Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the day “April 15, 2022”

A Super Hero Effort


Continuing on with my post from yesterday, on the 14th anniversary of my emergency double bypass, the fog had worn off from the prior anesthesia, and all I could do was look at the clock. It was now after 8pm, I had just gotten a slight appetite, but now not allowed to eat because of the need to fast prior to the surgery.

With the pre surgery testing complete, not being able to eat, all I could do is wait. I could not sleep as my nerves definitely were getting the best of me. How could this be? I was only forty-two years old, and in fairly good shape. I had been exercising regularly. I was active. I did not smoke.

Per my request, an orderly came into my room around 3am, I was not able to sleep. I had asked to be taken down to the hospital chapel for a few words. I do not believe in organized religion, but I do believe in a higher power and that is as far as I will go with that. Upon my return back to my room, a large figure, I could only compare to the actor Michael Clarke Duncan, feeling specifically like I was in my own movie of “Green Mile.”

He was there to prep me for surgery, as well as take me there. Why did I get the feeling there was a need to have someone so much larger than me and more powerful than me, as if necessary to make me comply? In reality, one of the few people in my care during any procedure, never a word spoke between us, hence, never knowing his name. And for as big as he was, he was a gentle giant of a man.

I was placed on a gurney to go down to the operating room. It was 4:30am. Other than the pre testing, I was completely unaware of what was about to happen, other than the simplistically put, “having open heart surgery,” which I clearly understood. Unlike other patients who would have days, weeks, or even a couple of months to dwell and think about what they needed to go through, I had no time to worry or obsess, or stress.

The actual operating room that I was delivered to, was twice this size, and filled with so many television screens, multiple pieces of equipment, and of course, the operating table, which I was transferred to upon my arrival. I could see piles of materials and surgical tools, I knew all of them meant for me. I was scared, but I was also amazed by the clear effort that was about to take place.

Of in the distance, I heard one of the nurses make the comment, “he’s too young for this.” I normally do not respond to conversations I was not meant to hear, but this time I did. “I am young. Quite young. And I want to get through this. I need to get through this. My daughters need me.” Still, they were my focus on this, even more than the surgery.

As they continued to position me, and organize everything, the last thing I remember, was them removing my hospital gown. Yep. Just laying on the table, all sprawled out, in my glory, also now being restrained. Nowhere near ready to begin yet, my anxiety must have been registering, as I remember nothing after that moment.

But clearly, a lot was about to happen. And it was only by reading the operative report, that I could not only see, but appreciate the extraordinary efforts that went into saving my life.

This was my super hero. He did not wear a cape or mask. But he did have the most steady hands, nerves of steel, and the best skills necessary. Reading through the operative report is an amazing story, and quite surreal. This stuff was actually done to me. I won’t post the entire report, but some of the highlights:

  • a median sternotomy incision was made, exposing the sternum. Simultaneously, a vein was being removed from my left leg to be used for the bypass
  • a decision was made to use a different artery, the mammary artery for the bypass

This next part is what still shakes me to this day. It is extraordinary.

  • “The patient was placed on bypass, cooled, and emptied.”

In other words, I was put onto a heart/lung machine, that would do everything for me, my body about to be unable to do it on its own. Cooled and emptied? Yep. My heart was drained of all blood. And then came the ultimate moment, planned and necessary of course.

  • “The heart became asystolic.”

My heart no longer had any electrical activity. My heart was no longer beating. My mind is still blown seeing these words. Clearly I am here, as I am writing this post. But technically, on my own, I would have been dead. To keep risks against survival from this process, patients are intended to not be on this machine more than one to three hours if possible. My documented time was forty-five minutes.

  • the bypass process had been completed

And then the really cool parts:

  • “hot shot of warm oxygenated blood solution was given.”
  • “the heart was allowed to fill.”
  • “the heart fibrolated at this time.”

My heart was beating on its own again. How chilling that is to see in writing. And I survived this.

And finally:

  • “I closed the pericardium loosely, rewired the sternum, and closed the wound.”

The surgery had been a success. I was off to recovery.

My doctor was a hero once again.

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