I decided to go with the stents, and only time will tell if I was right. Lakeland cardiologist Dr. Rajesh Lall (above, left) had performed a heart cath and found severe blockages in three arteries. One was the left main coronary and another was a major artery lower in the heart. A third artery was almost totally blocked but not large enough to warrant intervention. The options were open-heart surgery or stents.
Dr. Lall discussed the pros and cons at length with me, and the cons were daunting in either case.
My decision was influenced by the experiences of my brother Peter, who had gone through open-heart surgery, and my daughter Grace, who had received a stent after a heart attack. Peter described a nightmare. Grace said her experience was relatively simple.
Mine was somewhere in between.
As I understand it, stents are maneuvered into place by a thin wire inserted in an artery far away in the groin (illustrated above). I marvel at the dexterity and precision that such a procedure requires. And Dr. Lall faced an additional challenge. The blocked arteries were winding, while the stents were straight, and that meant a lot of extra tweaking.
Complications resulted from my allergy to the contrast dye and the steroid used to counteract it. There was kidney damage and platelet problems, for example, and my heartbeat suddenly began racing at 4:30 one morning.
The short version is that I expected to be in the hospital for a day or two and wound up spending more than a week there.
I was comforted during my ordeal – and it was an ordeal – by the phone calls from my loved ones, and the very human attitude of the nurses and their young assistants. My brothers, Bill and Peter, my sister, Elizabeth, and my children, Ross, Grace and Christine, were always on the phone to try and keep my spirits up – and it worked.
My wife, Sandra, was constantly by my side, ready to do anything and everything to ease my misery. My golfing buddy, Julius, stopped by to visit and pray with me, and the pastor who was ministering to the patient next to me came over to add his blessing.
The members of Bill’s church in London, Ontario, were among those who added their supplications for my recovery.
It is at times like this that we most appreciate the solace and power of prayer, and I will be eternally grateful to all of those kind souls who interceded with the Almighty on my behalf.
I am back home now, warm and snug in our king-size bed, which I had not fully appreciated before my adventures with the malevolent contraption they lay you in when you are admitted to a hospital.
No, I am not out of the woods yet, and I may never be. That racing heart remains a shadow hanging over my life. I am told that while a slow heartbeat can be corrected with a pacemaker, there is no sure way to keep it slowed down when the accelerator gets stuck.
And the new drugs I must forever take have their side effects. But, considering the alternative, I am blessed.
I am blessed by the love of my family and friends, by Dr. Lall’s skill and dedication, by the care provided by the folks at Lakeland Regional Medical Center and by the Creator’s mercy in extending my time on earth.
I am also blessed to have concerned readers who made such compassionate comments on the blog I wrote while contemplating the medical options before me.
Most of all, I am blessed to have such a loving and caring wife.
I understand I had a small heart attack when Sandra saw me clutching my chest and persuaded my primary care physician to send me to the cardiologist. I had assured Sandra that it was just a bout of asthma, but she knew better than to take my word for it.
I believe she saved my life.