Cake Please – Memories of My Angioplasty


Today is the 5-week anniversary of my intervention (another term for angioplasty). I realize my memories of the actual event are fuzzy, and will probably only get fuzzier. But there are a couple of key things I remember somewhat vividly, and they weren’t things that Google emphasized when I tried to learn about the procedure.

First of all – the room is really cold. You lay down on a special bed and they try to make the cold better with warmed blankets. These are nice for a few minutes – right up until they take off your gown, contort the blankets so that there’s a big gap of exposed skin around your groin (in case they have to cath you there), and then drape a heavy plastic sheet over you. It’s not very comfortable but the nurse and techs are extra nice.

I mentioned the “cath” – that’s the kind of cool shorthand medical lingo I use now – it’s short for catheterization which, up until this point, I thought was just for draining urine. But it’s not for urine here. Here, they insert a tube into you so they can shoot dye through your arteries and into your heart to show any blockages. In the past, they went in through the groin; now they can do it through the wrist. But they have to prepare the groin just in case.

So after they get you nice and cozy with your naked groin exposed under a plastic sheet in a freezing room – they tape your wrist down. This is also not particularly enjoyable, but at this point the nurse tells you she’s getting ready to give you the sedative.

After the sedative, things get blurry. I remember they shot something tingly into my arm, and then something warm. Or maybe it was the warm, then the tingly… I’m not sure. I think I asked for more sedative (you can do that).

The next thing I remember is an increase of people in the room looking at the computers. This was when I knew they found something. I think there may have been some general interest in my case. #MedicalAnomaly

The interventionist (the doctor who’s doing the procedure) walked over to me and said, “You have a very large, over 95% blockage in your left anterior descending artery. I think we can fix it with a stent, otherwise you can have bypass surgery. How would you like to proceed?”

Here’s what I thought: Wait. You can either do a minimally invasive, 15-minute procedure right now to fix this problem, or I can have major heart surgery? How is this even a question? Am I missing something? Are there perks to bypass surgery I don’t know about? What is going on?!?

Here’s what I said: Ummmm, I think I want the stent, but go check with my husband. (It’s nice to have a brilliant partner whom you can trust to make sure you’re not missing something while you’re on sedatives).

My husband agreed on the stent. In retrospect, this stent or surgery question brings to mind Eddie Izzard’s cake or death.

The last thing I remember is complaining that my wrist hurt and hearing the doctor say something about fentanyl. Twenty minutes later, I was in a recovery room with my husband and feeling pretty groovy.

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