June 12, 2008 Bonus Blog Post
I've been living with a heavy heart. Literally. After the angiogram, last month, appeared to clear me of any more probings, my doctor ordered a nuclear test with the prognosis being, if it showed the lower heart with any life he was going to propose open heart surgery to go in and fix the damage. The angiogram showed the stents they put in at Kingman working fine, but the test revealed a trickle at the bottom and that was worrisome.
Spending so much time with people poking my veins, and ramming cameras up my arteries, I've started to dream about my interior plumbing. This is an artistic take on what I think it looks like inside my body:
Right after my Wipeout emergency jam session at Kingman Regional Hospital (where they flat out saved my life), I felt like my heart had a hole in it, kind of like this:
When I saw my heart on the Angiogram Cable Network (only available in arteries near my heart), although I couldn't actually see the stents, I pictured in my mind it looking something like this:
The problem with stents three and four (by the way, stents are mini-balloon type contraptions that they place in blockage places, and these stents, which I think are now made of metal, keep the artery open, after years of clogging said artery by eating bacon. In fact, I call all of my fellow patients at the Heart Institute—and it's about 70% male—The Bacon Brigade) is they bypass the downward flow of blood from stent #3. [Warning: This is how I picture it in my mind and probably has no physical or scientific reality.]
Yesterday they injected me with a nuclear isotope (thallium?) which lit up my innards. Then I had to lay on a table while a sophisticated camera took 30-some shots at 30 second exposures and then arced five degrees or so to take another shot, thirty in all. The test was repeated at noon, and after compositing them the nurse told us to come back in the morning for another round.
This morning I got right in at seven, and while on the table, I had to lift my left arm over my head, just like in the other sessions, and hold it still for 20 minutes. On the second group of photos, yesterday, they increased the exposure to 40 seconds each. My arm was tight and quivering (worse than yoga!) and I was counting the seconds this morning until it was over. When I got out, the nuclear tech, told me the photos were washed out and I needed to do it again, only longer. I thought he was joking. He wasn't. I got back on the table and endured another 35 minute session with the camera.
Both Kathy and I pictured this procedure producing a high tech hologram of my heart showing every ventricle and byway. But no, when the doctor brought them in, they looked like this:
Only smaller. My heart looked like a horseshoe with the bottom part burned out. That is the part of my heart that died in Kingman. As of this test, there appears to be no reason for a bypass, my doctor said with a sad face. I tried to hold back my glee ("My heart is dead! Whoop-ee! My heart is dead!"). The doctor told me to start cardiac rehab and that some patients actually reconstitute dead parts of their heart. I assured him I was going to be that guy!
And, I intend to do just that. Exercise is a major part of it and, as my good friend Wonderful Russ, who beat cancer, put it: "Talk to your heart. Say, 'Hello heart.'"
Hello heart! Thanks for the extra beats, my Man.
"Your beatin' heart, will tell on you. . ."
—butchered Hank Williams lyric
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