THE TELL-TALE HEART

Nah, this isn’t an update on the Edgar Allan Poe story, but just me reminiscing about my heart bypass operation, three years ago today.

Some of my friends will consider it odd that I underwent such surgery. After all, they never knew I had a heart to begin with.

(Warning! Cliched jokes ahead.)

What’s odd for me is the path I followed that landed me in the hospital for eighteen days.

On Friday March 13, I got a call from my family doctor’s office with the results of the tests I recently had performed on me, including an EKG and a chemical stress test. (No, not the one where, after ingesting certain chemicals you get real stressed as police officers note your bizarre behavior.)

“Mr UMOC”, the nurse told me, ” you’ve had a heart attack. But you’re okay now and we scheduled an appointment with a heart doctor for next Wednesday.” No, she could not tell me when the heart attack occurred. So I have no idea whether it was during that extra little “oomph” I gave while having fun or took place while watching  the shenanigans on Jersey Shore with appalled disgust.

So five days later I traipsed into the doctor’s office waiting room, and pondered the fact that St. Patrick’s Day was on Tuesday and my doctor to be had a VERY irish name.

With the preliminaries done, the door in the examining room opened and in walked the doctor with the map of Ireland evident in his face. We greeted each other and I asked him if he had sobered up yet from the previous day. With a twinkle in his eye he assured me he had. I knew right then he was the perfect doctor for me, one with a sense of humor. Too many of those guys treat everything like it’s a matter of life and death, ya know?

Dr, Irish (all names will be disguised—to protect me from defamation suits), explained that he would perform a heart catheterization eight days hence. If he found any blockage in my arteries, he would install stents as needed. As we parted he assured me he would stay up late Wednesday night to study the procedure.

Came the appointed day and I had to hie myself to the hospital early in the morning for the heart cath. I went through all the registration process and was eventually called into the lab where they prepped for the procedure. Had blown drawn, and my genital area shaven. As I’ve retired from porn I’d let the hair grow.

The nurses seemed to be rather light-hearted so I told a couple of my favorite jokes centered on nursing homes, two in particular. I won’t repeat them in their entirety but the punchlines are

“Oh, no, not another breathalyzer test” and

“Parkinson’s”

Then they knocked me out.

When I came to I was informed that, as no stents were implanted, I would be able to go home later. When the doctor came to discuss why no stents I was told I had three badly blocked arteries and would require CABG, coronary artery bypass graft, instead, and that would be the following Thursday.

Great. Now, even though my shaving restored my thing to its proper perspective, a scar down the middle of the chest would disfigure the view of my six-pack abs, the death knell for a revived career with Swedish Erotica.

Ok, 12-pack abs. Ok, a frigging pony keg’s worth of abs.

So now I had a week to prepare myself for the most serious surgery of my life. Fixing two knees and ripping out a gall bladder were mere child’s play compared to what lay in store. I figured I’d let trained medical personnel handle it this time around.

I not only had to “get my mind right” I had some decisions to make and legal documents to execute “just in case”.

I made the obligatory phone calls to my bookie and my 900 telephone service and then took care of informing my sons and my brother and a few friends. My brother indicated he would visit after my surgery. ( He wanted to make sure I survived before he put out money for gas.)

My sons arranged to visit on Sunday where we could review the necessaries and spend time together. When they arrived at my apartment, I showed my new flat screen TV to them I had just purchased about two weeks previously. We discussed my medical power of attorney and any pull the plug options, both of which I put in the hands of the older son.

I noticed the younger son eying the TV with envy and I told him that’s why I made his brother responsible, I was worried what he would do to get that TV. He replied, “Yeah, dad, I can see the doctor telling me ‘your father will be fine’ and me telling the doctor ‘no, pull the plug anyway. That’s what he would have wanted.’ “

We went to lunch and while we were eating their mother called one of them and I asked to talk to her. “Hi, Mrs. Ex-UMOC. remember when we were married and I’d eat hot dogs and you’d yell at me— ‘artery cloggers!’ Aren’t you proud you were right?”

She fumbled to respond seriously while I laughed my ass off.

Ok, Thursday arrived. A friend had volunteered to drive me to the hospital around 5 a.m. Sounds like a burden but the guy had left me stranded in Harrisburg, Pa. 35 years before that so he owed me, ya know?

Got to the hospital and checked in, the same boring process I was now used to. I was prepped, given the final pep talk by the doctors, the one actually cutting would not be a drunken Irishman but a Muslim dedicated to destroying all America who undoubtedly would be planting a bomb inside me timed to go off on my next trip to Dollar General. (Facetiousness alert!)

I was wheeled into the OR which was frigging COLD. BRRRRRRRRR. The anesthesiologist began gassing me but I could tell I wasn’t all the way under! I tried to tell the surgical team but I was intubated and couldn’t talk! I was panicking as I felt the scalpel open me. I was in pain and could feel everything!

Then I woke up and was in recovery with my sons hovering over me. Damned knock out juice got me again. Four major surgeries…four major out of body experiences.

I was, however, still intubated which meant that I could not talk. And the damn tube was hurting the back of my throat like crazy. It was hours before it was removed and I could finally get as comfortable as I would be for a while.

Sons stayed until about ten that night thankful, I’m certain, I had come through just fine, though the younger did mutter something about “now I gotta keep watching that old TV. Damn!”

Turns out I did not have a triple bypass. I did not have good veins in my legs to be removed to use so they had done only one bypass (I think with a vein from one of the orderlies.)

Friday morning the docs came to see me and explained what all went on. Yes, they knew I wasn’t completely out but they cut anyway cause they had tee times to meet. But I would have to return in a month or so to have the other arteries attended to with stents, they having been cleaned sufficiently to use them.

Just as I was being readied for transfer to my regular room, my brother and sister-in-law appeared. They opted to get lunch then come to my room after I was settled there.

They were back in the early afternoon and stayed for a nice visit. My brother is six years older than me, as is his wife. She must be up for sainthood for putting up with him all these years.

Anyway about mid-afternoon a nurse came in. She was an R.N. so had to be at least 20-21 but looked like she was 14. Some pleasantries were exchanged and, after my brother made one remark I told the nurse of our relationship. She then turned to his wife and asked, “Are you their mother?” He and I collapsed in laughter. Though they’re the same age, he often tells people she’s his mother. Since her hair is gray and his is still dark, I guess some unobservant folks believe him. She’s used to it and just sat there shaking her head as the nurse turned red from embarrassment.

Brother and wife eventually left, after I refused to change the channel from Cash Cab on Discovery which brother hates. Good, when I visit him I have to tolerate whatever nonsense is on his TV.

The next day, Saturday, I felt better and was sitting up in a chair rather than in bed. A nurse entered to do some checkup procedures and said, “Mr. UMOC, I need you in bed.” I looked at her and said forlornly, “Do you know how long it’s been since a woman said that to me?”

The next couple of days were pretty routine. In other words, for whatever the nurses needed to do, they waited until you were just falling into a good sleep and then they would come in. Not all at once mind you. But stretched every twenty minutes or so over a 3-4 hour time span so you never did get that sleep groove back. Then came meals (oh yum yum, I love hospital food, yum yum) and a drop in from a doctor, or someone from dietary to take your food order for the next day. Then, as things finally settle down, SHIFT CHANGE!

Now a whole new set of folks want to attend to you and prove their many hours of training were not in vain.

Of course with my sternum being held together with Swingline staples and duct tape, movement was limited lest some horrific creature erupt from my chest like in Alien. So for the first two days I needed assistance to get up to use the restroom.

One evening the aide came in to assist then suggested I take a sponge bath while I was on my feet. She did a good job of washing most of me and then handed me the washcloth so I could clean my privates. But she used some euphemism that you would with a child, as apparently she had young kids.

I ssid “I don’t call it that. I tell people it’s my gift of magic ecstacy to women.”

I believe it was the next day when I was discharged.

I didn’t go home, though. Since I live alone and had no one to count on to be around if I needed help until I got stronger, I was sent to a rehab hospital for 13 days for physical therapy.  (And all the employees at the hospital are in alcohol rehab, being driven to drink while dealing with me.)

Anyways, I’m still here three years on now. I do need to be better about taking care of myself. I’ll be in the gym later today. Stop for chili dogs on the way home.

I may check with my doctor to see if I’m due for a heart cath tuneup. I’ve got some great new jokes the women in the prep area would love.

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Comments

  • ciejai  On April 4, 2012 at 9:17 AM

    UMOC, good to hear you are doing so well. “Parkinson’s” and “another breathalyzer” — great jokes! My Dad told me the nurse starts at the top and washes down as far as possible, then proceeds to the other end washes up as far as possible, then hands you the cloth so you can wash possible.

    Toadsly told a joke on his blog about an old gentlemen who finally consents to nursing home care. One thing and another happens in the first week and the punchline is “Son, you don’t understand. I get an erection about twice a year but I fall down almost everyday!”

    Let me know if you need the set-up.

  • umoc193  On April 4, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    CJ

    Pleased to know the punchlines were sufficient. I know I’ve told the jokes enough that almost everyone should have heard them by now. And the one you offered in return is familiar.

    32 years ago at this moment I was lying in the ER with a busted up knee, awaiting surgery later that day. It was Friday of Easter weekend, but obviously not “Good Friday” for me.

    I had fallen down my front steps at home. Seeing me in a leg cast the next week, a fellow lawyer asked if I had been drinking. When I replied I hadn’t he asked if I’d been thinking about drinking. That got me. I was prepared to leave the office at noon to join my wife and family at our weekend getaway place where much imbibing always occurred.

    Some people think I’m nuts (a fair assessment) but I’ve never left my sense of humor behind at these times.

  • ciejai  On April 4, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    Your recounting of your bypass operation is testament to your approach. It made me laugh.

    I picked my doctor much the way you did yours. I’d been having a pain the neck. No, seriously. It spread across my entire throat area and at the same time I started feeling pretty crappy and waking up with night sweats.

    After struggling along like this for a month or so I finally went to the ER at 5 am. The internist on call looked me over pretty carefully and posited that I had an infection in my thyroid. Tests confirmed it.

    “Why have I gotten this?” I asked.

    “WHY?” he parroted with a twinkle in his eye. “You can ask me what it is and what we’re going to do about it, but you cannot ask me why. WHY? I don’t know– God wants to punish you for something?”

    He was my doc for the next 13 years.

    • umoc193  On April 4, 2012 at 4:22 PM

      Great doctor!

      My experience at WVU hospital has not been as good. (What I described previously was at Monongalia General, established by the county).

      In 1996 I was in for my gall bladder and one doctor had already told me the recommendation was to have it removed. So later on when the “team”, complete with interns and students marched into my room about a dozen strong I said, “Oh, it’s the invasion of the body snatchers”, not a one of them cracked a smile.

      Then in 2006 I had a severe attack of gout (or so I thought) and needed an ambulance to get me to the same place. For two days the docs told me I didn’t have gout. When I was discharged i carried with me a prescription for……drum roll……gout medication.

      I will never voluntarily return there.

  • little_minx  On April 4, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    Glad to know you’re still kicking, UMOC, and even able to laugh about your ordeal (good for the mental health, though). Visited ROW this AM, found no more comments posted, so was curious how Reg’s soirée went — how EVER did they manage with our combined absences? (ROFL!)

    • umoc193  On April 4, 2012 at 4:15 PM

      Yeah, ROW’s been closed out for several days now. At least I haven’t even been able to access the comments, just the blog entries.

      According to all reports, even as tears streamed down their faces due to our absence, the Reg-ulators managed just fine. Apparently Reg sprang for refreshments and brought Tony Norman and Rob Rogers, his fellow commies, along.

      Although I wasn’t going to make it anyways, it turns out it was good I was at home. A frat brother lost his home in one of the recent Tennessee tornadoes and needed some guidance on dealing with his insurance carriers the next day. So I was on the phone with him for an extended time.

  • little_minx  On April 4, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    A friend in need… you’re a good guy, UMOC. I trust at least your frat bro and his loved ones are all safe, if still suffering from PTSD of a sort.

    Have never met Reg, Tony or Rob, so it sure sounds as though I missed out on the leftie trifecta ; – )))

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