First things first: Beth’s sister Marilee and her Florida family weathered Irma and everyone is safe. Though it sounds like some hard work is ahead. Phew.
Now, in other news: For those of you who care to know but don’t yet, I had what’s called a catheter cryoballoon ablation last week. Rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?
First, the back-story: I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation last year—basically, the electrical signals that trigger heartbeats went haywire. It manifests itself differently in different people. For me, I could be sitting and doing a crossword puzzle or just watching TV, and my heart would take off beating and it was like a hamster was running inside my chest—but with an irregular foot speed. My heart would race as if I was exercising vigorously even though I was perfectly still. I’d get dizzy, short of breath, and pretty much non-functional. Sometimes it’d last a few minutes, but it often lasted hours—and once a day and a half.
Want TMI? Here it is!
It was completely unpredictable, I landed in the ER more than once, and it made it pretty difficult to maintain normalcy. The docs and I tried some things, including medications. Nothing worked.
So, last Wednesday I checked into Northwestern hospital, and I was prepped—I’m on the hirsute side so now my chest looks like a tic-tac-toe board after shaving for all the adhesive electrodes and other stuff they had to stick on me. I was sedated but not put completely out, so I could kind of hear things but simply didn’t care. Wish I could just conjure that up on demand.
A team inserted a tiny tube in a hole they made and then snaked it into my heart. Then, a tiny balloon was deployed through the tube, a balloon that was chilled to around -40 degrees via liquid nitrogen. (I was warned that I might have “ice cream headaches” and indeed I did.)
The balloon froze the area of cells responsible for the bad electrical signals to put them out of commission. In all it took about three hours, but they kept me overnight. And I was happy to stay.
We won’t know how well it worked for a couple months—everything has to heal up and calm down—but so far so good.
It all made me think of a movie from my childhood, Fantastic Voyage, without the submarine. All in all, pretty amazing.
I told some people about all this in advance; some by design—I made sure my nephew knew, for example. But otherwise if was more about circumstance. In some cases it sort of came up naturally. But when it didn’t, I felt kind of funny bringing it up—I mean, when I’m talking to friends about baseball or politics or a play we saw—there’s just not a natural opening to say, “Hey, have I told you about my upcoming ablation?”
It’s funny these things. A couple we know who are in their 80s were talking about this. Our friend Jim would never utter a peep about any of his own medical issues. But Kathy, his wife, is the polar opposite. “I want everyone in the world to know about mine!”
I get both of them. And I completely understand being miffed at finding out about friends’ health issues after the fact.
But. Is there etiquette for this stuff? I don’t know.
Beth and I have had our share of medical issues and we learned long ago that, well, they can come to define you if you let them. And as we attain a certain age, there are only going to be more.
So it’s bad enough you spend time at the doctor, getting tests, waiting for results, having treatment. And then you spend your free time talking about it?
Or writing about it. Like I just did.
P.S. Though I’d love to take credit for cel-ablation, it’s the creation of Steve Ferkau.