It’s over (mostly).
The fine doctors and nurses at Mayo Clinic have plumbed the depths of my cardiovascular system, and have officially declared me to be free of Coronary Artery Disease.
Here’s how it went down: We got to Mayo at 8:00 on Thursday, and at 8:45, I was ushered into the cardiology holding area so that I could change into a hospital gown (opening in the back, thank God) and a funny pair of socks. Then the nurses went to work taking my blood pressure, giving me an IV, and asking me a bunch of questions about my blood sugar, my medications, and medical history. A few hours later, after my parents and husband had hung out with me for a while, I was shipped back to the cath lab, where things got weird.
I was scootched onto the official cath lab table, and covered with warm blankets from head to toe — except, to my chagrin, from my mid-thighs up to my waist. Several thirty-something nurses bopped merrily around the room, bantering about who stole whose Baked Cheetos, and how one nurse had just been dumped the evening before. Terrible, terrible rock music played on a nearby radio, and I remember thinking, “It’s good that they’re playing this music. If they were playing music I liked, this experience would ruin it for me forever.” They scrubbed me with iodine and covered me with a sheet that left only a small part of my groin exposed. Then the doctor came in and explained to me that I’d feel a “pinch.” “Just like when they did the IV,” he said.
Yeah, right. This probably won’t come as a surprise, but having a catheter the size of a piece of spaghetti inserted into your femoral artery and threaded up to your heart is a really weird feeling. It was like I could feel the full strength of my heartbeat right where they were trying to insert the catheter – in addition to this weird, stabby feeling — and though I’m not usually one to show pain easily, I did. I gasped, and the doctor seemed surprised. “You can feel that?” he asked, and then instructed the nurses to pump me up with a whole bunch more of whatever they’d just given me. The ceiling started to move in a funny pattern, and I don’t remember much of what happened immediately afterward.
A few short minutes later, the doctor’s face swung into view. “Beautiful!” he exclaimed. “Everything’s clear and beautiful!” The nurses pulled the catheter out, and sent me back to the holding area. A huge nurse came over to remove the plug they’d inserted into my artery, and to hold a lot of pressure on the point for 15 to 20 minutes. Then I was all bandaged up, told not to lift my head for the next hour, and my parents, husband, and mother-in-law came in to see me. Superstar supporters, indeed.
The rest of the afternoon was pretty uneventful. I went from being perfectly flat, to sitting up, to resting in a chair, and then I got to get dressed and meet with the cardiologist who’d ordered the procedure. He explained that, since CAD wasn’t to blame for my condition, it was likely that an earlier infection had damaged my heart muscle. He prescribed an ACE inhibitor and sent me merrily on my way, with a follow-up appointment in a few weeks.
So although I’m not completely in the clear, I have to say there’s a big part of me that’s satisfied to learn that my heart troubles aren’t a direct result of the ‘betes. I’m relieved, ready to put the really scary stuff behind me, and get back to exercise and regular life. In fact, I think my mood upon returning home is best expressed by this little girl: