Tuesday 28 August 2018

5 Week Clinics

Another wordy and non-pictorial post, I'm afraid, while I catch you up (if interested) on things recovery and medical. If not, skip 80% of the paragraphs. Today, 5 weeks out of hospital, the dates for my follow up clinics came round and the lovely appointments folk spotted that I needed to see both the main Coronary Consultant, but also my Respiration Consultant and, possibly, that we live an hour's drive away. They managed to arrange both clinics for the one day - one at 10 a.m. and the other at 2 p.m. Perfectly timed so that we even got a chance to nip out for lunch and a bit of shopping in between.

Regular readers may have worked out that I was a bit worried about these two clinics. I was looking forward to them but I was worried that they might not give me the answers or the progress I want and need. Would decisions be made on big issues like the heart valve replacement surgery? Would my state of (slow) recovery and ongoing congestion with fluid (weight gain) mean that I'd have to put up with another 4 weeks on a different drugs regimen while the medics watched and analysed? I was (am) getting very frustrated now with this light duties, inability to breathe well.

We all (over)hear (accidentally or deliberately) what friends and relatives say about us and some of the things hurt but some buoy you up. I love the "Big Fella" ones - "Strong as an ox!", "Great bull of a man". People admiring my work rate and complimenting me on a job well done. Those are the ones I want to be, not anything to do with shuffling around like an aul' man, wheezing. Those are the days I want back.

What a change! In a few (well 7) exhausting hours, I went from worries about lack of progress to a parachutist's "ground-rush" of too many things happening at once and dizzying up my head. I got a decision by the main man that my heart valve replacement will be SOON, plus a change in my diuretic dosing (to try to slow the fluid build up). He also booked me in for 8 o'clock Thursday morning for a Transoesophageal Echo*. The Respiration Consultant posted me straight off for a lung volume/function test and also set me up with a sleep monitoring kit which I am to wear tonight - all part of the investigation into breathing issues like snoring, sleep apnoea and so on.

The latter is a fascinating piece of kit with a box of tricks you strap to your chest and connect up to an oxygen saturation device on the end of a finger plus a pair of sensors up your nostrils and a tiny heat detector which hangs in front of your mouth like a singer's microphone and detects in/out breaths. With all that gear hanging off me, I have to try to get to sleep. The straps round your chest have 'stretch' detectors above and below your 'man boobs' to detect breathing. The box of tricks saves all your telemetry digitally and you hand the machine in to get the data downloaded and analysed.

*The former (the Transoesophageal Echo (TOE) one) frightens me to death. I may not have mentioned this before but I have a very strong gag reflex, so that anything put near the back of my mouth has me gagging myself into near nausea. It is a real problem at, for example, the dentist, where if they ever need to do an X-ray they try to slide a small flake of lead down between tongue and teeth, but right back to the back teeth. I cannot cope and start to gag. I think my dentist may have managed one X-ray since I have been in Ireland, but certainly no more. At the lung volume/function test mentioned a few para's ago, I had to bite down on a silicone rubber yoke like a SCUBA diving mouth-piece, with some bits inside my lips. That yoke didn't go anywhere near the back of my mouth, but was still a struggle.

The TOE involves swallowing a rubber tube with an ultrasound transducer at its tip. This allows the technicians to move the transducer up and down the oesophagus (your 'swallowing' pipe) which runs down behind, and very close to your heart. They can get much clearer 'pictures' of your heart at this range, than they can get from outside your chest, through the chest wall (a standard "echocardiogram") . When I heard all about this test and read the leaflet, I had the immediate horrors. Swallow a rubber tube? I was sitting in the corridor, waiting for a blood test, and gagging like a pro.

Luckily, I am not the first with this issue and the test team can cope - there are all manner of sedation, anaesthetic and anti-gagging techniques available to them - they just need to know in advance and make sure you have someone who can drive you home after the procedure. Thank you again, Elizabeth. Wish us luck for Thursday morning. Yes, I am amazed that I am facing open heart surgery with confidence and few fears and getting all wound up about a 20 minute chew on a rubber tube. Ah well, there's no accounting.

But that is surely enough medical stuff. More on all these stories in future posts. What else is going on. Happy Birthday to Elizabeth for yesterday. She had a lovely relaxing day and was delighted by a good spread of presents. High points were a lovely (huge) fine-china tea mug which says on the outside "There is England... and then" (on the inside) "...There is Faversham". Love the sentiment. Also up there was a copy of the new book by former Barack Obama staffer, Dan Pfeiffer, "Yes we (still) can".

Dan is one of the presenters of our favourite USA politics podcast, "Pod Save America" and the book covers 'Politics in the age of Obama, Twitter and Trump". The Woman of the House sat down with a series of  big teas (in the new mug) and had the book read by 3 p.m. Also in the mix were a very nice pair of "Kent and Stowe" lady-sized border fork and spade, a book of the best of (Irish writer/satirist) Flann O'Brien, some lovely boot-socks.

Elizabeth also finished the digging over of that huge flower bed. There is plenty work to do on that bed - levelling it off is a big job in itself - it then needs covering with weed proof membrane, replanting and then 'mulching' with 3 tonnes of gravel.

That is enough for this one.

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