This post is third in a series of four, in which I tell of my fifteen-year battle with atrial fibrillation and my efforts to conquer it. Click on Part One or Part Two to take a look at prior installments, if you missed them. Today I continue with a description of the June 20th procedure at St. Davids' Medical Center in Austin.
History of an Ablation
The day began at 7:00 a.m., as usual, except that I had no breakfast, of course. While I scoured my body in the shower, Ken had something to eat in the hotel restaurant. We used Uber to get to St. David’s. Again the driver had some difficulty (or else it was his app) finding our hotel. I finally had to enter the address again! It was amusing watching the phone screen as that little black car kept turning around!
We knew exactly where the hospital's main entrance was because we had scouted it out the day before. I got checked in after more filling out of a form on a tablet. There was a man who served as sort of concierge, making it the most efficient hospital check-in I’ve ever seen. Then more answers to more questions ad infinitum—perhaps a truth-check to make sure facts are consistent? I was then placed in a “holding” room for over two hours, dressed in an odd-patterned gown of oranges and browns. During that time, lying on my back on one of those comfortable gurneys, I met my anesthesiologist, then an assistant/intern, and consented to become involved in two different tests or studies: 1) To check if half-saline solution would work as efficiently as the usual saline solution. Preliminary studies show yes. 2) I can’t recall the second study . . .
Then off to the next holding room, which was colder, three walls with a fourth facing the hallway and only a flimsy curtain. And . . . oh, yes . . . yet another nurse named Clayton who would roll me into the OR soon enough; he was a Labrador retriever in nature, friendly, nurturing, smart and alert. As I lay there alone, I used my usual meditation mantras to try and relax. There was noise coming from every direction as I waited. I believed it was the OR doors opening (and I would be right), and the roar of tech would emerge as well as heavy metal rock music. Please don’t play raucous music during my procedure, I pleaded. Maybe some Mozart, Debussy?
I sent my silent message down the hall, imagining it taking wing as it fled through banging doors, noisy alarms, and raised voices. Not complaining. It’s just the way of a well-functioning contemporary hospital! In another thirty minutes Clayton rolled me across the hall to the OR, which he stated was kept at fifty-eight degrees. I asked why so cold, and he said it was to keep the technical equipment cool, but also the staff (I later learned it also cuts down on bacteria growth). Clayton was kind enough to place some heated blankets over me.
At that point, three chatty female nurses began to prep me for the procedure, having me slide from the gurney to the table, sliding a hose pumping warm air under my blanket. Thank Christ. They hooked up the IV into my left forearm. Then I realized they were engaging me.
"You are NOT seventy," one of them proclaimed.
"I can show you my birth certificate," I said.
"We just want to know what your secret is."
"Good, clean living," I quipped.
"I missed out on that a long time ago," one of them said.
"I think it’s probably just good dee enn aaye," as my voice slowed, and I went under. Probably their ploy all along. We always flatter patients. That helps them relax and get out of themselves so the anesthesia can do its job.
I didn’t recall anything after that until I woke up in the recovery room with the words that everything had gone well. Rather than literal heart burn, I was experiencing more pain in my groin areas where the scopes had traveled up through arteries to my heart. I was put into a private room about six. Ken helped me negotiate my way until about seven-thirty when he took off for the hotel. He had had a rougher day than me, speaking on his phone periodically to Clayton to see where I was in the process—sitting, sitting, sitting.
I ate some chicken noodle soup and an entire baked potato. My sugar levels were a bit above average, and the nurse offered to give me a shot of insulin. Since I’m not a diagnosed diabetic and because it was offered as an option, I passed. I took my usual night pills at nine p.m. I ate some ice cream at ten-thirtyish and finished watching Rachel Maddow. Finally to bed after midnight. The nurse gave me five mg. of Ambien—enough to help me drowse between her visits. I did like it that she informed me when she would be back at three thirty and then again at fiveish—like most nights when I have get up to pee. Return next week as I conclude my story.
NEXT TIME: My Journey of States-15 New York