Undergoing a Coronary Angiography ("Cath" in Medicspeak) is an easy thing.
Upon arrival they turn the AC to about 60-degrees, have you take off all your clothes and put on a paper thin thingey which for some reason is called a gown. Unlike most gowns, if it reaches below the knee they give you a shorter one.
Nurses are very helpful at this point, knowing how cold you are. When asked to they do provide a not-much-thicker-than-the-sheet blanket. In Medicspeak "Right away" is about 10 minutes; "In just a minute" takes longer. Most folks draw "In just a minute".
At some point they again reassure all is well ("we do this everyday"). They next hand you Benadryl and then ask if you have DNR order or Living Will and who is your Healthcare Rep?
A little off schedule someone comes and takes you to the Cath Lab. If you thought it was cold before, the Cath Lab doubles as the cadaver freezer. For your comfort they remove the not-much-thicker-than-the-sheet blanket. Arms are placed in armrests, from which you cannot remove said arms; and they do a lot of other stuff I'd prefer to skip.
Now we wait a minimum of half an hour for the doctor, shivering cold and wondering if this was really such a good idea.
The best part comes next. A nurse you can't see informs she is giving you something to help you "relax" (so why should she think I'm not relaxed?). About one time out of three this "something" puts you to sleep. Unconscious at least means you don't notice the cold.
If this is the two of three chance to remain awake you can watch as they open a gash in your leg, insert a garden hose and run it up into your heart, all the while injecting a dye which later they'll be anxious you "eliminate" from your body (so why should she think I'm not relaxed?).
Last week I again submitted to this "procedure" (a Medicspeak word to cover a multitude of sins). This was my fifteenth in the same number of years, including 5 stents and at least one "life saving" event. All of which does make me some kind of expert.
Along the way I've picked up a number of Cath stories which I ought to put into a book -- several nurses promised to read such a book.
Early on there was the nurse who told the guy in the other bed how her husband had gone for a Cath, found he needed emergency surgery, and died on the table. A few minutes later they came for me.
Once I woke up and was alone in the Lab wondering both whether I was in the morgue, and if I was why did I have to pee?
My favorite story is the old lady with whom I had to share a critical care room. All night long she carried on lucid, logical, and quite loud conversations -- with people who were not there. Every once in a while she'd tell "them" it was time for her to go and try to get out of bed. For whatever reason the bed alarm did not go off and she'd get tangled in the guardrail. The good thing about critical care is that if you call for the nurse they come -- something I did many times that night. No drugs were needed to help me relax for my Cath; I could not have stayed awake.
For those keeping score at home the result for this latest Cath (which I slept through) is simple: the arteries are willing but the heart is weak.
In 1966 my father died in an emergency room of a St. Louis hospital just shy of his 51st birthday. The cause of death was an undiagnosed artery blockage. Although they did everything then known to save him, he died of problems the now known solutions to which have saved and extended my life almost 20 years longer than my father's. This Thanksgiving I'm going to remember to thank God for Dr. Elias Dalloul and the nurses and staff of Providence Medical Center and Union Hospital for making it possible for the Cath and I to have met.