In the previous post, I shared the beginnings of my experience as a heart attack patient in the ER of a large trauma center hospital in North Montreal, QC, Canada. You can go back and read the first four paragraphs to get the setting. Here’s what happened next.
“A young man in medical scrubs asked me to open my mouth. He, then, sprayed Nitroglycerin into my mouth to hopefully dilate my arteries. A woman pushed a needle into my arm to start an I-V. The Nitro sprayer guy asked if I was feeling any better. I said, ‘No.’
Another woman with a long needle asked if I had any allergies, wiped my belly with alcohol, then punctured the skin to quickly thin my blood. I didn’t even feel the needle.
Soon, I was rolling to the Operating Room. It was colder and I was now completely naked except for my watch, my hipster glasses and a blue HSCM I.D. bracelet #13308614. Two kind people lifted me by the sheet under me and transferred me to the O.R. table.
One nurse was shaving my groin area and my right wrist so that the doctor would have both options for doing the impending angiogram. Another lady was adding another I-V and taping the O2 monitor to my left index finger. Lying completely flat on a metal table is not comfortable, but the pain in my chest was relentless. Shortly, the Nitro sprayer guy came back with a cup with about 6 pills in it. He held my head as I swallowed them and chased the brown round pills with a small amount of water. He said that they were for the pain that I had earlier indicated was a 10 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being, “I think I’m going to die.”
If I was trying to take a breath and see if the pills worked hoping the pain would subside, then what happened next made sure I was wide awake. A female nurse said, ‘This is going to be cold.” She then began to “paint” a slushy-like mixture of Iodine and alcohol (and ice shavings) all over my stomach, waist, groin, upper thighs and, then, my right wrist. Her warning about the cold was an understatement, but, relatively speaking, not a problem. That was followed by fabric adhering to my skin and paper being spread over most of my body.
Someone then put what looked like a clear plastic shower cap over a shoe-boxed-size white ceramic device that hovered just a few inches above my head.
Dr. Thierry Charron soon introduced himself and said that he was going to find the clot and unblock my artery. He seemed energetic, enthusiastic and eager. I thanked him and he proceeded to make a small incision on the inside of my right wrist. My wrist was clamped and bound tight to the table.
Next, I felt a tube being inserted into my arm and soon the ceramic shoe-box above my head began to move this way and that at odd angles. I began to figure that it had something to do with the artery study. This was the x-ray machine that captured photos of my arteries as dye was injected into the tube showing where the blockage was.
There was lots of talking (in French, of course) and yelling from one part of the room to the other. On my left was a multi-screen digital display and at my knee area was a small box/monitor that Dr. Charron and another physician were using.
A few days later, Dr. Charron told me that he had difficulty getting to the blockage because a couple of arteries were crossed. On his third and final attempt he was successful. Had he failed, he would’ve moved to open-heart surgery. In emergency situations with a heart attack that had been going on for a 3-4 hours, doing open-heart procedure is much more high risk and things can go wrong.
So, another aspect of the evening of January 9, 2013, for which to be thankful.
After sometime, perhaps 30-40 minutes into the procedure, the pain on my heart got worse. Even though I had told the triage nurse that pain was a ‘10’, I would now edit that to a ‘9’ and now it was a ‘10’. I wondered what was going on, but could barely speak. I began to move my head back and forth and hoped that someone would see. Right about then, Dr. Charron said that he was close to being finished. ‘It still hurts,’ I said. At that point, he was positioning the stent for expansion and for a few seconds the artery was blocked even more and under pressure.
He said that it would be better soon. I know the Holy Spirit was present more by situation than by feeling or sense. All of these caring and highly trained people were focused on one task — saving Jimmy Locklear. Surely, that is a place where the Spirit is at home.
As Dr. Charron was completing the process of unblocking the IVA that was 100% blocked, he tells me that this was a ‘big one’. He said that another artery on the right side was 70% blocked and normally he would want to put a stent in that one on Friday. Subsequently, he showed me line drawings of both arteries. At that point, it had not sunk in how serious this was. It was my only heart attack experience, so, the severity angle was hard for me to grasp since I had nothing to compare it to.
Removing the catheter tube was a bit challenging. At one point, Dr. Charron expressed frustration when he had to pull so hard and ended up making a small scratch on my wrist. It was no big deal to me, but professional pride probably was in play here. During my recovery, a couple of the nurses were surprised by the scratch that was encased in clear tape.
While still in the O.R. I could feel a lessening of the pain, but a couple of the medical staff seemed surprised when I indicated that it was still a 5 or 6 on the pain scale.
I was transferred to another gurney and a large oxygen mask was now covering my mouth and nose. A couple of folks wheeled me past Nathan and Curt on my way to the Cardiac Care Unit. I was rolled into room #9 and lifted on to the bed. That was a bit of a process to rehang bags feeding my I-V and monitors and cables that had to be secured in my new space. Curt and Nathan were allowed to come into my room for about two minutes as long as I didn’t talk. Nathan rubbed my forehead and smoothed my hair and marked the sign of the Cross on my forehead with his finger. Curt prayed for me and said that he had left a message for Jenny and he would see me tomorrow.”
A day that I will never forget was coming to a close. I was still struggling to take in what had just happened. I knew that my mind and emotions had not caught up with my physical self. There would be plenty of time for that tomorrow.