Friday, January 21, 2011

fixing a broken heart.

note: this is long, but i am trying to get down all the details while i can still remember most of them.

i was scheduled to have my ablation to correct my wolfe parkinson's white syndrome on tuesday morning.  

well, tuesday did not start as well as i had wished. won't go into details here, but let's just say, kyle and i were about 15 minutes late getting to the hospital.  and since we were unfamiliar with mt. carmel west campus, had a little trouble figuring out where we were supposed to go.  when it's all said and done, we got there, and that's all that really matters.  before i begin to recap what the day held for me, i must say that i was overwhelmingly impressed with the nursing staff at west.  from the moment we got there until we left, they were some of the most compassionate, empathetic, humorous, caring nurses i have ever encountered.  i wish i could remember every one of their names so i could write them each a thank you, but, well let's be honest, i was sedated or recovering from sedation most of the day. :) i remember three of their names.  one of the nurses that prepped me was crystal.   the anesthestiaologist was named doris.....or was it lois..???  and the nurse in charge of my recover was jessica.  she was so great!  moving on...

once i was brought back into the room to be prepped, i started to get very nervous.  lots of deep breathing and quiet prayers were said for a safe, quick, and successful procedure.  at almost exactly 8:00 am, i was wheeled back to the room where the procedure would be done. i kissed kyle goodbye and tried to relax.  the nursing staff got me all wired up and then the sedation came. i was told it would be twilight sedation. i was hoping to be put completely under, so that was a bit disappointing...but as lois (or doris) explained, if i were completely sedated, they would not be able to start my heart racing (pace my heart) in order to find exactly where the problem was.  she began the sedation and i believe i was completely out of it for about 2-3 hours.  i then started to wake up and from that moment on i remember everything that happened.  

when i woke up they were pacing my heart.  i heard lots of conversation as they were trying to pinpoint the exact location of the extra electrical pathway.  it was an uncomfortable situation, but not painful.  i do remember saying to one of the nurses, "that's pretty cool that you can just turn it on and off like that"....referring to the fast heartbeat.  they finally did locate it, and unfortunately, it was not on the right side of the heart.  it was just inside the wall of the left side.  this meant they had to cross the middle wall of the heart to get to it.  this extra step increases the risk for stroke and other problems, so they had to give me blood thinner.   at this point i had 4 catheters.  i remember, vividly, them inserting the 5th.  that was painful.  truly.  i gasped and almost cried out.  they gave me a bit more sedation, but honestly, i don't remember getting a whole lot of relief from it.  

finally came the time when they were going to go in and ablate that little pesky pathway.  they do this by applying heat and essentially burning it.  the first "burn" they did lasted only 15 seconds or so, and i guess it totally got rid of it...the nurses and doctors were astonished that it was gone.  he did an "insurance" burn for 2 minutes just to be absolutely sure...lord knows i don't want to have to go through this again.  in fact, i have said i would rather have another baby without any pain killers than ever experience this procedure again.  i felt a sensation of warmth in my chest as they did the 2nd burn.  it didn't hurt, it was just...weird.  the doc then removed the wires...again somewhat, actually very, uncomfortable and a bit painful.  

i was wheeled to recovery and i had to lay completely flat and while not moving my legs for 2-3 hours.  they had to wait for the blood thinner to work its way out of my body so they could remove the 5 catheters.  once my blood was sufficiently thick enough, they ushered kyle and my mom out of the room and began the extraction.  this was probably my least favorite part of the entire ordeal.  as i usually get very light headed and nauseous when i give blood, the nurse reclined me so that my head was lower than the rest of my body.  then removed the catheters.  OUCH.  she removed them from the right side first and then had to apply pressure to the area for a full 20 minutes before bandaging me up and putting a sandbag on me to keep applying pressure.  then to the left side.  i tried to hold it together, but i am fairly certain a few tears escaped.  and then the pressure, and bandage and sandbag process.  all in all, it took close to an hour just to take the catheters out.  at that point, i still had to keep my legs still for a bit longer, but i was allowed to incline my head to a 30 degree angle. my mom and kyle brought me back food, but i just couldn't eat.  i tried, but ended up feeling sick.  so i drank some sprite and forced down a few graham crackers over the course of an hour or two.  i think i really started to feel better once i was able to get on my feet again.  

i got to go home around 6:00pm.  and my mom and dad had brought down meatloaf and mac and cheese.  by the time i got home, i was famished and ready to enjoy the yumminess!  had two helpings and then relaxed on the couch for a bit.  i was supposed to stay in a reclined position on my back for the rest of the night.  after about an hour, i headed to bed.  tried to stay on my back the entire really old, but i did it.  

i found out later from my mom and kyle that after the procedure was done, the doc came out and talked to them for about 20 minutes.  they had lots of questions and he is pretty great about answering questions in a way you can understand.  he told them that what they found out while doing the procedure is that i had a really dangerous form of wpw.  instead of the pathway just going up, it went both up and down.  this type of problem is what can cause people to just drop dead where they stand.  my heart would instantly go to 230+ beats per minute while they were pacing it, and because of the double pathway, it makes the upper and lower chambers both race independently of each other....really dangerous.  i am so thankful that i got this procedure done...and that God has been keeping me safe for the last 15+ years.  

as of now, i have had no issues with any racing, skipping, or fluttering... it really is amazing to me what doctors and technology can do these days.  the doc told kyle and mom that this is one of those few medical procedures that can 100% cure the problem.  now, that's not to say that they may not have to go in a 2nd time (PLEASE...NOOOOOO!!), but once it's gone, it's gone forever!  YIPPEE!!!

i was told to basically take it easy for 3 days. basically, the risk of bleeding from the sites where the catheters were is the biggest concern.  any blood, or warmth, and i am to call 911 immediately.  no driving, walking to a minimum, take care when standing up and sitting down, sneezing, coughing....  today is the last day.  looking forward to getting back to a more normal routine. however, i am not to begin running again until next week.  i am trying to embrace the rest, but i am beginning to CRAVE a good run.   

 i am so thankful for everyone that has taken care of me, prayed for me, emailed/called to check on me, made meals, sent flowers, graded my exams, brought me my exams and other goodies.....  i am very blessed to be surrounded by so many great people.  GOD IS GOOD!!


  1. wow... that is a big day. Glad you are on the road to health!

  2. thanks neil! soon i will be back to my normal running fool of a self! :)

  3. count me in as another person praying and cheering for you! stay strong, Melanie! And thanks for passing by my blog always =)

  4. Wow, what an ordeal you had to endure! But you are resting and getting stronger and next week, back to the roads and I'm certain you'll be more grateful than ever to be running! Rest up and feel better soon. And thanks for remind Chris about the Goddess thing...hehe.

  5. Oh my good gracious gravy! I am so so sorry you had to endure all that - it sounds so painful. OTOH thank goodness you were able to have it done and are now healthy. Take it easy; take care of yourself. God bless you.