Posts Tagged With: medicine

My heart will go on: my heart surgery experience and my continuing recovery

67 days ago, I underwent heart surgery to repair a leaky mitral valve. It was the first surgery of any kind that my body had ever been subjected to. This is the story of my experience on the operating table; during my ensuing stay in the hospital; and during my recuperation after I was sent home — a recuperation that’s still ongoing. For background covering the time period from the diagnosis that I needed the surgery, through the initial pre-operative procedures that I underwent, go here, here, and here.

Prelude: my heart catheterization and the night before the operation

The catheterization: not as bad as I’d feared?

On Wednesday, September 9, I arrived at the hospital for my final pre-operative procedure: the heart catheterization, alternatively referred to as a coronary angiogram. This procedure consisted of a doctor inserting a tube into my wrist and running that tube through my radial artery, and adjoining arteries, all the way to my heart. A thinner tube, the catheter, was then run through the initial tube; attached to the catheter was a tiny video camera. At some point, a special dye was also injected into me to assist the doctor with the imaging of my arteries. The purpose of all of this was to check for arterial blockages.

As the catheterization was getting underway, when a painful needle (separate from the IV port that was already affixed to me by then) was being inserted into my wrist to forge a pathway for the tubes, I sang “My Favorite Things” (from the film The Sound of Music) in an attempt to overcome the pain. 🙂

The procedure was performed under sedation, with the sedative agent being fed into me via the IV port. I’d previously been informed that being sedated would feel “like twilight”; but I experienced no sensation out of the ordinary while the catheterization was ongoing. Any effect that the sedative may have had on me was very subtle; I was able to engage in a conversation with the doctor during the entire procedure.

As I’ve previously written, I’d been reluctant to agree to the catheterization and had to be talked into it by the surgeon; I feared that the tube could accidentally puncture one of my arteries while passing through it, causing me to bleed to death in 30 seconds. Fortunately, that worst-case scenario didn’t materialize. The catheterization didn’t kill me. 🙂

Still, I wonder how essential it was. Not surprisingly in light of my relatively young age for a heart surgery patient, the catheterization didn’t find any blockages. I could have told the doctor he wouldn’t find any; we could have just skipped the whole thing and gone straight to my surgery. 🙂

Following the procedure, I was taken to a recovery room where I was started on an intravenous drip to help wash out the imaging dye from my body. I was also told that due to the trauma to the point in my artery (at my wrist) where the catheter had been inserted, for the following three days I would be required to avoid bending my wrist excessively. No one told me what would happen if I did engage in such bending, but I suspect the answer probably would have involved dangerous amounts of blood gushing out of my wrist.

Me in the recovery room after my heart catheterization.

Me in the recovery room after my heart catheterization.

On the eve of my operation

Before all the dye had been flushed from my system, I was removed from the recovery room, admitted to the hospital as an inpatient, and brought to a regular hospital room. Continue reading

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Today I had my pre-operative procedures at the hospital

What with my heart surgery scheduled for next Thursday, today I went in to the hospital for some “pre-admission” procedures and consultations in anticipation of that upcoming operation. The more minor of the procedures that I experienced today included a chest X-ray; an EKG (electrocardiogram); and bloodwork. Although I normally hate having blood taken, and although my heart sank when I saw how many vials the nurse was going to fill (which would mean that the needle would be in for a relatively long time), this morning’s bloodwork barely hurt at all. So that was an unexpected bonus.

My consultation regarding the anesthesia

It probably helped that I was distracted while the blood was being extracted from my vein; because while that was going on, a nurse was simultaneously briefing me on some details regarding the anesthesia that I’ll be given at the outset of my surgery. That hospital is nothing if not efficient. 🙂 Anyway, I did have a lot of questions for the nurse, in light of the fact that I’ve never been under general anesthesia before. She also gave me some instructions to help prepare my body for the anesthesia. (In addition to the standard requirement of fasting from midnight the night before the surgery, an example of those instructions was that from now until after the surgery, I shouldn’t taken any anti-inflammatory pain medications, commonly referred to as NSAIDs, which is an abbreviation for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. In the United States, among the popular painkillers that are classified as NSAIDs are Advil and Motrin.)

Also during my colloquy with the nurse, I mentioned that I’m a singer and that I therefore hoped the anesthesiologists would go easy with the breathing tube that will be jammed down my throat during the surgery, in order to avoid damaging my vocal cords. (Yes, I told the nurse about my World Karaoke Tour. :)) Relatedly, we discussed how, as is standard in heart surgery, I’ll still be “intubated” (that is, the breathing tube will still be inserted down my throat) when I wake up in the operating room. While my surgeon believes in “extubating” (removing the tube) very quickly after the patient regains consciousness, I expressed concern that until the extubation occurs, I may feel like I’m choking. The nurse offered that if I want to minimize the risk of harm to my vocal cords, I should refrain from struggling with the breathing tube before it’s removed. Sound advice, I’m sure; but how will I have the presence of mind to remember it when I’ve just been knocked out for four hours and I’m feeling groggy and disoriented?

My CT-scan and a missed photographic opportunity

After all of that was finished, I had to walk several blocks to another of the hospital’s buildings, where I underwent a computed tomography scan, usually abbreviated as a CT-scan. My CT-scan involved the following steps:

• I drank several cups of water.

• An intravenous (IV) tube was attached to one of my veins.

• While lying on my back, I was slid into a cool machine with the appearance of a vertical donut. Via some blasts of radiation, images were taken of my chest, abdomen, and pelvis areas.

• A “contrast dye” was then injected into me through the intravenous tube, and more images were taken inside the donut-esque machine. You may have heard that when such a dye is pumped into a patient’s vein, the patient experiences a warm, tingly feeling throughout his body for a couple of minutes. That proved to be the case with me.

Here I am with the IV tube in my arm immediately after the completion of the CT-scan.

Here I am with the IV tube attached to my arm immediately after the completion of the CT-scan.

Things didn’t go completely smoothly during my CT-scan. Continue reading

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The die is cast: I’ve scheduled my heart surgery

34414285_sFriends, as you know, I found out in April that I need open heart surgery to repair a leaking valve. That surgery has now been scheduled. It’s happening on the morning of Thursday, September 10. And it won’t surprise you to learn that I’ve chosen the less invasive, robotically assisted version of the surgery, as a result of which the surgeons won’t have to fracture my sternum to access my heart. So I should recover swiftly, once I get through it.

Once I get through it.

I’m still apprehensive about becoming a cardiothoracic surgery patient, for the reasons I enumerated in my previous post. But since the condition of my heart is only worsening over time, there was no benefit to be gained from putting off the surgery. So I took the plunge and called the surgeon’s office to get placed on the calendar. The result: shortly after Labor Day weekend, at a time when millions of Americans are looking forward to the season premieres of their favourite television shows, I’ll be checking into the hospital for some pretty major stuff.

Preoperative procedures

As the operation approaches, as is common with surgeries, I’ll have to undergo some preoperative procedures. When I signed up for my surgery, I was told that I should plan on experiencing the following procedures in advance of my actual operation: Continue reading

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

When real life intervenes: my heart-stopping medical journey

8001817_lI was supposed to be in China today. Since last summer, I’d been planning a trip to China and Taiwan (which was probably also going to include Mongolia), for which I was going to depart this past Saturday. By now I probably would have already walked along the Great Wall, and today I was to fly to Xi’an to see the famed terra cotta warriors. But I’m not in China now; I canceled that trip. Instead of that geographical journey, I’ve embarked on a medical journey. This is the story of an unanticipated medical diagnosis that I received this spring; the life-saving surgery that I’ll need in light of that diagnosis; and how I’m adjusting to what lies ahead.

Last month, my world was turned upside down. For the first 45-plus years of my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to have never required an overnight hospital stay — let alone a surgical procedure performed in an operating room. I’ve never been under general anesthesia. Never have I even been hooked up to an intravenous tube. Part of the reason that I’ve been able to travel so frequently during the past few years is that I’ve enjoyed robust health.

But a little more than one month ago, on a Friday afternoon in a cardiologist’s office here in my home city of New York, everything changed. On that Black Friday, I learned that I need to undergo open heart surgery.

What necessitates my surgery is a leaky mitral valve, which can develop from mitral valve prolapse (MVP). The mitral valve, so named because it resembles a mitre (a hat worn by bishops), connects the heart’s left atrium to its left ventricle; MVP occurs when that valve doesn’t close properly. MVP is actually relatively common, and according to the Mayo Clinic, “In most people, mitral valve prolapse isn’t life-threatening and doesn’t require treatment or changes in lifestyle.”

My form of MVP, however, is less benign. Continue reading

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Well, THAT didn’t work out so well . . .

In my last post, published on February 8, I wrote that although I had been sick, “I seem to be on the mend, so I’m hoping to be posting again soon here at H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke.”  That was over three and a half months ago.  Naturally, after I dispatched those words of optimism into the blogosphere, my health problems proceeded to get much worse.  I won’t go into the details here, because this isn’t that kind of blog; but suffice it to say that I have been very uncomfortable at times.  I’ve been lucky that — so far — I haven’t been hospitalized or had to undergo surgery, although I’ve made innumerable doctor’s visits. I've spent a lot of time recently consulting with medical professionals. In that respect, I’ve been lucky; one of the revelations for me of the past few months is that, at any given time, an awful lot of people are in various states of physical suffering.

I want you to know that I’m not one of those people who starts a blog and then stops writing due to a loss of interest — and that I had a good reason for my temporary withdrawal from posting on this site. I was debilitated. Indeed, as a result of my condition and its effect on my life, nearly three months passed without an H-Bomb karaoke appearance anywhere — not even in my home city of New York.  As you know, such a lengthy drought is very unusual for me; during the past ten years or so before these recent events, I normally sang at least one night per week.  Not surprisingly, my international travel has also been on indefinite hiatus; my trip to Egypt that was supposed to happen in February 2012 was postponed to September, and my long weekend in Istanbul that had been scheduled for this weekend was put off to New Year’s weekend 2013.  So the World Karaoke Tour — the impetus for this blog, and the defining mission for my life — was placed on hold, and there were times when I doubted whether I would even sing again, let alone travel.  I also missed significant time at work, although I’m back to working full-time now.

I’m not fully recovered yet, and there’s still no timetable for my return to perfect health.  In the meantime, on the home front, I’ve slowly begun an attempted karaoke comeback.  In early April, at my regular venue in Manhattan, I sang for the first time since late January.  Such appearances have continued on a weekly basis, although I’m still not staying out very late at night, and, as per doctor’s orders, I’m avoiding alcohol.

And it’s about time I got back to blogging!  The medical professionals tell me that getting back to doing the things that I love will give me the best chance of pushing my body to recover physically.  H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke, and my passions that provide the subject matter for this blog (karaoke and travel), are high on the list of things that bring me joy.  So here I am again — finally.  I hope that this time I’ll be able to keep up the posting. To my followers:  I thank you for sticking around and not giving up on me.  Let’s have some fun again!  And I very much hope that my World Karaoke Tour will soon resume, and that you’ll be able to keep track of it right here — just like before. My next substantive blog post will appear in the next few days, as I continue to recapitulate my travels to date — and to look forward to more adventures around the globe. I have every intention of experiencing my next adventures in Egypt this September. I cannot state with certainty that I will feel up to making that journey, but I have a strong desire to follow through with it. To that end, the Vacation Countdown on this site has finally been updated.

Happy singing,
H-Bomb

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 6 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: