My wife asked me yesterday if I had anything to write about regarding the day’s events.
I had asked myself the same question earlier in the day when I had plenty of time to think about it.
I was lying on a hospital bed waiting to be wheeled into a special room where the coronary angiogram, a procedure that looks for blocked coronary arteries, would soon take place.
Plenty of time to think because it would take much more than thirty minutes of lying there, occasionally picking up my head to look around, before my number was eventually called.
“I can’t write about this,” I thought.
“No,” I told my wife later in the day to her question.
I was by this time back on the fifth floor of the l’Institut de Cardiologie de Montréal in east-end Montreal. Recovering from the procedure was almost as difficult as the procedure itself. My eyes were heavy-lidded but I wasn’t allowed to lie on my side to sleep. My left wrist, fitted with a tight plastic collar to make sure the wound didn’t bleed and where they had entered an artery to insert the catheter up my arm towards the coronary arteries in order to flush the heart with dye, had to be placed below my hand on a pillow. In my right arm was the IV tube for the saline solution. When the nurse came by and wasn’t pleased with the placement of either arm she warned me in French, “You’d better be careful. If you bleed, it only takes three minutes for all the blood to drain from your body.”
She told this me three or four times.
Later, when she suggested I try walking a bit, I was overcome by weakness and nausea.
Anyway, here I am, resting in bed the following day, and I am writing about it after all.
One of the worst things about being on your back, while doctors and nurses do things to you, is the feeling of weakness one feels. I’m a meditator who likes to rely on the power of the mind over the functioning of the body, but at times like this the mind doesn’t have much power.
During the procedure itself I started focusing on being calm. “I am calm,” I repeated mentally, but I really wasn’t, and didn’t feel it, just an animal-like fear and trepidation.
They pierced my artery, put the catheter in, pushed it up the artery – all these things hurt and did nothing to calm me down. When my blood pressure dropped sharply – something the doctors seemed to be expecting – one of them, hovering over me, said, “Vasovagal,” meaning a significant drop in blood pressure as a result of the body’s instinctive reaction to a serious threat.
I really panicked. “Oh no,” I said and lifted my head. Another doctor quickly put something into the IV and the blood pressure rose to normal. I calmed down as much as was possible, none too happy with the sedatives they had earlier given me to keep me composed.
Eventually, the procedure was over and I was wheeled back into the waiting room and soon after back up to the fifth floor where I had started the day at 6:45 am. It was now about 11:15 am. My wife and I would wait until 6 pm before going home, for a surgeon who never arrived.
I expect in the upcoming days to hear from him or a member of his surgical team for a date for the heart operation that will repair a leaky mitral valve in my heart.
Oh, by the way, the good news: as expected, they found no blocked arteries.