So I Have More Heart Problems. Here’s What You Need To Know.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 2.412% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Four years ago this weekend, I went in for triple-bypass surgery to fix three clogged arteries. I wrote one final entry in my blog, “How I Pray To God” – which I wrote as though it were the last thing I might ever get to say – and then the doctors put me under.

The recovery from the triple-bypass was bad. Very bad. Life-changingly bad. I’ve not been officially diagnosed, but I do have some form of flashbacks and emotional trauma whenever someone goes through heart problems.

Last week, I went in for my four-year checkup – a radiation stress test on the treadmill.

Which I failed.

The stress test showed two arteries with partial blockage. Which… might or not be a problem. If I have a problem, the perfusion stress test is literally the most efficient tool at seeking it out – it’s 92% likely to pick up any serious issues.

Unfortunately, if you don’t have a serious issue, the test has a 30% chance of delivering a false positive.

What’s happening next is that I have to go in for a catheterization where they run a tube up the artery in my leg to look directly at my heart. If it’s a false positive (as my doctor believes), then we laugh and say “Well, weren’t you lucky!” If not, they put in stents to wedge my arteries open, which is a minor procedure and can be done outpatient (but they prefer an overnight stay).

Worse, the doctor who does these catheterizations is on vacation for two weeks, and so I have to wait to make an appointment at his office to make a reservation at the hospital to do all this, which means probably a month minimum of stress and concern.

The doctor calls this “minor course corrections.” Clearly, he’s okay waiting two weeks to do anything; I’ve seen the pictures of my arteries and yeah, it looks really minor.

But it also has a feeling of inevitability. I’ve been exercising more, eating better, trying my best to keep myself healthy, and it’s still back. This feels very much like creeping death – my first blockage was largely the result of a genetic disorder that floods my system with small-particle cholesterol, and at the age of 47 I’m feeling very very mortal. I’m genuinely wondering if I’ll make it to 50, which is a shitty overreaction because this is probably fine, but damn, what happened to me during the bypass seriously fucked me up.

And I think of Hamilton:

*Why do you write like you’re running out of time?*

I am. I very much am. Even if I’m healthy, I am. I hear the clock tick with each heart beat, knowing that each one is no longer guaranteed. And I should be telling more friends directly, but honestly, I can barely bring myself to text about this, so if you’re hearing about this indirectly it’s not that I don’t love you it’s that, well, this is about the bets I can do right now.

And I think of that final post I made; the one where I thought I was going to die. It’s still a good post. If I do die, well, remember me for that.

In the meantime, I am most likely going to be fine, even if I have to get stents. “Course correction,” the doctor says. And it is.

Yet when you’re sitting in a darkened bedroom, trying to get to sleep, and all you can hear is the erratic rhythm of your heart, wondering whether each pulse will be your last – or whether you’ll wind back in the powerless hell of the ventilator – it’s hard to see the good in life.

The joy will come back. It generally does. But for right now, I’m going to curl up into a ball and recover as best I can.

Message ends.

4 Comments

  1. Denise Webber
    Jan 17, 2017

    Well, fuck.

    Yes it might be minor but anything to do with the heart is fucking scary, I’m on tablets three times a day for mine, trying to stave off a pacemaker, because Hell the fuck no. I remember being intubated and not being able to breathe or wake up properly. It wakes me up at night, or keeps me from sleeping at all. I have nightmares about how I lived inside my head when they had me on life support. So hell no I’m with you.

    I’ll be thinking the best outcome for you.

  2. Lydia
    Jan 17, 2017

    Good luck with your catheterization.

  3. Audrey
    Jan 17, 2017

    I’m sorry you are going through this, Ferrett. The waiting wil be hard but you have many arms waiting to hold you up and get you through it.

  4. Joshua
    Jan 18, 2017

    My goodness that sucks, Ferrett. I’m really sorry that this is a thing you’re dealing with, and you’ll be in my thoughts.

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