Monday, April 25, 2011

Part 6: Matters of the Heart

After a few days of recovery from surgery, I thought I was in the clear, and that any day they would send me home. Little did I know my heart wasn't in it.

One of the complications with surgery to the lungs is Atrial Fibrillation - an abnormal heart rhythm in the upper chambers of the heart. (Do you feel like you are in medical school, friends? I'm sorry to bore you with all of these terms and definitions) First came the monitors, then came the increased number of nurses, and the questions as to how I was feeling, then the furrowed brows when looking at what the monitors were saying. I got moved down to the cardiac floor and one morning met Dr. Orme*, my cardiologist.

I also met my roommate, Donna in the middle of the night. She was there for the same complication, as well as several others. Donna was an interesting lady, but she had a really good heart, and over the next several days she really started growing on me. The company was actually kind of nice, too.

The next morning in came Dr. Orme with an entourage people. I found out later that Dr. Orme was the heart specialist for the hospital, and that he just happened to be standing at the nurse's station when my heart really started going crazy. The head nurse requested that he come take charge of my situation. A couple nurses, several interns, and two blond-headed young kids (maybe nursing students?) who stood at the foot of my bed smiling at me, and whispering to eachother and looking expectantly excited. I thought they looked like teenage Hansel and Gretel (isn't it funny the things you think about when you are in A-fib?). It was like there was a big show going on and I was the star, but not in a good way. They just stared at me, waiting. No one spoke to me. I found the scene so funny, I actually counted how many people were around my bed. Ten.

After the monitors were hooked up, the electrocardiogram showed me what all the fuss was about. The lines were going crazy, up and down, up and down, one right after another, with little break in between.

Bottom line is how it should look, top line is how A-Fib looks,
only mine looked even more crazy and close together.

Then I looked down at my chest, and my hospital gown was moving up and down as though I had popcorn popping under my shirt! It was nuts. My rate was over 200 at one point. That's some serious calorie-burning, according to Josh. They began giving me medicine in an IV, under Dr. Orme's direction.

The lines started getting farther and farther apart, and slower and slower, until I suddenly felt like the wind had been sucked out of me, and I was passing out. Then Dr. Orme said, "Cough, Amy!" (cough, cough, cough), and I was back. All of the entourage smiled down at me, and I had had it. I lost my temper. "Will somebody PLEASE tell me what is happening to me?" The nurse who was distributing the meds said, "You are in Atrial Fibrillation. Your heart was beating too fast, and if we didn't slow it down, you would have tired out. We gave you some medicine to slow your heart to almost a stop, in order to get it beating the right way." I'm still not sure why they couldn't have told me that to begin with. Maybe they thought I would panic and run for the door? The whole experience leaves me shaking my head.

The entourage left as quickly and quietly as they had come - still not uttering a word. I felt terrible, confused and kind of mad. Then from the other side of the curtain, my roommate Donna said, "Amy? It's gonna be okay." It was the most kind and thoughtful thing I had heard all day.

*Dr. Orme grew on me after a while. He's a great doctor, but very professional and serious. He actually did his schooling, residency and fellowship all at the University of Utah!


Mary Jane said...

Amy, sorry it's taken me so long to get caught up on reading. The kids and I prayed so hard for you. Nate did, too, although it may have taken a little longer for his prayers to reach you.

I'm so glad you're sharing your story. It can't be easy to talk about all these personal things, but it's good for us to know how blessed you've been.

We love you!

Holly said...

Oh, I don't like it either when they do something without telling me. It's a lot easier to be still and do what you're supposed to if you have an understanding of what's going on. I know it's not anything close to your situation, but at the eye doctor they do this test where you put your face against the machine and look at the farm house that's far away. Then without warning this big puff of air bursts directly on your eyeball and it is so surprising! It doesn't hurt, but it was such a big surprise that I was kind of mad they didn't tell me about it. I couldn't sit still for the second eye to be tested because they wouldn't tell me when it was going to happen. I finally had to tell them it was not going to work unless they gave me a count down so I could be on board and be still for the test. It sounds stupid, but it really helped a lot to say, "one, two, three, Puff!" Instead of me jumping in my seat at every sound that made me think it was going to happen.

I think doctors/nurses like to skip telling you exactly what's going to happen because they think it will scare you, but really, it's scarier not knowing what's going to happen I think.

kthom said...

This is a really good story..serioulsy loving every chapter. Sorry you had to actually experience it! xo

Dianna said...

Wow! Thank goodness for kind nurses who fill us in on important information when doctors are too involved in their thinking process to remember an actual person is involved. I'm glad you spoke up.

steph said...


I'm a little speechless. I'm not so eloquent as you. I'm just grateful that you are okay, and grateful that you have such a gift of sharing your experience that strengthens me. Love you.

Carrie said...

Amy - I sit and read your experience and just am in awe of your strength. Seriously. You ARE AMAZING.

I'm sorry that your experience with A-fib was so bad. Working as a paramedic, we had lots of experiences with it. I have to say that I CANNOT believe they didn't give you a heads up BEFORE they gave you the medication! that is astounding. Someone should have told you what was going on. We always warned our patients before giving them the med, because it IS such a scary experience. I'm so sorry they didn't tell you anything. I'm so glad you spoke up.

(As for Hansel and Gretel smiling away... they probably were interns, and had been told what a cool thing was going to happen and couldn't wait to see it... because from the medical side of things, giving that medication and watching it work is amazing.) I'm just sorry it had to happen to you.

Amy said...

Thanks pals! You guys are the greatest. I sure appreciate you reading along and offering your support.

Carrie - that's actually a relief that this wasn't standard procedure.