Bypass: Surgery

With the bike trip out of the question, we turned our attention to getting my heart fixed. I went for an angiogram on Monday, which was to give the precise location of the blockage. If they find the blockage, and it is a candidate for a stent, they basically leave you on the table and put in the stent. You spend the night in the hospital and go home the next morning. I spoke to a friend that had a stent put in 12 years ago, and he is still doing fine. I was pretty optimistic that this is probably what would happen.

The angiogram showed two bad blockages in areas that couldn’t be opened with a stent. I would definitely need bypass surgery. But the chief heart surgeon at Strong Memorial Hospital had an opening for Wednesday afternoon. This would have to work because he was scheduled for vacation the following week. One of my nurses, a twenty-five year veteran, told me that Dr. Knight is the one you want to do this surgery. I was very blessed that he was available when he was.

After all of the annoying pre-op testing Tuesday, I was admitted Wednesday for surgery scheduled for around 12:45 pm. I was pretty calm because I knew that a lot of people were praying for me and because of my relationship with Jesus Christ. However, I got a little spooked just before the operation and fainted in pre-op while getting an IV line inserted. Then my poor wife got a call from the surgeon just after I went into the operating room. “Your husband’s heart stopped on the operating table, but we got it going. We are going to proceed with the surgery.”

The operation was done in about two and a half hours. Amazingly, Dr. Knight did the procedure “off pump,” which means that my heart was beating as they did the surgery. Normally they hook you up to a machine that circulates your blood while they work on the heart. I was told that he is one of the few doctors that sometimes uses the off pump technique. One of the reasons to do it this way is to speed recovery time because the body does not take on as much fluid.

After spending the night in the coronary intensive care, they sent me to a step-down unit for recovery. Actually, they make you walk. It is amazing how soon they get you out of bed and moving around. They put me in a chair the night of the operation and walked me around the unit 3 separate times.

I had a remarkable experience concerning my roommate in the step-down unit. I could hear some of his visitors talking about the “old neighborhood,” referring to streets in my childhood neighborhood. Gary is 10 years older than me, but he was born and raised in the same neighborhood and went to the same schools, etc. It was amazing to discover common families, restaurants, and shops that we both knew as children, in spite of our age difference. I prayed with him that night and thanked the Lord for putting us together.

I was shocked Friday morning when the surgeon told me I could go home if I wanted to. My wife was horrified and said it was too soon. I agreed with her, but I still felt relief that he was that positive about my recovery so far. That night, though, I got a mixture of homesickness and worry about getting an infection in the hospital. I went home on Saturday afternoon, leaving my new friend Gary behind.

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