Monday, February 2, 2015

Wistful Wednesday, Thankful Thursday and TGIF

...a continuation of the Ernst Chronicles...

Seven years ago when Ernst had his first heart attack, the Place to have any heart procedure in Sacramento was Mercy General, the one in midtown by the Fabulous Forties. They had (and still do) a top notch cardiovascular team that handled a huge load of heart patients. That's where Kaiser sent all of their heart surgeries, including angiograms (which are now referred to as catheterizations, or caths). The Catholic hospital with the receptionist nuns did the caths, I guess that was appropriate. When Ernst was in the ER last week and they started talking about doing his cath at Kaiser Roseville or South Sac, I about had an internal meltdown. It had been ingrained in my head, GO TO MERCY FOR THE HEART.

What a difference seven years makes. Kaiser doctors now work part-time at Mercy, Mercy doctors do rotations at the Kaiser Cath Lab (which I kept wanting to call the Meth Lab) and all this mixing around is good. When Ernst was transferred to the Kaiser South Sac facility, he came to be in wonderful hands and we experienced the best hospital experience I have yet to see first-hand.

I arrived to the hospital fresh from a shower and sporting clean clothes, I was still pretty shook up but glad we would be getting some answers. One of the questions was, why are all these medical professionals so young looking?? His nurse in the cath lab, Eli looked extremely capable, but on the young side. He said the doctor doing the cath would be Dr. Skipper, and wow did he look young too. Turns out it's spelled Schipper, which reassured me, oddly enough. But the most reassuring thing of the entire experience was learning that 9 out of 10 times they go through the arm now, not the femoral artery. Why they don't make public service announcements about this is beyond me. Stents - They Don't Have to Freak You Out Anymore!! No more visions of a pregnant nurse climbing on top of my husband to stop the bleeding from his femoral artery, like what happened at the hospital with the nuns. About 83% of my worries went away instantly. We went out to the waiting room and I was able to calm down enough to read the paper that had been so abruptly interrupted that morning by a zillion firefighters in our living room.

The procedure went well, they were surprised to find his 3 old stents free and clear. We would like to thank all the plants in the world for that. Thank you plants, we will keep eating you in abundance. What they did find were two areas of new blockages. I'm going to use some technical terms here, so hang in there. Seems like a few areas of old gunk broke off, and when stuff breaks off in your heart, a bunch of sticky activity takes place and causes blobs of yuck that can block blood flow. These needed to be sucked out by the vacuum cleaner attachment they stuck up his wrist all the way into his heart - like a Dyson for humans. Then they shoved up two stents that look like the little springs in a ball point pen to keep the arteries nice and expanded. He was awake and got to watch. With each suction and placement of stents, he felt better and, like a miracle, his back pain went away. OK, I'll stop using technical terms now.

Linda and Jeff went up the ICU with me to see Ernst. We did something really dumb and didn't know it until later. We got to the locked doors of the ICU and failed to see the call button and camera off to the right. How do we get in, we wondered? Being the pioneers we are, Jeff gave a good old fashioned knock on the doors to the Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits beat. A person came and opened it up, looking a bit perplexed, but we were in and it was terrific to see Ernst looking fabulous. He was in great spirits, happy and healthy again. The room had a big window, lots of room, and I was glad I hadn't pitched a fit about not going to Mercy.

There's more than one way
to make a meal vegan. Poultry theft!
They brought in a bed/chair contraption with pillows and bed linens so I could spend the night. Our night nurse was amazing. The procedure for undoing the wrist artery contraption (sorry, I'm getting all technical again) compared to seven years ago with the femoral artery is like comparing a hovel to Buckingham Palace. The night nurse, Lindsey, sat in a chair next to Ernst for about an hour, slowly releasing air from his wrist apparatus, watching for bleeding. They talked about climbing Mt. Whitney, hiking the Sierras, her hometown Chicago and regional accents. No bleeding, no drama, no trauma. Lindsey came in through the night to check on his wrist, but she was quiet and we both slept.

So much hospital staff came into that ICU room in the next two days, it almost became comical. Of course there is the guy who draws blood at 5 am. They must clone him because it's always at 5 am, like how Santa Claus is able to visit all those houses in one night. A hospital mystery. There were cardiologists, Eli the Nurse Guy from the cath lab, nurses Roxanne, Lindsey, Casey and Sherri, regular doctors, the head of the nursing dept. for ICU, the ICU director, the discharge doctor with the title "Hospitalist", the room sanitizers, the nutritionist who arranged some nice vegan meals, the team of giggly girls who were skin checkers (I have no technical term for this, they came in and checked his skin) and others whose specific roles now escape me. Let's just say Ernst was well cared for.

Little did we know there was an Ebola scare happening in the ER the day we arrived. I'm so glad we didn't know, it turned out to be nothing. But after the initial medical concern is over, it hits you - You are in a building full of really sick people. The nurses called Ernst a Walkie/Talkie/Easy/Peasy because he was so relatively healthy although assigned to the ICU. We kept the door to his room closed as much as possible to keep him that way. As he got more and more IVs removed from his arm and he was only tethered up to the heart monitor, he became like an astronaut on a space walk, and he wanted to go home! Poor Jeff came down with a nasty case of the Flu From He!! a few days later, but after an Ebola scare, we will all count our blessings. I honestly don't know what I would have done without Jeff there, he is a rock. A really funny rock.

What does the future hold? More plants and lots of them! If I could speak to the old plaques in Ernst's arteries I would say "Let's just keep calm here. Hands up against the wall. Stay put. Don't move a muscle." If they only could invent something like super hold hairspray for artery walls, he would be fine. But for now, emergency averted and we go on. Whew! Thank you all for your visits, calls, emails, Instagrams, hugs, texts, prayers and calming reassurances. We love you.