Matters of the Heart, Part 18

I said last week we’d publish again after the surgery. Well, the surgery is supposed to be tomorrow, but as I’ve said many times before, you just can’t make this stuff up….

Exactly one week before the scheduled surgery, Ben got a phone call at 3 am. Of course he didn’t answer since he didn’t recognize the number. But since I was out of town with our daughter and her new baby, and there had already been one time I’d needed him in the middle of the night and he hadn’t answered, he decided to check his voice mail.

It was the nurse from his cardiologist’s office calling. His last bloodwork had come back and there was a critical problem with his potassium level, and she needed him to call back right away.

In the middle of the night???

But he called, and had to leave a message. And then stayed awake the rest of the night waiting for her to call back, and wondering what in the world could be so wrong! And was it that serious??

And of course he didn’t get a return call until 7:30 in the morning.

His potassium level, as she’d said, was critically low; it was supposed to be no less than 3.5. His was 2.5. And if it didn’t get up to an acceptable level by surgery time, well, you guessed it. Another postponement until it was where it needed to be.

Evidently with all of the extra lasix he’d been taking, plus the stronger fluid pills, his potassium pills should have been increased as well, but obviously no one on his medical team had thought of that.

So now we had another potential postponement as well as an even bigger problem if the potassium went any lower.

He was to immediately double up on the potassium pills, and take the double dosage twice a day. Cutback on the Lasix. And eat bananas, which are high in potassium. And if he started feeling light headed again, he was to call the office, since that’s a symptom of too low potassium.

His blood had to be checked again on Monday. And if the potassium was still too low, then he would have to go in for an infusion of potassium to get the levels up.

So he started the extra meds immediately and ate extra bananas and avocados, both high in potassium, and both foods he really likes. He also received three phone calls to check on him on that Friday. One from each of the surgeon’s offices and one from the Heart Hospital. And no wonder….

I had googled low potassium and discovered that a level of 2.5 could be life threatening, requiring immediate medical attention, especially in a patient already having cardiac issues.

It seemed that light at the end of the tunnel was still a train that hadn’t veered off on another track yet.

Saturday night he said he could already tell a difference because he was getting short of breath again because of the fluid buildup. But he’d take that as long as the potassium levels increased.

And of course Sunday just brought more fluid buildup and more fatigue. He was able to take me to breakfast for Mother’s Day, but had to go home and rest so we could go out later for dinner.

Monday morning he went to the lab for his bloodwork to check his potassium level. Only to be told there were no orders called in there for him to be tested! Why were we not surprised??

A call to the Heart Hospital was made, and he was told his doctor’s office was to have sent the orders over. Fortunately the hospital went ahead and handled it right then, and he finally had his blood drawn and went home to wait for the answers, which of course didn’t come that afternoon.

What did arrive in the mail that afternoon though, was an envelope from his doctor’s second office location which he doesn’t normally go to, with, you guessed it, the blood test paperwork for him to take to the hospital for the testing…totally opposite of what he’d been told last week!

But finally Tuesday morning he got the call that his potassium level had raised high enough for him to have the surgery without having an infusion!! I have to say I was so relieved I almost cried, and I’m sure he was certainly more relieved than me!

So tomorrow is the procedure, and he will come out of the operating room with a new heart valve which won’t be leaking! He will start feeling better and be able to resume normal activities once again. Please keep us and the entire medical team in your thoughts and prayers.

More to follow in Matters of the Heart, Part 19, to be published as soon as I can have an hour or so to breathe and de-stress and write!

Leave a Reply