In October 2009, I suffered a heart attack, that led to quadruple bypass surgery. Since then, I’ve had other medical issues, but my heart has behaved itself.
On Tuesday morning (November 5th, which is, perhaps appropriately in this case, Guy Fawkes Day), I had brunch about 10 a.m., carried on with my morning’s work, and took a brief nap during the early afternoon. When I woke up, I had a tight feeling in my chest, not unlike indigestion, but it grew in intensity, centered over my heart, and I began to get radiated pain in my left arm. Sounds familiar, no?
I called Old NFO, who kindly ran me in to the emergency room at Big Hospital in a nearby city (which was faster than calling an ambulance to come out from there, pick me up, and go all the way back). EKG and other test results were normal, but since my first heart attack, they’ve developed some new ones, including a cardiac enzyme test. The first reading they took was normal, but they had me wait in the ER to do a follow-up test, two hours later. The second reading was elevated, indicating something was going on. By then, my chest pain had subsided, but they kept me overnight for observation and continued testing.
By Wednesday morning, the enzyme level was very elevated, indicating damage somewhere in there. An echocardiogram still didn’t show anything, so my cardiologist, who’s been keeping an annual eye on me since we moved here, scheduled a heart catheterization for Wednesday afternoon. He found that one of the bypasses installed in 2009 had become blocked, in what’s called a “silent heart attack“, not presenting most of the usual symptoms. Rather than open up my chest to repair it, he was able to unblock the artery that it had originally bypassed, using a balloon catheter and a stent. (Apparently that technology has improved since I had bypass surgery.)
It was probably the weirdest surgical experience I’ve ever had (and I’ve had 19 surgeries so far!). I was conscious throughout the proceedings. To feel… things… crawling around inside me, snaking through my armpit to reach across my chest to the heart, was… it was unnerving, to put it mildly! At one point, the surgeon casually remarked, “This is going to feel like fire ants crawling up inside your arm”. It did! Very uncomfortable, and really, really weird.
To cut a long story short, the procedure was a success. I’m on added medication for the next year, to keep my blood thinned and prevent a clot forming in the stent (apparently the heart doesn’t like foreign bodies being shoved into it – who’d o’ thunk?). I was released yesterday morning, with a warning to be very, very careful over the next week while my arm heals up – weight limits on lifting, no sudden effort, and all that sort of thing. (Apparently major blood vessels don’t like having foreign objects shoved through them to reach the heart, and take time to get back to normal.) I’ve also been warned (and have since experienced) that I’m likely to experience sudden shortness of breath and dizziness from time to time, but I’m told this will wear off after “some days”.
Thanks for your patience during my silence on this blog. I probably won’t get up to full blogging speed until Monday, but I’ll try to put up something here and there to let you know I’m still around. Thanks, too, for your prayers and good wishes.
One good thing about hospital stays; if you can’t sleep, and have a laptop computer with you (thanks to Miss D. bringing it from home), you can still get some writing done. I managed to write a chapter and a half on the work in progress, and I’ll pick up the pace once I’m over this.
Oh – one more thing. If you’ve had any unexplained feelings in your chest that resembled indigestion, or shortness of breath, or anything else that worries you, you might want to read more about silent heart attacks. I’m told they happen rather more often than people suspect, and can lead to future complications. It can’t do any harm to check, if your medical insurance covers such examinations; and it might help to prevent an early shuffling off of this mortal coil in future.