Adventures In Heart Surgery
Speaking of hearts, Dan had a problem heart. Dan didn’t know it until his family doctor did a chest x-ray and decided it didn’t look right to him. He didn’t say anything to Dan about it at the time. He thought Dan has an overly imaginative way of thinking.
The next day Dan got a call telling him he had an appointment with Dr. Smith. Dan said that was nice but who’s Dr. Smith? The girl said he was a cardiologist. Dan said that was nice but he didn’t need a cardiologist. She said, “Yes, you do. Your family doctor made the appointment.”
Dan went to Dr. Smith who told him his x-ray showed an anomaly. He wanted to have Dan take a stress test. Well, no way Dan wanted that. He didn’t have good breathing as was. The doctor said he found that interesting and all the more reason to do it.
“Listen, Doctor, I do a stress test and I will have a heart attack.”
“Well, we can stress your heart without you moving. Come in at eight a.m.”
Stress his heart without him moving? That intrigued him It should have scared the crap out of him but what did he know? Dan got there at eight and someone took him back to a room. He saw the treadmill and said he couldn’t do that and was a little pissed at being suckered.
“Oh, that’s not for you. You need to take your shirt off and lie down on this gurney.” Dan sensed that was to make it easier to remove his body in case he died. He knew that wasn’t true but he was soon to wonder that again.
“What I’m going to do is start an IV and run a chemical through to your heart. It will chemically stress your heart. I want to warn you- it will feel really bad. Remember it will only last five minutes. I will then run another chemical through the IV and instantly relieve your stress.”
Well, Hell, run an EKG right then and Dan would have shown stress. He didn’t know the half of it. She started the IV and at first he felt heat. That was for two seconds. Then he felt his chest tighten so he couldn’t breathe. He could but it felt like he couldn’t. Then he felt his heart attack coming on. He yelled that out but no one seemed upset but him. What have I got myself into?
“You’re doing fine. One more minute and I’ll run the second drug through and you’ll feel normal. Trust me.”
Trust her? I have a choice do I? Damned if the second drug didn’t work exactly as she said. The minute may or may not have been true. It didn’t feel like a minute to Dan. It felt a lot longer.
Turned out he had a couple of blocked arteries and the doctor needed a wire run through his arteries and into the heart to clear things up. That sounded as unpleasant as this test did. Dan agreed to it when he realized it was his life on the line. That was an important consideration. He thought he’d be asleep so what did he care? He didn’t ask the right questions.
Dan went to the hospital and was taken back to a surgery room. The nurses there seemed friendly enough. They all seemed to be smiling under their masks. He wondered why they wore masks but he didn’t. Didn’t his germs and bacteria mean anything? One of them said they would numb his wrist and the doctor would cut into the artery and run the wire from there.
“My wrist artery? Isn’t that the way suicides are done?”
The nurse looked at him and the smile seemed gone. “That’s not funny. We will numb the wrist and out a band on it that we tighten so you don’t bleed to death. We’re professional and don’t care for flippant attitudes.”
Dan decided to back off. He wasn’t in a great position to piss anyone off. The doctor came in, checked his wrist strap and asked if everyone was ready. Dan started to raise his hand but the nurse put it back down and give him another dirty look.
Dan could feel the wire going up his arm. It felt creepy but no pain. Then he remembered the wire was going into his heart to unclog it. In to the heart! Who came up with this idea? The idea wasn’t all that bad but why not knock the patient out?
Uh, oh? Dan didn’t want to hear anything like that. A doctor running a wire into his heart shouldn’t have an “Uh, oh” to it. No, sir, nor ever.
“Well, that’s as far as I’m going. The second one is completely closed off. I need to talk to a surgeon.”
“Umm, doctor, shouldn’t you talk to me and then a surgeon which I thought you were.”
“Well yes, but I need a heart specialist. Well, I am that too but look, you are going to need bypass surgery. I don’t do that.”
Dan knew what bypass surgery was, sort of. He did think he was going to need a lot of information to make a good decision.
He was wrong about that.
“Hello, I’m Doctor Waine. I’m going to do a quadruple bypass on your heart. I might need to do five bypasses. We’ll see. I’m going to do it next Wednesday. Any questions? No? Good. I’m very good at this in case you’re wondering.”
Dan didn’t expect the doctor to say he was just so-so at this and he hoped he didn’t screw it all up. Dan’s wife, Jane, thought of a lot of questions. The first one was, “Will this completely solve the problem?”
That was a good question. The doctor said it would in all probability. Probability. Not the answer Dan or Jane wanted to hear. Waine told them not to worry; he knew what he was doing and had a great success rate. Waine didn’t want to go into too great a detail about the surgery. He’d long ago learned that patients and their loved ones didn’t react well when he got to the part about stopping the patient’s heart. He remembered the first time he’ told a patient about the procedure.
“Then I’ll stop the heart and-”
“I’ll stop the heart. I can’t cut and sew a new arterial vein in place with the heart beating. Then, when I’m finished, I’ll restart the heart.”
“What if it doesn’t restart?”
“Huh? It’ll restart. I’m confident of that.”
“But if it doesn’t, I’m dead. Right?”
“Well, of course, but that isn’t going to happen.” He didn’t expect the heart not to restart but it might not. Then this patient would be really and truly dead.
Dan woke up after the surgery and had forgotten what, if anything, had happened. He couldn’t talk because he had a breathing tube in his throat. He could only make small, squeally sounds. The nurse said she would take it right out. She pulled on it and Dan felt his guts coming up. He grabbed the nurse’s hand and stopped her from going any farther. She nodded at him and left the room. Dan started to relax when the door opened and the nurse came back in accompanied by a huge technician, a large nurse and a sumo wrestler in a security guard uniform. They grabbed him and held him down while the nurse got the tube out. Dan couldn’t have moved no matter what. Then they all left and the nurse said, “See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”
Dan didn’t say anything. Partly because his throat was both dry and raw and partly because he didn’t want the team back in there.
Later, the nurse said he was going to stand and she would turn him so he could sit in the chair. The doctors like to get you up and sitting to prevent lung problems. Dan knew he couldn’t do that. He couldn’t see any way he could stand without falling and no team of big people was going to get him to. A fall would be the end of him. “Look, I don’t want to be a pain in then ass but I’m not going to stand. If I do, I’ll fall. You can forget about that.”
“Uh, you’re already standing. I just have to turn you and you can sit down in the chair.”
Dan looked down at his feet and he was standing. How did that happen? He was sitting on the edge of the gurney and now he was standing. Was it some sort of voodoo? He got turned and then was sitting. He didn’t feel too bad. Of course, he knew he was reasonably drugged too.
In a couple of hours he was taken to a regular room on the cardiac wing. It scared the hell out of him being put in a wheelchair and then some kid hot-rodding him around. The kid did wheelies and then laughed. He got to the room where a platoon of nurses were waiting for him. They took turns telling him what was what. Then one of them went out and came back with a tray. Dan hadn’t eaten for 36 hours and nearly sniffed the food down. An hour later the regular lunch came around and he didn’t turn that down either. Now, a regular lunch for a cardiac patient was a bowl of broth, jello and juice. Dan felt like he could eat ten of them.
He laid there while he was checked on every two minutes. Supper came and he almost gagged. The food wasn’t anything different than the usual hospital terrible. Dan wasn’t all that hungry and being famished was the trick to eating hospital food. Dan drank the juice and pushed the tray as far away as he could. The Dietary Aide came back, took the tray and left with no comment about his nor eating. Dan figured she knew too.
This went on for five days. Dan was proud of himself for not eating the crap and would go home where he could get real food. What he didn’t know was Jane had told the nurses he hadn’t been eating. Now, a crowd of them were in his room lecturing him. He pretended to be humble and sorry but he wasn’t. He acted his part so he wouldn’t be kept any longer. He promised to eat all his food. Actually, he was able to flush t down the toilet and did.
It was time to go home. Jane was happy and Dan was happy and the whole world was happy. The nurse said, “Just one more thing. The Dietitian will come in and go over your diet with you. You will never be able to eat the same way you once did. That’s what got you here and, as much as we like you, we don’t want to see you back in here.”
Dan thought, yea, right.
Jane looked at him and said, “And you are going to eat properly because I do the cooking.”
Brian Cecil writes good, clean stories for young adults.Jack And The Giant Private Eyes
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