Deja Vu, No Bueno

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Sheila realized, pretty early on, that my propensity for mindless blathering (both IRL and here online) was going to lead to major disruptions in her prior “private” status. Before Sheila met me she led a kinda quiet, low-profile existence, preferring to stay incognito when it came to social media things.

Of course, that all went to heck in a hand basket the minute I entered her life. Within the first few days … not even weeks, but days … she was plastered all over FB, no longer a social media wall flower. I guess that’s the perils of getting involved with a musician from NJ; we clearly have no sense of personal boundaries.

It was just a bit under two years ago that we met while adjusting to the losses of our respective spouses. That time period was filled with doctors and hospitals and medicines, stresses over insurance, dealing with adjustments to the new “normal” for each of us, and generally trying to reset our lives. As we have chatted about that time, one of the things we both were grateful for was the end to the mind-numbing “medical” things we had been dealing with.

Now, two years later, here I am, sitting in Kennestone Hospital, in the cardiac unit, while Sheila is being prepped for a heart catheterization and likely stent placement. She has been quite tired of late, with a real lack of energy (both of which are completely contrary to her normal disposition), and a recent routine work physical revealed some inconsistencies in her EKG. This led to today, at Kennestone, a place neither one of us wants to be.

This isn’t a major issue … even if the stent needs to be installed, the procedure itself is so routine and commonplace that most people consider it to be almost “expected” once you get to a certain age. And Sheila is in very good condition, in general, so we certainly don’t expect any type of complications as a result. Of course, there will be some changes necessary … probably a change in diet, less caffeine even though Sheila is only a 1-2 cup a day person, almost certainly a reduction in salt (that’ll be a big change since Sheila LOVES salty snacks), but nothing too different. Sheila leads a pretty good lifestyle and isn’t an abuser of alcohol or drugs or anything like that.

And we don’t expect to receive any directives to stop buying fabric … she’d never be able to give that up.

I think there is a reality that comes with being older … doctors and hospitals and medical concerns simply come with the territory. Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier to accept, and even though this procedure is run-of-the-mill and ordinary for so many people, that doesn’t mean it has no impact on you.

We’re checked in, Sheila is being prepped for the procedure and I’m in the assigned “waiting room” with the requisite coffee pot, tea and water available for family members. It will be about 45 minutes, at which time I’ll be able to spend a few minutes with Sheila before she goes into surgery.

I’m nervous. Routine or not, they’re monkeying around with Sheila’s heart, that can never be a good thing. I have no expectation that things will go wrong, but even so, I’m nervous.

Called back into the pre-op area, just about 45 minutes since we first parted company, so their initial info was spot on. The staff here at Kennestone have been remarkably pleasant and informative, at least so far, a BIG difference from my prior hospital ventures a few years ago where no one would so much as make eye contact with you, let alone be chatty and pleasant. Differences between New Jersey and Georgia, I guess.

Sheila looks good, actually too good … you kind of expect people to be a little bedraggled when they are hospitalized, not look like they are ready for a photo shoot. But I’m glad she is relaxed and not too stressed; I actually think that I am far more anxious about all of this.

All of the familiar routines are taking place … the pre-op talk-thru where they tell you all of the things that could go sideways on you (I’m sure that is a liability limiter to some extent or another), then the assuring “all will be well” chat.

Now, here comes the bed transport person who will take Sheila to the operating area. Very pleasant and kind, as they all have been so far. We’re taking the long walk from the pre-op to the operating area … I can come along and will be waiting in a somewhat differently holding room this time … these sterile hospital walls looking far too familiar. I don’t like the memories that are cropping up.

At the inevitable fork-in-the-road now where we will part ways. A chance to kiss, and let Sheila know how much I love her one more time, and she’s off.

status 1

I’m in the holding room where families and sig others are housed while the patients are undergoing their procedures. There is a computer screen with patient status displayed; yellow is waiting for the start, green is in process, blue is all done. White means the patient isn’t totally into the system yet. Sheila is, right now, yellow.

The mix of individuals waiting here in the holding room is unique. I can’t believe how many “groups” are here, 3-4 people all crewed up together waiting for news about their loved ones. One group is 5, they are waiting for “Dave from Dunwoody”… it’s nearly a party atmosphere with these characters, a tad annoying to be honest, but most of it is nervous energy. Even so, I still wonder why such a large contingent would be necessary, especially since it’s not like they are a father and his three kids waiting to see how Mommy fares. These are 5 adults all here for “Dave from Dunwoody”, a phrase I’ve heard at least 6 times now over the past 15 minutes.

The most recent arrival is an older chap, maybe in his late ’70’s?, who is having issues with his phone. A series of rather loud and irritating beeps, buzzes and dings are emanating from this old coots flip phone. I’m inclined to go over there and take that thing from him, but I have to remind myself I’m not in Jersey anymore. Mercifully, he has put away the flip and is now reading a book.

Just about at the 30 minute mark now, Sheila continues to be status “yellow”. As I understand it, once they start the procedure it’s about 30-45 minutes to completion. “Dave” is, apparently, in process, based on the collective voices of his crew. The old nut with the flip now has a repetitive “ding” emanating from the phone and it seems he either doesn’t hear it or refuses to acknowledge it. My Jersey self is wondering if it’s possible to just take the flip and smash it on the floor? Nah, that’d be an over-reaction and not something they do in Georgia.

1 hour now, Sheila still sporting a “yellow” tag. The “Dave from Dunwoody” crowd has increased by 1, now 6 blabbermouths yakking it up. Current topic is diarrhea. Lovely.

status 2

1 hour 20 minutes now, Sheila’s status has changed to “pink”. Pink??? They never mentioned pink? However, my expert, sleuth-like skills have determined that pink=patient ready. I am a genius, no doubt.

The patient might be ready, but the doctor is still standing right outside the holding pen here, talking to, I assume, her previous patients sig other. I was about to tell her to get back to the operating room, but I quickly realize that it’s not a great idea to tick-off the doctor about to poke around your wife’s heart.

status 3

1 hour 40 minutes, Sheila is now “green”, undergoing her procedure. My ability to ascertain her status is uncanny. I feel apprehensive, yet at the same time, fairly confident.

Mr Flip Phone, who had departed the pen in search of something to eat, is back and making more racket with a potato chip bag than I thought was humanly possible. Plus, he makes a significant amount of mouth-noise while eating. I look at the status board, Sheila is still green. “Dave-Dunwoody” contingent are discussing politics, apparently there is a disagreement about how the country is being run … some wanted things to remain status-quo post-Obama, some like this new Trump age. They are, uniformly, all idiots with nothing but cliche statements about their respective positions.

I’m now hoping Mr Flip makes even more mouth noise … maybe he’ll drown out the sextet …

50 minutes since Sheila turned to “green” status … the odd thing about the status board is that you begin to resent the info provided, primarily due to its lack of specificity. “534516 Goo,S Procedure” doesn’t impart any detail … is she getting a stent put in? Is everything okay? Is she almost done? None of that type of info is available, just “procedure”.

If a stent was being put in, they were projecting the procedure to take 45 minutes. Based on the 50 minute time table, I’m assuming that was the case, but I just don’t know. The status board is a blessing and a curse.

I have had two cups of pretty bad coffee and a vending machine packet of cheese-peanut butter crackers. Mr Flip is done consuming food, switching to snoring while napping.

Oh, blessed quiet! “Dave” parade has finally left the room! Mr Flip snorted himself awake and is reading a book. I’m at 1:20 and counting. Getting very anxious now.

At 1 hour and 35 minutes the surgeon is calling my name, “Mr Goode?” “Your wife told me to look for a tall guy with beautiful white hair, so I knew it was you”. I told her I wasn’t so sure about the beautiful hair part, but tall? Yup, that’s me.

The doctor, a little lady, proceeded to tell me about the operation. A 90% blockage in a main artery, expanded the artery open and put in the stent, all went well, etc. after some precautionary talks about what Sheila can and cannot do for the next week or so, there she was! Semi-sitting up in her surgery bed, getting wheeled down the hall, looking nothing like someone who just had life-saving surgery performed and more like someone who just woke up from a catnap. She looks beautiful, and wonderful, and now I can relax.

“The anterior interventricular branch of left coronary artery, (also left anterior descending artery (LAD), or anterior descending branch) is a branch of the left coronary artery. Occlusion of this artery is often called the widow-maker infarction due to a high death risk.”

The “widow-maker” …

Sheila had a 90% blockage of one of the main arteries to her heart. Something the professional people call a “widow-maker” due to the high risk of death. And we could have missed it, easily, if not for a routine physical showing a strange EKG result. We could have waited too long if we didn’t get the quick appointment from the cardiologist we were lucky enough to make after someone cancelled, creating an opening. It could have been too late if we didn’t get additional scans done quickly, or if we didn’t get an opening in the surgeons schedule as fast as we did (2 days). The “widow-maker” ….

Sheila and I both know how quickly life can change on you. A little over two years ago we were strangers mourning the loss of our spouses, today we dodged a serious bullet. This excursion to Kennestone Hospital took us back to times and places we didn’t want to think about, and this close call made us appreciate, even more than we already do, how fortunate we are to have each other.

Yes, Sheila is fine … looks and feels great, in fact! You’d never guess what just took place by just looking at her. And we feel blessed, no question about it.

But a lot of old, hard memories were dragged up today at Kennestone Hospital, and that’s why I said, right at the top …

“deja vu, no bueno ” ….

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