Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Date With Angiogram

No, not THAT kind of date! Besides, I am a married man!
The date that I am writing about is my date getting an angiogram this past Tuesday.
I have been having some medical issues lately and as part of making a determination, my regular doctor referred me to a cardiologist. As he put it, to rule every possibility out.
So about three and a half weeks ago I went to the cardiologist. After he did the routine questions and a short exam, he asked if I had an echocardiagram in the last five years and I have. So he suggested that I should have the angiogram based on family history.
My mother, God rest her soul, had a heart attack before I was 10 years old. And two more after that and a stroke for good measure. Eventually 20 years ago on November 1, 1993, her heart finally gave out. And one other thing that piqued the doc's curiosity was that she was also Type 2 diabetic.
So I agreed to the procedure. The nurse explained the bare basics of what would happen.
I got the call from the doctor's office last week that this past Tuesday was open at 1:30pm. I kind of hemmed and hawed because Mrs. RVFTLC and I were going to the local apple country, Oak Glen, California that day. But I realized that this was important to do. So I made the appointment.
And being a good little patient, and having the best wife, we showed up at Arcadia Methodist Hospital right across the street from the Santa Anita race track. No, I did not stop off and place a bet before the procedure. Besides, the track was not open and I was with Mrs. RVFTLC, not a fan of playing the ponies.
I came in the bare minimum of a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops for I knew that I would have to change in one of those lovely hospital gowns. Why are they called gowns?! Anyhow, after a very pleasant registration process, a nice young hospital volunteer took me to the pre-op observation center. And Mrs. RVFTLC could be there with me which made a sort of disconcerting situation less so. And it did not take long to go from my civvies to the gown. BLEECH! To me, it was the mark of humiliation. Then a lot of the prep work began. The IV needle, gage as the nurse called it, was placed in my hand and then some blood was drawn. After that, the IV packet was all tubed up and I had to wait. And wait. And wait. After a while the nurse came back and explained that in their testing of the blood, I was low on potassium. And they had to give me some before they could proceed. OK, in comes another pouch. To be honest, it kind of looked like urine. Seriously. But the nurse explained that they would just feed the potassium through the IV and it would be going in at the same time. And she warned that it might hurt. And she was not kidding. It was painful for the rest of the time in the pre-op room. At that point the nurse asked if I wanted to watch TV. Of course, why not. But I figured it would just be the local channels. That is was it was my last hospital visit. But to my happy surprise, there was cable. And yes, even Fox News Channel. HOORAAY! So I was able to watch that and rail about health care all in the joys of Arcadia Methodist Hospital!
Enduring the pain of nutrients and medicine going through a vein on top of my left hand, it seemed like forever before the nurse said that I was about to go to finally take the test. After taking a mild sedative, some short dude came in to tell me he was taking me to the testing room. Then I was able to walk from the bed in pre-op to the gurney. Rather uncomfortable one at that. And to be honest, I kind of wondered if this guy was going to be able to transport me to the basement of the hospital. But he was in pretty good shape. He had no trouble. We got into the bowels of the hospital and I felt more that I was suddenly on a movie set. And I was able to get a good look at the attendant and he was pretty buff. It made me feel better that he was able to wheel my 250 thereabout girth all over the hospital.
But I still had to go from the gurney and I was placed on to an even narrower one. And that is where the magic of the angiogram was to take place.
A nurse, a through male nurse, explained everything he was doing. First the numbing agent was being applied to my right groin area. A little on the left side. But mostly on my right groin. Then he said a slightly stronger sedative was being connected to my IV tube. That replaced the potassium and was much less painful. And yeah, I felt no pain in just a little bit. No, I did not go to sleep. I was awake throughout. Then the catheter was being put in by the doctor. He did his thing and was able to determine quickly that I had not only no arterial blockages but that my heart muscle was very strong.
I was so glad to hear that news.
As it turned out, the whole time I spent in the basement was about 40 minutes if I remember right. Then I had to find out I was nowhere near done. I was being wheeled to a private room and would have to stay several hours. That is the way it is for the procedure. Because they do use a dye to determine if there are blocked arteries, one has to stay at least three to four hours getting a lot more IV juice and in my case, eating.
What a surprise!
I was able to snag a hospital dinner out of the day. I had not had anything but a couple of small containers of Jello at 6:30am. It was already 7pm. Now mind you, it was hospital food, but I was hungry. so I ate all of the chicken, taters, rice, graham crackers, pudding and an orange all topped off with apple juice and a lot of water.
Water is very important to drink because one must be able to urinate to flush a lot of the dye out of the system. I had a lot to drink. Eventually I was helped by a lovely nurse's assistant to the restroom. And to add to more humiliation, she said that I had to do my business in a bottle because they had to measure how much I went. So I did. And did. And did. when I was finally done, I filled 28 ounces of a 32 ounce bottle. Amazed the NA and the nurse. That sped up the check-out and I finally was done at about 10pm. A total of nine hours for about a 40 minute procedure.
But it is necessary. To do the prep and post time. Even as I type this, my right groin is very sore. And I also have a strange burning sensation just below my bandaged area.
Super, super kudos to all the staff of Arcadia Methodist Hospital. Not only were they professional but very nice and made me feel like I was the only patient in the hospital.
I usually do not like to write such things, personal things especially dealing with my own health. But I think it is important enough to advise that if you do think you have something not right and it is the heart, make your cardiologist give this test. For many people it has been a lifesaver.
As for me, my date with angiogram turned out to be, thanks be to God, piece of mind.

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