Broken heart


I suspect most of the readers of this blog have already seen this all on Facebook, but we had a little excitement in the DragonFire household this weekend. I sometimes find writing this blog to be very helpful in processing things, so that’s the main purpose of this post. Plus, you know… posterity and stuff.

Around the first of the year, T started back with running and swimming. And, no surprise, it wasn’t going well. He kept complaining that he couldn’t breathe well and it was harder than he expected it to be. He went to the doctor and they thought it was just lingering effects of a cold and we sort of wrote it off to getting back into the swing of things. Then on Friday, he texted me that he got winded walking with a co-worker and was making another doctor’s appointment to have things checked out. Great. Saturday, we ran some errands and I went out for a run and he took the dogs for a little walk. He came back sweaty and looking like he’d just done track repeats. I changed out of my running clothes thinking “We’re going to urgent care, I don’t care what that boy says!” and came out to find him looking up urgent care locations on his phone.

So, we headed off to urgent care. They thought it was angina, but didn’t have the equipment to test it and recommended we go to the ER. Luckily, we live pretty close to a nice hospital (where M had Rowan, btw.) The ER was pretty calm about it, saying they wanted to do an echocardiogram, but that they were sure everything was probably fine. For the next hour, that was pretty much the tone/standard phrase. They did the echo, the ER nurse said it looked pretty good, but that the cardiologist would be by soon. They took a bunch of blood for various labs. It all felt pretty routine. So much so, that I took this picture and put it on Instagram with the caption “Big fun Saturday night”.

BoyER(You can’t tell in the picture, but he has all kinds of little electrodes stuck to him already.) The cardiologist swung by and told us that it was likely they’d want to do an angiogram at some point, where they run a wire up through the artery and inject dye into the heart so they can see blood flow. And then the labs came back and they decided to do the angiogram right away. It sounds funny to say this, but everything was still very calm and matter of fact, there was no sense of panic or chaos. Even when there were four people in the room, putting in IV’s, shaving patches of T’s chest and sticking more things to him, it all felt totally in control and normal. I suspect this is a testament to the excellence of their staff, sort of like how dancers make their movements look effortless.

I accompanied T as far as I could and then headed home to feed the dogs and get them set up for a friend of ours to keep them company for the evening. I was gone probably 45 minutes to an hour and got back to the waiting room just a minute or two before the cardiologist came through. She sat down with me and explained that T did in fact have a pretty significant blockage in one of this arteries and that they’d put in a stent. She said he’d need to take it easy for a few weeks, but that she expected he’d make a full recovery. Then about 15-20 minutes later the surgeon came out and talked to me about the procedure. He even brought a printout for me to look at (I added a few details in Photoshop, cause I’m fancy like that):

StentBasically, that top circle should look like the bottom circle, that’s how much it was being blocked. The stent is like a little wire framework holding the artery open and keeping it clear. It’s kind of crazy that they can just do that with the casualness that you or I would put on a bandaid. I’d called M and she joined me at this point, right about the time they let us go up to see him in the ICU.

It was very surreal to see T in among the really sick people. On either side of him, there were folks with tubes everywhere who looked TERRIBLE. And except for having to lay very still from the hole in his leg where they ran the wire, T looked totally fine. He had been awake through the entire procedure and generally was pretty upbeat. We chit-chatted with M for a little while, then she headed home and we hung out for a little while longer. But he was starting to look tired, and lord knows it had been a long day, so I left him to get some sleep and headed home for a few hours.

Not surprisingly it wasn’t a super great night of sleep, but I got a few hours.  The next day was a juggling act of time with the dogs and time with T. We talked to the cardiologist from the previous night and she confirmed that he did indeed have a heart attack. They moved him out of the ICU, but wanted to keep him another day in the hospital to see how he was doing on all of the meds, which was tough. He didn’t really want to be there any more, but obviously we would follow doctor’s orders. They did come into to do an ultrasound on his heart, which was pretty amazing:

EchoBoyLuckily, there were two big football games on to keep him entertained. I left for a little while in the afternoon and returned for the final fifteen minutes and it was pretty awesome to listen to the reaction from all of the nurses as the Seahawks won the game. It was like surround sound. 😉

The next day, they finally released him and he was happy to come home. He’s supposed to take it very easy for the next three days, so he’s lounging on the couch watching movies and playing on the Playstation. Then we’ll start the rehab process and figure out what kind of work schedule he can handle. I’m still taking all of this in, but compared to last year’s hip surgery/Smokey Joe, this all feels strangely manageable. We’re lucky not to be the average person in this situation for whom this is a huge wake up call requiring major lifestyle changes. For us, it’s minor if any changes to diet/exercise protocol.

Mostly what I am is grateful. Grateful that we caught it early. Grateful that I have such great friends/family. And that’s not such a bad place to be.


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