COVID has left numerous people beside the roadside as it stormed around the world. My wife Peggy and I had annual check-ups and more, that kind of fell by the wayside while COVID raged. Earlier this year we began putting our health-lives back together.
I was shocked when I was told I had a heart murmur. Our regular physician listened and then recommended further action. It was suggested that I quite probably needed a little better heart than what I had. It was suggested I might need a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a less invasive treatment option that doesn’t involve open heart surgery. Open heart surgery was not anywhere near my plans, but luckily our family became involved. Granddaughter Talia began putting paperwork together that we had frequently talked about, but of course had never done.
As we began to understand the complexities of life, our daughter Andrea became our constant companion on doctor visits and decisions on medical treatment. One of the first things suggested was the TAVR. Our doctor had decided a heart catheterization was catheter necessary to see if the arteries were good enough to use the TAVR valve. They did the test through my right wrist to explore the possibilities. The arteries were clean and undamaged, so the decision was made to install the TAVR. It does not require that my valve be removed because the TAVR is installed inside my valve; however, it would not be installed through my wrist but would do its business via my groin. It was set for September 27th. The surgeons installed it at Tacoma General. We were amazed at the cooperation and teamwork involved.
On Monday morning (September 26th) we got our first roadblock. Peggy was diagnosed with COVID, which meant she could not visit me in the set-up or recovery process. She cried. On Tuesday morning I got a hug before going out the door and getting in Andrea’s SUV. As I sat in the vehicle, Peggy came out and gave me another hug. We drove to Tacoma General and got checked in. It was a busy day and I was probably half an hour or better delayed for the surgery. The doctors stopped and talked and then left. After a while I was wheeled into the operating room. The operation took about an hour and a half. I was asleep, so time didn’t matter to me. Well, that’s not quite true. I had to pee when I woke up. In general, you don’t think that much about peeing, but when you’re wearing a hospital gown that’s open in the back and you’re cuddling a plastic bottle and trying to figure out how you can be on your back in a bed and effectively pee into a container and not all over yourself, it takes some effort. Eventually, I was wheeled into a recovery room. A word of advice: the hospital staff likes to see the amount of pee you contribute. Eventually, after peeing a couple of times, I just peed in the toilet.
Except for the bed, and all kinds of wiring and connections I enjoyed the staff. I did get a word of warning about peeing in the bathroom by myself. You must first ring for assistance and then wait until someone arrives so you can safely unplug, get out of bed, walk by yourself or with the help of staff into and out of the bathroom. I did get one dressing down and deserved it. The staff is there to help.
Andrea’s daughter, Talia, our granddaughter #1, joined us for the afternoon on Tuesday. Andrea is always fun to talk to and kid with, especially in a hospital recovery room . . . “Don’t look at my butt!” “I’m not looking at your butt.” Over the weeks prior to the hospital, we and Peggy had visited a number of different doctors and then usually went out for lunch. We had a relaxing time together talking about the future and our family.
Peg and I have three children: Andrea, Del, and Patrick. Mostly in Pierce County. There are twelve grandchildren and two great grandchildren. My sister Deedee (with two daughters), who works at Tacoma General, and my cousin Lindy also lives nearby. Peg has three sisters close by as well. Add in our friends and we have quite a few stories to share.
At each change of shift, a staff member (RN, LPN, or ??) comes to the room and places their information on the information board. Seeing the names and meeting the people was an opportunity to learn something more about the general operation of the hospital and Pulse, but also a chance just to learn a little more about the people working there. With each new doctor or staff member, they asked about the operation and if they could see the incision . . . and if they could touch it. I’ve always been shy . . . or rather used to be shy, I got over that pretty quickly.
I had an opportunity to chat with people about their lives and about their futures. I found the bed uncomfortable, which left me awake much of the time. I was able to recognize two different people coming from the Ukraine. I also was introduced to ideas of what staff members liked to do (skiing and reading in book groups) and where they might go next. I enjoyed the meals, which were delivered and picked up by the same friendly woman. She didn’t have much to say, but wanted to make sure I enjoyed the food. Most people are in and out after one day. I was in for two and a half days.
Just so you don’t think you can do whatever you want in recovery, there is a ceiling camera recording everything! I kinda wish I had known that a little earlier. I was released on Thursday morning after I had encouragement from a number of friendly people. I enjoyed those of whom I had just met.
Andrea and I checked me out of the hospital (via a wheelchair and a friendly worker) and we drove to PULSE on South Cedar. At Pulse we picked up a BodyGuardian Mini PLUS heart monitor with service monitoring. You have a body monitor and a cell phone that can tell you about any physical problems you might be having from the operation. I’m doing fine with only minimal limitations (driving, lifting). The world of science and medicine is changing . . . now if they could only do something about those backless surgery gowns.