My Journey - My D Day

When I was in elementary school my mom and my best friend's mom decided to take my best friend, her little brother, the Bro, and I to get flu shots.  Like most kids, none of us was particularly excited about getting a shot.  I was first up for the shot and made it out with just a stuck out lower lip.  Best friend was up next and she came out sniffling.  Her brother was next, he went in and came out crying.  And the Bro, well, the Bro took one look at that crying face and took off running.  Both mothers and a nurse had to chase him around the hospital and hold him down while he screamed at the top of his lungs.  The reason that I'm telling you this is because if I had really known the particulars of my surgery ahead of time, the nurses would have been chasing me around the hospital.  And nurses chasing a 30 something year old in a hospital gown around a hospital is just embarrassing.

It all actually started the day before surgery when I got a heart catheterization.  This is a procedure where they insert a tube called a catheter into a large blood vessel, in my case the femoral artery, to more closely examine your heart.  Basically they were mapping my heart prior to surgery.
On the day of surgery they wheeled me into the room and I remember very little after that, thank goodness!  Once I was under my body temperature was dropped and my heart was arrested.  In other words, they stopped my heart.  (So what did you do today?  Me, oh nothing much,  I just died.  You?)  After my heart was stopped an incision was made at the end of the aneurysm near my bum heart valve.  My surgeon then examined the valve, removed it, and replaced it with a mechanical heart valve.  Mine is made from a carbon and apparently diamonds are the only thing harder.  (My surgeon said that he could give me a diamond valve but that the cost of things increases exponentially.)  Once the valve was in place circulatory arrest was initiated.  They maintained blood flow to my brain, but basically turned everything else off so that they could then remove the aneurysm.  (Yep,  died again.)  The area of the aorta with the aneurysm was removed and replaced with a graft.  They then restarted everything and got to closing me up.  My breast bone, which had to be cut down the middle in order to access my heart, was secured with several wire loops.  (Yes, the wire will stay in for the rest of my life, and, no, I should not set off the alarms at airports.  I asked.)  Next all of those lovely internal layers were closed with dissolving stitches.  And finally my skin was closed with what I can best describe as glue.  Oh yeah, I also got a rather large hole in the middle of my torso for a tube and pacing wires.  The tube was in case there was any drainage and the pacing wires were to ensure that my heart rhythm remained steady and normal.  Luckily the tube and wires were removed quite soon after my surgery, as was one of the three IV ports that I got: one in the neck, the collar bone, and the arm.  Theoretically I knew that they were going to have to stop my heart in order to operate on it, however having all of the gory details is a whole other story which I'm quite glad I didn't read first.

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