You have to watch how you write it, ‘cause how you write it is how you remember it.
August 12, 2009 – I wake up suddenly with an acute shortness of breath. The symptoms disappear.
August 19, 2009 – I discover at bedtime that I can’t lie down, because when I do, I can’t breathe. If the earlier shortness of breath was acute, this one is acutely acute.
August 20, 2009 – I visit my doctor, who, after listening to my heart and doing a cardiogram, exposes a scary, worried face and accompanies me to a nearby Emergency Room.
I’m immediately admitted to the hospital, where I’m treated for what’s quickly diagnosed as “Congestive Heart Failure.” I’m not crazy about the label. It sounds like my heart took a test and it failed. Plus, since it’s my heart and not “Geography”, a failing grade carries serious consequences, one of which is “Goodbye.”
August 24, 2009 – I am released from the hospital after two things happened: One, they drained the fluid from my lungs – which was the reason I couldn’t breathe when I tried to lie down – and two, they discovered the cause of the problem: some tendons (or something) attached to my mitral heart valve had (probably on August the 12th) become detached. (The detachment also allowed blood that the valve is supposed to keep out to, as the doctors call it, regurgitate back into my heart. Not a good thing, but not imminently life threatening. That’s why they allowed me to go home.
The hospital had taken care of the immediate problem. But they hadn’t fixed the reason the problem had occurred. To fix that would require
For the next few weeks, Dr. M and I interviewed three potential cardiac surgeons – not that they had potential to become cardiac surgeons, they already were cardiac surgeons – but that each of them could potentially have been chosen to perform my surgery. Two of the surgeons practiced the traditional method of heart surgery – cracking the breastbone and going in frontally. The third surgeon specialized in a robotic technique. The first two doctors insisted that the robotic technique was garbage. The robot-using surgeon claimed the other two were old-fashioned fuddy-duddies, unwilling to change. Such are the manners in the cardiac surgical fraternity.
We decide on the robot guy. He schedules my surgery for October 27, 2009.
END OF BACKSTORY
OCTOBER 27, 2009.
We wake up at 4:15. (Our scheduled “check-in” time is 5:30.) The night before, I had showered, as instructed, with some special, antiseptic soap. I felt like a Thanksgiving turkey, whose preparation required being buttered prior to being inserted into the oven. The difference was, I was buttering myself.
We drive to the hospital in the dark. Considering the pre-dawn scheduling of my surgery, the word “clandestine” jumps to mind. “Done in secrecy.” It feels like this is deliberate, so in case something unfortunate happens, there won’t be any witnesses.
“Did you see him come in?”
“Nobody saw him come in.”
“Is there any proof he was ever here?”
“Then we certainly couldn’t have killed the man.”
“Precisely. You can’t kill a man who wasn’t here.”
“It doesn’t make sense.”
“Then I’d say we’re off the hook.”
“You know what? Just to be sure…”
“Next time, let’s schedule them earlier.”
“Oh. Right. I tripped myself up there.”
END OF PARANOID FANTASY
The side of the hospital building features a large Jewish Star. But there’s a man nailed to it. I guess they didn’t want to leave anybody out. (Please excuse the nervous comedy of questionable taste. Keep in mind that they would shortly be opening me up.)
We park the car, and I unload my Pendleton overnight bag containing the essentials for my hospital stay, (which I determined from my earlier hospital stay). I’m scared, but also excited, my precise feelings embodied in a song, published in a previous post.
(TO THE TUNE OF “TEDDY BEAR’S PICNIC”)
WHEN I GO INTO THE HOSPITAL
THEY’RE GOING TO GO THROUGH MY SIDE
THEY SAY IT’S LESS PAINFUL THAN CRACKING MY CHEST
BUT WHAT DO I DO IF THEY LIED?
THEY’LL STILL MY LUNGS
AND QUIET MY HEART
AND WHEN THEY’RE DONE
THEY HOPE THEY RESTART
TODAY’S THE DAY THE ROBOTS GO IN MY BO-DY.
We head into the hospital.
As they once said on WKRP In Cincinnati – and it really made me laugh –
It’s “Rumba Time.”