I lost my nerve


Hangin' in there

Busy few days. Last Sunday I felt bad again as soon as I awoke – a bit breathless, pulse feeling funny, but not as bad as last Friday. It went on all day.

Monday morning it was still the same, so I phoned the cardiologist’s office to ask for an earlier appointment. She could hear my breathing and asked what I was feeling, then went and spoke to the doctor. He said come in to Hollywood Private Hospital. Barry, my great friend, collected and delivered me.

In Assessment my tachycardia and atrial flutter were clearly visible on the ecg. The cardiologist arrived about an hour later and said they needed to do an ablation. He passed me over to the ablation specialist Michael Davis, who I’d met before. Very self confident, commanding bloke and very friendly, so I felt good. Operation scheduled for Tuesday at 1.30pm.

Tachycardia and flutter were still going the whole time – they wanted to be able to see the result of the nerve ablation, so I spent the night feeling a little wonky.

Tuesday it was back into that old familiar Catheter Lab. I’ve been in there so many times now that I know it well. This time they let me walk to the table and sit myself up on it. It’s always been so hard to grab and drag myself over from the trolley before. I made a joke about going into the “female” (femoral) artery and the nurses found it very funny.

I was immediately injected with “jungle juice” as the surgeon called it, Fentanyl and Midazolam, to make me drowsy. It didn’t seem to have much effect. He ordered some more and that didn’t work either. No matter, I was OK.

But then he started probing with a long needle for the femoral vein in my right leg and couldn’t find it. Lots of needle sticks, some a bit painful. Then he switched to the left leg and spent some time probing that too, calling for a longer needle, 9cm!

Eventually he called for a fellow surgeon to help and he used ultrasound to find it. They still couldn’t make a big enough entry hole so had to put “two in one”. All this took more than an hour.

Once he got the catheters in, it only took about a minute to get it into the heart and onto the nerve between the upper and lower chambers of the right side. I could see it on the X-ray display. Then three minutes of diathermy heating and Bob’s your uncle. Another 20-30 mins waiting to see that it stays OK, while we had a chat.  Then he pulled the catheters out and it was done. Off to the recovery area where the nurse pulled the plastic tubes out of my groin. I tried to get her to give them to me, but she wouldn’t. Too messy, she said.

So back to my room and four hours of lying flat on my back, not allowed to raise my head, to ensure the vein doesn’t bleed. No problem, but your bum gets sore!

Ever eaten spaghetti bolognaise in that position? I was like a kid again, spaghetti all over my neck and face. But I was hungry enough to eat it all.

So another night in the ward, then home on Wednesday. No problems since. I hope that fixes the atrial fibrillation too. That was really getting to me. It’s all good so far.

One thing I didn’t realise is that the surgeon has to wear a lead lined gown, because the X-ray machine is on continuously. They’re in danger from radiation. The gowns weigh quite a bit, apparently.


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