Is this only Sunday?
As you regular readers of my blog know, last week, on Tuesday, I underwent TAVR surgery, which is a non-invasive, catharized aortic valve replacement. It all went very well, as I wrote earlier, and I was back home on Wednesday. I had a list of symptoms that I should watch for, and on Friday, I hit one of them, dizziness and loss of balance.
I called my TAVR team contact and was advised to go to the nearest Kaiser Permanente clinic to have an ECG. That's what I did. When the technician finished, she just left quietly. Huh? Then she came back with three or four other staff from the clinic, they huddled, and then the attending doc said I was having a heart attack. WHAT?
I was transported by ambulance first to the local hospital but apparently there was some reason for me not to stay there and I was put on another ambulance and transported down the freeway to another hospital about 10-15 miles away. No sirens, and the strange part was that they kept getting normal vital signs. The King Co. Medic on that ride was wonderful, though, as were all of the medics. We chatted while all of this was going on and they learned I was a former teacher, and one of them even said, "Thank you for your service" when we parted. That was a first!At St Frances Hospital in Federal way, not where I wanted to be, but considered the nearest, the staff began to run all the appropriate tests. There was a long list. Readings kept coming back normal. Finally after elimination of other more dire results, it was determined by the cardiologist there that I had pericarditis. This is serious but not life threatening. No, I was not having a heart attack.
All of this time, Tom was trying to keep up with me, where I was being taken, what was happening with me, what were there findings. He got quite the run around for too long a time. He had hurried home to grab a bag for me. When I was whisked away I didn't even have any identification, and no phone. Eventually he was able to talk to the cardiologist and get the diagnosis. I was still in a bit of a blur, but at least I knew now that I wasn't dying.!
To shorten this story, I went through a lot of processes. I finally got my bag and phone delivered when Tom got their attention by saying I really needed it, not because my phone was in the bag, but because "her bra is in it!" That worked. Now I could check with Tom and make sure he was alright, and then I was settled in for an overnight stay in the ICU, because that was the only bed available. No visitors, of course.
There were a few more tests the next morning, and unbeknownst to me, the cardiologist signed me off, cleared me, once I was put on the appropriate medication. However the medical doc in charge wouldn't discharge me. Through my nurses, I learned that he wanted a head MRI to rule out stroke. There was no evidence of stroke. As the afternoon began to fade away I began to press for action. My nurses, who were wonderful, told me he wanted me to stay overnight to see a physical therapist. WHAT! Like I needed someone who had never even spoken to me (he never did) to assign me PT - ME, PT Queen, and to have to spend another night in the hospital to do it? I don't think so.
Well, that did it! I called my sister, who is a retired nurse. She said "WHAT?!" With her advice to start pressing, I told my nurses what I though of the PT idea, that I wasn't staying. I had the most wonderful young nurse and she told me I didn't have to. I had the right to refuse further service. She brought me the papers, I signed them, got dressed and called Tom to come and get me.
We were both so relieved to be out of there. We stopped on the way home for something to eat, and rejoiced in being back in our recliners and our bed. That night I called the KP consulting nurse and told her a shortened story and said I had come away with out my pericarditis medication. She ordered it for me and Tom drove into the city this morning to get it. On Tuesday when offices reopen, I will contact my TAVR team and my cardiologist, and we will go from there.
My health is back in the hands where I want it to be. These are people who are invested in me, know me. And all of this has underscored an important lesson: treat people the way you want to be treated.
All of this was scary for me, but I worked on not being scared. I was lighthearted and warm and friendly, full of thank you's and praise for all of the people who came to my service. I related to them anyway I could, including the lovely African man who did my final test, another echocardiogram. It's a long test and we had plenty of time to talk so I asked him about soccer. That was a hook I was pretty sure would work. Turns out soccer was one of his lifelines growing up in Africa.
Through all of this I maintained a warm glow of almost love as they cared for me and I cared for them. It's the feeling that is top most in my mind as I think back on this experience.
If you made it through all of this, thank you. If not, that's OK too.
Be well. Stay well.
Be kind. I will be returned to you.