It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is enjoying its monthly blog fest invented by Alex J. Cavanaugh. IWSG is a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.
MY QUESTION: Did you know blocked arteries are silent killers?
I tracked mine from the States and to Mexico.
I discovered first clue with simple question. Uncertain if he’d agree, I asked my American family doctor if he’d order an ultrasound of my neck. He looked over from his computer, squinted, asked, “Why?”
Feeling a bit embarrassed, I avoided his gaze. “I’ve heard they are a silent killer.” Out of nowhere, I remembered my mom had an aortic aneurysm and told him so.
His eyes grew large.
The next thing I knew I was lying on a bed beside a nurse as she rubbed a medical sensor device over my stomach and neck performing an ultrasound procedure. I was completely unprepared for the results.
Driving back to our motel, I started to doze watching the scenery fly by. Rick focused on heavy freeway traffic. Then doctor called and told me. “The study showed severe blockage in your neck. Your condition is critical.”
I had the doctor on loud speaker. Rick gripped the wheel then slammed on the brakes as vehicles ground to a halt. I wasn’t the only one shocked by the news.
The doctor referred me to a heart specialist, who ordered a CT scan. My iPhone buzzed as the doctor stepped into his office. I ignored the message. The doctor picked up the report as he sat down. I tensed when he confirmed the blockage. Then he delivered the craziest news I’d heard yet. “Go back to Mexico. We can do the surgery six months from now.”
He pointed to a drawing of a blocked artery and explained my plaque had been there for a long time. Therefore, I could delay treatment. I was flabbergasted.
I simmered during our entire flight back to Mexico. I needed a second opinion and so visited Dr. Rios, our family doctor here, in Puerto Vallarta. Dr. Rios removed his glasses as he leaned forward. He said, “If you have that much blockage in your neck, we need to check your heart. Plaque doesn’t just build in just one area of the body. He picked up his iPhone and dialed. Looking over at me he said, “I’m ordering a 3D study of your heart.”
Why didn’t my American doctor care about my heart?
The study confirmed Dr. Rios’s theory. The CT scan proved 95% blockage. He said “You need surgery right away. You are a ticking time bomb.”
My throat went dry as I absorbed the news. I‘m the care-giver. I’m the healthy one. How would Rick manage without me? I turned to Rick and reached for his hand.
Fact: the blood in my heart was severely blocked. If I wanted to live, the arteries had to be opened to allow the blood to flow. We discussed my options: bypass surgery or stents.
Bypass: the surgeon spreads open the rib cage, takes a vein from the leg and replaces an artery in my heart. Weeks of painful recovery.
Stents: On the other hand, with stents I’d be home the next day. No pain. I didn’t need any convincing; I chose stents.
October 1 Surgery. The anesthesiologist, flips to a page in his chart and asked, “When were you born?” I told him. He murmured, “Oh, so you were born during World War II?” Hearing him say it like that made me feel really old.
I drifted off. Completely relaxed, I felt his fingers ruffle my hair and he said, “How are you feeling?” I said,
“There is pressure in my arm.” Poof, the feeling disappeared.
In my twilight sleep, I’m vaguely aware Dr. Valadez, my surgeon’s voice, “You need five stents. Do you want bypass surgery?” Not really understanding the reason for the question, I said, “I want stents.” Later, I learned he asked Rick the same question and Rick told him stents. No bypass.
I opened my eyes as I regained consciousness. Dr. Valadez waited patiently. We looked at each other as he summarized what just happened. Three arteries were blocked from 80 to 99%. With extreme care he installed five stents and one is 48 mm long. He reassured me my heart was strong and in excellent condition. My surgery was a total success.
More good news, during surgery they manipulated a tube inside my arteries up to my neck. From this internal view, they determined one artery was 30% blocked. The other side appeared to be blocked, but it was simply an anomaly; a curve in my artery. This procedure proved my artery is open. No need for surgery.
I was discharged the next day and instructioned to walk 30 minutes every day.
As my arteries collected plaque, my heart adjusted and compensated as the blood flow decreased. My entire body slowed down to keep pace with my heart. A massive fatal heart attack just waiting to happen.
After surgery, I have a new heart but not the stamina I expected. I walk every day determined to rebuild my endurance. It’s still there.
Thanks to my American family doctor and a team of highly trained Mexican doctors, we destroyed the silent killer.
Dr. Rios’s final prescription, “Go Live your life.”
Doctors wait for symptoms. Then if we’re lucky, we get treatment. What if we reversed the sequence? Diagnose first? Check the arteries just like we do routine mammograms and prostrate examines. Install stents whenever possible and thrive.