This is the continuation of the story I started with the previous post. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should start there.
I had my first catheter ablation in October of 2002 and everything ticked along fine until March of 2004. But I didn’t seek treatment right away. After the roller coaster experience of the last one, I wasn’t eager to get back on the horse again. I figure if I could live with it for the five or so years I had the irregular heartbeat the first time, there was no rush to jump into surgery again. But I hadn’t counted on meeting Pinky.
When I met the Pinkster in October of 2006, she started showing me all the cool places around Baltimore to go take walks and pictures. And there was this one place, Oregon Ridge, which featured a big hill that used to be used for skiing. She liked to walk all the way up it and then sit down to enjoy the view.
I hated that fucking hill, because every time you thought you were getting to the top, you’d get to a little plateau and then the slope would continue. It wasn’t quite a “Pittsburgh” hill, and if you’re in The Burgh, you know what I mean, but it was still a bastard. I had to be very careful going up there and make sure I paced myself as so not to keel over gasping like a fish out of water.
As we continued to date, she would often bust my chops about how I wasn’t exercising enough, blah blah blah… I had never told her about my prior surgery and I sure hadn’t told her about the relapse. So one weekend in July of 2007, I told her about what was going on with my heart, with the desperate hope that she’d get off my ass.
No such luck. The next week she came to me with some information she’d gathered online and carefully but firmly implored me to go get checked out again. I didn’t want to, having been through all that before, but she wore me down. I consented to go talk to the heart specialist at the world renowned Johns Hopkins, which just so happens to be right smack dab in downtown Baltimore.
In fact, that was my favorite thing about it. As you may know, I take the subway into work every day. If I stay on for 2 more stops, the subway line terminates directly at Johns Hopkins. It’s brilliant! I didn’t even have to go outside. It proved to be very convenient for me because I could set up early morning appointments and afterwards, hop back on the subway and be at work in 5 minutes.
So in talking with the JH doctors that August, they explained that catheter ablations rarely work long-term after the first one. I agreed to go through the procedure again and the first order of business was to get my INR (blood thinness/anti-clotting measure) regulated.
Having gone through all of this before certainly helped in a number of situations and this was the first. Because I’m, well, ME, I’d kept a spreadsheet documenting all my doctors visits, prescription dosages, surgeries and whatnot. I was able to consult the spreadsheet and have the blood techs start me at the dosage level of warfarin that best regulated my INR the last time. I was able to achieve the desired stability by October.
They scheduled me for a cardioversion a week before the catheter ablation surgery. They told me the surgery would go better if I was already in rhythm, hence doing a cardioversion first. Then the day before the ablation, they did the TEE (taking heart pictures from the inside), which went fine.
Like I said, I took a lot of knowledge into this 2nd operation. The first and probably most important thing was that I shaved myself the night before. I did not need another nurse yanking my private parts around with a blade in her hand, thank you very much.
Secondly, I requested that they remove the catheter inserts from my groin BEFORE I came out of sedation. It was much easier on all of us that way.
Lastly, I made sure they had pads under my feet when I went on the table, so I wouldn’t get swelling and sores on my heels again. They were very agreeable to all points.
But they had one thing in store for me that I hadn’t been through the first time. Right before I was to go into the OR, they wanted to put a tube up my nose and down my throat, and said they need me awake to help swallow it down.
(MAYDAY…MAYDAY… Lights and sirens immediately started going off in my head.)
First they gave me what they said was a topical anesthetic and had me gargle it for as long as I could. I gargled a looooooong time, not just to put off the moment of truth for as long as possible, but to make good and sure I got the full effect of the numbing agent.
It didn’t matter though. It hurt like a mother-effer. It was like they were scratching around my sinus cavity with a broken bottle. My eyes were watering, I was gagging and coughing and they were fighting to jam that tube down there… finally, it went in.
Have you ever heard of this trick you can do with duck or geese there you have a tasty morsel on one end of a string and you feed it to a duck? He eats it and it instantly passes right through and goes out the other side. Then you take the morsel and feed it to another duck and the process continues. By the end, you have a whole bunch of ducks all tied together, one after another, on a string, which you can then use to lead them around town.
That’s how I felt with that thing down my throat. I made damn sure to keep my ass closed.
Anyway, at the very moment they got the tube in, THAT’S when my surgeon came bounding into the room, like he was amped up on Diet Coke and smack.
“HI THERE MR BLUZ! ARE YOU READY TO GO?”
I answered as best I could.
“Ngyes, ngI’m ready… nyas soon nyas hossible hlease…”
The second surgery went pretty smooth. I wasn’t on the table as long as I was before, and didn’t have the chills when I came to. It was still pretty grueling and I was wiped out, but I came through none the worse for wear. I even got a little sleep that night, because I knew to ask that they silence the infernal beeping.
I still had a steady parade of people that wanted to see my dick. They said they wanted to “check the wound” but I know better. Maybe they heard about it from the other hospital, I don’t know. I should have offered to cast it in plaster for them.
Sometimes, though, I think hospitals just like to fuck with you. They had me all ready to go, telling me to get dressed and they’d be in to release me. Then someone came in and said, “Oh, we need to do one more thing… we need to give you this (whatever) solution through an IV. It’ll only take about 4 hours to drip in.”
FOUR HOURS? You tell me I’m ready to get outta here but then say I have to wait another 4 hours? Assholes. I bet it was just saline or something. They just wanted to see the look on my face. Probably had a hidden camera on me.
I escaped, eventually. Pinky and I hopped a subway train and got the hell outta Dodge. Unfortunately, I left my bag with all my paperwork and prescriptions on the freakin’ train. Man, was I pissed!
But before I could even phone the MTA’s lost and found number, someone called me and said they’d found my papers. They even offered to bring it directly to my house. That almost restored my faith in humanity. That was a real nice thing that dude did for me and I thanked him profusely and apologized for being such a dumbass.
Hopkins had one other thing they did right. They had me set up with my post-op Lovenox kit before I even went in. They mailed me a package with pre-loaded syringes and a disposal container for them, along with specific instructions and diagrams for how to administer the shots. (Which still sucked. Even with experience now, I still left a ring of giant bruises around my gut.)
What they DIDN’T account for his what I was supposed to do with the old syringes. When I went back for my follow-up blood work, I asked if I could bring them in for them to dispose of, because I didn’t want the syringes winding up in some landfill or God knows where. But they wouldn’t take them. I asked if they could take my leftover, unused shots and they couldn’t take those either. Man, I hate to waste shit like that. I managed to give a couple of the shots away to a friend who knew someone that needed them. But I missed one in my medicine cabinet, which I still have. It’s probably gone bad by now. Next time someone says they want to go out and do some shots, I should bring it along.
So that was in October of 2007 and I’ve been more or less OK since then. I still have occasional episodes, but they subside. Not sure what I would do if they come back as a chronic condition… It’s not like I can keep getting these things every few years for the rest of my life…
In the meantime, I remain here happy and healthy (more or less), hoping to continue to write you stories and entertain.
Here’s to life!