Monday, March 05, 2007

Heart Surgery Part 1

I've just returned home this week from my stay at Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Bloomfield, PA. I had open heart surgery for HOCM ( Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy) by noted cardiac surgeon Dr. David Hayborn, who comes from the Cleveland Health Clinic specializing in myectomies and mitral valve repair/replacements.
In short, HOCM or HCM is a 'rare' inherited heart muscle disease, which is heart damage from thickened heart walls, carried through the genes of one parent, in my case, my father who died at the young age of 42 in 1975 while bowling. It was sudden death. The official death certificate says myocardial infarction, but it's thought by all of the cardiologists I've seen that he must have also had HCM. To read more about HOCM read here.

Day 1

We had to be at the hospital by 5:00 am Tuesday morning, Feb. 20th, 2007. I had to get up by 4:00 am to shower with a special anti-bacterial soap on my chest area. It's very drying and doesn't make any lather, had to use half of the bottle the night prior and then the remaining half that morning. Of course I also had to fast. Mrs. Hyde, bless her heart ( our heart) wasn't about to let me go through this ordeal alone.
My younger sister Diane drove in from Michigan that Friday prior, so that she could be with me and my family. Next to my husband Tom, she's my best friend. We're more than just sisters and closer than mother and daughter. There is 9 years between us.
Tom, Diane and myself arrived at the hospital with minutes to spare and I was immediately taken into my 'room' to prepare for surgery.
A nurse came in to shave me. SHAVE? Shave what?? I'm having heart surgery and I have no hair on MY chest!! They still need to look and besides, I did get a shave in the lower region. It was explained that was necessary just in case a vein was needed. I didn't want to think about that.
A nurse came in to insert a urethal catheter which we were dreading very much. Mrs. H. is such a baby when it comes to these kinds of procedures and I think she fainted. However, I remained awake and began to practice my little breathing exercises to calm us down. After the fourth try the nurse gave up and went searching for someone else who had more experience. She admitted it had been a couple years since she had to insert one. The new nurse showed up minutes later and while it was very painful for me, got the catheter in the first try. Mrs. H remained unconscious.
I got an IV and fluid was begun. Mrs. H. doesn't much like needles so it was just as well she was still in lala land, while I take a deep breath and relax for the both of us. Of course, our veins are small and deep and it always takes 2-3 tries to get one put in correctly.
We were given a sedative, kissed Tom and Diane and then was wheeled down to the OR for surgery to begin at 6:30
They tried their very best to hide it, but we could tell they were both shook up and nervous wrecks. Our daughters Deana, Carey and Nicki arrived shortly after we were wheeled away.
I remember being introduced to the surgical nurses on hand already and it was explained that after I was anesthetized tubes would be inserted into my nostrils, esophagus and stomach. Another IV would be inserted into my neck and a few other places. I was a human porcupine. I was also informed that after surgery, my hands would be tied down so that when I woke, I wouldn't be able to pull out any tubes.

When an oxygen mask was being placed over my face, I thought we were going to panic because we have a 'slight' problem with closed in spaces. We did fine however and I don't remember anything except a feeling of vomiting/choking and some fighting. Was I dreaming?

Turns out I wasn't. The surgery was anticipated to take 3 hours but some complications set in and a small hole in my atria was found ( that no one knew I had, it hadn't ever shown up in the MRI or any of the echocardiograms). The hole was closed, and the thickened septum muscle was shaved layer by layer to reduce the gradient and allow for better blood flow. They had to shave much more than first thought. Next, was the decision to repair the mitral valve or to replace it. Dr. Hayborn decided to repair by suturing, and was pleased with the results. The surgery took a total of 6 hours.

My family tells me that Dr. Joe Rossi, the head of the cardiac ICU came out to tell them that surgery was a success and that I had been given extra anesthesia so that I wouldn't wake up in the middle of surgery. That I would be out for at least another 6 hours but that when I awoke, he'd come get them. I was awake within 3 hours.

When he found them in the waiting room, he told them I was one feisty lady, and that when I awoke earlier than they had anticipated, that I began pulling out the tubes and was fighting the nurses because they hadn't yet tied my hands down. Now that could have been Mrs. Hyde, but I have a feeling it was the both of us. What I thought must have been a dream was reality but I really don't know if I was vomiting, or thought I was about to and was just gagging. Whatever........we won that battle and the nose and throat tubes were removed 3 hours early.

I remember bits and pieces of my family coming in to see me. I was so high on morphine it's like a fuzzy picture in my head. I'm told though that I was hilarious while on this pain drug and said some really off the wall things like 'I'm one tuff old bird', 'I couldn't have done this alone' (ummmm noooooooo), 'I don't like being a druggie'.

I remember saying good bye when it was time for my family to leave. My husband Tom tells me that when he kissed me goodnight and said he loved me, that I replied I loved him too and to drive carefully. Drive carefully. He said he cried. Here I was just out of major surgery and I was worried about him.

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