The bumpy, ride over to Dallas in the ambulance was uneventful but odd. It was odd being strapped and bundled up on a gurney in the back of an ambulance facing the door. One EMT, the woman, rode in back with me but I couldn’t see her, after all I was facing the door.
“Do you mind if I put the oxygen cannula under your nose. We like to keep the oxygen level at 98%”. The EMT said from somewhere over my right ear.
I could see the monitor on my left with all my readouts: BP, heart rate, o2 level. My o2 was at 96. I shrugged “Sure, go ahead.” Couldn’t hurt anything but I thought my oxygen level was fine.
An hour after I got to Dallas, admitted and settled in my room when it was safe for me to move around, I wasted no time in getting up to use the bathroom. What a luxury. This had to be a harbinger of things to come.
Although Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Allen and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas are in the same family they were worlds apart. Allen has 48 beds while Dallas beds are over 600. Allen has maybe 2 floors whereas Dallas is basically a highrise. This all makes a difference in the care I received.
I was still getting the shot in my stomach and the nitro patch. After all, nothing really had changed. All I had done was the cardiac cath, there was no intervention such a stent. When the nurses at Allen injected the blood thinner into my stomach the needle slid into my flesh with ease and I felt next to nothing, that is until the medicine started to spread, then there was burning for a while, like getting a bee sting if you are not allergic.
The trick with giving that shot is to bunch the skin and just go for the jab as if you are stabbing some one. I know because when my brother was hospitalized a couple of years ago I was recruited to administer these shots to him so he could go home. It was very uncomfortable to stand over my brother with a syringe getting ready to jab. But jab I must because that was how I was instructed to do it so there would be minimal discomfort. My brother told me I did good. Was he being nice? I couldn’t tell. But now that I got pay back by getting my own shots I think maybe I did do good.
The nurses at Allen did that but this one nurse at Dallas put the needle in slowly, as in s-l-o-w-l-y. It burned going in, it burned when the medicine spread. I had to get those shots twice a day. I knew in the morning she would be back for another go at it but I said nothing to her. I endured it. Ach! What can I say?
I guess it was because I liked her. She was from Africa, tall, beautiful and had the most amazing accent. I could listen to her for hours. The thing is I felt she was lacking in self-confidence. I don’t know just a gut feeling. The way she held herself and seemed worried that she was doing things wrong. She was knowledgeable but I think she was worried about hurting me. She seemed hesitant before injecting me.
I was sent to Dallas to be seen by a specific cardiologist and surgeon team. Dr. Park, a cardiologist, Dr. Pool, a cardiac-thoracic surgeon and their physician’s assistant, Peter, the three P’s All three of the P’s came to see me in my hospital room to discuss my treatment.
Peter showed up first. When he walked into my room, Mike, my loving, supportive, husband of 37 years was with me. It has been rough on Mike these past five days. He couldn’t visit me as much as he wanted because he needed to be with Gavin, the adorable doted-on grandson. My son Joe, his wife, Min, not Gavin’s parents, and Mike took a team approach with Gavin. Mike took him swimming at Joe and Min’s pool one day. Another day, Min took him swimming at the pool of a friend of hers. By the time Tuesday rolled around Gavin’s father flew down from Milwaukee to fly Gavin back home. So, Mike was freed to spend the whole day with me. I am glad he was there when the team showed up.
After introductions, Peter told me I was famous, that they, the three P’s (he didn’t refer to their team as the P’s. To him they were the team) had been discussing me these past two days quite a bit. I was dead pan when he told me that. I wasn’t sure how to respond. I wasn’t sure what that meant. Was it a good thing or a bad thing? Peter proceeded to fill me in on some of what they discussed.
“The cardiologist over at Allen thought that your aortic valve stenosis was severe. Because of that, you were sent here because we have a great team that works on valves. There is a new procedure that is being used to repair valves. It’s called TAVR, that’s a transcatheter aortic valve repair. TAVR is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that repairs your aortic valve without removing the old, damaged valve. Instead, a replacement valve is wedged into the old one. It is less invasive because a catheter is threaded into your artery instead of opening up your chest.”
“Well, that’s good,” I said. I didn’t want to be sliced open again. Shudder.
“But we don’t really know how we’re going to proceed yet. Dr. Pool will discuss that with you. This is a good place to be, however. Dr. Pool has done many TAVR procedures. He’s top in his field. So is Dr. Park.
Peter left and sure enough a couple of hours later enter, Dr. Pool. Dr. Pool was tall, maybe in his late forties with short-cropped, dishwater blonde hair.
“Ms. Roberts. I’m Dr. Pool.”
“Hi, this is Mike,” I gestured over to where Mike was sitting by the window.
“We were looking at the reports that came over from Allen. You had three blockages. One of your grafts was 100% blocked, the other was 98% blocked. The 3rd blockage was in your right coronary artery. It looks like your heart was hanging on by a thread. As for your valve. I’m not sure that it is severe. We are going to do our own echo cardiogram and then make a determination on that.”
“Oh,” was all I could spit out.
“You see, we do a math equation taking into account the amount of blood in your heart before it is pumped out and the amount of blood that left the chamber. In the echo you had done at Allen, the numbers for that math didn’t add up. We will do our own test and if it is as I suspect and not severe we can go ahead and fix your blockages with stents.
“OK, I like that.”
“We’ll get that done right away and get you into the cath lab this afternoon.”
“Oh, that’s going to be awhile.” I looked at the clock. It was 10:00 am. “Can I eat. They put me on NPO (nothing by mouth) last night and I haven’t eaten anything since yesterday. I am really hungry.”
“Yes, you can eat. But eat before noon. Then nothing after that.”
I looked at Mike and we smiled at each other. “Thanks.”
Dr. Pool left and Mike and I pursued the menu. We didn’t discuss what we had learned much. I mean, I think we were in a state of shock about the whole thing.
Anyway, the echo was done. The technician just wheeled the whole machine into the room and did it right there. The same happened with an x-ray I had. No more having to be brought done to these departments to get tests done. Very convenient, very efficient.
Just as Dr. Pool thought it was not severe.
At 3:00 a very, young woman, she looked to me to be a teenager, took me, bed and all, down to the cath lab, talking all the way down about how skinny she was and how she should eat more. She was skinny. Her yammering did take my mind off what lay ahead. I got involved in telling her to be herself.
The cath lab and the aftermath I will save for another day. There was a lot going on that day, the day of my second catheterization. Frankly, I didn’t want to have another hole poked in my femoral artery. It was still bruised. I just got the dang sheath from Monday’s pulled out. What’s a woman to do? When’s it all going to end? Tomorrow hopefully.