Surprise! Heart Surgery!

This was originally posted to my old blog on October 25, 2013

*As usual, the following is written from my memory of the events.  Some things may be inaccurate due to faulty memories.  In any case, this is how I remember it:

I just got released from the hospital yesterday.  I had gone in last week for a routine angiogram and ended up having a triple bypass.  It’s always fun when you hear those words, “Surprise! Heart surgery!”.  Especially since I had no idea there was anything seriously wrong with my heart.

I’ve suffered from GERD fro two years now and had thought that all this chest pain was just uncontrolled heartburn (the symptoms are extremely similar).  when my doctor couldn’t figure out why the diet and medicines weren’t working, she sent me to a GI specialist who in turn sent me to a cardiologist because I had told him the only time I get heartburn now is when I am physically active.

My first visit with he cardiologist was routine.  They ran an EKG which came out abnormal but “not bad”, and he listened to my heart and examined me and we talked about my history and symptoms, etc.  At this time, he figured there was a problem but that it wasn’t anything to be overly concerned about.  I think he was thinking this because of my young age, I’m 34.  He scheduled me for a stress test.

One week later, I returned to the cardiologist and they ran the stress test.  What they do is hook you up to a heart monitor and do an ultrasound of your heart while you are resting.  Then they make you run on a treadmill for a few minutes while increasing the incline and speed every two-three minutes.  The test lasts as long as is takes to get your heart rate up to max.  So the less healthy you are, the shorter the test will be. Mine lasted six minutes. When your heart-rate is to max then they lay you on the table again and ultrasound your heart while it is at full capacity.  At this point, the doctor found, “a narrowing”.  He scheduled me for an angiogram.

The very next morning, I was at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno for my angiogram.  An angiogram is when they go in through either your groin artery or wrist artery and shoot dye into your heart to get a good image of the blood flow. It is a mildly painful and uncomfortable procedure, but it doesn’t last long. They had not even finished the procedure when the doctor got on the phone to schedule surgery for me.  This was when I became concerned.

I went in for the angiogram on Wednesday morning.  My bypass surgery was scheduled for Friday morning.  So I sat in a bed all of Wednesday and Thursday with nothing else to do but think.  The doctor said that one of my arteries was 100% blocked and one was 70% blocked.  I would need either a single or double bypass, depending on what they found when they got in there.  I was very calm and good spirited (worried more about my cat missing me at home than the looming surgery) up until the thirty minutes before the surgery.  My husband came into he room and I just broke down crying.  Let me tell you, it is very true that in times of pure fright and crisis, everyone calls out for their mommy.  When she showed up, I hugged her so hard and cried so loud.  I was frightened.

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I know you are wondering how a 34 year old woman could end up needing coronary bypass surgery.  I was diagnosed with type I diabetes at age nine.  I have never had the disease under perfect control.  Part of this was the fact that I am bull headed and do what I want; part of this is because I had no health insurance for a large chunk of my twenties and early thirties and therefore could not monitor the disease accurately.  Diabetes, when not controlled, will kill you, it will ruin your heart, kidneys, eyes, circulation, stomach, everything!

When the surgery finally came, it went very well.  It was supposed to last 3-6 hours but was over in under three.  They ended up doing a triple bypass because they found a “ghost artery” when they got in there.  A ghost artery is an artery that no longer works and has sprouted a ton of tiny veins to try to bypass itself.

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I plan to post several spots on my recovery in the months to come.  I hope my experience is interesting and can help others who are going through the same thing, or just need a little information.

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Author: Tamra K. Garcia

Stephen King says to "Write what you know." I know diabetes, I know me; so this is what I write about.

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