Today marks a week back from the hospital. I’m not sure what I expected, but I’m pretty sure this wasn’t it. So much didn’t go the way I expected. A friend said it was like taking your car in for an oil change only to discover you need a new tranny. I needed a new tranny, timing chain, rear axle and electrical system.
How could I have failed to notice that the central system of my body wasn’t working? How did I miss that? I was short of breath, true. I had been gradually limiting my activities. I stopped driving. I passed on activities that involved more than very minimal walking … skipping stuff that required I go up and down my own stairs. Gradually, I chipped away at life until my “outside appearances” were few and far between.
I was tired. Not sleepy-tired. Weary. I attributed each lifestyle change to something. Asthma. Bursitis in my hips, arthritis in my back. Blow-back from cancer a couple of years ago. And, of course, the all-time best bucket explanation for anything and everything — getting older.
When I was first informed that my EKG showed “issues,” though the doctors didn’t seem to feel I needed to know exactly what the issues were (did they know?) — when finally all the cards were laid out, I felt blindsided. I had been keeping track of my heart, getting an evaluation and EKG every year. Suddenly, from “no problem” to “big problem”? Heart problems don’t usually just pop up out of the blue. I still don’t know and probably never will if this was a case of misdiagnosis or some weird medical event that went unnoticed amidst the myriad other health crises which have punctuated my last decade and a bit.
Do I blame my doctors? To a degree. For failing to promptly and clearly inform me of what was happening and for giving me terrible, medically unsound advice. If I had followed it, I’d be dead.
What I expected
Cardiomyectomy (shaving down the overgrown muscle in the left ventricle that was stopping the flow of blood through the aortic valve, causing the mitral valve to work double-time. There was hope the mitral valve would self-repair if the aortic valve was unblocked. Surely, at most, the mitral valve would need repair, not replacement. (Ha!)
What I got
A cardiac catheterization, a totally disgusting, intrusive horrible test that requires you be awake — the absolutely last thing you want to be. Not like you get a choice.
The next day, the aforementioned cardiomyectomy, a bypass and a mitral valve replacement made from bovine tissue (thank you Bossy, wherever you may be).
Three-for-one. Woo hoo!!
But that’s not all, no-sirree. After another few days, when my heart refused to beat on its own (stubborn to the last), it was back to surgery for a pacemaker. Now everything in my world runs on batteries, including me. Sure hope those batteries keep going and going and going.
Waking up – Let the games commence!
Round one: They tried arousing me, but I woke up fighting, struggling. Apparently tried to deck the recovery nurse. I do not remember this, but I have no reason to doubt it. Under the circumstances I’m sure I wanted to deck someone. They put me back under for another 24 hours. They were protecting me and/or the nurse.
“Tough customer,” they said.
Round two: I heard Katy, my new recovery nurse calling me.
“Marilyn, wake up. You’ve had your heart surgery.”
“NO,” I said. Liar liar pants on fire. They were saying it was Friday, but I knew it was only Thursday. What’s more, I was in the middle of a word game and the letter “U” was missing. I could not wake up until I found it.
“Marilyn, you have to wake up.”
“NO I DON’T,” I said.
“Would you like to see your husband? Your friend?”
“You have to wake up. It’s time to wake up.”
Ultimately, I realized the letter “U” was a permanent loss and they were just going to keep annoying me until I stopped saying NO. So I opened my eyes. Instantly knew why I hadn’t wanted to wake up.
Question: How much pain can you be in and still live?
Answer: A lot.
Thus I reentered the world. Screaming in anger, pain, outrage and helplessness. I’m still screaming. Silently.