Monday, May 18, 2009

The Procedure Begins

I had to fast after midnight. I woke up Friday morning and wandered around the house. I was nervous, but Beth helped keep me grounded. We had to be on site about 50 miles north at 9:30, so we headed out about 8:00. We stopped for gas, Beth picked up some coffee, and we got on the road. Shortly after 9:00, we pulled into the lot and headed inside.

I’ve been in a lot of hospitals in my day. I have to say that this was one of the nicest I’ve ever been in. The outpatient heart institute had a large, comfortable waiting area complete with a large waterfall. We checked in and took a seat.

Shortly after, a nurse came out; when we checked in, the volunteer assistant noted where we sat, so the nurse walked directly up to us. I hugged Beth, and she was told that she could come in to join me in a few minutes. The nurse and I walked back into the outpatient cardiology suite; she did the obligatory weigh-in (278.1 pounds) and took me to a small room. The room had a bed, a nightstand, a chair, and a wall full of medical gear. One whole wall was a sliding glass door. They had me strip down and put on that most comfortable of items, the hospital gown. I swear the person with the highest self esteem in the world would lose it with his or her nether regions catching the breeze from the non-closing flap in those things.

I climbed into bed and settled down to wait. The nurse returned and started an IV. It wasn’t without some excitement; one of my veins kept rolling and all that ended up happening was copious bleeding. She gave up on that one (she apologized profusely) and popped the IV into the other wrist. My blood pressure was high (170 over something), but I put it off to white coat syndrome. Twelve chest electrodes for my EKG, and then I settled in. Beth came in, and we started to wait.

While waiting, we talked, answered the occasional medical history question, and chatted. I was still nervous, but time passed. After about an hour, I had a couple of visitors: Two folks from the research arm of the hospital briefed me on a study that was running in the unit. The hospital was participating in research on a new stent, and the two asked if I would be interested in participating in the study if I was a candidate. The benefit to me? As part of the study one of the necessary drugs would be partially covered each month, for years. They left and Beth and I discussed whether or not to participate. For me it was easy, because in a previous life I was a research scientist. The two researchers returned and I consented (it took a fourteen-page consent form, which is hard to initial when you’re right-handed and have an IV hanging out of the back of your wrist).

The interventional cardiologist stopped in and briefed us on the process; he was straightforward and put us at ease. He answered our questions and then headed back into the procedure room.

Time dragged on; there were some procedures that took longer than anticipated before me. As an added bonus, the nurse popped in a video for us to watch on heart catheterizations; I was surprised that was never put up for an Emmy. Finally about 12:15 they chased Beth out, and got me ready to go. About 12:30, the team came in and wheeled me into the suite. It was time.

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