So two days ago on the 2nd of Mar., 2018 I had my Angioplasty at PGH. As I explained earlier it was one of those situations when an Angiogram, a procedure to find out if your heart had any blockages would be done and should it be found to be necessary an Angioplasty would then follow immediately while you’re lying there.
And as it turned out I had two blockages, and thusly two stents were installed.
This image may or may not be exactly how it was done to me but you get the idea.
So how was it?
So here’s the thing, I felt nothing at all. There was general discomfort when they prepared me directly after wheeling me in. They had to use a vein on the inside of my right wrist and so my hand was palm up and slightly twisted and taped completely to a tether so it wouldn’t come off. If you were the panicky type the idea of being tied down while people with scalpels and other sharp objects have their way with you may make you scream your head off, but here is where some measure of self discipline and trust would have to come in. These people are good at their jobs and know what they’re doing so it’s best to let them do it. Another odd thing was that the surgical team were exchanging banter, teasing and joking with each other the whole time, and telling inside stories about their friends and going on as if I wasn’t there. It dawned on me this may offend some who may feel it disrespects the ‘customer’ but on the contrary I felt relaxed. It was just another day on the job for them, jokes and palling around help ease tension and boredom just like in any work environment.
After what seemed like a few minutes to me (I probably fell asleep) the Surgeon started telling me he found one blockage (I remember distinctly he said he only found one but later it turns out he put two stents) and that he now wanted to ask permission from me and Jill to go ahead and perform the Angioplasty. I agreed but then remember Jill had gone to the bank and the mall and he left looking for her. After some time (I had zero ability to judge time at this point) he came back and said she wasn’t there, asked me if it’s ok to proceed to which I answered yes and she was going to say yes as well, and he went ahead and did it. She later said he seemed very cross with her later for not being around.
When he went ahead I was probably half awake for most of it. They started to cut into my base of my right groin area just at the fold. I felt the discomfort and tickle of that but again I didn’t feel they put something in. The surgeon and someone else would have a tit for tat. With the soft whirring sound of a busy machine in the background the surgeon would bark numbers at another guy and that guy would bark numbers back, and this would repeat over again and again until he seemed satisfied. He would then stop and I would hear a loud snap as if a cutters cut through a steel wire. This went on three or four times. He would adjust the huge x ray machine floating a few millimeters away from my face to tiny increments and at one point I had to protest when it was pressing against my nose and cheek.
Finally there seemed to be a general feeling that it was over and I felt possibly the first thing I did when I felt the wire slide down from my shoulder into my arm and eventually outside my veins. A minute or so later just before wheeling me out the surgeon showed me a before and after video of what was going on with my heart. I got the general idea but I was just really far too out of it to get the specifics. I remember feeling desperately hungry and uncomfortable. They patched me up with a lot of gauze and cotton and tape but a lot of blood still managed to stain the sheets then I was finally wheeled back to the ward.
So the operation was a breeze. What was not however was the discomfort and overall ‘Get Me OUT Of Here’ feeling me and Jill both had to endure staying at PGH’s pay ward. Granted this is the PGH, made in 1910 and looking like it. While much improvement had been reportedly provided to Doctors and Staff’s pay plus many billions in grants have gone to charity, equipment, supplies and such, near zero or at least very little has been dedicated to infrastructure, and when I say that it desperately needs everything from new paint to furniture to me thinking ‘maybe they should just put up a new building somewhere else and make this into a museum’. A thought I’m sure has crossed many people’s minds.
It was the bed that really got me. All hospital beds are nasty but mine in particular had a hole in the middle so deep you can sink half of yourself in there. That and the constant Restless Leg syndrome I first encountered after my 2015 surgery left me awake for hours on end during the nights. And the fact we shared an approximate 80 sq. meter room with 4 sometimes 5 other patients, their ‘bantays’, families and friends made the whole place noisy, smelly, and everyone privy to everyone else’s, chewing, plastic wrappers wrapping and unwrapping, bags zipping open and close, comments, complaints, someone’s idea of music from his phone, farts and burps, sighs, laughing and weeping. All sorts of constant sounds with obvious restraint to discomfort the next guy but was clearly audible anyway.
Which brings me to another side of the coin. While the ward was a mostly negative experience you will know and hear about other people’s issues and this will help you realize you aren’t that special in the world, and your troubles are minuscule in comparison. You cannot avoid it. There is nothing else to hear or listen to and there is very little you cannot pick up discernibly no matter how you wish you’d rather not listen.
So here’s the broad strokes. My 60 to 70 yo neighbor across the hall has cancer, and was starting his first of twelve chemo therapies the morning after I leave. He was also a new grandfather as he would spend a lot of time on FB Messenger with his daughter abroad, where he and his wife would fawn over their infant granddaughter. When I heard him say ‘I’m your Grandpa.’ softly in the night that did it for me.
My neighbor a partition away from me, another 60-70 yo, probably Batangueño from the accent either also has cancer or some other serious ailment and he was due for his first operation. He had made friends with another ward tenant across from him who was attached to a dialysis machine and had far more operations and therapies done on him. During their conversation he told my neighbor how it was to live with a colonostrophy bag, which some of my neighbor’s family, presumably his kids, were finding hilarious despite the seriousness of the situation. I imagine the Batangueño was making faces throughout all this as he seemed the type. Regardless the story teller went on about his other surgeries and treatments, the list of which apparently were funded by his kids working abroad with reminders not to give up. It would make you wonder why he would bother keeping on considering the near daily assault his system needs to endure.
And finally at the end nearest the enormous air conditioners was a man whose phlegm filled coughing would make your lungs want to collapse. He would wake up at odd hours with loud painful coughing quickly followed by the sound of a nebulizer. What few words he would say were filled with pain and anger. He left a day after I arrived.
A few hours before I left they prepared the Batangueño to be wheeled out for his operation. While the staff were all business running after the clock his family from the sound of it acted lethargically, almost surprised at the need to act quickly now after hours of laying around doing nothing. I remember the nurse asking he be stripped naked and his wife asking if that meant without shorts, answered by a yes, then asked again if without briefs, answered by a ‘hubad na hubad ma’m!’, in a joking voice made to emphasize the need to get going.
I didn’t need to see her to feel her hesitation, her unintended delay manifesting a sinking realization that ‘this is it, this is actually happening’. As they wheeled him out I said Good Luck to both of them. She waved and I was surprised upon seeing her for the first time how old she was, and wished her Luck again. From the very bottom of my heart as far deep as I have ever been I wish them both only the best.
After that when we had the chance I said goodbye to the Grandpa as well, and again I cannot say how deeply I want for them to have better lives after their ordeal, and while I kept our goodbyes short due to the overall awkwardness of speaking with strangers I had never met but only heard from for a couple of days it is no indication of how much I hope they will endure and survive and live happy lives after that, from the guy who just had his Angioplasty on Bed 1, Room 604 Pay Ward.
So to end this I have one final story. While waiting for my Uber on Wednesday I tripped and fell on a piece of metal ramp inside our condo. I fell solidly on my left knee and it hurt like hell as well as just above the inner ankle on my right leg. Regardless I brushed it off as just another thing and was ambulatory with only a limp throughout the checking in process.
The night before the operation it started to hurt, and after the operation it was 9/10 pain, making me ask for my old friend Tramadol, someone whose acquaintance I got to make back during my sciatica days.
And now today the 5th 3 days after the surgery here I am in bed perfectly fine except for the excruciating pain on my knee. So while I would have been perfectly ok to start working and living my life raring to test my new heart, it’s a struggle to crawl to the bathroom to take a piss.
Life is strange. That’s all for now. I love you Jill you are the reason I am alive. I owe you everything.