVC's (premature ventricular contractions) in my lower heart chambers which were majorly interfering with the passage of  blood from the upper chambers, and my heart was working at between 15 and 20% efficiency.  Along the way it had expanded from "slightly enlarged" in CA to two and a half times its normal size and my "allergies" were in fact pulmonary edema.

So I'm flat on my back for a week with an oxygen feed up my nose while some very capable people did a hell of a job on my decaying carcass.

Their first procedure was to run a camera up the femoral artery from my groin straight into my heart, where they isolated the specific points in my two lower chambers that were sparking the worst of the PVC's.  It's a weird feeling laying there watching the monitors (I was under sedation but wakefulness under sedation runs in my family) as these wires wiggle around inside your beating heart.  They identified the specific points they were looking for, and a few days later (symmetry is everything), they went back in on the other side of the groin and up the other femoral artery.

And I lay there and watched them methodically burn out little bits of my heart that were producing the worst of the PVC's.  And I'm sorry, but sedation or no sedation I could feel some of them, as in "OK.  Ow. Ow. Ow."  Finally they were done and pulled back out.

The procedure was a success, insofar as the number of PVC's was drastically reduced.  I spent another week in the hospital while we watched to see if they had stabilized and getting fitted with a Zoll Life Vest, an external defibrillator/monitor you wear.  If my heart gets too far out of line, it will give me one minute's warning and then tase my ass, resulting in a) my heart stabilizing at least long enough for emergency treatment and b) dropping me like a pole-axed steer.  I won't be driving for a while.

I wear the vest for three months while we evaluate the heart's progress, (there's a slight chance I might even regain some heart function) at the end of which, either it will have improved enough to control with medication, or we go to an implanted defribrillator and the full Cheney...
Needless to say, I am grateful beyond words to the staff of Methodist Texsan, and even further so to Deborah for dragging me to the doctor when she did.

The staff was absolutely outstanding, I cannot say enough about their skill and professionalism.  If I had had this experience at County USC in LA, I'm reasonably sure I'd be dead by now.



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