Posted by: wrmcnutt | September 21, 2011

The Other Half of an Ablation

When last we left our story – I have to admit, I love that opening.  I think it comes from soap operas in the 70’s.  In any case, when last we left our story, it was late Friday afternoon, and my half-catheter ablation had been bumped by an emergency after I’d been fasting all day in preparation.  Food was brought and consumed with enthusiasm, and I spent another three days in the Cardiac ICU, for, of course, unless it’s an emergency, the cath lab genies don’t work weekends.  Oddly, it wasn’t really so bad.  When you are actually, really recovering from invasive surgery, it’s not boring.  It takes time, energy, and a little attention, so it wasn’t as bad as could be expected.

Now, a word about “chest tubes.” For those who don’t feel like following the link, it’s a plastic tube that leads from the inside of your body to the outside of your body.  It’s purpose is to drain “stuff” out of your chest and into a high tech bucket on the floor.  They’re sutured to your body, so the don’t slip back and forth, but you can feel them.   They don’t hurt, but you can feel it.  And it feels wrong. They’re not supposed to be there, and your body knows that.  And, of course, they do move, and that hurts.

I’ve spoken well of my nurses, and there’s a lot more to be said about them later.  But they did abandon me one day.  In their place I got a couple of psycho gorgons intent on inflicting pain.  Apparently, after ten days flat on my back there was some serious concern about bedsores, and I “had” to be put on my side.  Mother puss-bucket! I dunno if it was the chest tubes or the rib-spreader, but I did not want to be on my side.  Hell, I didn’t want to move.

But by the weekend the chest tubes had come out and the holes were sewn up.  Oh – my Dad had reported that removing a chest tube really sucked, so I was braced for a lot of pain.  I even had my wife hold my punching hand, ’cause the last thing you want to to is punch the guy removing your chest tube in the nose.  It was really over-sold.  Removing the chest tubes wasn’t any fun, but it wasn’t nearly as entertaining as I had been lead to expect.  By the weekend I was moving better.

But I couldn’t get in a real shower or use the big boy toilet with that pacemaker hanging on my IV rack.  The medical profession has this stuff called “no rinse shampoo.”   You rub it in, and then towel it off.  It falls firmly into the “better than nothing” category.  But without rinsing, there’s nothing but the towel to carry the dirt, sweat, and other “stuff” away.  At this point, I was about ten or twelve days from my last shower, and was feeling really “funky.”  My visitors seems to be standing farther away from the bed, but that might have been my imagination.

The weekend went as quickly as could be hoped for under the circumstances, and midnight Sunday night came quicker than I expected.  I must now stop eating.  Nothing to eat, all day, until my, again, afternoon, cath lab appointment.  For the uninitiated, I had decided, upon the advice of my cardiologist, to have a catheter ablation of the left side of my heart.  After all the blood and thunder of the previous week, there’s very little to tell about my second procedure.  They gave me good drugs, we started on time, ended on time, and I woke up tired and uncomfortable, but in a normal sinus rhythm for the first time in ten days. I remained in a normal sinus rhythm for the next for days, until I was unhooked from the monitors.  My temporary pacemaker had been removed, and a permanent one was not installed.

Oh – and without the pacemaker, I could now take a real shower.  For the first time since my initial surgery, hot water hit those knots in the back of my neck and between my shoulder blades and they began to loosen up.  My lady wife, ever in attendance, helped me bathe and left me with my head leaning against the wall letting that hot water roll over my back and shoulders.

“Sweetie, how much longer are you going to be?”

“Oh, I dunno. Probably just until the hot water runs out.”

“Darling, you’re in a hospital.  The hot water never runs out.”

“That sounds about right.”

Of course, after a little while I had to cave and get dry.  But that hot water felt so good.

Assuming that my recovery continues to go smooth, I will be able to be hit with a hammer to the chest once again.  So there will be at least one more season of SCA heavy combat left in me, unless things go all squirrely again.  But we’ll see about that.  First, I need to be able to walk around the block without getting dizzy and out of breath.  My long term prognosis is up in the air.  Apparently, I have made history.  No one has had a half-maze, half catheter ablation.  The first offered me a 90% cure rate.  The second offered me a 60% cure rate.   Striking out into unknown territory as I have, no one can tell me what my chances are.



  1. That’s amazing! Forgive my ignorance, as I am a pulmonary nurse and not cardiac… are you able to come off coumadin now?

    • Not yet. I will probably be 2 – 3 months weaning off of the coumadin. There will be a post with details shortly.

      • UPDATE: I am being taken off coumadin after one month.

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