“Seconds out. Round two”

Sitting at home after breakfast on ‘Leave’ from the hospital, I am feeling good knowing that the bypass operation six years ago is perfect and no major surgery is required. Having an angiogram has its risks, but the results showing all is working well and looks good means I should have many more years without concern over my coronary arteries.

Today is an electrical checkup. As I understood from the electrical heart specialist or ‘electrician’ as he called himself, the field is called ‘cardiac electrophysiology ‘: we are looking at identified
Ventricular Tachycardia (VT) issues to determine what level they are at in my heart and if they pose a threat to my health longer term which may require medication or a Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD). The outcome of these tests will determine the next steps and I should have some answers in the next 12 hours. As I mentioned in a response to a comment yesterday, the previous blog entry was written at various times during the day while I was at the hospital, in effect making it my first ‘real time’ entry rather than all our other blog entries, while sequential, were written at one time or after all the events had taken place for that day. Hence the focus here can change from paragraph to paragraph or even be contradictory. Today’s entry will follow a similar format.

Some words of wisdom to those of you who face major surgery: do not, as I did, make your parting words to your spouse, as I was wheeled into surgery for a quadruple bypass (4CABG) in 2009 “Remind them I am an organ donor”. Which, while well meaning, are not the best parting words to your loved ones as the operating theatre doors close behind you. I will try and remember that today.

I am waiting in the patients’ lounge by myself as I am at the end of the electrician’s, sorry the cardiac electrophysiology specialist’s, list today. Most of the morning patients have passed through the adjacent recovery area and so the place is much quieter. I feel a little apprehensive, possibly the thought of my reaction to yesterday’s cannula insertion and the fact that yesterday’s process is fresh in my mind. It may also be that should I have a diagnostic outcome, which suggests an ICD is required, this will bring some changes to my life going forward both mentally and physically at least in the short term.

It is somewhat strange to be writing about this on RTW motorcycle blog, but this is part of our journey and depending on the outcome may in fact be the termination of our journey in its current form. You the reader will have to wait, like me, for the outcome later in this blog entry.

I have noticed that the Vascular Lab as the department calls itself has a logo, maybe they do a label we could put on our motorcycle top box with other flags and logos from our travels. Wow I must be bored to write this, back to the Reader Digest it is.

Been here some four hours waiting with nothing happening, been reading, writing this blog, playing games all on the iPad Mini 2. Very useful tool, it took both video and photos for yesterday’s blog entry as well as allow me to write it as I am doing now, five minutes before they start the procedure. I have been advised I will be partially sedated for this test which will last 90 minutes. I have read, unfortunately, that they will be testing my hearts electrics that may end up stopping my heart and hopefully restarting it. Hummm… not my idea of fun, but us bloggers need to keep giving our readers new adventures to follow or they may desert us. For those of you who have said they feel they are riding with us on this journey, you may wish to sit this particular ride out. Oh here they come for me…. See you soon.

Onto the bed in in lab 3 again, the setup similar to yesterday. A new team to talk to as they professionally go about their business. A relaxant is introduced to my system to assist with the process by making me feel more comfortable. I feel relaxed and my next vague memories is of being in a bed in the ward. So much for user involvement in the process! They must have turned the sedative flow rate up to maximum to keep me quiet. Whatever they gave me really knocked me out – so much for mild sedative, I missed everything, but THE NEWS IS THE BEST, no ICD required, they were unable to induce a VT, hence the reason I was knocked out. I am good to go and I will be able to travel on with only the addition of some beta blockers to add to my current medication. South America is back on the agenda, once we have sorted the medication out.

My thanks to Bianca, Bree, Delwyn, Joel, John, Meredith, Wayne and the other members of the Vascular Laboratory team whose names I have forgotten and all the staff at St Andrew’s hospital.

– Anthony

The morning after

The morning after

Plumbing OK! Electrical check tomorrow…

Today we should be waking up in Chile on the first day of the second phase of our journey. We should be regaling you with tales of the great city of Santiago. Instead we sit in the reception of St Andrew’s hospital in Brisbane at 6:30 in the morning waiting to go up to the cardiac day surgery area for my 8:30 angiogram. The last week has been a little surreal as we waited for today. All the tasks to be completed before our original departure became less important. We have considered the various outcomes of today’s angiogram and the likely impact they have on our travel plans. Our specialist gave no indication of his thoughts on what he will find so all options including medication, stent, pacemaker or surgery are on table, although I have my preference which does not include major surgery!

While the Internet can provide a plethora of information on everything today, too many views and options can be confusing. My research has been confined to trying to understand the latest techniques and some general background information so I can try to ask intelligent questions, which I suspect will only show my lack of knowledge on this subject.

After blogging for over nine months it is interesting to find that I am happy to reveal publicly personal medical information, which previously I would have not discussed, as this is pertinent to, and part of, the journey.

Progressing through the system has seen me move one floor up with the first obstacle, my chart moving around the hospital without me, being resolved. The first challenge was to put on the hospital gown, with three ties on the back and a design I had difficultly understanding at first but think I have managed although I suspect if I move too fast the whole thing will unravel and I will be scrabbling to avoid ending up in my birthday suit!

Paperwork still abounds in hospitals with forms and labels being filled and pasted as I wait. I need to have blood drawn and a drip attached. While attaching the cannula to my wrist, I suffer my first vasovagal, a light headed feeling wanting to throw up and generally unwell: it is a reaction to the cannula I am told. This effect only lasts for a couple of minutes as the kindly staff raise my feet, give me oxygen and provides sick bag. The effect is over in five minutes and I am back to my usual happy self. A new experience and one I will hopefully not repeat.

We now head to lab No. 3 where I meet the team who will treat me along with the specialist. Surrounded by hi-tech equipment and a massive tv screen we are ready to go. The friendly staff are happy to pose for photographs and one of the staff kindly offers to take a photo or two for me during the procedure for this blog. I am covered with nice warm blankets which are very pleasant.
Part of my happy  teamBree, another happy nurse
The process starts with the X-ray machine above my chest moves backwards and forwards like something out of a sci-fi movie at the command of the doctor undertaking the procedure calling out to the radiologist.
My heart monitors during the angiogram

I am wheeled into recovery and my specialist confirmed that there are no problems with the grafts from six years ago. YES YES YES …….! All look good and are functioning perfectly. No cutting and replacing of parts required! A further check is required by an electrician, their term not just mine, to check out the electrical aspect of my heart’s function, so I will be back tomorrow for round 2 at 14:00. Three hours of recovery fly by and I am out on ‘Leave’ which avoids the $200 fee for each separate admission.

My thanks to all the team at St Andrew’s for my treatment today and to all our family and friends for your support via various messages and phone calls.