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Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Rest of the Story

And now, the rest of the story…
Yes Friday the 9th was a big day. I was at our local hospital early in the morning, sans coffee, sans food, yet with a good dose of optimism.  The check in procedure was typical, the wait until being called back to the prep-center seemed never-ending, and the early morning news shows reiterated the same inane stories.
Finally, my name was called. I crossed the threshold into the land of You No Longer Have Control. The perky nurse handed me a plastic bag imprinted Patient’s Belongings containing two See-More-Dupa gowns, and a pair of socks which would embarrass even the least self conscious resident in any nursing home.
I dutifully stripped from my real clothes, placing my things in the bag (shoes on the bottom, as instructed), donned one gown in the traditional manner, the second as a robe over the first, and the idiotic socks with the non-slip strips on the bottom.
 Then, I waited. The perky nurse returned, we completed the paperwork (she didn’t bite on the tap-dance joke) she was pretty sharp, I have to admit.
My Lovely Bride and one of our friends came back to cheer me on and have a word of prayer while waving their cups of coffee under my nose. Soon thereafter, I was wheeled into the “Cath Lab”, a fancy term for the vascular surgery suite. Being plopped rather unceremoniously onto the operating table I felt somewhat like a flounder being tossed into the hold of a fishing trawler, only not quite as graceful.
Soon, the happy twilight juice was flowing, and I wavered in and out. Then, it happened.
At one point, during a lucid period, I heard my surgeon say “Oh my!”  I immediately jumped to the conclusion this was not a good thing to overhear. I then asked what happened, but as I was again on the happy side of the meds, it must have come out un-intelligible.  Or he felt it more important to be giving instructions to the team at that time.
The blockages which had been seen on the ultrasound were actually a clot. A rather large clot. My doctor suctioned out what he could, closed up shop, and sent me up to ICU for further treatment with blood thinners prior to continuing.
My Easy-Peasey in and out procedure was now rather serious.
I found myself in a bed, tubes going in, nursing staff checking me every 45 minutes or so. If you have ever been in the hospital, urgent care, or even doctor’s office; a standard question is “How do you rate your pain, from Zero to Ten?”
The absurdity of this question struck me while evaluating my pain level. Did this hurt more than when our youngest daughter, while napping on Daddy’s lap, jumped in her sleep, landing a kick with those 15 pound, rock hard baby shoes, squarely on the brand new incision from my vasectomy?
Was this more painful than tearing the living daylights out of my rotator cuff?
How about the time I lost my footing on a slippery log, only to land on my side, cracking 3 ribs?
The broken toes, the broken nose, the kidney stones….
I could tell she was getting impatient, or was beginning to think I was daft, I told her I was comparing past pains with this pain. I finally offered a middle of the road, non-committal “4”.  Satisfied, she went back to her other duties.  While leaving she said something rather ominous.
“As the blood thinner begins to break up the clot, you may have some pain in your leg.” Okay whatever.
I should have known better. “Some pain” was being used by a medical professional. These are the people who refer to a blood donation shunt as “a little stick”, and a syringe full of antibiotic as “a slight pinch”
Soon enough, the clots began to loosen. My nurse was asking so often, I was beginning to wonder if they had a pool going on what time the guy in #6 would come off the bed.  At first, it was not bad, just some discomfort not unlike a mild muscle cramp. Suddenly, the Meter-o-pain shot from a 3.5 to a 12.85! This on a scale ending at 10! Take the kicks, the broken bones, the torn muscles, all of them; add them up and they would be similar to a hang-nail compared to this!
As blood began flowing in an artery long unused; it was indescribable! It was an intense burning, swelling, pumping sensation as the artery stretched again with the flow of oxygen rich blood. I didn’t even reach for the call button; I yelled “Sharon! It hurts!” She came in with a syringe injecting it via the IV port. Within minutes, the pain subsided to a dull ache. Even the tips of my toes hurt!
I commenced waiting. I am so grateful for the visitors I had. Our Pastor; one of my best friends and closest brothers in Christ; my manager (also a brother in Him); our daughter; my Lovely Bride…even some unexpected friends dropped in.
The time spent visiting, in prayer, and laughing is precious to me.  You all brought joy, peace, and comfort with you at a time when the above was in short supply.
This was Friday, and Saturday was coming.
I awoke fairly tired, not having rested terribly well the previous 2 nights. I was antsy to get this done. My Lovely Bride arrived about 7:30 in the morning. She is such a great lady; I am truly blessed to have her in my life.
Finally about 9:30, I was wheeled back to the Cath Lab. By 10:45, I had received two angioplasties, and a brand new shiny stent. Or so they say, I didn’t actually see it.  Unlike the previous day, I was fully conscious for this procedure. My surgeon used a local anesthesia, as the twilight one didn’t along all that well with me. What I did see were the “Before” and “After” digital photos of my artery. The former a barely discernible very faint static line; the latter a vital, large, motion filled channel. I was fixated with the two images as the team completed their post-operation tasks.
Late in the afternoon, I was homeward bound.  I made my way very slowly upstairs, and collapsed into our bed.
Approximately 15 hours later, I awoke. Sore, bruised, and moving slowly; I came downstairs, looking forward to my first cup of coffee since Thursday morning. 
Am I upset about how things turned out? Obviously, I would have preferred to have not gone through this. Yet, I am very grateful for the many blessings I do have. Family, friends near and far all concerned for me, all the support I continue to receive. I am very grateful to live in a time and place when a clot is a treatable situation. Not too many years ago “blood clot” was a contributing cause of death. And, as much as I rip on my health insurance, I am very grateful to have it as well. I can’t imagine what would happen had I not had any coverage.
In retrospect, this has been one of Life’s “Focus Adjustment” moments which we all have.
OH! A  word of advice; If you start getting inexplicable leg cramps….GET THEM CHECKED.

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