The end result
“In June/early July, I had planned to send a mail to my American family and friends… as follows – unfortunately, or fortunately in this case, doctors’ checkups got in the way:
“Basil and I will be in the USA. From the 7 August I’m going for ‘our’ baby Stella’s 1st birthday on the 21st. At the end of August, I’m flying via Houston to Fort Lauderdale, to spend 3 days with my dear friends (in Houston), as I haven’t seen their children and grandchildren in years. Then to meet Basil on the 31 August in time to take our cruise that I’d booked to the West Caribbean, from Fort Lauderdale on the 1 September Off the Oasis of the Seas on the 8th September in Fort Lauderdale, where we’ve hired a car for a 3 day road trip through the north of Florida to Atlanta. Here we’ll spend a few days with my nephew and some good friends, as well as seeing the city of Atlanta, before jetting off to our girls and their families on the East Bay. Just in time for Rosh Hashanah!”
So none of the above has happened yet… during the early part of July, what transpired was totally off the wall. The saying, “Man plans and G0d laughs”, is so true! I went for my yearly check-up, which I do around this time every year since my brother Brian died 8 years ago. A year ago
the physician said the ECG was abnormal and it looked as though I’d had a heart attack – and didn’t know it. I kind of laughed it off, as I wasn’t
surprised after all the stress we went through when I broke my back in 2007 and then my aunt was murdered early 2008 and then B got very ill & lost the plot… and then and then…
…Having a high pain threshold is obviously not a good thing as one can go on too long and that causes complications, as I found out, to my detriment. On the 2nd ECG in 12 months, the ‘picture’ was the same. Hence I was sent, under duress, to a cardio-thoracic specialist for a check-up. He couldn’t “see” the back of the heart on the sonar because of the metal in my back (and a massive hiatus hernia that I found out about a few months ago). The hernia had taken residence in almost a third of my thoracic cavity. (Interesting trivia? Not really – this is/was the reason for the urgency of the cardiac bypass as I was soon to find out.) In the interim, the Sonar Echo Cardiogram showed a myriad other issues taking place in my body. i.e. I have gall stones (they don’t bother me strangely enough), I have 2 cysts on one of my kidneys (nothing to worry about) and then totally incredible, I do not have a thyroid gland any more. It just doesn’t exist – somehow it has disintegrated totally: a process due to an auto immune disease that I’ve had (and didn’t know about).
The result of the cardiologist not being able to see the back of the heart meant he scheduled me for an angiogram 2 days later on the 16 July. And I remember almost nothing after that until I woke up in the ICU on the night of the 24 July – which was my eldest grandson’s 11th birthdayand the day my brother died of a heart attack playing a soccer match 8 years ago! And Nicki, Basil and Doron were standing at the bedside. Seeing Nicki was a shock: I thought I’d died as I had no idea where I was or why Nicki was here.
So what did happen? I had bypass surgery – open-heart surgery. The back coronary artery was blocked, firstly due to the familial, genetic cholesterol problem in my family (which is why I go for checkups every year). But this would have lasted a little while longer, if not for this huge 10 cm hernia behind my heart and actually pressing on that particular coronary artery. Even though I had no apparent pain – merely my usual back pain and a little tired as I thought I had bronchitis the week before and was on an anti-biotic at the time. However, it was pneumonia and there was blood in my lungs. Hence the sojourn I had, out of everything, for 10 days. I’m desperately trying to remember them… at least some of it is coming back to me.
My sternum was cut through and the whole rib cage opened up so the cardiac surgeon could get to the back of the heart. Originally they thought they’d manage this without the heart-lung machine, but sadly that wasn’t an option and I was put on the machine so they could stop my heart for the procedure, removing and using my mammary artery on the left to by-pass the almost 3 cm blockage and graft it on. The procedure took 4 hours in all, and closing me up was a massive procedure as well. The muscles over the heart had been cut so all surrounding tissue, muscle etc had to be stitched (under the skin). This is very numb, although the skin feels bruised to the touch over the whole chest area. The sternum (breast bone) has been bound with wires to
close the rib cage and then I’ve been stitched up on the skin between the breasts. It does look as though I have a zipper in front.
The Bionic Lunatic
I’ve had pacemaker leads positioned in situ, in case of an emergency at a later date. They do this as a matter of course these days I’m told. They look like miniature car battery leads as you can see in the x-ray above, along the collarbone (clavicle) area.
Now, a month after surgery, I am mending at home. The cold is a huge problem though, because of the metal – I have both front and back now! I’m not allowed to drive for another couple of weeks, or carry heavy items or stretch too high above my head or stretch wide. And I haven’t been allowed to swim yet (biokinetic aquatics) – which is MY exercise. Reason for this is exposure to infection in the water with open wounds of which I have many of these, from the pipes into the lungs for so many days… as well as the actual surgery and also the broken bones do not do well in water. I do walk as often as I can, around the house and in the garden when it’s not too cold.
Nicki went back to the USA 2 weeks ago. Apparently she was here for 10 days – 3 of which I knew nothing about. She was an incredible help – for Basil as well. B is fine TG and doing all the shopping thank goodness and shlepping me for my follow up appointments.
This was a very frightening experience even for someone like me who has had 9 massive surgeries over time: back, kidney, etc. This 10th one is making me question my mortality and because I’m still weak, I was feeling rather panicky. But, they say that’s normal in open-heart surgery and those feelings are sort of gone this week. My sternum is mending, while wrapped in metal – which is now clicking on the metal on my spine – uncomfortable, but I guess I’ll get used to it. I’m a bit of a Moaning Minnie right now because I’m housebound and I do get cabin feverish.
After seeing both the cardiologist and heart surgeon a week ago, to find out my ‘fate’, I was told I can leave around the 27th! TG! :). I was anxious to still go on the Caribbean cruise at the end of August and then to kids, and that is what I am going to do: will start with the Caribbean, & not go to the East Bay. I will be missing Stella’s 1st birthday on the 21 but Tania will bring her to meet me on the 28th in Fort Lauderdale. C’est la vie. Things change, but a positive attitude and will to survive I guess, do help to make “things” possible.
We still plan to drive to Atlanta when we get off the cruise. Taking 2 or 3 days through Florida So hopefully we will see our friends and family!
Bypass Surgery – REF http://watchlearnlive.heart.org/CVML_Player.php?moduleSelect=corabg
(Also known as CABG or “cabbage”, Coronary Artery Bypass Graft and Open- Heart Surgery) treats blocked heart arteries by creating new passages for blood to flow to your heart muscle. It works by taking arteries or veins from other parts of your body – called grafts – and using them to reroute the blood around the clogged artery.
A patient may undergo one, two, three or more bypass grafts, depending on how many coronary arteries are blocked. The operation requires several days in hospital.
It is one of the most common and effective procedures to manage blockage of blood to the heart muscle and improves the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. It relieves chest pain (angina), reduces risk of heart attack and improves ability for physical activity.