Matters of the Heart, Part 9

As I said in the last episode, there’s an old song that says “Only love can break a heart. Only love can mend it again.”

True, but not true.

While the lyrics are good, and the tune is one you remember, the truth of the matter is a bit more complicated. While love can certainly break your emotional heart, the damage by rheumatic fever, congestive heart failure, and other heart diseases can do far more and much longer lasting damage than love could ever think about.

The physical damage to your heart is much harder, much more painful, and longer lasting than any emotional damage.

You don’t want to find that out for yourself. Because it’s hard. Really, really hard. It’s a process, and a long one.

After the results of the echo were determined, the next step was scheduling the trans esophageal echocardiogram (TEE) that would hopefully determine when and what kind of surgery he’d have to have to correct the leaking valve.

So we thought. But it’s never that simple when dealing with matters concerning the heart.

The TEE was scheduled on a Tuesday around 1:00. Because he would be only lightly sedated for the procedure, an overnight stay wouldn’t, or shouldn’t, be necessary. So we went to the hospital late that morning suspecting a fairly quick in and out procedure with the results giving us a clear picture of the next step. Maybe even getting something scheduled.

Surprisingly, I was able to stay in the prep area with him until it was time to actually do the TEE. And it was quick. Seemed I’d no sooner stepped out so they could begin when the nurse called me back again because it was over. Ben had been exhausted that morning, so the light sedation has put him right to sleep! In fact, the nurse assisting his doctor told him in the twelve years she’d been doing these tests, he was the first patient who’d ever gone totally to sleep! Go figure…

The doctor was there and waiting for me when I came back to the room. Ben was already awake and ready to hear the results. And so was I.

But they weren’t quite like we were expecting. The doctor explained that the valve was definitely leaking, which accounted for his shortness of breath and his fatigue. What we hadn’t thought about though, or even considered, was that the valve was leaking not from the center, as the two previous times, but on the side where the sutures were from where the replacement valve had been sewn in some 16 years before. He even drew us a picture on the whiteboard that was in the cubicle to describe what he meant. He explained the sutures were starting to unravel, resulting in the leakage.

And, to further complicate the matter, because of exactly where the leakage was would make it more difficult to replace the valve transcutaneously, or through the veins in the groin, since the valve is normally inserted in the middle of the old one and then “ballooned” out to make a tight fit. (No I don’t think that’s quite the term he used, but that’s all I can remember.)

Plus, to make things even more complicated, it appeared the aorta might also be in need of repair, and that couldn’t be fully determined until Ben underwent a heart catheterization to better see just what needed to be done. And that would have to be done by another doctor who specialized in those procedures.

We got answers, yes, but the answers only led to more questions.

As a former seamstress, my first thought was how long did we have before more sutures started coming out, since I was imagining the stitches unraveling like stitches from a sewing machine when the thread was pulled! Obviously he’d been asked that before, as he explained these were individual sutures, and not subject to the unraveling. However, once some of them started loosening, they would all continue to do so, and it had to be handled. “Fortunately it’s not an emergency, but it is going to require surgery in the near future. We just have to determine how it needs to be done. That’s what the cath is for. It will help determine which way to do it.”

So on to scheduling the cath. Two and a half long weeks to wait because the cath doctor was on vacation and then he was totally booked the following week. Well, I guess that wasn’t bad; at least they weren’t rescheduling someone else to get Ben in because he was in bad enough shape to have the procedure done immediately.

Of course, for him, it meant that much longer to be miserably exhausted and short of breath all the time. His quality of life was definitely not as good as we’d both like, but we had to deal with it for a few more weeks.

So we thought…but we missed that one comment, “have to determine which way….” And making that determination wasn’t going to be as easy as we thought.

And it continues in Matters of the Heart, Part 10, to be published April 1.

Don’t miss the previous stories in this series:
Matters of the Heart, Part 1
Matters of the Heart, Part 2
Matters of the Heart, Part 3
Matters of the Heart, Part 4
Matters of the Heart, Part 5
Matters of the Heart, Part 6
Matters of the Heart, Part 7
Matters of the Heart, Part 8

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