You’re wanting to know the outcome without all the foo-foo. Today, March 27, it was positive. Jim’s heart is back in sinus rhythm for the first time since he’s been monitored and diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. He was told when he was in the navy that he had “a heart murmur,” and he believed all his life that was all it was. He was first diagnosed with A-Fib about 5 years ago.
He had a leaky mitral valve, which was repaired last September via open heart surgery. He is now healed from the surgery and his cardiologist recommended we proceed with an attempt to reverse the atrial fibrillation. If it’s not fixed, it could result in a stroke.
So here’s the saga:
Since we live in Buena Vista, Colorado (pronounced Bee-you-na Vista, not the Spanish pronunciation), it’s a 2.5 hour drive to the Presbyterian/St. Luke Hospital in Denver. This is where his cardiac team does business. His anesthesiologist wanted to know why our town’s name is articulated in such an un-Spanish way. We enlightened him that it was the founding mother of our town, Alsina Deerheimer,who named it Bee-you-na Vista upon its incorporation.
We left home Wednesday, March 26, around 11:00 a.m., heading to Denver. This is a view from Trout Creek Pass, about 15 minutes out of town on highway 285. This valley is called South Park. It takes us an hour to drive across it.
Jim was driving. I was photographing. Here’s a picture of one of the snowy peaks from highway 285 in South Park. I’m shooting across Jim through the window with a telephoto.
About an hour from home, we drove through the hamlet of Jefferson. The only distinction you might notice is that the speed limit slows to 45 mph. I wanted to stop here for lunch–but where? Jim wished to forge on to the next hamlet.
The next hamlet on Highway 285 is Bailey. It’s larger than Jefferson with several dining options. We like China Village, offering decent Chinese food, home cooked by a friendly Chinese fellow. The portions are huge for lunch, so Jim and I shared, and still we were stuffed.
After reaching Denver, doing some shopping, and rolling into our cousins’ house where we were fed a fantastic salmon dinner, we hit the hay. We needed to be at the hospital at 7:30 am. Jim’s procedure was scheduled for 9:30 am.
Jim was faced with a preliminary unexpected procedure–a trans-esophageal echocardiogram (TEE). In this procedure, a tube like a small rubber hose with an electrical device on its tip is inserted down the esophagus even with the heart. It is able to give a picture of what is happening in the heart. The doctors needed to know if there were any clots in Jim’s heart. (We failed to ask what would be done if there were. I assume that the cardioversion would have been called off until his blood was thinned further and the clots were gone.) There were no clots. So the cardioversion was a “go.”
Prior to this day, Jim was instructed to take a certain dosage of his blood thinner, Warfarin (coumadin) until the results of his “INR” were 2.0 or above–for 2 weeks in a row. Today his INR was 2.7 and everyone was happy.
Jim had been concerned about what he might feel during the cardioversion, which is a shock to the heart, lasting about one second and is done only one time. The anesthesiologist laid his fears to rest. He assured Jim that the drug he was going to give him would cause him not to feel anything. . . and during the TEE (which would come immediately before the cardioversion) he would be so relaxed and sedated that he would be only slightly conscious and probably would feel next to nothing during the TEE and absolutely nothing during the cardioversion’s electrical shock. This proved to be true.
I was in the waiting room reading an article by Tony Hillerman about Canyon de Chey while all of this was transpiring–realizing of course that Hillerman was dead, and hoping that wasn’t an indication of anything happening in the procedure room. The travel magazine was 10 years old and the article made me want to go there and have a Navajo guide take Jim and me on a tour of the canyon floor. Bucket List.
Dr. Vijay (who had performed the cardioversion) came to the waiting room about 10:00 am to tell me that all was well, that Jim’s heart was now in sinus rhythm, and the TEE had shown there were no clots. All the tension drained right out of me and I felt relieved as we walked back down the hall. Dr. Vijay wrote instructions for Jim’s follow-up. He said that if Jim’s heart stays in sinus rhythm for 3 months, the chances are good the A-Fib will not recur.
Here’s a picture of Jim shortly after the morning’s procedures–after he was unhooked from at least a dozen monitor wires. The TEE causes a sore throat, so Jim didn’t feel like eating anything except ice water and ice cream.
We are very happy that this additional step toward cardiac health is behind us. We must make an appointment to see Dr. Vijay in three weeks.