Matters of the Heart, Part 13

At the end of our last installment we were arriving at the hospital at an early hour to check Ben in for his heart catheterization procedure. It wasn’t his first one, or second, or even third. I think I’ve lost count by now.

But each time I’m nervous. Something about this particular test just makes me a bit antsy. The idea of running a tiny catheter into an artery up into the heart unnerves me, to say the least. I know it’s done all the time, and the doctor doing this one is an expert with it, but still, it’s one of the procedures that just scares me if I think about it.

(After all, I’m the one who almost fainted when I watched our four year old daughter have blood drawn before her tonsillectomy. Didn’t bother her, but it sure did me! And I still can’t watch the nurses start an IV or draw blood! And if it’s on me… don’t want to know!)

But I did get to stay back in the prep area with him, and yes, I looked away when the needles appeared. He was calm, and hungry, since he couldn’t eat before the procedure, and just wanted it done and over with!

We hadn’t yet met the doctor who would be doing the cath, and eventually the valve replacement itself, but when he came in to talk to us before the procedure, he instantly gave us a lot of peace, and certainly put my mind at ease, or as much as possible. Dr. T had a wonderful bedside manner, a great personality, and explained everything they were going to do, and why, and the next steps that were involved in getting the valve taken care of.

As long as this procedure showed no blockages of the arteries or other problems, they would need an ultrasound of the carotid arteries, a pulmonary function test to check his lung capacity, a CT scan of his chest and abdomen, and a specialized set of dental X-rays to be sure there was no infection in the mouth or teeth. Fortunately two of those next tests could possibly be done that day, and as long as the cath results were good, he would try to have them scheduled to be done before we left the hospital, which was encouraging. The other two would have to be scheduled probably the following week or so.

After he had reviewed all the results, there would then be a consultation with all of the surgical team that would be involved at the Heart Hospital where the operation would take place. There would be 3-4 surgeons from two different cardiology practices involved, as well as the anesthesiologists, the pulmonologists, nurses, etc. It was enough to make our heads spin… And we would be there as well listening to all this and asking questions as they decided how to best operate on my husband!


Yes, a lot of them. But where to start. The biggest one, however, was when this could be done and why we had to go through all of this when everyone knew the valve had to be replaced?!

Quite simply, they have to make sure to determine the best and safest way to do this, especially since he’s had two open heart surgeries before. And you can’t just take him in, open him up, and say “ok, how are we going to do this?”

That makes sense, except when your husband is the one going through it all.

The cath procedure was actually quicker than I anticipated. In fact, we were called back to talk with the doctor probably about 45 minutes after they took him to have it done. Which sort of worried me, especially when we waited in the consultation room for about 15 minutes before the doctor came in. Of course that had something to do with having to wait so long for news from the ablation surgery when we later discovered they’d had trouble stopping the bleeding….

Fortunately that wasn’t the case this time. In fact, as Dr. T told us, the procedure went very well, and from what he saw, Ben was a candidate for the valve replacement by going through the arteries in the groin! Good news!

Because our daughter had arrived after the doctor had talked to us before the procedure, he went through the same basic scenario he’d told Ben and me earlier, except that he was now putting in orders for two of the tests to be done that day if possible, while we were still at the hospital, since Ben would have to be there until at least 1:00. (Catheterization patients are required to stay flat on their backs for 4 hours after the procedure so that the collagen plug used to close the point of entry will stay secure and no bleeding will start.)

Of course he asked if there were any questions, and Ashley being Ashley, she had one very important point to make. “We know he needs the surgery, so you need to get it scheduled as soon as possible. I’m having this baby May 1, so his operation needs to be done now, and he needs to be able to be there that day so he can hold Ryleigh!”

Dr. T just smiled and assured her they’d do what they could to make that happen. but they all wanted the best for her dad, so they’d see what they could do….

And by the way, she wasn’t kidding! Not at all!

Fortunately they were able to do the carotid artery ultrasound shortly thereafter. Since our pregnant daughter was still there they were joking around about checking to see if there was a baby in there, and if it was twins! At least he was still maintaining his sense of humor.

Which continued when he had his pulmonary function test, as he and the technician discussed which wines they liked and what Italian food they wanted for dinner. That test, however, wore him out because of the effort it took for him to take deep breaths and then blow them out quickly. I couldn’t help but wonder how bad those test results were going to be.

Finally, after spending over ten hours at the hospital, we were on our way home. Ben was exhausted, and I was tired as well as stressed. Although we had some hopeful news, we still had to wait for the other two tests, as well as for the doctors to get together and decide what to do and when to do it.

We were still in a holding pattern, and Ben continued to get more exhausted every day, and his shortness of breath slowly increased.

I was anxious and worried, and could only imagine how he felt….

The story continues in Matters of the Heart, Part 14, to be published April 14.

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
Matters of the Heart, Part 9
Matters of the Heart, Part 10
Matters of the Heart, Part 11
Matters of the Heart, Part 12

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