An Aortic Valve Replacement, Part 2 of 2.
Authors Note: Most of my readers know that I have no problem in putting my life experiences out there for public consumption. Especially if I think and hope that it will help someone else or at the very least explain a particular incident or personal milestone. This ordeal is one of those occasions. CHII.
The next day, I stopped by a friend and clients house as I had to inform him of the pending surgery while dropping off an income tax form. He took it well, although I could see the concern in his facial expression. He mentioned a vigorous walking program was required after the surgery. A couple of his friends had been through the surgery, afterward losing weight. I left there promising to keep him informed and don’t worry; we will get through this tax season on time.
I left his house and called on a former co-worker and friend. I also prepare her and her mother’s taxes. She too had this serious expression on her face. She, always blunt and to the point asked if I was scared. I told her, no, but I was anxious even though I had placed my trust in God. I left as she promised to keep me in her prayers.
Now my mind keeps going past the surgery date, release from the hospital and recovery time. January is a busy month for people in accounting, specifically those who are keeping books for their or other businesses. End of the year income, expenses and ending inventory must be determined and recorded as the final 2015 totals. All type of documents, federal and local governmental papers are due by the end of the month. The business license needs renewal for the year. January 31st is the day W4, 1099, etc. is due to employees and independent contractors. Also from that, as a Tax Prepare February through April is spent preparing and filing 2015 taxes. The bottom line was if God allows me to survive this process, I don’t have a lot of time. Now there is something to take my mind off of surgery. In other words, please God let me get through this process because as you very well know, I’ve got stuff to do and owe various services to my clients. Some of which, I haven’t even told about this little hiccup in my life.
Wednesday, December 30th: the date of the Pre-Op appointment in the City (San Francisco). My wife and I Left home at 5:11 am for the hour and a half drive to a 7:45 am appointment time. Why so early, one never knows what may happen in commute traffic. Frankly, the timing was perfect, we able to find a parking spot in front of the hospital. We had to go there for blood work, urine test, and a chest x-ray. We also went through the pre-admission process followed by a visit to the cafeteria for breakfast just before the scheduled tests.
After finishing, we went to our scheduled appointment at the clinic down the street. There we had an interview with the Anesthesiologist, preoperative teaching by a Registered Nurse, Physical exam by a Nurse Practitioner and an EKG. All in all the Pre-Op process took about six hours. Given the fact that they examine the test results for the mornings test and all test before that, we passed with flying colors.
The only problem I have, which I did tell them was this toothache issue. Not one to take any chances, I called my dentist from the hospital cafeteria and left a voice mail. I received a call from his wife after arriving home. She scheduled an 11:00 am appointment for the next day which should allow the dentist to locate the problem and repair it in time for the operation. We shall see what he sees so to speak.
My dentist found a cavity the next day. He repaired it and assured me that would be the end of my toothache. The only other pending issue was to get a complete understanding of my Sleep Apnea diagnosis. I decided to send an email of my concerns to the email address provided in the instructions. I explained in detail the problem and requested a written diagnosis. In my mind, I was not comfortable using the machine while sleeping at night. Uncomfortable, even though my dentist filled my cavity and specifically gave me a treatment that would prevent the cold air via the tubing and mask from affecting me. I figured I would wait for their response as I was no longer sure of the severity of my Sleep Apnea.
January 5th arrived with me having a Blog Talk Radio Show (BTR) scheduled for the next day. Obviously, I had steps to take to prepare for a guest interview, select the five songs from which artist I would play during the show. At this point, I had not gotten a response to my email from the Sleep Testing Department. I noticed the difference between the customer service correspondence address, where I took the test and received the loaner machine. After sending an email to the guest of the BTR Show hour, I called Kaisers Sleep Studies Office as I had an 8:00 am appointment on January 6th.
It was then that I vocally informed the scheduler about my concerns and asked to cancel the next day’s appointment. She obliged, listened to my complaint and asked about my availability for that afternoon to see another specialist. I agreed to a 2:00 pm appointment. She also asked me to bring in the loaner machine. I was happy to comply with that request since I had not used it even after visiting my dentist. My thinking was that I would finally get the real 411 on my diagnosis and find out about another machine.
My wife and I arrive a few minutes before the appointed time. I took the time to go the toilet while waiting for the specialist. He came to call me in the office while I was in the toilet and jokingly told my wife that I should have used the bathroom before I arrived at the clinic. I must say the appointment went uphill from there. It was the exact opposite of my previous visit. During that visit, the lady specialist seems to be in a hurry which explains why my wife nor I received a full understanding of what had and was to occur with the loaner machine.
We joked about the medication causing one to have to use the facilities so often. He told a story about a guy who keeps a milk container in his car on short and long trips. I agreed I could have used one on my trip to see a client in Berkeley yesterday. He made us feel comfortable and answered our questions in a detailed and descriptive manner. He told me that I had severe Sleep Apnea as I stopped breathing on an average of 59 minutes per hour. The loaner machines air pressure had pretty much brought a halt to the stoppage by keeping my airway open during the short testing time. The result was he ordered my machine that also included the humidifier attachment. It’s a unit that calls for filling it with distilled water. I left feeling comfortable with the service provided and assurance I would receive my unit within a week. I know that the surgeon’s office has the test results and to be sure, I will remind them of the date of the operation.
It’s 5:40 am, January 8: While adding notes to this article, I thought about the urgency of returning to the dentist yesterday. The tooth that he repaired was aching. As he attempted to locate the problem, he remarked it was almost impossible to see, while also mentioned the need for a root canal if this additional cavity filling did not calm down the tooth. He wanted me to check back with him on Monday, the day before the scheduled surgery.
After returning home, one of my client-friends (Barry) called to see how I was holding up. He and the other client, Dave, who I’d saw that past Monday, had been talking about this and that. When he mentioned it, both of us just busted out laughing with me remarking that “Dave is just like an old refrigerator, he can’t keep anything.” I know…to some people that statement don’t make sense, but it’s an old inner-city hood term. It simply means a person can’t keep a secret. Not that it was a secret, I just asked Dave to wait until I told Barry. At that point, I informed him of the complete story with the diagnosis of required surgery. In the end, it was another client who agreed that we had a lot to do this year, so he would keep me in his prayers.
5:15 am, January 11: The day before the surgery. I am tired of talking about it. I am exhausted from thinking about it. Yesterday, up around 4:00 am, I read through the Heart Valve Surgery – Repair or Replacement of a Problem Heart Valve the cardiologist gave me. It only confirmed what I’d been told by Kaiser Personnel. The medical personnel gave me a greater understanding of where the valve’s located, the ins and outs of Recovery Soon After Surgery and a summation of What Lies Ahead. This morning, I will read through the Cardiovascular Surgery – Outpatient Information booklet.
I am ready for the end of this procedure. I wish it were today instead of tomorrow. I believe my wife is ready as she will have the company of our church member and First Baptist Sun Rise Café Administrator, Kimberly (Kim,) Spears. We will pick her up at the BART Station in the morning on the way to the hospital. Our friends and neighbors Rene and Larry Thompson will meet Sandra at the hospital around 10:00 am tomorrow morning. So my wife will have the company she needs during the process up to the intensive care time. I am so grateful to those individuals that they are willing to be there for us. I know, I am in family members prayers and my children are aware and awaiting the outcome. Even my heart is ready. Anything that affords me a better quality of life after I’ve abused my body (weight gain) in so many ways over the years is a God send. The original cookie monster, ice cream, pies and cake lover are ready to do this thing. So bring it on.
January 12th, the big day has arrived. Of course, I’d grabbed the wrong directions to the hospital on the way out of my house. Lo and behold, Kim came to the rescue while receiving directions from her phone. By now I pretty much knew where I was going, just need to be sure of the rights or lefts. Although the traffic was heavy, we were able to get a parking space across the street from the hospital.
I was in good spirits after my surgeon told me he had a good night sleep, no love life issues or other problems.
If you’ve ever had this procedure then you can talk about it with someone who experienced it. Don’t get me wrong, we are all intelligent enough to imagine what a heart surgery must be like from listening to others who have had it. Or you may be a health aide on staff at a heart operations unit. Or you just think you understand through osmosis or something. Unless you have experience it up close and personal you have no clue.
The hospital health staff personnel are priceless in their duties to do their job and assist in getting a patient through the entire process. Everyone else is just standing on the side, no matter how much compassion they have for their friend or loved one. It is a process one must experience firsthand to comprehend what has happened to your body along with the impact or downright shock in the aftermath. In my case, ignorance to a certain point was bliss. Remember, I said bring it on…the surgeon and nurses did just that. I woke up afterward, initially feeling as though somebody was standing on my chest. My first inclination is to get up or, at least, sit up. No can do, considering all the wiring, tubing, and measurement machinery attached to me. Shortness of breath and tubing had me in a state where I could not talk.
What was an obtrusion and very uncomfortable from the moment I woke up was the tubing unit they had going through my mouth and into my throat. There I lay with this contraption for lack of a medical term preventing me from talking or choking at the moment. As I lay there later to learn I was indeed in the intensive care unit; it became a more of a problem for me. I don’t know if it began to get into my head or not, but as hours passed, I felt it had to be removed, or I would choke to death in spite of its intentions. After a few hours which could have been minutes, I sent signals to the nures remove it. She came back with the explanation that it was necessary at the time to measure something or the other. All I heard her say was that it could not be removed at this time.
Another few hours passed, as I laid there falling in and out of sleep. Each time awakening to my body asking the question, “Are they trying to choke me to death with this contraption?” The nurse would periodically take my vitals and ask how I was doing with my hand signal answer by now always the same. Can you remove this damn thing from my throat?
I think she finally got the message that I was beginning to have a reaction of some sort to this contraption. My throat began to heat up as I could feel the tip of this thing warming. I don’t know if it was in my head or was this thing starting to choke me in spite of draining any fluid from my throat area. Thank God, they finally got the minimal vital sign. I know this because I heard the nurse ask the doctor if it could be removed despite not reaching the maximum required reading. She reported that I was becoming agitated by it so much so that his body is showing signs of irritation with it.
Finally, after an hour or so she returned to assure me that the unit will be extracted from my throat. The tech that would perform the removal was on his way and that I could calm down. Talk about relief, I’d felt tears rolling down my cheeks from my passionate plea to get this thing out of my throat. The tech took all of a couple of minutes to remove it once he arrived in the room. Then he asked how I was feeling. It was too soon for me to try and speak but I let him know, I felt greatly relieved by a hand signal. I was able to express my appreciation to the nurse within minutes. For me, the worst of it was over, I would learn later on during my hospital stay. In spite of the fact, the next phase would also be a challenge to my sense of manhood.
Imagine this; you’ve been provided medication to make you pee or have a bowel movement. How about medication to raise or lower your potassium and other body functions? As noted, doing and directly after the operation, you are hooked up to various monitors to register how your body is responding to the new aortic valve.
Now imagine how you fell when you cannot go the bathroom on your own. At times, while your family and loved ones look on as you try to pee in a jar to produce a sample measurement for the health personnel. Every vital function in your body is being measured for consistency during the Intensive Care Unit period and through the days when you’re moved to a recovery ward and room.
You are no longer independent, and all your dignity must be surrender as they check, double-check, and monitor your vital signs along with the mechanical reading from the medical machinery hooked up to your body. There is no time or room to be modest. You become totally dependent on the nurses and other staff attending you. For people like me, it is a trip to realize you’re no longer in control of events.
The next time you get that independent feeling will be at discharge. The only way that happens is if the hospital staff and surgeon feel it is conducive to your rehabilitation. At that point your entire being is looking forward to that day, but only if the signs point to that conclusion.
The doctors and nurses let you know the entire ordeal is really up to you. It’s like a self-help process now with the difference being the reward is either life or death. If I did not make this crystal clear at the outset, an aortic valve replacement results in longer life expectancy.
I’m writing this article because I wanted to share. I also wanted do advise all who think they know but don’t have a clue please take heed. The proper exercise of your body and healthy eating is not just slogans. If my chance you get to my diagnosis, this is what you can expect. Or better yet, check the meaning in a great presidents quote, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” -Abraham Lincoln
Peace, make it a day in which Jesus Christ would be proud of you,
Codis Hampton II
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