October 11, 2012
We took Walter for a walk around 10 p.m. We just walked around the block because Wayne said he wasn't feeling well. He didn't even want to talk. He said all he wanted to do was go home and go to bed. About an hour later, he said he just couldn't get comfortable and he was hurting. I asked him where his pain was, and he said in his jaw and in his biceps. My internal alarm went off, and I said, "Time to call 911?" He said, "Call an ambulance." I sprang into action, and told the 911 operator that I thought my husband was having a heart attack because of the location of his pain. She said an ambulance was on its way. I told Wayne to take some aspirin and to sit up. I grabbed a bag and stuffed it with our cell phones, wallets, a sweatshirt, something to read, and my interferential current therapy unit. I got a thermos of ice water and my keys, and then I put Walter in the kennel. I turned on the front porch light, unlocked the door, and I kept checking on Wayne to make sure he was still breathing (!).
It took the ambulance about 15 minutes to get to our house. They emergency medical techs loaded Wayne into a stretcher and into the ambulance. I watched from the back window of the ambulance as they put electrodes on his chest and did an EKG. Then they said they were taking him to the emergency room at Ochsner. I got in my car and followed right behind the ambulance, thinking all the while that Wayne was going to die, and I was going to be planning his funeral. The hospital was only about 12 minutes away. I parked the car and went into the hospital with the EMT's and Wayne on a stretcher. It was about midnight by this time.
The EMT named Scott gave all the information about Wayne to the admitting nurse. I was directed to someone else who asked for Wayne's insurance card. Then I was back waiting in the ER hall with Wayne. The ER doctor asked Wayne what his symptoms were. The doctor seemed so calm, and so did all the nurses. Pretty soon, a room in the ER was available, and Wayne was wheeled into the room.
We waited and had convinced ourselves that it was just Wayne's hiatal hernia acting up and nothing serious having to do with his heart. Then all of a sudden, people rushed into the room saying, "Cold stemi, code stemi!" I couldn't figure out what they were saying, but I was rushed out of the room, into another waiting area. Someone came back a few moments later, and he explained that a cardiologist was being called, and I was allowed to go back into the room with Wayne. I asked the nurse what happened. She said Wayne's traponin levels were elevated, and that was one of the heart enzymes that indicated he had a heart attack or was having a heart attack. They had been saying: "Code STEMI." It stands for S Traponin elevated, myocardial infarction, or in layman's terms, heart attack. I asked who the cardiologist was, and the nurse said it was Dr. Subramaniam. Small world. Wayne and I had both gone to school with her, and Dr. Subramaniam had diagnosed me with Mitral Valve Prolapse about forty years ago.
Wayne was wheeled into the elevator, and I followed - we were going to the cardiac unit. He was going to have an angiogram to see if anything was blocked.
He'd already been prepped and put into a hospital gown. I kissed him as he was wheeled into the cardiac unit, and I waited in a tiny room right outside the unit.
I texted our minister, Wayne's boss, his sister, my brother and cousin, and several of Wayne's friends. I didn't expect anyone to answer because it was so late. Wayne had been worried about who was going to take his place at a meeting he was supposed to be going to at 9 in the morning.
Any time you have to go to the emergency room, you know it's going to be a long wait. I was thankful I'd packed a protein bar, gum, and a sweatshirt, and that I'd brought water, a book on tape, and my interferential current therapy unit. I sat and listened to my book and waited. After about 40 minutes, Dr. Subramaniam came out of the unit and talked to me. She recognized me from all that long time ago. She said that he had one artery that was completely blocked and she'd put a stent in it. He would have a follow-up visit with her in two weeks. I was relieved. I'd been through this before with stents and knew this procedure. But Wayne had never had a heart attack before.
It must have been about four in the morning by this time. Wayne was wheeled out of the cardiac unit, and he was a little drowsy from the fentanyl and versed he'd been given. I kissed him, and the nurse said to give her about 20 minutes and then I could come to his room in the ICU.
I found his room and sat in the chair next to his bed and held his hand and rested my head on the bed. I was so grateful that he was OK.
The nurse gave me a brochure and a small card that explained about the stent implant location. His stent was in the OM - Obtuse Marginal. Wayne is supposed to carry the card with him - the card has a sticker with the stent's size, lot number, and reference number. Who knew?
Messages started coming in on the cell phone. Our minister said he would come by about 8 a.m. Wayne's boss texted me, "Which Wayne? Who is this?" I think it was hard to believe that this had happened, and when it happens to someone around your age, you think it could happen to you, too. Everyone was shocked when they heard what had happened. Our minister had e-mailed the prayer request in to Al, who leads the prayer meeting, so everyone in church was praying for Wayne.
Wayne's niece had phoned Geri, her stepmother, who works at the hospital in the transplant division, and she came by to see us. It was so comforting to see someone we knew.
About 6:30 or 7, breakfast was brought in for Wayne. The doctor had said that from now on, it was low sodium for him. Our minister and his wife came to visit and pray with us about 8:30. Another comfort. You have no idea how much it means until you're in the hospital yourself. I remember waiting to have surgery, and Earline, our assistant pastor, came in to pray with me. When I saw her, I announced to all of my fellow patients in the holding room awaiting their surgeries, "There's my minister!" All of us were happy she came to see me!
I was worried about Walter needing to go outside to pee, and I called our pet sitter. Thank God, she had a key to our house even though we haven't gone on vacation in two years.
After Wayne talked with his boss, who reassured Wayne that he didn't need to worry - he would make sure that someone from the office would be at the 9 o'clock meeting, I decided it was OK for me to go home and sleep. I kissed Wayne and let him rest.
I drove home in a daze, but so grateful. I took a shower, fell into bed, and slept about four hours.
There were lots of phone calls and texts to return. My brother and cousin and stepmom offered to come. I told them if I needed them, I would definitely ask, but it was OK right now.
I returned to the hospital and stayed with Wayne until the ICU visiting hours were over. He'd told me the doctor said there wasn't much damage to his heart. I hadn't even known to ask that question when Wayne's sister and stepmom had asked me. Dr. Subramaniam said it was OK for Wayne to go home the next day.
I slept Thursday night, and then, Friday morning, I was awakened by the phone. It was Wayne saying, "Come get me!" I got dressed quickly and got to the hospital.
The only restriction Dr. Subramaniam gave him was that he couldn't lift anything more than five pounds. She had given Wayne three new prescriptions, so we stopped at CVS on the way home.
Wayne took a shower, and I know he was glad to be home. He didn't have any pain at all. Our minister came by with a salad and some fruit that his wife had put together for us. We were trying to institute compliance with the doctor's orders.
Wayne slept well that night, and the next afternoon, our friends, Bob and Dianne came over to visit and brought three (!) low sodium cookbooks and three bottles of Frere Jean low sodium Cajun seasoning. It was four o'clock, and both of us were still in our PJ's. Dianne had said that she didn't call before they came over because she thought surely we would be dressed. I told her, "What for? We were resting all day!" Wayne and I quickly threw on some clothes. That night we had the rest of the salad our minister's wife had made for us.
We were both in church on Sunday, and everyone came up to Wayne to hug him and tell him how glad they were to see him. They'd all been surprised to hear that he'd had a heart attack. Many of the women asked me how I was. I told them I was OK, but that it was going to be hard to keep Wayne on a low sodium diet. I was trying not to be hyper vigilant about salt in his diet. They sympathized with me and hugged me. They told me they would be praying for Wayne and for me, too.
Wayne and I took it easy that afternoon. We watched a movie, and we took a short walk with Walter. Both of us were recovering from the whole hospital ordeal.
We thought everything would be fine.
I woke up at 6:30 Monday morning to Wayne shouting, "Debra, wake up! Call 911!" I'd been sleeping hard, and it took Wayne several times of shouting, "Debra, wake up," before I clambered up from the depths of sleep. I asked, "What's wrong?" He said he was having chest pains. As soon as I realized what he was saying, I popped up out of bed and ran to the phone to call 911. I told Wayne to take aspirin. The ambulance got there in about 10 minutes, and then another ambulance came. The first EMT's were going off duty, but they were closer, so they came to the house until the the second ambulance and EMT's got there. I was rushing around grabbing things - insurance cards, cell phones, water, book on tape, protein bar, etc. All of a sudden, I realized my neighbor, Amy, was in the house. She asked, "What can I do? Do you want me to come to the hospital with you?" I asked her to please walk Walter and gave her a key to the house. Outside some more neighbors were gathered by the ambulance, and I told them what had happened. The EMT's gave Wayne an EKG in the ambulance and also gave him nitroglycerin. They told me they were bringing him to Ochsner's ER. I followed in my car, praying that I wouldn't be stopped by the police because I was speeding.
When we got to the ER, the nurses said, "I remember you. Weren't you just in here?" Wayne joked that he missed them and wanted to come back. Dr. Subramaniam was on her way - the EMT's had alerted the ER, so the cardiologist had been called already. She said they were going to go back into his heart with the angiogram, and she would do the procedure the next day.
Wayne was going to be admitted from the ER to the hospital, but it was full! We had to wait until the afternoon until a bed was available. Finally, he got a room. This was a private room with a shower. I joked that it was like having a hotel room except he was hooked up to all kinds of monitors.
I went back home, showered, and fell into a deep sleep. I woke up hearing a lawn mower, but went back to sleep. When I finally got up, I listened to the answer machine messages. My neighbor, Amy, told me that her son, Reiss, was cutting my grass. That was so nice. I have wonderful neighbors. Reiss cut the back yard, and my next door neighbor, Denise, cut the front yard.
Wayne was scheduled to have the angiogram Tuesday morning, but Dr. Subramaniam had an emergency. She walked into Wayne's hospital room around 1 or 2 that afternoon and explained that she wasn't going to do the procedure at 5 or 6, since she'd had the emergency, but that she'd do it Wednesday morning, first thing. Wayne said, "Good. I want you fresh!"
I left the hospital that afternoon, got something to eat, and then returned to sit next to Wayne. I was texting and calling everyone to keep them up to date with what was happening. After a while, I left and went home, fed all the animals, took my vitamins, and went to sleep. I was going to get there early for Wayne's procedure scheduled for 7:30.
When I got to Wayne's hospital room Wednesday morning, our minister was already there. He and I walked with Wayne as he was wheeled into the cardiac unit. Tim waited with me through the procedure. I told him I appreciated him waiting but that he didn't have to do that. He said that with heart procedures, he felt better about waiting with me until we knew what was going on with Wayne. About 40 minutes later, Dr. Subramaniam came out into the tiny waiting room and explained what had happened. She did the angioplasty, and she couldn't get the stent in until she used the balloon to expand the artery. She put one stent in, and then she put another further in to open the artery. The first stent was in the proximal RCA - Right Coronary Artery, and the second was in the Ostial RCA. Still not sure what ostial is except that it was further in.
Wayne was wheeled back to the Cardiac ICU, and I sat with him. His food cart came at lunch, and he ate a little and went back to sleep. I left to go get some lunch.
All through this, since last Wednesday, I had lost my appetite, but I was eating just for fuel. I was trying to take care of myself to be in good shape to be able to take care of Wayne.
We had no groceries in the house, because Wayne had been in and out of the hospital almost a week. I went to the grocery store to get a few things. I got no-sodium chicken broth to make a spicy pumpkin soup I'd seen a recipe for in the Sunday paper. If Wayne couldn't have sodium, he could have other spices at least.
Thursday morning, Wayne called. He said Dr. Subramaniam was releasing him. Yay! It took a while for the paperwork to be processed, but he finally got discharged about one that afternoon. On the way home, we dropped off some more prescriptions from Dr. Subramaniam. Wayne was feeling good, and it was beautiful outside, so we took Walter for a short walk around the block.
I checked in with him a lot: "How are you feeling? Any pain? Do you have your nitro in your pocket? Did you take your medicine? Did you see how much sodium that has on the label?"
I told Wayne that I was trying not to be a nag, but he should be glad that I was concerned. It's a fine line between being concerned and being a nag, especially when one's husband can be a little (!) stubborn....
Any way, here it is November 2nd. Wayne's doing well. Wayne went to church that Sunday. Everyone was shocked that he had gone back in the hospital again, and they were so happy to see him after all of that.
He's not supposed to used a razor because he's on blood thinners. We haven't gotten an electric razor, so he's letting his beard grow in. It's all white, so he looks a little like Santa Claus. I want to get him a blue sea captain's hat because that's another thing he resembles, a Greek sea captain.
Every day is precious, and I'm glad he's OK. We're both taking it easy, and he's not going to work until next year. His boss told him, "When you come back to work, you're taking a day off every week." I'm so happy he said that. After the first hospital episode, Wayne was saying he'd be back at work after two weeks. I didn't say anything.
The the next heart episode happened, and he said he'd be back at work by December 1st. I suggested that since December had a long Christmas break, he might as well consider taking that month off, too, since he has the sick leave and vacation leave available. So he decided not to go back to work until January.
He has his follow-up visit with his cardiologist next Monday. I'm going with him.
I've been needing to write all this down, but this is the first time I've been able to write. As I have been writing, I realize how much happened. He got out of the hospital October 18th. It'll be about 6 weeks before he starts cardio rehab. He said the doctor wants to make sure the stents are firmly implanted before he does cardio exercise.
Wayne's brother came to visit on October 22nd, but that's a story with pictures for another time...
This is my longest post yet. And I started it right after I wrote 1823 words for NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month - a program at my libray. OK - enough writing for one night. I started writing at about 9:30, and now it's 3 o'clock in the morning. Go to sleep!