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So Glad to be Alive- May 10, 2009

August 26, 2009

lovely little weed

I had an emergency triple bypass eleven weeks ago. Since surgery, many of the same symptoms persisted, including nausea, chest pain, back pain, sweating and a severe pounding in my chest, especially at night, especially when lying down. Both cardiologist, cardiac surgeon and internist all insisted this was normal.

Well, I went last Tuesday for a stess/echo (so I could finally start cardiac rehab), and promptly flunked those tests. Two minutes on the treadmill and I had chest pain. Some doctor I’d never met came in, said echo looked “different,” EKG wasn’t “normal,” maybe some left sided blockage, another doc came in, asking about history, saying, that no, none of that is normal after bypass (WHAT!!!!!?????). They tell us they called my cardio…going to send me home for now…change their minds, admit me.

I see my cardio and he wants to do a cath, but can’t put stents in at this hospital…but he’s sure I won’t need one, can’t need one! it’s only been eleven weeks! Just want to look to play it safe.

So, the next morning, I go to the cath lab. They try the right femoral artery. Total occlusion. They then try the left, same song. Finally get in the right brachial and there it is, two of three grafts are blocked, one 100%, the other 95%. (not to mention femoral arteries which have blocked in same eleven weeks).

But, there is more. My arteries are ridiculously small. He says I’m not a candidate for another bypass (no graft material). This I found comforting somehow…Said I’d no doubt have MI very soon, but could likely have MI with another cath to try and put in stents. What’s to do? We opted for the stents of course, so went via ambulance back to the large teaching hospital where I had the bypass the next morning.

We all cried a lot. I really thought I might be checking out. It sure sounded like it was probable. I don’t think any of us (family) have really begun to process that whole thing. Anyway, went into the cath lab again. It took over an hour to get into the left brachial artery and the cath took four hours. They put three stents in one graft, ballooned the other. The third graft was clear, but another severe blockage (new one) couldn’t be gotten to via left brachial and another (additional new one) couldn’t be accessed or stented because artery was too small.

In the meantime, my family is going out of their minds in the waiting room, four hours of waiting while I had a procedure they’d already been told would likely kill me but I’d die if I didn’t have, that would take about an hour and a half. Lisa made every staff person she saw promise they keep them updated. No one did. But when it was over, the cardiologist was very thorough and kind as he explained that he’d done all he could do for now, that it was the most difficult case he’d ever had, and maybe when my right brachial artery was healed, he’d try and stent that one he couldn’t reach from the left, and he’d maybe try to modify some pediatric equipment for the other blockage. But for now, there was nothing else to do but medications.

There’s so much more to all this drama, including a “fellow” who came in and threw out my family who was still gasping for air after finding me still alive, when he pulled the sheath, then told me the chest pain I was having then was psychological. Much more to that part of the story.

We went home Friday morning. I’m on more drugs and look and feel as if I’ve been in a car wreck. They drew blood for all sorts of weird tests including some genetic testing. I have flashes of intense anger, but am mostly ridiculously happy.

I can’t walk thirty feet without being out of breath, but I’m so glad to be breathing! My heart still pounds, but it’s better than it was. I’m so glad it’s still beating! Part of the mystery is not only that the CAD seems so aggressive, but strangely selective. Illiac and femoral arteries are toast, but abdominal arteries are clear. Heart arteries are fried but carotids are clear. I’m still able to write here and comprehend what’s happened and happening.

I just don’t get it though. There are 2100 women on the on line support group for women with heart disease I’m apart of. Anyone who does even a tiny bit of web searching can easily find how CAD effects women, young women, thin women, and presents with symptoms unlike those experienced by most men. They acted like it was impossible for grafts to become occluded so quickly. I knew, from reading their stories that they certainly could. Are they just too busy to read? They obviously are too busy to listen. I do believe mine is listening now. I have his attention. And, I’m not sure I’d have wanted to know all this a few weeks ago. I’m grateful for more time to heal from the bypass. I’m grateful for their talent, knowledge, expertise and effort which no doubt saved my life this week (and in Feb.). But I’m more convinced than ever that we have to be our own advocates and we also need others, family, friends, at least someone who can speak up and speak loudly.

I know that sounds mostly angry, but I’m so grateful, so thankful and so happy to be here one more day. It’s been a great Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s day to you all.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 7, 2010 4:16 pm

    Oh, Allie! I know this is old, but I still want to hug you – RIGHT NOW! So consider it done! What a rotten experience, rotten doctor (no wonder you changed!) and glad it’s now 2010!

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