My Wife's Heart Procedure This Past Week

>> Saturday, August 02, 2014

If you've been watching on Facebook or Twitter, you've seen it's been a bit of a scary week for us.

Monday night, my wife didn't sleep more than a few hours because her heart just started racing. With her stethoscope, she said it sounded like a freight train. She could be doing nothing, and then she'd feel a THUMP in her chest and then it'd race to 120-180 beats / minute for a while.

So at 5 a.m. on Tuesday morning, she drove to the hospital. They gave her some IV fluids and wanted to watch her for a bit. She was hoping to be discharged a few hours later, but that didn't happen. Henry and I came to visit after I dropped Charlie off at the neighbors':

From Instagram: "Just visited Mama in the hospital. She went in at 5 this morning
with lots of heart flutters, and had another episode since then. She's
hoping to be able to spend the night with her boys. Keep her in your prayers!"

They kept giving her fluids, but her heart would just speed up randomly at times. I could be chatting with her in her room, and she say "Oh, here comes one," and then we'd watch her monitor jump from 60 to 90 to 130 and then it would start beeping. While I was there, they'd only last about 15-60 seconds.

Hoping for a discharge soon...

She ended up spending the night (Tuesday night). Overnight, her heart raced more than half the time. She woke up exhausted, saying "it felt like my heart has just done an Ironman." All 3 of her dudes visited her Wednesday morning:

From Instagram: "Mama was happy to see her boys this morning.
Had a lot of heart flutters overnight (out of nowhere her heart rate jumps to 130),
so she might be in for another night in the hospital."

This whole time, my Mother-in-law Monica was up helping me out. She was so nice always saying "Steve, I know you could handle this and I'm not trying to say you couldn't. But this way you can be visiting Sarah and not always worrying about both boys." It was great. I stopped by the hospital Tuesday a few times by myself, and then Monica went to be with Sarah Wednesday afternoon as the boys napped (after we got back from that photo above). Monica even took our bed to be next to Charlie's pack-and-play in our room as I slept on our futon so that she could be the one to get up with him at night. HOW GREAT IS THAT?!? Thanks Monica!

Then I got a good/bad phone call on Wednesday afternoon. It was Pharmie. She just bluntly said "Oh, they've proven that it's atrial flutter and they're going in to burn that part of my heart to calm it down. I'll be having a cardiac ablation. They have an opening right now. So I'll be wheeled into surgery in about 5 minutes. **background murmurs** Oh, I guess they're taking me now." What? My voice quivered but tried to hold it together. It's a pretty routine thing, but some stranger was about to f*ck with my wife's heart. I freaked out a bit when I got off the phone. (I'm not trying to make this all about me - SHE was the one about to get a probe through her thigh and up to her heart. I'm just sharing my part of this. My feelings really don't matter here - I know.)

SIDE NOTE: Do you know how they proved it was atrial flutter and not atrial fibrillation? (Flutter is one part of the heart misfiring, and fibrillation is more all over the heart.) They pump a drug hard and fast into an IV that will slow and possibly stop your heart. But as my pharmacist wife knows (if you didn't know, that's why she goes by "Pharmie" on the internet), the drug has like a 10 second half-life, so your body clears it really quickly. So if your heart DOES stop beating, it should start right back up in a few seconds. SHOULD. Scary stuff. She felt it work - her legs instantly felt heavy, and she said "whoaaaaaaaa," and then it was all normal again after 3 breaths.

Anyway, Pharmie's sister Steph was going to be over in an hour to watch Henry. Monica had Charlie at the hospital already. I went outside and trimmed the bushes and did any kind of hard physical labor that I could do to keep my mind off the fact that my wife had a 3-foot-long laser in her body sent in through her groin that was cooking part of her heart. Steph showed up and I actually felt better right away. She got settled in, I quick took a rag to all my sweat and dirt, and I got to the hospital. I took Charlie from Monica for a while, and we just paced the halls together as I talked to him about his Mama.

Pharmie's nurse helped Monica and I gather her things because she was going to be in a different room once her procedure was complete. We got moved and then her doctor who did the procedure found us. All had gone well! He cooked the part of the heart that he needed to, and he felt confident in what he had done. Monica (a long-time nurse) really liked him and how he described everything. (Later, Monica told us something to the effect of "you know, HCMC gets a bad rap for being the 'county hospital,' but I've always been impressed with everyone here.") A minute or 2 later, we spotted Pharmie rolling down the hall in her bed with 4-5 doctors/nurses around her. She was doing great.

She felt better right away. She was exhausted from her heart beating so hard for so long, but felt instant relief after the procedure. I went home with Charlie, got him to bed, kissed Henry as Steph was putting him to bed (and got licked by Henry because he saw chimps licking each other in his book so he had to lick me and Steph), and came back for 2 hours with supper for Pharmie. I helped her pump her breasts because she had to stay horizontal and not move 1 leg for a few hours. (Seriously, breast pumping horizontally is more than tricky!) I brushed her retainer, helped her get ready for bed, and left so she could rest. She got some GOOD SLEEP that night (Wednesday night). Monica stayed in our room again and took care of Charlie when he needed a bottle at 3:30 a.m.

Monica went to the hospital Thursday morning, and I soon got good news from my wife:

It was a welcome sight to see Pharmie and Charlie napping together AT HOME a few hours later:

That evening, Henry and I ran (literally) to get Mama's car which had been in the HCMC ramp for 2.5 days. It's just over 5 miles which is about the longest I should be running right now (as I'm coming back from my ankle injury).

Running down the Greenway Trail.

I had promised Henry a bike ride to the gym on Wednesday, but that didn't happen with Mama in the hospital. So finally yesterday morning (Friday), we loaded up and took a ride so Pharmie and Charlie had a few hours to rest quietly at home:

Ready to go!

Playing with Cranky the Crane (a Thomas the Train character) on our way back from the gym.

She talked with 2 cardiologists who gave her very different instructions for the future. The one who performed her procedure said something to the effect of letting her leg heal up (the entry point for the device that was sent to her heart), and then she'd be totally back to normal activity in a few days. He said it was just a fluke abnormality of the heart, and he's totally taken care of it, so she's good to go. Another Doc she talked to said she'd need a few weeks of only 60 minutes of Zone 1 activity (easy, conversational pace). She doesn't have a problem with that because pretty much all of her bike rides and the majority of her runs are at about that pace. She's waiting to hear back from the 2nd Doc - he was going to look into some more research and get back to her. So Twin Cities marathon training is on hold, but it's not out.

In the end, it's a pretty routine procedure to simply cut a short-circuiting impulse in the heart, but it's still scary as hell when it's happening to a loved one. Pharmie told me afterwards that her Doc was telling her beforehand that there's a "slight chance of something happening - around 1 in 100." Pharmie hoped it was more like 1 in 1000. If he burned too much, it could punch a hole in her heart. Or she'd possibly need a pacemaker. But he nailed it, and she's resting up. Life is good.

BIG THANKS to Monica, Steph, Rachel, and everyone else who offered to help out! And to all of Pharmie's team who worked on her and her colleagues who visited her in the hospital. Thanks!

p.s. I nearly forgot to mention that Pharmie's 12 weeks of maternity leave are up on Monday. But she has doctor's orders to take a few more days off, so it won't be until Thursday that I'm spending my first day home alone with my dudes.


The Boring Runner 7:36 PM, August 02, 2014  

SCARY stuff. Really glad everything turned out okay.

Since I am a loser and I forgot, here are two (of 4-5 posts) of similar but about 1% as serious. Mine were less all the time and more every 6 months. Ive had a history with heart blips, so honestly it was nice to have everything checked out as part of the process.

Terry 10:24 PM, August 02, 2014  

That makes two unfortunate things that we have in common - wives who have had catheter ablation and Grandmas DNFs.

Glad to hear the procedure went well, I totally relate to the raw nerve experience you went through while waiting.

The Track Hack 10:31 PM, August 02, 2014  

wow. glad everything is ok.

Remember all this during your next mile race: I envision something faster than 4:30...

Kristin 8:51 AM, August 03, 2014  

Glad to hear everything's OK. Your wife is a tough cookie.

Doc 9:45 AM, August 03, 2014  

Your wife passed me at Waseca last weekend and she was so cheerful and sweet. I'm glad she's ok!

One Crazy Penguin 1:17 PM, August 04, 2014  

So glad to hear that she is doing well!

Dori 1:45 AM, August 05, 2014  

Wow, Steve. What a frightening ordeal. Glad it all worked out.

Kristi 10:52 PM, August 09, 2014  

Wow, so glad Pharmie is okay! Thanks for sharing this with your readers. Horizontal breast pumping and retainer brushing = true love.

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