On a personal note I would like to thank everyone for the kind words and well wishes while I am still recovering from open-heart surgery. 2020 was rough on everyone, and I added a few personal complications to my own story. In June, I had a full left shoulder replacement. I had previous surgeries on that shoulder, and it finally got to the point where I just went for it and had it replaced. Then I spent most of the summer recuperating and rehabbing from that.
In early October I went to a routine Cardiologist visit because he monitors me for a heart murmur I have had my whole life. I get a routine echo-cardiogram and my doctor comes back to me and says that things are a “bit fuzzy” and sends me for a CAT scan. The next day I get a call, and I am told to see a surgeon. The CAT scan shows an aneurysm on the aortic artery, and they want to fix it as soon as possible. This thing is 3 times the diameter it’s supposed to be! I was being hit hard with my own mortality.
I had to go for multiple Covid-19 testing before all the procedures leading up to the surgery, and then I needed to have an out-patient procedure done called an angiogram where they stick a camera in an artery, typically in your hand, with alternate spots starting in the groin, to thread it up to your heart for a “look-see”. This is to show the surgeon exactly what and where to go. Of course, for me, they had to go in via the hand, and the groin.
A week later I am being admitted to the hospital and surgery is scheduled. They performed what is known as a “Bentall” procedure [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bentall_procedure] that, in essence, replaces a portion of my aortic artery with a plastic hose and replaced the valve with a mechanical valve. Oh, and as long as they were in there, they corrected the heart murmur as well. My chest is opened up, and they go through the breastbone to perform the procedure, like a scene from the movie “Aliens”. Afterwards, my chest is glued and taped together, with just a few stitches
Unfortunately, I start to run into complications. I go into AFib - an irregular, often rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow. The heart's upper chambers (atria) beat out of coordination with the lower chambers (ventricles). Symptoms include palpitations, shortness of breath, and fatigue. So now they want to do treatment called cardioversion [https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/arrhythmia/prevention--treatment-of-arrhythmia/cardioversion] to help me get back to a normal rhythm back. Another Covid-19 test and three days after major heart surgery, they put me through the shock process; three times. No Luck!
So now they are trying to control all this with medication. After another 7 days in the hospital I get sent home the same day the hospital goes into Code Orange; no visitors at all. [God bless my wife who was there every day for me as long as she was allowed to stay. Every patient needs an advocate watching over you and to have those discussions with your caregivers that are impossible for the patient to have. She was my guardian angel]
I am home a day, and I am still in AFib, when I start developing a full body rash. This set off more visits to my primary, cardiologist and dermatologist, getting a biopsy [more stitches] and being diagnosed with Leukocytolastic Vasculitus, a potentially life-threatening condition. This ended up being caused by one of the medications given to me just before leaving the hospital.
We discontinued that immediately but needed to adjust the other medications to keep various blood test numbers in the correct range, and stable, so that I could then potentially have another cardioversion performed to get me out of AFib.
This all involved doctor visits, visiting nurse visits, visiting Physical Therapy visits and a special nurse to draw my blood every week for testing. The blood draws were always fun as they typically involved at least 4 sticks to get it. Apparently I have “deep, rolling” veins. My arms were entirely black and blue from these.
In the meantime, when I was released to come home, my wife bought me an Apple Watch. This thing is amazing, and I quickly found some apps that would let me monitor my heart, including an app that was like an EKG. I would run the test 3 – 4 times a day and determine that I was still in AFib
Christmas Eve I had a miracle happen. I had checked in the morning and afternoon; still AFib. At six O’clock I checked again. Normal Sinus rhythm! It has been normal in every reading since then. For me, a true and welcome miracle. There is much more to this experience, both good and bad, that I am relating here, but I survived it, and I am recovering.
Things are looking up, and I am feeling much better. I am slowly and cautiously returning to my normal activities, one small step at a time, while getting used to all the new medications I will now have to take for the rest of my life, but that’s a small price to pay for still being alive.
The power of your prayers and well wishes make a difference! Thank you to everyone; I believe I have survived this because of your well wishes.