Hospitals, Heart Conditions and Tiny Miracles
One week ago today, my husband Jamie entered Good Samaritan Hospital. The three days that ensued were among the most frantic and stressful of our married lives.
Jamie had originally set a doctor’s appointment to undergo some routine testing for the chest pain he had experienced during aerobic activity. Almost immediately he was admitted into the Clinical Decision Unit as the doctors forged forward for a diagnosis and treatment.
No abnormalities showed up on his EKG nor on the other tests the doctors performed so they decided he should spend the night for monitoring and then put him on the treadmill at 7 a.m. the next morning.
If you’re not familiar with sluggish Jamie in the morning, that alone might have killed him.
Sure enough as his heart rate rose, the chest pain began. The problem is, though he was hooked up to every contraption in the hospital, no abnormalities showed up on the EKG and the cardiologist was stumped.
“Oftentimes the EKG doesn’t show what’s really going on,” the doc explained. “We performed the treadmill test on a patient and everything looked fine. We sent him home and he had a heart attack the next day.”
I’m not sure if that was supposed to be comforting?
For the next step, Jamie was given an angiogram (where a thin tube is placed into a blood vessel in the groin and X-rays are taken of the blood flow in an artery). The diagnosis was finally reached: there was significant damage to Jamie’s left and central arteries that was caused by his cancer radiation treatments 12 years ago. This resulted in 70% blockage and the resulting pain.
The cardiologist sat me down to discuss the options. The first he presented was bypass surgery, which I don’t know about you, but the mere mention almost made me have a heart attack. Fortunately, he was reluctant to pursue this because of Jamie’s young age (there is a big chance of having to redo it in 10-15 years) and risks associated with the damage the radiation has caused.
The temporary solution is he underwent another less invasive surgery to install stints to open up the blockage. They were not able to access all the problem areas without doing bypass surgery but they hope this process, along with blood thinning medication he will need to be on the rest of his life, will help alleviate the problem.
The surgery went smoothly but I had a wake-up call. I went through a range of emotions during those three days: uncertainty over what his conditions meant, dread the doctors wouldn’t find a diagnosis and then bald-face fear as I faced the very possible possibility that I could be left to raise our two young children without the love of my life. (On Wednesday, Mile High Mamas will feature guest blogger Catherine who lost her husband in an accident a few years ago).
To sustain me through it all were loving friends and family who offered words of support, watched my kids and brought us meals. I truly felt sustained and comforted during some of the most difficult moments. On the day of Jamie’s surgery, I rushed to retrieve my son from preschool and drop him off at a neighbor’s.
As I put the keys in the ignition, the horn started incessantly honking as the gauges and lights went haywire. We have have occasionally had this electrical issue but it had been over a year since the last incident. Incredulously, I marveled that it chose this moment of all moments to act up…and I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically.
Knowing there was a very great liklihood this electrical firestorm would drain the battery rendering me unable to get to the hospital in time, I turned to the Man Upstairs. I said a little prayer with as much certitude and humility as I could muster: “Dear Lord, if you can help Moses part the Red Sea, I KNOW you can make this car start working.”
And you know what? That is exactly what happened almost immediately.
It was a small test of faith amongst so many big trials.
But the biggest blessing of all is having my husband home.