Posted by: tommybrennan | February 5, 2014

He Had a Blowtorch in my Chest…..

heart modelThis is a repost from January of 2011.

So, I went to Rochester on Sunday night, January 9 and spent the night at my daughter and son-in-law’s home.   The next day I am scheduled for a cardiac ablation.   What is a cardiac ablation?   Very high tech cardiac remodeling.   The procedure is only about 14 years old, and has a very low complication rate.   Still, it’s my heart.

The staff were all very professional, and for the most part, personable.   My anesthesiologist came in and he described the process:  “I will give you 2 shots of Jack Daniels and a leather strap to bite down on”.   I suggested a bullet, and he was okay with this change.  He actually did say that, and we had a good time riffing on that one.   Then we got down to the real nitty gritty.   I thought I would be sedated, but it turns out that they needed to put me under general anesthesia with a breathing tube, which means the anesthesiologist does your breathing for you in the procedure.   Not a deal breaker, but not what I wanted to hear.    Then, they tell me that they have to prep me.      It involved some shaving.   ’nuff said.   My daughter is a nurse, so  I am okay with this arrangement, but still,  not what I was hoping for.   Then they tell me that they have to give me a Foley catheter.    I don’t want to go into what that is like here, as my wife told me it was too graphic.   It does involve a urine collection bag.   I see you cringing.  But I was asleep for that part.

So, at this point, this procedure has gotten a LOT more invasive than I was hoping.  Julie came in, and we talked with the nurses, anesthesiologist and various hospital staff.    We are a pretty chatty bunch.   Well, the doctor  comes in,  and we discuss the procedure, and joke quite a bit.  He is feeling good, but I ask him if he minds if I pray for him before he takes the blowtorch to my chest.  He let me pray for him.    I already had at least 100 people praying for me, but now, all systems are go.

The doctor makes an incision in the groin, and inserts 3 tubes.  A catheter that emits RF energy and a tiny camera are inserted into the incision and it is fished up to the heart.  The catheter punches a hole in the atrial septum, and access is made to the left atria.  This is where the catheter will do its work.   Now, working very carefully on a beating heart, the doctor plays Pac Man with this really pricey apparatus, and manipulates the catheter into precise locations in the heart.  He then burns areas in the heart that coincide with the areas of the heart that are experiencing erratic electrical activity.    The entire time  for the procedure is usually 4-6 hours.  I was in for about 4.5 hours.

I came through the procedure remarkably well, and the worst part was that the Foley was still in after the procedure.  They had to leave it in because I wasn’t supposed to get up or move for about 6 hours after the procedure.  I was out of it for a couple of days.  Irritable.  My mouth was chewed up by the breathing tubes.   The incision site was not in bad shape at all considering what had happened.   The worst part was that I had strained my back 2 days before the procedure, and it made getting up and down a real ordeal.   I am optimistic that this procedure will eliminate the need for the cardiac meds I have been on, and eliminate the atrial fibrillation that has been my somewhat haunting and sobering companion for the last 3 years.

My wife and my oldest daughter were by my side the whole way (and my other kids were with me in spirit).   I feel great compassion for people that have to go through these kinds of things without someone who loves them and will greet them after the procedure.

So, the final score:  God and Medicine – 1.  The grave – o.

Thanks so much to my wife and kids, the staff at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, and to all the wonderful people who prayed for me.   How sweet it is to be loved by you.


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