Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Decision to Keep Me Overnight

This is the second part of who knows how many parts related the story of my recent triple bypass surgery.  I apologize for the first part, (see here).  I really wanted to at least get through the decision to keep me for observation in that first post, but as I said, couldn't write on Sunday.  I might have at least gotten thru with the first day but my laptop decided to take 90 minutes or so updating Windows 10 just when I actually did feel up to writing.

Anyway, picking up, after maybe 3-4 hours of lying in the hallway of the ER, a doctor finally showed up.  First time all day I'd actually seen a doc.  She immediately told me that everything looked fine and they were releasing me.  The EKG, the blood tests and the chest x-ray all were normal. But as I expected, she did schedule me for a treadmill stress test two days later.  She also suggested that I follow up with my regular doc to see if they could identify the source of the discomfort.  She thought it might possibly be a problem with my esophagus and that they might want to stick a tube down my throat to check it out.

I went home, with my appointment for the stress test two days later in hand.  I expected this to be routine, nothing to see here.  But at the last second, as I was leaving for the appointment, I thought to put my laptop and that duffle bag in my trunk.  I didn't take the Kindle because I didn't expect to be waiting that long.

I got stressed out as I got to the hospital to find the place to take the test.  It was different than last time.  I was told that it was in same building as the hospital, a few levels up….but when I went to that level, I was in the maternity ward.  Hmm…that was definitely not the issue I was facing!  I was directed and redirected several times until I finally found the right place, arriving five minutes before the appointment, which had me agitated.

They hooked me up and had me take the treadmill test.  It did not go well. I had to stop it short because of shortness of breath and also weakness in my legs (but not because the symptoms I was suffering from had worsened).  The nurses were discussing my test as I cooled down, and they were not happy.  They were able to compare it my previous stress test (from a few years earlier) and it did not compare well.  They said they were going to call a cardiologist to review it further.

He showed up a few minutes later, reviewed the EKG, asked me a bunch of questions.  And asked me some more questions.  And reviewed the EKG again and compared it to the last one.  Finally he said, "We're going to keep you for observation.  Maybe 24 hours."

Wow.  I wasn't expecting that!  I asked if that was really necessary and he insisted it was.  "It looks like you may have had an 'episode' in the recent past.  We need to run some more tests."

Ugh.  I just assumed that by "episode" he meant a heart attack (presumably a mild one) but that is not necessarily the case (stay tuned).  That was pretty scary stuff.  They wanted to transfer me to—I think it was called—the OTU.  That may or may not stand for Observation Transfer Unit.  The only person I asked was unclear about "T".  The doc said that in the morning they would try something called (I think) a nuclear stress test.  As best as I understand it, they do something to your heart to get it pumping faster without having you exercise.  He said if that was ok, they'd release me, but that it might show they would need to do an angiogram. 

He saw the concern in my eyes and said that it was actually no big deal.  He had an angiogram himself not long ago and returned to work the next day.  He basically implied that would happen to me.  I mentioned I had weekend plans and he said it was very likely I'd be able to keep them.  Of course what I was referring to was heading to Vegas on Friday.  This was now late Wednesday afternoon. But he did tell me that if I needed the angiogram, they would have me send me off site to do it.

You see, as big as the Kaiser facility in Panorama City is, it is not quite big enough to do angiograms and open heart surgery.  They have an even larger facility in the Hollywood area for that.  It's either in East Hollywood or downtownish L.A. and is referred to as Kaiser Sunset (cuz it's on Sunset Blvd, you see).  It's only about 14 miles from the Panorama City facility as the crow flies, but as L.A. traffic crawls, it might as well be in another time zone.  You have to travel one of the most miserable freeways in L.A. (and that says a lot) to get there.  They said if they decided to do the angiogram, they'd send me there from where I was by ambulance. Yeesh.

As soon as they could, they got a wheelchair there and wheeled me downstairs to this OTU.  I realized I would be there for the night and had to decide what to do with my stuff that was in my car.  I had no idea how big my "room" in the OTU would be…would a laptop be practical in the room?  Plus….what would I do with it if they had to take me by ambulance to another facility?

I decided it was impractical to try to get my laptop before I was transferred to the OTU.  But there was something in my car that I surely should have thought about getting out at this time….a charger for my celphone.  I guess my mind was preoccupied and I didn't think of it until I got to the OTU.

I guess you could call where they had me in the OTU a room, but it was very small.  At least I wasn't lying in a hallway all night.  The nurse assigned me to was very nice.  All I had to amuse myself was my celphone (albeit rapidly losing power) and an extremely poor TV.  There were a bunch of basic cable channels, but not FS1, which was televising the Dodgers-Nationals baseball playoff game.  And the picture quality on the tiny TV was terrible.

Meanwhile, I decided to make a few phone calls.  I called my sister and brother-in-law to let them know of my status.  They live well over an hour away from Panorama City.  My brother-in-law suggested asking the nurse if there was any way someone could go down to my car to pick up a few items out of the car for me.  I also called my friends LM and Woody, who live about 20 minutes further from Panorama City than I do.  By this time I had found out that if they were going to take me to Sunset, I would be on own for getting back to Panorama City from there!  I was a bit taken aback by that.  I mean, if they are going to take me by ambulance to another facility, shouldn't they be responsible for returning me to where I checked in?  Otherwise, let me drive my own car to the new location.  But no, the nurse said I could use Uber or call a taxi when I was done at Sunset.  So I floated the idea of maybe having LM and Woody help me out with that.  At least I think I did.

I asked my nurse about getting some stuff out of my car.  She said that perhaps, if they had more staff working, someone could wheel me down to my car to get some things.  She said she would keep me posted if enough staff were ever on duty.

Then a different cardiologist visited me.  He asked a bunch of questions and said a bunch of stuff.  Somehow, I figured out that he was cancelling the morning test.  I asked him to confirm that.  "After studying the EKG, there's really no point.  If we did the nuclear stress test, that could very well induce a heart attack."  Yikes.  "We will schedule you for the angiogram at Sunset tomorrow afternoon."

Much later that night, they showed me a video on what an angiogram is all about.  The stick a catheter in your arm or leg (yes, that's what the video said) and shoot some dye through your arteries and heart to determine if there's blockage.  If there is, and it's not too severe, they can put one or two stents inside to go around the blockage.  And you can actually go home same day or next day (depending what time of day the procedure takes place) and it's pretty much all over and you're more or less good as new.  But if the damage is too severe, they can't do the stents and bypass surgery is necessary.  I was told that going with the stents was by far the most common outcome.

I asked the nurse if there was any way I could borrow a charger for my phone.  She borrowed one of the other nurse's.  That was nice, but for whatever reason, it charged very slowly.  In fact, if I was actually using the phone while it was charging, it barely kept pace and maybe even have lost a bit of juice.  I had to avoid using the phone to get it to actually increase the percentage that it was charged. 

The one thing that was on TV that night that I could actually watch was the last Presidential debate.  There were a lot of distractions but I did "enjoy" most of it. 

I guess they brought me some dinner, I don't remember.  I remember I couldn't eat (or drink) anything at all the next day due to the procedure. 

During the debate, the nurse brought by her replacement, a very jovial black guy who I assumed was Jamaican (from his accent).  I had to return the phone charger but my new nurse found another one I could borrow.  But the charging was no better, in fact it was a bit worse.  At one point during the evening I just turned the phone off as that was the only way to get it fully charged.

The old nurse had told the new nurse about my desire to get stuff from my car (by this time I had realized how much I needed a phone charger if nothing else),  He said that it was unlikely they'd have anyone to help me during his shift.

I believe it was sometime that night they told me that the ambulance would be picking me up at 12:45 PM for a 2PM procedure.

After the debate, I was at the mercy of limited TV stations for entertainment (and every one with terrible picture quality).  None of the cable channels that might have had interesting post-debate commentary were available.  I was reduced to finding sitcom reruns. 

Luckily, I found a station that apparently had a Modern Family marathon.  That's a quality show so I watched a bunch of episodes.  But here's something bizarre.  The very first minute I tuned in, I saw Claire (one of the main characters) in the E.R. because of a heart problem. And a doctor was releasing her saying she was ok, but that she had had an "episode."  Her husband was panicky but the doctor calmed him, "She had an arrhythmia, but it's nothing to worry about."  (that's nowhere near an exact quote…but he definitely used the word "episode" and meant it as an arrhythmia, not a heart attack).  Considering I had just been told I may have had a previous "episode" just earlier in the day, I couldn't believe the coincidence.

But wait, there's more.  After they stopped showing Modern Family episodes, I found another channel that was showing Friends reruns.  I could do a lot worse.  But the two episodes I watched took place 100% in a hospital!  Yeah, it was because Rachel was about to give birth.  Out of the 8,000 episodes they did, how many took place in a hospital?  And they were showing two of them when I was stuck in a hospital? 

Now, sometime during the evening, the black, male nurse came by and asked me a question I never expected to hear.  "Do you want me to shave your groin, or do you want me to do it?"

Shave my groin????

Remembering the video he had shown me, I managed to joke, "Oh, so I guess when they said 'leg' in that video, that was just a euphemism."

I'm not sure he got it.  He said he had some clippers he could give me.  I said, "Homina, Homina, Homina…chef of the future."

He saw my discomfort with the question and said, "I'll come back and shave you."

But he never did.  I was hoping that they'd figured out that they didn't have to do that. The next morning he handed me off to the new nurse, a female.  And he mentioned to her that he had never gotten around to shaving me.  And that she would have to do it.  Honestly, that was better to me.  She was young and somewhat cute.  I could live with a reasonably looking female manscaping me.  I mean, some guys pay for that.

In the meantime, I met her nurse's assistant.  She was an older lady, not the least bit attractive.  Pardon the slur, but the expression "old biddy" came to mind.

So the nurse at one point told me that her assistant was going to bring me some clippers so I could shave my groin.  Wait, what?  What about her doing it?  Oh well, I guess I'd figure it out.

Except a few minutes later  the old biddy came in and said, "Did she tell you what I have to do?" as she was unwrapping a fresh set of electronic clippers. "She said you were going to give me some clippers so I could shave my groin."

She said, "I'm going to shave you groin. Sorry, this has to be done."

Whoa.  This was nothing like the somewhat cute, much younger nurse doing this.  But she proceeded to take those clippers to my crotch and clip away.  Honestly, I have to assume that wanted to do this.  I'm guessing it is the favorite part of her job. 

From what I could tell, she didn't do a very thorough job, especially around the actual groin area, which is where they insert the catheter that goes to the heart (that's why they needed to shave there).  But what do I know?  I had to live with the thought that I had given some older woman her daily thrill.

The clippers, by the way, appeared to be for one-time use, even though they were battery powered.  They had a cheap looking plastic cover over the blades and honestly didn't seemed designed to get a really close shave.

And…..that's where I'll leave this chapter. (next chapter can be found here).   Here's my current update.  I seem to be on the mend, up to walking 10 minutes twice today.  Still a decent amount of pain but I stopped the pain pills a few days ago.  I have a doctor's visit tomorrow and if it goes well I could relocate to my own home tomorrow afternoon.


  1. Wow, some of your best writing Rob. I mean that. Thoughts & Prayers my Poker Buddy.


    1. Thanks very much Kenny. I really appreciate the kind words.

  2. This is turning out to be quite the adventure Rob. Can't wait to read more.

    Oh, and I'll save TBC the time by posting: If you had just given Tony some money some time way back when, God wouldn't have done all this to you!! ;-)

    But seriously folks... glad you're here to tell us about everything.

    1. Thanks, Steve.

      Funny you mention Tony....next chapter I run into someone who plays blackjack like he does!

  3. Glad you are removing well, my friend. Next time I see you, we'll swap stories. I had my procedure done in May - in a Hong Kong hospital. They were beyond awesome.

    1. Oh wow...Hong Kong? Does your EKG only print out in Mandarin?

  4. Starting to remind me of the Saturday serials they showed at the movie theaters of my youth. No, not the Perils of Pauline -- way earlier. This was like Lash LaRue. Each episode solved the last cliff hanger and left a new one.

    Oh, if you're looking to increase readers, the theater offered the first hundred kids a free bag of stale popcorn. Might work.

    1. I'm sorry,Ken. I'm not nearly old enough to know what you're talking about. :)

  5. Rob, you got me my first laugh of the day. only you could make a heart surgery funny, but that groin shaving anecdote is priceless. get busy and tell us more of the story. every detail please. cheers

    1. Thanks, Woody. I figured that anecdote would amuse you.

      Maybe I should ask the surgeon who performed my surgery do a guest post about what went on while was uncontentious?

    2. That Pic: The "Nurse" sure has a long stethoscope. I wonder what she is checking out? Maybe it reaches the shaved groin??? LOL

    3. Hmmm.....in my dreams, norm!

  6. i think steves comment was out of line

    1. He was just kidding, but I understand if you feel that way.

  7. This story reminds me of my job in high school as a surgical orderly. I had to shave all of the male patients for their operations. One fine fall day, I'm looking at the list of patients and see a name I recognize. Nah. Can't be him. Oh yes, it's a friend from school. I walk into Dave's (not his real name) room and said hello. He thought I might have just been popping in to visit. Then he saw that I had something in my hands. "What's that" he asked. Well, Dave, I'm here to shave you for your operation. "But, it's a HERNIA OPERATION," he said. Yes, I'm aware of that. "But, that means you have to shave me....down there." Yeah, I ain't too happy about this either. Then he asks if he could do it himself. Well, nobody had ever asked that before. This was years before manscaping was a thing. I checked with the nurse and she said it was fine but I had to verify that he had shaved enough. I came back an hour later to find that Dave had shaved an area about two feet wider in each direction than he needed. Oh well, at least I didn't have to shave my friend's junk.

    1. OMG.....great story, John. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Enjoying your bypass posts so far. That first post-stress test cardiologist pissed me off. Why can't docs be precise in their language? You had no real idea what an "episode" was, allowing you to think the worst.

    Oh, and sitting on a gurney in the hallway is just horrible. I had to stay with Elaine in her hallway gurney after we broke her arm (doing a bad wheelchair to bed transfer) in July for about 8 hours. Saw some horrible things wheeling by on stretchers. I was stuck in a hallway gurney throwing up continuously for hours when I had a vertigo attack some years ago. Like it's not bad enough to have the room spinning and feeling miserable and throwing up, you have to be/do all these things with half the free world going by and ignoring you.

    1. UGH, that sounds terrible, Cranky. It's terrible that you were stuck in a hallway like that, sick as you were. At least I was resting comfortably, more or less.

      Yes....I guess that the doc who said I might have had an recent episode should have explained what he meant. But too, I should have asked. I was in too much shock.