by Carolyn Thomas ♥ @HeartSisters
I am lying in a surprisingly large and very white, bright glass-walled room in the CCU (the coronary intensive care unit) of our local hospital. Through these walls I can see several people who look like nurses and doctors seated at a long desk outside my glass box, staring at monitors. It’s action central out there, where staff can observe and monitor every heart patient, each of us in one of the glass boxes.
I can see assorted tubes, lines and beeping machines surrounding my bed or attached to my body. Two nurses are looking down at me, one on either side of my bed, closely examining my right wrist. They are checking the wound that has been opened up there in order to insert a catheter through the radial artery, up my arm, around the bend of my shoulder and into my beating heart. I find it oddly touching that each of these women is gently holding one of my hands. I feel like weeping, and so I do.
I have no more pain. No more pain crushing my chest or radiating down my left arm. No more of the increasingly debilitating symptoms I’ve been suffering for the past two weeks. If anything, I’m simply feeling surprised. I have had a heart attack. I HAVE HAD A HEART ATTACK! I, Carolyn Thomas, have had a frickety-frackin’ heart attack. . .
Continue reading ““I am lying in a surprisingly bright glass-walled room…””
by Carolyn Thomas ♥ @HeartSisters
It all started when cardiologist Dr. William Dillon of Louisville, Kentucky made this observation on his Twitter page about doing cardiac catheterization procedures:
As a two-time veteran of transradial (wrist) caths*, I felt just a wee bit alarmed by the last line of his tweet. We heart patients tend to get a wee bit alarmed by implications that those we trust may “never be good” at what they’ve just done to us, as described by the very people who work alongside them – those known as interventional cardiologists.
I felt similarly alarmed, by the way, during the recent FDA recall of defective Riata cardiac defibrillator leads when Dr. Laurence Epstein of Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital told Heartwire interviewers that ICD leads are sometimes “implanted poorly”, bluntly adding:
“You can’t account for knuckleheads putting them in. Some lead failures are going to be expected . . . Others fail because people put them in in horrible ways.” Continue reading “How do patients know if their docs “will never be good”?”
Here’s how your heart looks during a coronary angiography procedure. The white/yellow blood vessels are bringing oxygenated blood to the working muscles of the heart. (See link below to the whole slide show).
Coronary angiography (also called cardiac catheterization) is sometimes referred to as the ‘gold standard’ of diagnostics for heart patients. The procedure involves threading a tiny catheter through an artery in the wrist or groin and pushing it up, up, up right into the beating heart. It’s considered to be an invasive procedure, but not surgical. Patients are sedated, but usually awake throughout.
The catheter is guided through the artery with the aid of a special x-ray machine. Contrast material (dye) is injected through the catheter and x-ray movies are created as the contrast material moves through the heart’s chambers, valves and major vessels.
The interventional cardiologists in the ‘cath lab’ then watch your beating heart up on the monitor, where they can spot any coronary arteries that are blocked or narrowed, and evaluate your heart function. If significant blockages are seen, further procedures like balloon angioplasty, stent implants or coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) – commonly known as bypass surgery – may be attempted to restore blood flow to the threatened heart muscle.
I’ve undergone two of these invasive cardiac procedures – the first an emergency catheterization and stent implant when I was hospitalized for a heart attack, the second 15 months later to investigate ongoing cardiac symptoms. And I can tell you that it is freakishly fascinating to lie on the cath lab table, sedated yet very awake, and watch your own beating heart on the overhead monitor. Continue reading “Inside your heart – as captured by National Geographic”