October 28, 2020
First, I want to begin this essay with these words: I am at home, and I am well.
But last week at this time, I was in my local hospital. I’d arrived there by ambulance on Sunday the 18th, and on Wednesday, I was awaiting transportation to a larger General hospital in a city that lies about thirty-five minutes to the east. That hospital has a full function cardiac department. I was going there in order to have my second, ever, angiogram.
The last one occurred in December of 2002, about four months after my first and only heart attack which I suffered in August of that year. In November I’d begun having angina, and the doctor told me if angina woke me up from a sound sleep, then I was to head to the hospital, which I did.
An angiogram is a test that takes pictures of the coronary arteries and the blood vessels that supply the heart. During the test they use a catheter, inserted into a blood vessel to inject a special dye into the blood, in order for the pictures to be taken.
Due to the ongoing presence of the pandemic, new rules are in place in our hospitals, here. In order for me to be able to undergo the angiogram, I had to first have two negative Covid-19 tests, taken within twenty-four hours. Once that was a fait accompli, (late Tuesday afternoon) the procedure was scheduled for the next day. I didn’t even think of complaining about the Covid tests, even if it did feel like my brain was being sting-tickled with vinegar and a wire. Taking every precaution is one way we prevent the disease from spreading. I happen to believe that is very important.
Eighteen years had passed since my last angiogram, and as one would expect after that amount of time had passed, some improvements have been made to the procedure. The major one I was aware of was this: that if a blockage was found and if the doctor decided a stent would be appropriate, it would be done then and there.
Unlike that last time, the access point for the catheter was not my femoral artery, but my radial artery – in my right wrist. And also, unlike that last time, my test results this time were excellent. There were no blockages, and nothing to explain the couple of incidents of unstable angina that I’d experienced. They did find some mild plaque in one of the arteries. The doctors reached the conclusion that this plaque could be treated with medication. They added two new meds to the ones I was already taking, and increased the dosage of two others, and I’m (obviously) fine with all of that.
I am grateful for all the services that I received, beginning with the ambulance ride to the hospital. I was taken into the emergency room immediately, put on a stretcher, and hooked up to blood pressure and heart monitoring equipment.
They admitted me to a room on the Cardiac ward around nine Sunday evening. After the first Covid test came back negative, I was moved from that room to another, this one with a roommate who was also awaiting the results of his second test.
My roommate turned out to be a gentleman. I’m old fashioned enough that I felt some objections wanting to emerge as I realized that. I soon learned that this was not uncommon at all. They have to manage the patients they have, as well as the ones they don’t but might receive. Restricting rooms by gender means blocking beds from use, and even under normal circumstances, that’s not good.
I came home early Thursday afternoon, and I have decided to take things easy, rest a fair bit, and try to “chill”. I’ll probably get back to pushing myself eventually, because I don’t think such a relatively short stay in hospital is enough to convert this A type personality into a beta forever.
But it’s always, good, at least in my humble opinion, to take full advantage of the opportunities we’re given. And that is never so true as when the opportunity comes wrapped in a scare, and reminds us that we are, after all, very mortal.