January 10, 2011
Toronto General Hospital
one year ago today. it's hard to believe that a whole year has passed. i remember the morning vividly. the rest is, well, blank.
i remember the room. yellow paint. two beds. one close to the door, the other, the window. the windows run along the wall covered in blue curtains. there is a heating vent along the wall under the windows. and chairs. two of them, also blue. a small bedside table. the washroom at the end of the bed.
this whole ordeal actually started in December 2010. i had a Dr's appt on the 15th to get some prescriptions re-filled. after getting that out of the way, my Dr. asked if there was anything else going on. i mentioned that i was having some heartburn and wondered if there was anything he could suggest for it as nothing i was taking seemed to be working. he asked me to tell him about my symptoms. as i mentioned the pain in my chest, the occasional shortness of breath, the being woken from sleep , he asked how long this had been going on. i couldn't really remember. my best guess was sometime around April. he asked what i had been taking and was i doing anything in particular when i noticed these symptoms. i told him that sometimes it happened when i walked, sometimes when i scraped my windshield. i could be sleeping soundly and suddenly awake with pains in my chest, or simply sitting watching TV. when i happened to mention that i would get a pain in my jaw, sort of coming from my neck the look on his face changed.
he immediately said that he thought it was something other than heartburn. he was going to call the Cardiac Clinic and have them set up some tests. he gave me a prescription for some heartburn medication, but he said he didn't think it was worth filling.
later that afternoon i got a call from the Cardiac Clinic asking me to come in the next morning at 8am. i would undergo some tests. i would need to bring running shoes and be in comfortable clothes. naturally i was scheduled to work an 81/2 hr day so i phoned my boss and told her i would not be in and explained the situation. she told me to keep her posted.
long story short, after 2 days of testing (which apparently i failed), the Cardiologist was going to schedule an Angiogram for sometime after Christmas. until then, she told my husband and myself that i was to relax, try to remain stress-free (ahahaa!!) and work was out of the question. i work in a grocery store as a cashier, and she thought that it would be too stressful during Christmas. i guess i had a look but she gave me a note to take in to work and told me to listen to my Cardiologist! i left knowing the hospital would call me with an appointment.
and so for the next week, i stayed home, i shopped for Christmas, i wrapped, i baked, i cleaned. i tried not to stress. i tried not to think of what Dr. S had told me. she said that what i had been feeling was Angina. she was not sure what was going on with my heart but the tests were concerning. the Angiogram would tell them whether my condition could be controlled with Nitro, or if perhaps Angioplasty would work. worst case scenario would be bypass surgery, but that was WORST CASE.
Christmas came and went. it was a sort of quiet affair. no one really saying much about what was going to happen. my youngest daughter came home from college. we went to my sister's for boxing day. my parents were there also. it was a little more sombre than previous years. finally the day came when the hospital called with my appt date. Jan 6 7:30am. was i nervous? a little. was i scared? i'm not sure. i guess i figured that whatever they found out, there was a way to fix it. and if, in the process, i died, i would be none the wiser. odd, i know, but it kept me sane for the moment.
so Jan 6 arrives. we are at the hospital at 7am. my husband and i. i fill out paperwork. wait. wait. trying not to stare at the other people waiting. wondering what they might be there for. i can't help it, i'm kinda nosy like that. finally they call my name. i look at my husband, he squeezes my hand. in i go.
i've had angiograms before. twice. but this was different. they gave me "a little something" to help me relax. they were talking to me while they were doing their thing. my chest was starting to feel heavy. i guess as the dye got closer to my heart it started to react. finally they gave me a couple good sprays of nitro, and i started to feel better. next thing i remember is being in recovery and seeing my husband and daughter. the test was done. at this point the Dr told us that basically i had 4 blockages in my heart. the only option was bypass. definately triple bypass but perhaps quadruple, depending on what the surgeon found once he was "in there". i'm not sure what i was thinking at that point. he then told us they would be transferring me to the Cardiac wing until i was transferred to Toronto. WHAT!!!?? i need to go home. i have to do laundry, and pack and, and, and...OMG! THIS IS FOR REAL! i try to tell them that i feel fine. i haven't had those pains since i saw the cardiologist! they say that is because of the Nitro patches. they say i am a walking heart attack waiting to happen. they transfer me to the Cardiac wing where i stay until Jan 9th.
Jan 9th. afternoon. the hospital gets word from Toronto that they have a bed for me. the transfer ambulance is arranged and i begin the wait. my family arrives. we visit while we wait. finally it is time. my oldest daughter, her husband and my 2 grandkids are not coming to Toronto. they will stay home. my son and his wife will also wait at home. my husband and my youngest daughter will follow the ambulance. it is a weird ride. laying on a gurney all strapped in. sort of sitting up. looking backwards out the window. i can see things passing by. i can see the faces of the people in the car behind us. i try to read. i can't seem to concentrate. i try to doze. finally we arrive. i am escorted by the nurse and the ambulance guys through a maze of halls and elevators. and then i am in my room. the one with the yellow walls.
January 10th. i am awakened at about 4:30am. the nurses come in to check all kinds of things. monitors were exchanged upon my arrival. they are checked again. i am told i may shower. they give me some special soap designed to kill germs on contact i'm sure! then i may read, watch tv, go for a walk, whatever until it is time. apparently my surgeon is usually quite prompt or even early. my husband, son and youngest daughter arrive. they will be staying for the day, and into the evening. my other daughter and her husband will come up later. we talk and go for walks, until my time arrives. finally they say it's time. back on the gurney and down to the pre-op area. my family can wait with me until i go into the operating room. the surgeon comes to talk to us. they will be doing triple bypass. they will decide on the fourth artery only if they deem it necessary once they are in. the nurses are prepping me. getting BP's and such. trying to insert IV's and my veins are not cooperating. it is decided that they will do it in the OR. i am given something to relax me. i think i'm stoned. my son is laughing and it really is pretty comical, in retrospect. then they tell us it's time to go in. there are hugs and kisses and I Love You's. i am freezing, and they give me a warm blanket. the last thing i remember is them trying to get a line in my arm. then nothing.
i am told that the nurses in the CVICU (cardiovascular intensive care unit) woke me up later that evening. i am told that i was awake, and conversing. i am told that i kept falling asleep halfway through sentences. i have no recall of any of this. i believe all of my family were there. i remember nothing. my first memory is of the phone in my room ringing and a very friendly souding nurse answering it. it is my husband. then i remember waking up and my parents and my sister are standing there, with worried looks in their eyes. I AM ALIVE! I MADE IT! i want to yell, but all i can do is smile =)