Back in 1997 I went from being in pretty good health to having major medical problems in a matter of a few months. Starting in early June of that year and going through December 22nd, I was subjected to eight heart catheterizations and the placement of six stents in the right coronary artery. Additionally I developed sudden onset asthma which was not controlled by anything. Later it was determined that the asthma was an allergic reaction to the aspirin I was prescribed to take.
In March of 2008 while in Wichita, KS helping out after my dad’s stroke, I was rushed to the hospital where two days later double heart by-pass surgery was performed. Instead of solving all my problems, complications from the surgery compounded them over the course of the next few years. Two trips to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota failed to correct anything and in fact a misdiagnosis of the problems made things worse in 2000.
As suddenly as the problems appeared they pretty much disappeared by around 2002. In 2004 I had my 15th heart catheterization and was pronounced to be in excellent shape heart wise. By 2006 my cardiologist said I was free to live without worry concerning my heart issues for they had all stabilized and presented no problems. In 2007 he gave me the green light to do whatever I felt like doing exercise wise with no fear of hurting myself.
In November of 2008 I started having chest pains for the first time in perhaps 5 years. After a stress test, the cardiologist determined that to be safe I needed a heart catheterization which took place on January 22nd of this year. Much to the cardiologist’s dismay and surprise, instead of finding nothing wrong, he found one of the grafts from my 1998 by-pass was almost totally clogged and another major artery had two places well over 75% blocked.
Due to fears of needing surgical backup, I went to another hospital on February 11th (with another doctor) to have a huge stent placed to fix the blockage in the graft. This was a very serious procedure and demanded the utmost of skill to be done right. Thankfully it went exactly as planned and to this day there have been no complications. Praise God.
Instead of sending me home the next day per normal protocol, the doctor was persuaded by others to keep me in the hospital and transition me to Warfarin (blood thinner). Five days later, the blood was still not sufficiently thinned so when the doctor returned from a vacation he decided to go ahead and place the other stents in the second artery instead of waiting a few months as originally planned.
The placement of the second and third stents on February 17 was a disaster. Nothing went as planned including the placement of the stents. Unlike after the first stent, the next day I felt horrible instead of better. I was abruptly discharged on February 19th in the evening with no instructions to speak of. By February 28th I could not breathe and felt like I had pneumonia. I went to the emergency room expecting a dose of antibiotics.
After a CT scan of the lungs, it was determined that I had a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung) from lying around the hospital for 8 days. I was immediately admitted and put on a very high dose of Heparin and Coumadin. I was finally discharged on March 4th. The next week, March 9-13th, I had doctor’s appointments, trips to the clinic to monitor the blood and a trip to the Emergency Room. The next week I had doctor’s appointments or procedures done 4 of the 5 days.
I saw finally saw my regular cardiologist again on March 18th who was very concerned about my condition. He ordered various tests and upon seeing him again on April 1st he determined yet another heart catheterization was needed, and it was scheduled for April 22nd. He did this although he again didn’t think anything would show up. Just as it happened back in 1997, everyone assumed my chest pains and other symptoms were either in my mind or something not related to my heart. Just as in 1997-98, the doctors were wrong.
Starting April 8th, I started having crushing pain in my chest upon walking. My entire physical condition suddenly deteriorated and by Friday, April 10th, I was told to check into the local hospital through the ER for a heart catheterization on Monday, April 13th. I spent Easter weekend in the miserable state of being in a hospital arguing with doctors and nurses about whether anything was wrong with me even as I had constant chest pain.
The heart catheterization on April 13th once again shocked the cardiologist. It showed that the second and third stents placed in February had failed. One was only about 70% blocked, but the other was initially thought to be 99% blocked. The substitute cardiologist doing the procedure said he could place new stents, but with no surgical backup there was about a 20% chance of a major heart attack resulting in probable death.
Not liking the 20% odds, the only other option was to go by ambulance to another hospital in the county which was much bigger and did have surgical backup. Thankfully, my regular cardiologist was there and agreed to do heart catheterization number 20. He placed three more stents on April 13th during the second heart catheterization on that day.
I now have one artery with 6 stents from 1997, another one with one and now a third one with 5 stents. As the cardiologists told me the next day, no more stents can be placed in that artery. If these medicated stents fail (and if they do it is usually after 8 or 9 months), I must have emergency by-pass surgery which I have been told I am not a good risk for.
Here in a nutshell is my life for the past few months: Three hospital stays of 9 days in February, 5 days in March and 5 days in April, five heart catheterizations since January, an increase in prescription medication from 8 to 16 drugs, 4 CT scans and numerous know it all doctors and nurses who either told me nothing was wrong with me or that I would die in two days if I didn’t take the medication they prescribed.
Needless to say, the constant procedures and stays in the hospital have produced unbelievable stress for both my wife and me along with our financial situation going from bad to disastrous. Just the drugs I take amount to hundreds of dollars per month. Adding in the never ending co-pays for doctor’s visits along with the $750 per visit co-pay for each stay in the hospital— the situation is not pleasant.
My wife is just now getting better from numerous stress related ailments (heart rhythm problems along with other woes) brought on by last four months. This week I finally start a prolonged round of cardiac rehabilitation. The hope is that through the various drugs, exercise and prayer we can see these last three stents work as they are supposed to and come next Thanksgiving I am enjoying the holiday and not being rushed to the hospital for emergency by-pass surgery because the medication was finished.
I thank you for your prayers and support through these most difficult of times. I am finally starting to feel better and for that I am thankful. But, the impact the past three months has had on our financial situation is another story. Any prayers for some miracles in that realm would be greatly appreciated and needed. We have a BIG God who has watched over us before and we are persuaded He will continue to provide for our needs. Thank you for listening and praying and I hope this summarizes what has happened in such a way that there remains no stone unturned.