For the past several weeks I’ve been trying to think of a good way to get this “update” started without dragging things out way too far. When last I wrote—July 24—I mentioned my life’s routines through this COVID “business” and many of the things I spent my time doing on a daily basis. I wrote about my impending visit on Tuesday, July 28, to the “Heart Valve” clinic at the hospital to see what dedicated direction I should take in dealing with my deteriorating aortic valve. I was pretty sure I’d quality for a Trans Thoracic Valve Replacement (TAVR) procedure, rather than the old, standard “Open Heart” method.
I spent several hours having tests of all kinds—as one can imagine: EKGs, Echocardiogram, Blood tests, carotid artery sonar, X-rays, CT scan, etc. You get the idea. When the tests and evaluations were complete, I met with the two surgeons, one for each type of procedure, that is: 1) TAVR; 2) Open-heart. Of course, I was hoping for the less invasive TAVR procedure, since having my chest cracked open wasn’t all that appealing! Plus, the recovery time with TAVR would require less time than the open-heart method.
At the conclusion of this busy day, I was told that the following Monday morning I would be “discussed” by the heart team, and they would recommend which of the two methods would be best for me in my valve replacement saga, and that I would hear from them within twenty-four hours after the team meeting.
I was feeling pretty confident that they would recommend going the TAVR route since I had no other issues such as needing bypass or stents to correct any arterial blockage. So when I received a call from the TAVR surgeon the morning following the meeting and he told me that I didn’t qualify for the TAVR procedure because my valve was too large and beyond the scope of that type of replacement, I was pretty well taken aback, particularly when I realized that there was no other choice besides open-heart—if I did, indeed, want to have the valve replaced.
Millions of morbid and depressing thoughts and images swirled and whirled around in my head as I stood staring into the bathroom mirror and felt that I’d finally gotten myself into something I couldn’t rightly wiggle out of in some shape, manner, or form! My next step that afternoon was to contact the “other” surgeon and see exactly where I was supposed to go from this point—into the world of open-heart surgery. Yikes!
Little did I know that things would begin moving faster than I could imagine. I had left a message with the surgeon’s CNP (nurse practitioner), and it wasn’t long before he returned my call and helped put me at ease and had me scheduled for surgery on Monday morning, August 17. Of course, there were new tests and pre-op consults to fit in to the calendar and another COVID-19 test a few days ahead of the operation.
By this time, as the days grew ever closer to surgery, I’d done my best to keep myself under control as best I could. As a youngster, and for most of the rest of my time, anything to do with this kind of heart “business” always terrified me. Creeped me out! And now…it was actually going to happen to me!
And so I arrived at the hospital at 4:30 a.m. on the designated date and began a day that I recall the early parts and the evening portion when I was coming out of my anesthesia—craving water! Everything after the initial prep period is a blank in my cognizance. Once I was “out,” I was OUT!
The operation was successful in replacing the bad valve with a new organic one from cow tissue. There was one other procedure, however, that the surgeon wasn’t able to attend to. He had planned to do an ablation with hopes that it would curtail the A-fib that was a recurring issue. Because I had been “open” on the table with my heart working via a machine for quite some time, he didn’t want to extend the operation any further.
As mentioned, the next bit of consciousness for me was in the surgical ICU, surrounded by doctors, nurses, and my anxious wife. I had tubes and wires and anything else they could attach to me, it seemed. I didn’t have any trouble remembering where I was and why I was there, only that I was thirstier than I’d ever remembered. That seemed to be the standard through that first night in post-op recovery in the ICU. But I had made it through and was ready to get going on whatever the next step would involve.
In my next post, I’ll deal with all of that. In closing this, I can only say that it’s great to be alive!