One Week: The Operation

The Operation

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Just to the right of my right nipple is a two and a half inch scar. Through this insertion, just over a week ago, Dr. Michel Pellerin performed a procedure which I believe is fairly rare to find in Montreal. I asked a nurse about how common it was. This was following my operation at the Montreal Heart Institute, where I had this minimally-invasive procedure carried out. She said that she thought that a colleague of Dr. Pellerin might now be operating in this manner at another Montreal Hospital. Err, that’s it.

As for the rest of Canada, I don’t really know, but I do think that I could find out, thanks to the Internet. I’m curious.

Dr. Pellerin studied this technique under the guidance of another heart surgeon in the States. I think that he told me this, although the article below mentions Belgium. He started in 2009. I just found a link to a CBC special report entitled: Montreal Heart Institute hits milestone with new surgical technique. With 500 operations now behind them, doctors set to teach minimally invasive surgery worldwide. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/montreal-heart-institute-hits-milestone-with-new-surgical-technique-1.2480144

I plan on watching it, at least as much as I can stomach. When I met Dr. Pellerin for the first time this past December, he wanted to show me this video but when I more or less communicated that I was the queasy type he fast-forwarded it to the titanium ring placed in the mitral valve in order to repair it.

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Yes, I have a little titanium ring in my heart!

I also had some good luck.

My wife’s best friend’s husband was one of the first to receive “the ring”. In fact, when I mentioned Emile’s name to Dr. Pellerin, he became quite animated. They’re good friends now, pass some evenings together in the same spinning class. In fact, I think that Emile is in this video.

Sometime after awakening from the operation the Monday afternoon of March 3rd, Dr. Pellerin visited me. “Out of all the operations I have performed,” he said, “yours was the easiest. You lost only 1 litre of blood.”

I don’t know if this is really true. He might say that to everyone, to make them feel better. But I talked to Emile later who confirmed that Dr. Pellerin did say that the operation was “fucking perfect”.

As I lay there on the bed receiving this information, I naturally felt quite good, about myself and my case. Hey, the best ever!

Setback

Alas, the good part of the first 24 hours was over. I started vomiting a lot, as my body rejected the morphine that I had been administered. I started bleeding a little too much for comfort through the hose that had been inserted into my side. A doctor was called in. He made a hole through the jugular vein in my neck, inserted a catheter and sucked up the blood that was pooling in my thorax.

Had the vomiting cut some blood vessels? Had the blood vessels been cut during the operation?

It was decided that I had to go back to the operating room the following morning, Tuesday morning, to more thoroughly clean out the thorax.

Shit.

During that nightmare Monday evening and night I was taken care of a nurse who I’d like to mention: Lucie. In her forties I’d say. Close-cropped brunette, attractive.

And devoted. She was right by me in the Intensive Care Unit most of that harrowing night; I’d say all of that night. My attitude at that point was one of surrender. “If I should die now,” I thought in typical melodramatic fashion, “so be it. I’m giving myself up to that higher power.”

Another person I’d like to mention was the doctor who did the draining from my neck: Dr. Christian Russo. Soft-spoken, dead-tired, he was as delicate and as professional a person as I could hope for. I don’t know for how many hours he had been on call when he worked on me. He looked like he would have enjoyed at least 14 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I will be forever indebted for his help that night as well as to Lucie, a nurse who combines in one person the qualities of sweetness with steely professionalism, someone you feel you can put all your trust in.

I was going in the next morning.

My spirits were good (I might have been filled with tranquilizers for all I know.) Needless to say, the “bedside” manner in which the operating room nurses, surgeons and anesthesiologists greet you is very light and friendly. I clearly remember the rather narrow operating table that I was moved to from my hospital bed (well, I should, it was my 2nd time there!). I might have joked with the nurse who told me, “You will never remember me come Wednesday.”

“What’s your name?” I asked. She told me.

I have a lot of confidence in my powers of recall so I said, “No, I will. I will remember your name.”

“No, you won’t,” she replied in a singsong voice.

They put me under. I saw this nurse a day or two later. I didn’t recognize her when she introduced herself and how she knew me (although I kind of remember her face today. Not her name.)

I woke up in the ICU Tuesday morning. Instead of the longer original operation, I was only in the operating room for about an hour this time. When my wife came in to see me, I was awake, the breathing tubes were still in my mouth and they were obviously bothering me a lot.

I had lost 2.1 litres of blood.

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