Thursday, December 10, 2009

Getting to the heart of it

I've been meaning to write about this for a while, but wanted to have some time and distance from it first. Since Dad's ok and well on the mend now, I feel like I can write about it in more detail than when I mentioned it before.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, my Dad and his wife Gwen were on the way to pick up Tom's deer from the processor. My Dad loaded up the venison into his trunk and noticed he was having heart palpitations. He'd had them before, but had put off doing anything about them. He wasn't feeling quite right though, and since the hospital was nearby he decided to go in and get it checked out.

He called his sister, my Aunt Janice, and let her know what he was doing. She suggested he call 911, so he did and then he stayed on the phone with them as he drove to the hospital, keeping them abreast of where he was at each intersection. I'm also guessing he had asked my Aunt to come to the hospital with my Uncle Frank so that Frank could take his car and get the venison to his house in the freezer (because ew, after a few hours in the ER that was sure to be a gross mess).

Dad and Gwen arrived at the hospital, where he apparently parked in the first space he saw. They went in and he got into the first wheelchair he saw and told Gwen to start pushing. As they passed people he said he was having chest pain and asked where the ER was.

They finally got to the ER, and were seen. He said he was sitting back in the bed talking to a young doctor and there were all these nurses around him. He had the EKG monitor hooked up to him, and was answering the doctor's questions. Then he heard a long beeeeeeepppp come from the monitor. The doctor looked at it and said "that's not good" and then reared back and hit my dad hard in the center of his chest! My Dad said, "what the hell are you doing?" and then promptly faded to black.

He came to with someone asking him if he was "with us" and found that there had been someone sitting on him doing chest compressions and CPR as well as having the electric paddle thingys used on him. His chest was pretty sore after that of course.

Basically he'd been having atrial fibrillations which aren't too harmful, but then, while he was fortunately sitting in the ER with a doctor right there and hooked up to an EKG he'd gone into ventricular fibrillations or V.Fib. That's the thing that causes sudden cardiac death. It's different from a heart attack though, so apparently he hasn't had an actual heart attack. The good thing about that is he didn't have the heart damage associated with a heart attack.

This is when they took him to have a cardiac catheter done too. They thought if he'd had a blockage he could just have a stent put in and go home. Instead they found that his aortic valve was so calcified it had to be replaced. He had two arteries that were partially blocked, enough that it was worth going ahead with a double bypass since they had to do the valve anyway.

So they scheduled him for a double bypass and valve replacement. First it was supposed to happen on Thanksgiving. Then it was pushed to Friday. Then to Saturday. Then finally he had it done on Sunday. I don't know why it couldn't happen Thursday, but on Friday his surgeon was horribly sick (first thought it was food poisoning, but then turned out to be stomach flu) and couldn't operate. They were going to have another surgeon come up from Atlanta to do the surgery Saturday, but then for some reason he couldn't come, so the original surgeon came in and did it Sunday after he'd recuperated from the stomach flu.

My Dad was able to come home from the hospital on the following Friday. He's sore and still trying to get rid of the extra fluid they pumped into him over his time in the hospital, but he's getting better every day.

Right now my step-sister Angela (yeah, that's not confusing at all right?) is watching over Dad and Gwen (Angela's mother) since my Dad got home from the hospital. Tom and I were planning to go up and take over for a few days to give her a break, but now we're not sure if it will be both of us or just one of us. Dad can't be around kids right now (or anyone who is the least bit sick) so one of us might stay behind to watch Nicky and the dogs. Right now I'm trying to convince my sister Liz to come with me. She was just up there at Thanksgiving, but maybe I can convince her to come up with me too. Cross your fingers for me!