Heart Broke

So, when last I left you, I was flying down the interstate at upwards of 80 mph, praying out loud, while my dear husband, the Big Bison, was riding in the ambulance that was making a path for us. We were en route to the hospital, to get the BB’s ticker checked out. If you will remember, in Heart Break, things had not come to a pretty pass while the BB was out doing his Abe Lincoln, Rail Splitter imitation, and his ride (the ambulance) had been summoned.

I just threw this in to show you what a ticking time bomb looks like.

We pulled up in front of the St. Thomas Hospital Emergency room, and may I say, I HEARTILY (pun intended) approve of St. Thomas, and every bit of care we received there. We were told that they are one of the top 5 heart hospitals in the nation, and based on OUR experience there, we can believe it. As I bolted from my car and up to the back of the ambulance at the Emergency Room door, I could hear a wonderfully reassuring sound: my husband’s laughter, as he joked with the paramedics who were wheeling him inside. And folks, let me tell you, this is another important reason to call the ambulance rather than having someone drive you to the ER: when the paramedics wheel you in, you get priority. They are expecting you, and take you seriously. So even though his EKG and vital signs all looked good, we were taken immediately back to a private room where monitoring was begun, pronto.

By this time, the BB was feeling back to his old self, and pretty foolish for letting me call the ambulance. This was even more reassuring to me, and I began to really start to try to convince myself that maybe this really HAD been much ado about nothing. They took his blood and and did a chest X-ray, just to eliminate other things that might rule out a heart attack, and when his blood work came back normal, we heaved a sigh of relief, and began to make plans for going home. At this point, the ER doc came back, and told us that when one has a heart attack, enzymes show up in the blood that indicate that the heart has suffered damage. Since the BB’s blood work came back clean, we thought we might be good to go home, but he cautioned us that :

1) the BB’s symptoms (sweating, dizziness, pressure on his chest, pain in his left arm) were fairly classic heart attack symptoms and

2) those enzymes can take up to 9 hours to show up in the blood work, so he didn’t encourage us to make any plans to leave. In fact, he wanted the BB to stay the night, and have a stress test the following morning.

We talked about just leaving anyway: the BB was sure he was fine! It was probably just low blood sugar from not eating! But the doctor encouraged us strongly to stay and see what the next set of blood work (in 3 hours) would show.

So, we called the kids, told them we were staying for the next set of blood work, but were STARVING, and would they please bring us some of that roast chicken that we had left cooking in the house?

We cooled our heels, convincing each other that this was NOTHING. Then, the kids showed up with the chicken, and we had dinner. (Well, he ate. I took one bite, and then my nerves said, “Enough of that!”.) At 10:00 they came in and took the next blood draw. The kids were exhausted: it was late, and we had all been on a huge emotional ride that day. I was for sending them home. And then, the doctor came back in, and told us very kindly, and as gently as he could, that the enzymes were present at a low level, and that the BB had indeed experienced a mild heart attack. The stress test that HAD been scheduled for the morning was canceled: this was a definitive diagnosis. He was being moved to the fourth floor – THE CARDIAC FLOOR – MY BULLETPROOF HUSBAND WAS TO BE A PATIENT ON THE CARDIAC FLOOR.

And just as bad, if not worse, than hearing that news, was the look on each of my children’s faces. We had all been joking and laughing before the doctor came in. It was all going to be nothing, wasn’t it? Just another one of our wacky adventures? Well, no. Daddy wasn’t invincible, or everlasting. I cannot tell you how awful it was, seeing that news sink into their little hearts.

It was 10:45, and the end of a long, terrible evening, and the kids needed to go home, and get some sleep. I wavered. Initially, I sent them on their way, and then the BB and I gazed tearfully into each other’s eyes, had a brief conference on what in the HECK was the right thing to do in THIS situation, where I felt desperately needed in both places, and finally, we decided that I needed to make sure the kids were OK. I called them and told them to give me a minute to get to the car, and then follow me home. They would be out driving after curfew, anyway. I wanted to be nearby, in case anything happened.

The next morning, the BB was scheduled for an arteriogram. That’s where the cardiologist sticks a camera up your femoral artery and shoots you full of dye, to see what’s going on in your heart. Any blockages should show up, and then the cardiologist will decide to either (a) treat your situation with medicines, or (b) insert a stent to open the blood flow in the blood vessel that is blocked or (c) treat you with surgery, such as bypass surgery, where the blood flow is rerouted in your blood vessels, around blockages. We were pretty confident going in that since the BB’s heart attack had been so minor, that this was likely a problem that could be treated with drugs, but in any case, if a stent was needed, that can be done during this procedure, so the likelihood that this procedure would address my Bison’s problem was high.

Imagine my/our shock when the phone call came from the cardiologist, following the procedure, that said that the BB would require bypass surgery. SURGERY??? On my husband??? And again, the children were in his hospital room with me as I took that phone call, and again, I had to see the look on their faces as they processed the news. Good stinking grief. This was the third plummet of this roller coaster ride, and I was really not having any fun at all. I wanted to call a screeching halt to what was happening, but everything was so completely out of my control. This was it: my new reality. My young, healthy, strong, vigorous, 56 year old husband had been carted off in an ambulance, was a patient on the cardiac floor of the hospital, and now was waiting to get the blood thinner out of his system, in order to get him ready for bypass surgery. We found this out on Tuesday around lunchtime, and surgery was not scheduled to occur till Friday morning.

What followed was three days of sitting around in the hospital, waiting for his blood to do its thing. And then, came the full report from the cardiologist that absolutely stunned us: the great big artery on the front of his heart, the one they call the “widow maker”, the left anterior descending artery had two blockages: one blocking 95% of the blood flow, and the second blocking 99% of the blood flow. Perhaps one more swing of that ax, and my husband might have been dead in the driveway, where he was chopping that wood. He was a ticking time bomb, and we had no idea whatsoever. None. Sure, he’d felt a bit tired lately. Yes, his complexion (in retrospect) had been a bit gray, but it never, ever crossed either one of our minds that he had heart issues.

Those three days passed fairly easily, even though the hospital was constantly monitoring his vital signs. We had so many visits from dear, dear friends, who brought us lunches from restaurants, and made us laugh, and shared our shock. Lots of prayers went up from that room. And so much laughter and love filled it that it spilled out the doors, and flowed down the halls. Ah! We were well loved on through visits and phone calls, wacky gifts and cards. And the snacks and meals that you delivered that the kids could take home and eat. I thought of a great new name for my church: Our Lady of Perpetual Casseroles. Gosh, they were good! Even when I was eating them every night around 10:00 or 11:00 when I finally got home from the hospital to check on the kids and the dogs. How great to come home to a meal prepared with love! Thank you, dear ones!

Well, in part 1, we had the actual Heart Break. In part 2, we found out the Heart Broke. I guess you’ll have to stay tuned to hear the rest of the story….so far.


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