Friday, May 31, 2013

"That's the yoga working" - My heart surgeon

Today I did a casual Google search, as I am often known to do, but of a fairly morose subject: "what is the max your heart rate can get to before you die." My resting heartrate pre-surgery was something super low like 48 without taking all the skipped beats into consideration so this wasn't a general health concern. Nope, I just keep having flashbacks of my heart procedure and wanted to know if it qualified as a near death experience. I couldn't find a definitive answer so unless someone can prove me wrong, I'm gonna go with yes. I did. Just for the sake of this story if nothing else. The procedure I had involved a few steps, a whole bunch of people, and a few different levels of anesthesia. It was dramatic- straight out of Grey's Anatomy. I had a big old room all to myself and 7 people looking after me. They laid me down pretty much buck naked on a cushion that looked like a pool raft that was full of hot air. Actually felt pretty good since I spent the morning freezing in a waiting room having test after test performed on me. For step one - the incisions on my groin and insertion of catheters- they knocked me all the way out, or at least to the point where I didn't see or feel anything. After about 90 minutes of them poking around in there I realized I was awake and having a basically coherent conversation with my surgeon, his helpers, and the anesthesiologist. I realized there were three other people standing about 5 feet away from me behind a glass partition, watching a few screens displaying images of my heart and conversing with the surgeon calmly. To my right, there was a screen that looked like a score board displaying my heart rate. Because of all the sedation, my heart rate and thus my arrhythmias were pretty tame. Then came the dramatic part- the injection of a synthetic form of adrenaline. Over, and over, and over. They needed to do this to provoke the funky heart beats because they only really come on when my body produces too much adrenaline. I had been warned that although they want me to be "comfortable" I basically had to be completely awake at this point. If they can't bring on the arrhythmias, they can't find the faulty heart cell patch, then they can't ablate it, and I've basically gone through all this for nothing. So I wasn't gonna whine about being terrified and awake with a strange device going through my groin up into my heart and being 100% awake to feel it. I just wanted to get it over with- and fast. When the injections began, it felt ok at first and then just a bit uncomfortable. Still no luck. More injections, more heat coursing through my body and then the intense sweating began. I could hear the surgeon and the peanut gallery conversing. They had located the bad spot, but needed to view it from another angle. He asked me if I could hang on for one more shot and I said I could, though I wasn't really sure. The thing that was screwing me was the damn score board. They gave me one last big shot and I saw my heart rate soar to 233 beats per minute. I thought to myself ok, I'm probably going to die now but I figure these 7 medical professionals will probably resuscitate me so I guess I'll just let it happen With my normally low pulse this was not Soulcycle heart rate, or six minute mile heart rate, or probably even running through the jungle with a tiger hot on my heels. At this moment I was quite certain I was either going to die or turn into the Incredible Hulk. What else could I do but breathe? Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. I couldn't watch the scoreboard of death anymore so I just closed my eyes and breathed, knowing that the injections were over. "Wow, that's the yoga in action. You just brought your heart rate down to 160 with four breaths," said my surgeon. "Is it over? Did you find it?" I asked. Right on cue my savior in a labcoat came back behind me and gave me a nice long dose of the good stuff and I was asleep again. After that, they spent another 30 minutes or so ablating or burning away the part of my heart causing all the serious issues while I laid there unconscious. When I woke up I felt like every single muscle in my body had contracted to it's tightest possible position as if an epic battle had occurred inside my body, because it had. All my nurses and the surgeon kept telling me how good I did. How calm I was during the waking period. They didn't tell me this before of course but apparently there are a lot of total freak outs and breakdowns during the lively intermission of the ablation process. Well...I guess that's the yoga working.