Neither of us said it, but both my wife and I expected the trip to the catheter lab Thursday afternoon to be straightforward. A partial blockage that could be cleaned out by an angioplasty or possibly a stent. Of course those are serious issues, but that didn’t seem fatal, maybe one night in the hospital, a few meds, a new diet, and that would be in the end of this chapter.
Again, we turned out to be terrible at predicting medical issues.
The result of the catheterisation was dire. Two completely blocked arteries, another blockage at 80% and damage near the base the heart. The doctor admitted to us that when he sees these factors in a patient’s heart at my age that the patient is usually in the morgue, not the ICU.
These moments are surreal. Someone is telling you that you should be dead, but in the same sentence they are telling you that they are going to make sure you not only survive, but that you are better than ever when they release you.
I needed open heart surgery as soon as possible, but there was a problem. In my case the issue was blood thinners. At the first hospital we went to they administered a large amount of blood thinners in order to make me comfortable and give my heart a chance to make the trip to Vassar Brothers where it could get the attention it needed.
Once at Vassar Brothers, when the decision for bypass surgery was made, we were informed that we would need to wait five days because blood thinners increase the chance of bleeding during surgery. According to our doctor the risks of bleeding of the brain and other vital organs increases greatly if the open heart surgery is done while blood thinners are in my system. We processed all the information on Thursday night, settled in and decided to wait.
My heart did not feel like waiting.
Friday arrives and the pain slowly builds. No pain killer or ball of nitro under my tongue helped at all. After several hours of the worst pain in my life, I was sent to the catheter lab once again, this time to have a balloon shoved in through my groin and placed near my heart to take some pressure off of my failing organ.
They moved me to another room to wait for the doctor, by this time word had reached most of my close family and there seemed to be a large number of people waiting outside. Unfortunately I couldn’t spend time with them, the doctor came in and informed us that he was not waiting until Monday, that he was going to do the surgery in six to eight hours.
“But what about the bleeding issue from the blood thinners,” asked my mother.
“If his blood isn’t clotting, we will wait, don’t worry,” replied the doctor.
The doctor left us, we were all nervous but with all the pain I was going through the overall sentiment was relief that we didn’t have to wait three more days for the open heart surgery.
Then everything changed --- again.
“We are going right now,” a nurse said while walking into my room just minutes after they had all left. The anesthesiologist entered the room and talked to me, another doctor came in and said something I can’t remember and then they all wheeled me toward the operating room while my family and friends were left stunned in the hallway behind me.
I entered the operating room, was moved onto the slab and the team got to work. The pain in my chest was growing, I could feel my limbs being tugged at and tied down, bodies moving furiously all around me and determined voices coming from every corner of the room.
The last thing I remember is seeing my doctor’s face, I couldn’t hear his words, but I remember nodding before falling asleep.
Then Doctor Shahani and his team went to work --- for nearly eight hours...