Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bypass Part 5: Corned Beef & CABG

So, let's see, where were we... ah yes. Having survived the angiogram in fine fettle, I was subsequently informed that I had 3 blocked cardiac arteries. One was 100% blocked... is that really possible?... and the other two between 70% and 90%. I was like the fucking 405 freeway at rush-hour.

Damn. I mean... just... damn.

So, they wheeled me back to my room, waited for most of the happy-juice to wear off, and then informed me that the wisest course of action would be a Coronary Artery Bypass Graft. CABG for short.

I had spend 3 years in Baltimore working for a company that collected, massaged and sold medical data. Among the common surgical procedures that showed up in the Powerpoint presentations I'd put together for consulting physicians was the dreaded CABG. While the mortality figures were low and the clinical outcomes generally good, just the fact that they were telling me I had to have something that actually had a mortality rate just freaked. my. shit. out.

As a result, I spent the next couple of days in a drug-induced haze.

I don't blame them. Most of the people who know me know that I'm not really what you'd call a drama queen. (I hear that whispering in the background... shutthefuckup.) I tend to be pretty grounded for the most part, I don't dissolve into a pile of pudding when things go pear-shaped. But despite my Yankee stiff-upper-lip-ness, the doctors and nurses could tell that I was having a major, major mental meltdown. So I was given the gift of chemical zen.

At some point my wonderful friends Janey and Shaz showed up at the hospital. I remember their visit. What I didn't remember was that I evidently ignored them completely in the presence of my dinner. Gravy was involved. According to Janey, I behaved as if I had either a) never tasted such amazing gravy or b) expected this gravy to perform sexual acts upon me that usually required 3 days preparation and an accidental death signed release form.

To Janey, Shaz, and anyone else who may have encountered me during that period, I can only offer my heartfelt apologies and my solemn promise that I have kicked the Gravy for good.

So then, Wednesday, April 15th (Tax Day. Do you see a theme developing? Good. Keep it to yourself.) dawned. I was shaved. Actually, I was expected to shave many of my parts myself. This was, after all, a Catholic hospital. Leave it to Catholics to expect a drug-addled coronary patient to attack his own chest hair with a disposable razor. Following that, I was given more drugs. Maybe this is how Father Brad got all those boy scouts to... um, I digress.

Anyhoo, off to surgery. I was still awake when they wheeled me in. Rockin'. Fortunately I went under just as they started strapping my arms to the padded board... which was so reminiscent of crucifixion that I would have laughed my ass off if I'd had the energy. Really? Catholic hospital, arms outstretched on the surgical table... and my heart and lungs would be stopped??? Can't make this shit up. Where's that Magdalene bitch? My feet could use a good scrub...

And with that, several hours of blackness descended.

And it really was black. There was no sense of passing time. No dreams. Nothing. Only in hindsight was this absolutely terrifying. The next thing I remember was coming to in the recovery room. I was still intubated, and my very first thought was "oh, shit, I know exactly where I am, what's down my throat, and it's not gonna be pretty." My friend Janey (who also happens to be an RN) had evidently talked herself into the recovery room... it was her voice I heard first. I immediately started gagging on the tube (again, I hear that whispering. See previous remark.)

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