Monday, October 18, 2010

nugget # 7

I'll do something a bit different for this nugget and post an article I recently wrote about a heart procedure I had done back in June.  It's not about running Back in the Day, but it does concern my running I do now.  Oh yeah, I'm doing much better now, and my heart seems strong and regular.

The Ablation Nation
Bill Donnelly

Take another Little Piece of My Heart Now Baby

    I lay on the hospital bed on the tenth floor of the Buffalo General Hospital wondering if I was finally good to go.  It was August third and my third stay in the hospital in just under five weeks, and this for a man who had been in the hospital maybe three times in my 62 years of living, and that includes my birth.
    I had just come back from the heart room on the sixth floor and Diane, my wife, was next to me and of course concerned.  For the sake of clarification, throughout the rest of this narrative, I shall refer to my wife, Diane, simply as The Wife.  I do this simply to annoy any feminists who might be reading this.  I’m not anti-feminist or anything, I just feel sometimes you have to stir things up to get people’s blood boiling, and therefore, to get them more motivated.  You see, I’m using “The Wife” to get the feminists more activated and therefore, more relevant.  Right on Sisters, you go girls.
    Now I was thinking of referring to The Wife as TOBAC, which is short for The Old Ball And Chains, but that would have just annoyed The Wife, and heart problems would be nothing compared to what The Wife would do to me.  Best play it safe, eh babe.  By babe, I’m of course referring to The Wife, but I better stop this explanation before I get into too much more trouble.
    So, back to the hospital and my third stay there, albeit a brief visit.  You see, way back at the beginning of February, I had been diagnosed as having Atrial Fibrillation, which means my atrium, the upper left chamber of my heart, was beating all out of rhythm, and going way too fast to boot.  The big danger here is the likelihood of this problem forming a blood clot, which could then travel to my brain, causing a stroke. 
    This is not good, but more immediately it was affecting my running, which I had been doing since back in early 1973.  With the heart beating all over the place, it was not providing me with enough oxygen, and my running had slowed way down, and was not fun anymore. Something had to be done.
    I assumed this problem started back in October or November, as that was when I started having real problems breathing, but I came to realize it went further back than that, probably as far back as 2005.  More on that later.
    My doctor decided to have me wear a Holter monitor for 24 hours, which would show just how often my heart went into fibrillation.  That was a fun ordeal in itself, what with the nurse placing very sticky contacts all over my hairy chest, which I quickly realized would all have to be yanked off at some point the next day.  The Wife volunteered for that duty. 
    Anyway, then the wires were attached to me and the monitor, which seemed to be the size of a carton of cigarettes, but it may have been smaller.  It did seem that large as one tried to do all of one’s daily routines while juggling and fumbling with this box attached to him.  Running with it on was bad enough, but when it fell into the toilet as I tried to take a shower was just too much.  Eating, sleeping and lovemaking with The Wife were also very trying, although when the wires wrapped around The Wife’s neck, I think The Wife kind of got off on that choking sensation (and I thought I had been an adequate lover all this time).
    Needless to say, I survived the 24 hours of wearing said monitor, although I wasn’t sure it survived me.  I almost didn’t survive The Wife pulling off the many sticky connectors that by now had become one with my hair and skin.  Think of the movie “The Forty Year Old Virgin”.  After studying the results, my doctor told me it showed I was in Atrial Fib for 97% of the time, and I suspect the 3% I wasn’t in Fib was when the thing fell in the toilet, plus when the wires were wrapped around The Wife’s neck.  By the way, now when we make love, The Wife has her own set of wires she likes me to use.  Fine with me as long as there are no sticky connectors attached to my chest hairs.
    Now I had to decide what to do about my Fibrillation.  I knew my brother Tom had the same thing back a couple years ago, a problem that took years just to figure out, and also a runner, his running was suffering.  He finally had a cardio version done, which is where they shock your heart back into proper rhythm.  It was a long and complicated process, and now he has to be on certain medications forever, and he is not truly happy with the results. 
    In late February the solution to my problem presented itself at a race called the Chili Challenge.  The Wife, also a runner, ran the race as I just cheered her on as my heart wasn’t into running, both figuratively and literally.  After the race, as we ate chili, which gets my heart racing even more, we were talking to an old running buddy of mine, Dave Bogdan.  He is a nurse at The Buffalo General, and when I told him of my problem, he said he worked with Dr. Zador, a cardiologist Dave’s fellow nurses called Darth Zader and who had been trying a new procedure on people with my problem.  According to Dave, it’s a procedure where they figure out where the problem is and then they zap it, thus making you better, and not dependent on medication for the rest of your life, and he said Dr Zador had a 100% success ratio so far.
    It sounded so simple and fairly painless, so I decided to look into it.  I had since learned this procedure is called an Ablation, and simple and painless it’s not.  I should have suspected this when Dave told me he goes into Fibrillation himself every couple weeks, but instead of getting an Ablation, he just pounds on his chest till it beats regular again.
    So I made an appointment with the good doctor, but I couldn’t get in to see him till early June, and I just kept taking baby aspirin in order to prevent blood clots until then.  Dr Zador is a big, friendly Hungarian who is all business when it comes to the heart.  He gave me an EKG, agreed something should be done, and gave me options.  My mind was already made up to have the simple, painless Ablation, so we set June 30th as the date to have the procedure done.  I was to report to The General that morning at , and he would get to me in the morning.  I would have to stay in the hospital overnight after the Ablation for observation, but that did not concern me much.
    I made arrangements at work to be off the Wednesday and Thursday before the July 4th weekend, but I was confident I’d be back on the Friday after the Ablation.  I awoke bright and early on the 30th, and The Wife and I headed for the hospital.  Now, The Wife is an operating room nurse herself, and works in the heart room at Millard Fillmore Gates, which is part of the same hospital system as The General, so she knows her way around hospitals.  The Kaleida hospital system has a Family First system, which means if a family member works for them, you get certain perks.  For us that meant perks such as no free parking, no private room, and no special gown that would button in the front instead of leaving your backside exposed for all the world to see as you make your way to the bathroom in your not-private room.
    I settled into my room and The Wife watched helplessly as I was poked, prodded, and examined by the crew of nurses on the tenth floor.  They took my blood pressure, drew blood, took my life history, and hooked me up with an IV needle so they could give me anesthesia and saline solution when the time came.  The Wife didn’t perk up until they attached the many dozen (or so it seemed) sticky connectors on what hair remained on my chest.  As much of the hair was already ripped out, they seemed to look for virgin patches of hair to attach the connectors to.  The Wife was smiling with anticipation; in fact she helped the nurse find particularly hairy places on my body to attach sticky things to.
    Finally after several hours, and it was near , a female orderly came to wheel me down to the sixth floor heart room.  Being the cut-up I am, and not too concerned about the upcoming procedure, I pulled the sheet up over my head as we reached the elevator.  Orderly Ratchet did not find this playful prank very humorous as she once worked in the morgue in the basement, and threatened to wheel me there if I didn’t keep the sheet right where it was supposed to be.  The couple times she let the elevator door close on my head convinced me she was serious, and I behaved the rest of the way down.  The Wife was mortified.
    The Wife went off to the guest waiting room as I was wheeled into the patient waiting room, where I would wait and wait till it was my turn for fun and games.  I was finally brought into a room that looked like it was copied after Frankenstein’s laboratory with gadgets and things with which to make a new human being of me.  I seem to recall two tall electrodes with a bolt of lightning running from bottom to top every three seconds, and making a zapping sound, but that may be the results of the happy juice they gave me.
    Dr Zador gave me a big thumbs up, but his Transylvanian, err, Hungarian accent only set the evil mood even more so.  He let the nurses go to work, and they explained I would be getting two doses of anesthesia, the first so they could stick a rectangular tube the size of a three pound box of spaghetti down my throat, which would determine if I had any sneaky blood clots hiding behind my breast plate, which had to be done before they would even do the Ablation. 
    At this point, I was starting to hope for a pesky blood clot or two.  No dice, so now I would get a second dose of stronger happy juice, and the nurse made it clear that this is usually strong enough that you will not feel a thing as they do the procedure.  She emphasized that I should not feel anything, even though I would be awake, but that if I do feel discomfort. “Don’t be a man and try to grin and bear it, let us know so we can give you more anesthetic.”  I was soon floating in Lala Land, and they began working on me.
    Now, with the Ablation, the doctor sends the zapper up through a vein and into your heart.  I say “up” as they go in from the groin, both sides in fact, so the first thing the nurse had to do was use clippers to shave that area.  As I said, I was feeling no pain, but I do remember a couple of gasps from the nurses, a bit of a tussle between them for the right to shave me, and before I knew it I was good to go.
    And thus the Ablation began.  The good doctor sat near where the probe would enter me, but he was behind some kind of clear plastic protective curtain as I was getting a radioactive vasectomy, as they had x-ray of some sort on me the whole time, and an assistant in the other room what was going on as the two worked together.  She also made sure the big electrodes had a constant supply of lightning running between them, I think just to keep me appropriately frightened and very still.  If I moved even an inch, she would have to come into the room, leaving the protective area she worked in, and readjust the electrodes or whatever that was under me.  I could tell she did not like doing this, as she would make the lightning on the electrodes move faster and faster, so I learned to lie very still.  Besides how long could it take to zap my heart a time or two?
    At first I thought I could feel a slight sensation as the devise to zap my heart moved up towards my heart, but I figured that was just my imagination.  And the end of this devise is a very hot tip that the doctor will use to cauterize parts of the inside of my atrium, thus killing off routes the signals travel on that are telling my heart to beat so fast and irregularly.  Simple and clean, let’s get this over with.
    Dr Zador said relax, here we go.  ZZZZAUGHZZZYOWSAZZZ!!!  Holy cow, that hurt, thank god he only has to do this once… ZZZZAUGHZZZYOWSAZZZ!!! well maybe twice but that has to be it… ZZZZAUGHZZZYOWSAZZZ!!! wait, what did the nurse say about… ZZZZAUGHZZZYOWSAZZZ!!! oohh that smarts, if only I could remember… ZZZZAUGHZZZYOWSAZZZ!!! think, darn this happy juice, what was it… ZZZZAUGHZZZYOWSAZZZ!!! don’t be a man, but then what, it’s on the tip of my… ZZZZAUGHZZZYOWSAZZZ!!! Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl… ZZZZAUGHZZZYOWSAZZZ!!! concentrate, do something she said, but what… ZZZZAUGHZZZYOWSAZZZ!!! let them know I feel it, yes, that’s it, let them know that… ZZZZAUGHZZZYOWSAZZZ!!! what was I… ZZZZAUGHZZZYOWSAZZZ!!!
Open mouth and tell them… ZZZZAUGHZZZYOWSAZZZ!!! HEY, I FEEL THE PAIN!!!
    “Oh, you should have said something!  Nurse, more happy juice, we have to make sure this is pain free!”
    Ah, the sweet nectar of happy juice, soon I was really out of it and time flew by, I may even have been knocked out, but I don’t remember.  I just remember suddenly being more aware of my surrounding, but was surprised the good doctor was still bent over his instruments, what is he doing… ZZZZAUGHZZZYOWSAZZZ!!! gads, he must be almost… ZZZZAUGHZZZYOWSAZZZ!!! finished, you can take it… ZZZZAUGHZZZYOWSAZZZ!!!  Well, after bout eight more zaps, he was finally done.  I figured I was aware of two dozen of them, but who knows how many zaps I received while I was not aware of where I was.  But it was over, and they were finally wheeling me out and back to the patient waiting area while Dr Zador let The Wife know how smoothly things went for the several hours I was in there.
    The rest of my stay at the Hotel DeLa General was pretty much the stuff of hospital stays.  They kept me hooked up to the IV so as to make sure I got enough saline solution, hooked me up to a monitor to keep track of my heart rate, my oxygen level, and my rate of breathing.  They fed me food that looked inedible, and since I had no appetite, that was ok. 
    The Wife finally left me in the good care of the nurses, who proceeded to keep taking my blood pressure and giving me my meds.  At 8:30 I asked for something to help me sleep, and they said they would do that at 10:00 on the dot, they woke me up to give me something to help me fall back to sleep.  I did that, but then at they woke me to take my blood pressure, which by now was going up.  This went on all night, and finally at I was too wide awake to sleep.
    At about Thorsday, The Wife shows up frantic because she couldn’t reach me on the phone, which turned out to be broken.  She was imagining me in the morgue with a sheet over my head, either playing around trying to scare the staff, or actually passed over to the other side.  As she was on Grand Jury duty that day, off she went, knowing she would have to pick me up when I was discharged.
    Dr Zador finally visited me to explain things, including the medications I would be temporarily on, and what I could or could not do, including running.  He also said my atrium, which should be four centimeters, was stretched to six centimeters, one of the biggest he had seen.  He suggested that my atrial fib probably had been going on much longer than I realized. 
    Thinking about it, things started to make sense, how in 2005, after running a good Boston Marathon, my times drastically fell off, which I attributed to other things.  Also, I had at least three races in the next couple years where, after a start, and feeling strong, my heart would start racing and I could hardly breathe, and I would have to slow way down or even drop out because it was so uncomfortable.  I assumed I had used too much of my asthma inhaler before the race, but it would still happen once in a while when I was careful not to overdo it.  It was probably only last October when the atrial fibrillation became more constant that it affected my running all the time.

Dizzy Miss Lizzy

    So home I went, feeling good that I had survived the Ablation.  The next few days were rough as my lungs became quite congested, and breathing was very difficult.  I have had severe bronchitis and pneumonia before, and this is what I feared I had, except there was no fever.  Needless to say, I couldn’t go into work the next day, but I had the long weekend to recover. 
    By Monday I was no better and I would call the doctor on Tuesday.  On Tuesday I went to work, and my boss took pity on me and gave me light duty driving around with another serviceman (I work for the natural gas supplier in Western New York), and I had to ask him to stop at a bathroom just about every hour to pee, and by the end of the day my lungs were much better.  I found out later from Dr Zador, in order to keep the tip of the cauterizing instrument from getting too hot, which could cause blood clots, it is constantly being sprayed with saline solution, and he guessed I got an extra couple liters  of the liquid that way, not to mention the IV they had going constantly.  Would have been nice to know, but such is life.
    For the next four weeks, things went pretty well, with me walking and biking, just trying to make my heart stronger without putting too much stress on it.  At times while at work, I would get short of breath, but I figured it was just part of the recovery process.
    The day before the fourth anniversary of the Ablation, I was up as usual at so that I could get in my 3.6 mile walk.  I did so feeling strong and suffering no pain.  I came home, showered and dressed for work, and ate breakfast.  I stood up to rinse of my cereal bowl and suddenly felt extremely dizzy.  Thinking I stood up too fast, I tried to let it pass, but I kept getting dizzier, so much so that I had to sit down, and then lie down with my legs up on a chair.  The Wife became very concerned and began reading the side affects of my medications.  One, Amiodarone, which keeps the heart beating regularly, but which is not good for the liver or much else, had a warning that if severe dizziness happens, call your doc or go to the emergency room. 
    By now I could not stand without breaking into a sweat, nor could I stand by myself.  It was much like after many a race with the Belle Watling running club I belonged to in the 1970s, when we may have partied way too much, and standing could become a problem.  But because Amiodarone is so toxic to the liver, I had not had a drop of alcohol since starting the medication, so Belle Watling syndrome was out of the question.
    I got hold of work and told them I would be late to work, and got hold of my primary doctor, who didn’t think it was the medication, but who suggested I get to the emergency room right away.  The Wife called in sick herself and proceeded to drive me to the Millard Fillmore Gates’ emergency room, where the perks of Family First were bound to kick in.
    We got there before , and as they were not busy, I was taken right in.  The place was almost empty, except for the patient to my left, a Mr Jones, who had been brought in all the way from Jamestown, where he apparently had suffered a stroke. Now there is nothing funny about having a stroke, and I have seen first hand, when my mother had one, how the patient can be alert and sharp in their thinking, but their communication center is damaged and talking is impossible.  Such was the case with Mr Jones.
    All was quiet in the emergency room until a doctor visited Mr Jones and began with the questions.  “Mr Jones, can you tell me why you are here?”
    “Budda budda budda baa baa budda budda!”
    “Now Mr Jones, do you feel pain on either side of your body?”
    “Budda budda budda baa baa budda budda!”                 
     “OK then, can you push my hand with your left hand?”
    “Budda budda budda baa baa budda budda!”            
    “Well now, how strong does your right side feel?”
    “Budda budda budda baa baa budda budda!”
   And so it went, poor Mr Jones getting more and more frustrated as he tried, but could not communicate.  I felt bad for the man, but was relieved when an orderly came to take me upstairs to the third floor to have some tests done.  This was just after , and the dizziness was just finally starting to subside.
    First I was wheeled into the room for an MRI, which is a machine that makes a lot of noise and used magnets that can rip an earring out of your ear lope, so no jewelry permitted.  You cannot be claustrophobic for this device, as they put ear-plugs in your ear (where else would they go-your nose?), and put a special helmet on and place you in a tube not much bigger than a Pringles can. 
    Right before I disappeared into the tube, I swear I saw the nurse firing up the two big electrodes with lightning running between them.  Then the noise starts, and after a while you can start getting a beat going, kind of a Bo Didley beat thingy.  I was sorry it only lasted about five minutes, but I rated it a seven on a dance-ability chart.
    Then it was into another Patient waiting room to get in line for a CT scan.  I was wheeled into an area with a curtain, and I couldn’t see my neighbor, but I figured he or she must be a big wig as there was a neurologist there questioning him, surrounded by a whole gaggle of interns, about ten of them, only one of which was a Caucasian, and I believe he was from Canada.  After each question he asked, instead of a question mark, he used an A.
    I heard the Canadian asking “OK then, can you push my hand with your left hand, A.”  To my utter amazement and annoyance, the patient answered “Budda budda budda baa baa budda budda!”
    OH NO!!! I thought, not again.  Sure enough, the questions kept coming, and the answers remained the same, just louder with each question.
    “When did you first notice something seemed terribly wrong, A, Mr Jones, A.”
    Budda budda budda baa baa budda budda!”
   “Mr Jones, can you tell me the first letter of the alphabet, A”
    Budda budda budda baa baa budda budda!”
    And so it went until the nurse in charge of the floor stepped in and took control of the situation.  She calmly told Mr Jones to stop trying to talk.  His response was “Budda, budda.”  The nurse reiterated the idea of not talking; telling him it was only frustrating him.  It took her several minutes of telling him this before he finally ran out of “Budda”.
    Soon they wheeled Mr Jones away for his CT scan, and all was peaceful.  After a bit it was my turn, and I was place into another machine head first, and before you could say “Budda budda budda baa baa budda budda!”, I was done with the CT scan and on my way back to the emergency room.
    By now the emergency room was hopping, filling up with ambulance personnel, the Mercy Flight people, and all the patients these folks were bring in.  I could hear the emergency room nurses telling newcomers there were not enough beds, and patients would have to wait for available space.  And here was I lying in a bed, my dizzy spell completely gone, while people were in the hall complaining of severe chest pains and other, more serious symptoms. 
    Soon an Indian intern I recognized as one of the gaggle from upstairs came into my space and explained they had examined my head and found nothing.  I told him the joke was old, but pretty good under the circumstance.  Something was lost in translation, and I could tell by his serious manner that he did not realize he had made a funny. 
    He proceeded to do all the things they had asked poor Mr Jones to do, such as pushing on his hands with my hands, or lifting my leg as he held it down.  Then a nurse stepped in to give me an EKG to see how my heart was doing, which took seconds, but which left sticky connectors on my chest in those places some hair had grown back since my ablation four weeks ago.  The Wife perked right up with the anticipation of pulling them off me of later on.
    Then the head neurologist made an appearance and proceeded to tell me my head had been examined, and they found nothing.  Being Korean, she did not see the humor of this either, and then she did all the same tests on me that the intern had done, and told me I was fine neurologically. 
    It was now only and I began looking forward to getting out of there and giving my bed space to one of the newer, more deserving patients who were rapidly filling up all hallway space, and the moaning and groaning from them was starting to get to me.  Little did I realize that the only doctor on the floor was a Dr Kline, and he was so busy dealing with all the new patients, he did not have time to discharge me.
    Now, The Wife was busy with a cross word puzzle from that day’s paper, and I was waiting for a lunch that never came.  I guess they do not feed you in the emergency room.  The nerve! 
    I was hooked up to a monitor that had three lines running across it in waves. Or up and down motions.  The Wife explained that the top one was my heart beat, the middle one my oxygen level in my blood, and the third was my breathing rate, which stayed steady at 19 breaths per minute.  In my boredom, I came to realize I could not control the top two lines, but I could manipulate the bottom, or breathing one.  I found I could play with this like an Etch-A-Sketch, and soon I was having some fun.
    At first I would just hold my breath as best I could, and found if I got the rate down to four beats per minute, the monitor would start beating a warning for the nurses, letting them know something was wrong.  They were too busy to respond, which does make one worry as to what would happen if I really did stop breathing.  Then I found that by breathing rapidly, I could do a pretty good impression of the top of Bart Simpson’s head.
    After about 15 seconds, as the dots making the lines got to the end of the monitor, what I had created would disappear, but rather than be disappointed that my efforts disappeared, I looked at it as a fresh canvas with which to improve my Etch-A-Sketch skills.  Soon I was able to do a pretty good rendition of Buffalo’s skyline, and from that it was a short leap to doing New York’s skyline, both pre and post 9/11. 
    Meanwhile, my neighbor to my left, Mr Jones, seemed to be taking the upstairs nurse’s advice, and he remained calm and quiet.  But then members of his family arrived to see how he was doing and things took a decided turn for the worse.
    It started with “Hi dad, how you feeling?”   
    “Budda budda budda baa baa budda budda!”
    “Does it hurt much?”
    “Budda budda budda baa baa budda budda!”                 
     “Hey Uncle Joe, what’s happening?”
    “Budda budda budda baa baa budda budda!”            
    “Does this mean I can borrow the car tonight, dad?”
    “Budda budda budda baa baa budda budda!”
    “Hey, I got one!  What do you like on your toast Uncle Joe?”
   “Budda budda budda baa baa budda budda!”
   “Good one Little Joey, why don’t we go to the cafeteria and get some lunch!  See you latter dad.”
    And so things quieted down nicely, except for the horrific moans and groans coming from the hallway, which had wall to wall patients in all forms of disrepair.  I felt bad taking up an ER bed one of them could be using, but I felt it was not my fault.  I drowned out the commotion by immersing myself into my art, the medium being my Etch-A-Sketch monitor.
    After a couple hours I had a pretty good rendition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Waters.  Being as my neighbor had been very quiet for this time, and his family was no where to be seen (turns out they went to the home of the original Buffalo Chicken Wings, The Anchor Bar, on Mr Jone’s dime and were leisurely finishing off two buckets of the wings-that’s 100 wings, just their way of creating future stoke victims), he was quiet, and I assume, not so frustrated, so I thought I would cheer him up.  I pulled back the curtain and quickly turned my Etch-A-Sketch monitor towards him. 
    With a sparkle in his eye and a low, calm “Budda”, he pointed to his Etch-A-Sketch monitor, and I just got a glimpse, before it disappeared forever, of his version of Whistler’s Mother.  Not to be outdone, I went back to perfecting my skills.
    My new found friend’s family came back soon after, and before long I was creating on the monitor just to keep from hearing the frustration in his answers to their inane questions.  I think they were teasing his as would a bully tease a helpless puppy stuck in a cage only wanting affection.
    Finally about Dr. Kline showed up and took a quick look at my monitor.  He immediately said he was quite impressed with my version of the Mona Lisa.  I looked, and he was right, even though I had been trying to do a portrait of The Wife.  The two would be similar, as both Mona and The wife have that mischievous smile, and their eyes seem to follow you where ever you go.
    The doctor then told me that they had examined my head and found nothing, and after he stopped laughing for five minutes at his own joke, he said they can not figure out why I had the dizzy spell.  The EKG showed my heart was in atrial flutter, and I should see Darth Zader as soon as possible.  After laughing for five minutes at his little joke at Dr Zader’s expense, he told me he just had to write up a discharge report and I would be free to leave.  Thank goodness, and not a minute too soon as far as I was concerned.
    Not a second after the doc left in comes the Mercy Flight crew with an older gent  who they parked to my right, as the guy with a case of shingles had had just been released.
I forgot about how my head had been itching since the nurse told the former patient next to me about his shingles as the Mercy Flighters were explaining to the nurse that the gentleman had apparently fallen off a ladder onto his head, but he seemed stable now. 
    They got the new patient settled in and asking him his age, and I was thinking of showing him my rendition of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, when all hell broke loose.  The guy was saying he was “72 years aughhhhowwweee!!!”Apparently he was suffering a seizure and the place went crazy, with nurses calling for a doctor and medications.
    All I could hear parked between the stoke victim and his family, and the seizure patient and his nurses was Budda budda-We need a doctor, STAT-Budda- aughhhhowwweee!!!-Get the seizure medication-Baa Baa Budda- aughhhhowwweee!!!-Dr Kline, we need you STAT-Budda-Medication please-STAT-We need help here- aughhhhowwweee!!!-Budda Budda”, and so it went.  Any thought of getting out of there anytime soon went out the window, and all desire to create more masterpieces on the Etch-A-Sketch monitor went with it.
    Finally things settled down, and at about , Dr Kline came and gave me my discharge papers.  I went skipping out the emergency room, I was so happy, but The Wife yelled after me to let me know I should change into my clothing first.  I sheepishly grabbed the back of my hospital gown to quit exposing my buttocks for all the world to see, and changed into my garments.
    The Wife and I were soon free of the hospital and on the prowl for something good to eat.  We settled for Buffalo Chicken Wings, and as I ate, The Wife enjoyed herself as she ripped of the sticky contacts from my EKG.  Budda!

The Electric Slide

    The following Friday I had an appointment with Darth, I mean Dr Zader.  Dr Kline has me saying it now!  The Wife made sure she was there for my appointment.  She said it was because she cared so much.  Personally, I believe she was there because she knew I’d probably get another EKG, and she wanted first dibs on ripping off the sticky contacts.
    Sure enough, Darth Zader put on those pesky sticky contacts on my chest where ever he could find new growths of hair, and then hooked up the wires to said contacts.  As he waited for the machine to spit out its information on my heart, he said to The Wife, with a gleam in his eyes, “You can rip off the sticky contacts later!”
    Now he looked at the results of the EKG, said “Atrial flutter, come to Buffalo General at Monday, I shock you back into rhythm!”  So we made the appointment and we were out of there in no time.  As I drove home, The Wife almost caused an accident pulling the sticky contacts off my chest.  I figured I better grin and bear it as The Wife gets so much pleasure out of this simple thing.  The Wife even has a developed a special way of twisting the sticky contacts as she rips them off so that she creates the maximum effect, which involves pain.
    My first thoughts were that the doctor seemed to think this would be routine and painless, but that was the feeling I got about the Ablation.  I was just hoping this cardio version would be a lot simpler and a lot less painful.
    We showed up at the hospital by , and I was starving, as I could have nothing since the night before.  That meant no food or liquids, so I had already been fasting 16 hours when I arrived at the General.
    We checked in quickly, went back up to the 10th floor where the nurses all remembered me, and I changed into my designer hospital gown (designed to show off my buttocks), and proceeded to wait.  And wait and wait! 
    Finally about I was wheeled down to the heart room, and since I had a new orderly doing the wheeling, I started to pull the sheet over my head as we approached the elevator.  The orderly smacked my hand, said Dolores told her about me from the last time, and so I became the perfect patient.
    We got to the heart waiting room, and boy, did we wait.  Finally Dr Zader shows up, makes some small pleasantries to me, and tells the nurse to put a mess of sticky contacts on my scarred chest.  He must get a Kick-Back from The Wife that’s based on the amount of sticky contacts she gets to slash off.
    I’m eventually wheeled into the room with big electrodes with lightning flashing, the nurse attaches two huge sticky contacts, each the size of a grilled cheese sandwich, to my already crowed chest, and hooks up all the wires.  Dr Zader proceeds to pump two vials of what he calls happy juice into my IV, and before long, I’m feeling quite happy.  Just as quickly, I look to see the nurse turning off the electrodes and what-not.  When I inquire as to what she is doing, she informs me I’m done.
    I’m wheeled back to the patient waiting room, where I have to wait for one half an hour to make sure I come out of it OK.  The Wife is in the other waiting room, so to keep myself entertained, I try out my new Etch-A-Sketch monitor.  I’m bored with creating pictures, so I work at seeing how low I can get my breathing rate.  When I hit three breaths per minute, the machine itself starts beeping, and I can get it to stop by taking some quick breaths.  However, I’m not satisfied, and I hold my breath long enough I get it to zero.  At three it starts beeping, but at zero, an alarm goes off outside where I am, and no matter how many breaths I take, I can not get that alarm to go off.  Now I figure I’ve gone too far, and I’m going to be in big trouble.
    Soon a nurse comes running, sees that I’m breathing regularly, and she breathes a sigh of relief.  She says these things are always malfunctioning, and she unplugs the breath-counting part of the monitor.  I’m happy she blames the device and not me, but then it hits me, I have no Etch-A-Sketch monitor to pass the time with.
    I’m soon wheeled back up to the 10th floor, and The Wife joins me.  Now I’m being told I’m in perfect sinus rhythm, and I should exercise, but no running for a month, and I have to keep taking my medications longer than first expected.  One of them, Amiodarone, is toxic to the liver, so no alcohol for the six months I must be on the meds.   Why me!!!, I think, but then, anything is worth giving up so my heart gets stronger.  So here I am at , 21 hours since I last ate, hoping my heart stays in rhythm, hoping I can survive six months without beer, and hoping The Wife will want to go out for Buffalo Chicken Wings when we blow this joint.  I guess there are some things not worth giving up for my heart’s sake.   





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