Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Jingle-Bell Heart

So Monday I was lying on this big, steel table with six catheters sticking in me.  Only one of them was sticking in where you think it was.  Another one disappeared into a tiny artery in my right groin.  Yeah, groin.  Get over it.  The other four - FOUR - were jammed into one, single, tortured vein in my other groin.  Collectively, those last four tubes were about the size of a fire hose.  Of course, I didn't know all this at the time.  I was in the Mayo Clinic, well beyond sedated.

For some years I have suffered from a discombobulation of the heart in which the intake side keeps forgetting what the output side is doing.  Generally, you want those two functions to be similar.  In plumbing, there is a natural law that says, "the shit going into a pipe must equal the shit coming out plus the shit caught in the pipe."  This universal truth ranks up there with toast always landing jelly-side down.  Over the years, I had become dis-enamored with getting shit caught in my pipes, so I signed on for an RF ablation.  If you are not familiar with this term, "ablation" is the process that, while a space capsule is screaming back to Earth, the front end gets so hot that it  bubbles up like melted cheese and burns away.  "RF" means "soldering iron."  Any questions?  Did I mention that all this takes place inside the heart at the working end of one of those fire hoses? 

I would like to announce that I am alive and doing well.  And the food at the Mayo Clinic is no better than at the local Golden Corral.

As a technical challenge, it turns out that cauterizing a couple of figure 8 paths inside a beating heart pales in comparison with sealing up those big holes in your groin left behind after the five catheters are yanked out.  Computers are not up to it.  Stitches, glue, they're not up to it either.  Instead, Mayo Clinic brings in a couple of defensive linemen from the Jacksonville Jaguars who plunge their fists so far into your groin that they leave knuckle prints in the steel under your weary ass.  Once they have stanched the blood flow down to a trickle, they install a couple of size 48-Long C-clamps and tighten them until your eyeballs bulge.  As a precaution, a nurse whispers in your ear, "Don't y'all move for the next six hours or you will surely bleed to death."

I slept poorly Monday night.

All of this is preface to what one of the other catheters was doing all this time.  It was taking pictures.  Specifically, it was taking the picture that follows.  This is what the inside of my heart looks like now, complete with two neat squiggles of scar tissue.  Yup - heart-shaped. The Christmas tree colors are because my cardiac team had a sense of humor that ran all amok.

So now I'm home, bruised, battered and sucking down Hydrocodone every five hours. Or maybe four.  My heart is kicking over at a comfortingly steady pace, and I have something funky to hang on next year's tree.  Life remains good.

Happy New Year.



  1. Glad you're still alive. None of that sounds like fun. Have had my share of that kind of thing. Your descriptions are quite apt.

    Hang in there.

  2. Happy to hear that your engine got bored out! Feel better.

    My dad described sandbags on his groin for his surgery.

    Wishing you a very happy and healthy new year.


  3. Thanks, Hilton & TB. Nothing "boring" here, since my veins and arteries were all clog-free. I assure you that clean living had nothing to do with it. This was more like replacing the spark plug wires.

  4. Sorry to hear OM. Get well soon and my groin aches just from your descriptions.