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A Heart Attack Story: Part 2

We’re now at about 2 weeks post heart attack, but now I’m telling you about day 2 and 3 of my treatment.

After the doctor left the evening before, I was given some more morphine, and slept for a few hours, waking up in pain, and getting some more to get me through the rest of the night. The night was also interrupted by visits from the nurse and/or nursing assistant checking in on me, or taking blood for various tests.

Relatively early the next morning the cardiac doctor showed up and told me about the cardiac catheterzation procedure. The quick explanation is they would go in through either my wrist (preferred) or my groin (if necessary) with a ‘wire’ and thread it through my veins to my heart. There they would send some dye through the wire into the heart so they could see the various veins and arteries, and any blockages. If they found blockages they would blow up a balloon, and then insert a stent (looks like a Chinese finger trap) into the artery to hold it open. Any mistakes in that explanation are my own, not the doctor’s.

The doctor said he wanted to get my procedure done that morning, though he had a lot on the schedule, so didn’t promise a specific time. He did mention that someone would be coming to shave my groin and wrist in preparation for the procedure.

The next hour or so seems to pass fairly quickly, maybe I slept, certainly nurses came in, and maybe even another doctor, and I’m pretty sure I spent some time using wash cloths to try and clean myself up a bit. It was at ths time my wife told me I wouldn’t be wearing underwear during the procedure, and so I didn’t put them back on after washing up. Before the people could show up to shave me, they showed up to take me down to the holding area to wait for the doctor to be ready to work on me.

Since I haven’t been shaved yet, the nurses and other staff in this area get to do it. Shaving the wrist is of course easy, but to shave the groin area, I have to let a couple of strangers see beneath my gown. Not a huge deal, but I would later joke with my wife that more folks viewed my privates that day than might have done so over the rest of my life. I expected I would be waiting there a while, but once they were done shaving me, it seemed like they took me immediately to the cath lab for my procedure.

Wrist entry

The small mark on my wrist is all the doctor needed to get the wire and stent into my heart. Modern medicine is amazing.

I was able to help shift myself from one table to the other, though not without letting a few more people view my privates during the move. I had to keep my left arm tucked very close to me, while they strapped my right arm to a board to hold it still for them to use for the procedure.I felt like they had something very close to my face coming down from the ceiling, either a light, or something else. Several monitors sat to my left, though I didn’t really notice them until the procedure was almost done. The screens were showing views of my heart and the arteries, vessels, and veins when I looked at them.

Things get really fuzzy for a bit here. I’m fairly sure they gave me something for pain and to keep me calm for the procedure, perhaps it was strong, because I really don’t recall them actually beginning the procedure. I do remember feeling pressure at my wrist, and starting to feel a lot of chest pain. The doctor kept asking me to take a deep breath, though almost never letting me know I could exhale. Then, although I’d been having chest pain for more than a few minutes, the doctor told me that what they were doing might give me chst pain. I’d been keeping quiet about it because I assumed that when they were done the pain would be gone, though I guess it was good to have confirmation that it was supposed to be happening, and not just me having another heart attack while on the table.

I lost track of things again, and then it was over. The doctor told me I’d had a 99% blockage, and that they’d put in the stent to open it up, and that the artery was clear now. I don’t remember being rolled back to my room, but there I was! Because they’d been able to do the procedure by going through my wrist, I was able to sit up, though I couldn’t get on my feet for a few hours.

They wanted me to start getting up and being a little active, so after I was able to move, I took a short walk around the hospital floor. A few hours later, I tried it again, but feeling brave (or foolish) I tried to do the entire floor, and by the time I got back to the room I actually was feeling very bad. Not chest pain kind of bad, just very weak and tired, and just not feeling right. It was late enough in the day that I didn’t try another walk that evening.

The next day, the cardiac doctor came in to see me, and while I think he would have let me go home that day, he wanted me to stay another night. While my wife knows much of this cardiac care, we decided to go with the doctor’s advice and stay another day. If something had happened, I wouldn’t have wanted my wife wondering if there had been something she should have noticed, or should have done. Also by staying there, we were right at the hospital rather than 90 minutes away in the event of some further event happening.

I took a walk every 2-3 hours starting short again and slowly stretching it further as the day went on. I felt far batter than when I’d tried the long walk the day before, and even walked the same distance a couple of times in a row when it started feeling like too much.

As the day went on, I was able to remove some of the monitors and other tubes that attached me to my bed, so movement got easier, and I felt a bit more free. And the next morning, I was truly free. They gave me a thick pile of paperwork, including a lengthy list of medicines, and I was able to head home.

There is more to the story, though it may get a different name, since it will be more about my recovery, and may continue for months as I continue to adjust to my health situation. Thank you for reading.

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