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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rock Stars in Cardio

So, after my recent post about our Weekend to Remember?, where I referenced the Husband's Thanksgiving week near death experience, I thought I should share with the blog's hundreds of ten readers the story of how Tonggu Daddy nearly died. Most of it remains a blur, but basically, the Husband caught a simple stomach virus that wrecked havoc on his body. I'd first like to point out that I caught the same virus and didn't cause any Extra Drama. My body, being Superior and Five Years Younger, weathered the storm quite well. (I like to remind him of the age difference at every available opportunity. I'm sure you understand.)

In response to the virus, the Husband's immune system became confused, kicked into overdrive and started attacking his heart. That's SO not an accurate medical explanation, but you get the idea. Looking back, I sometimes wonder why exactly this immune system confusion occurred. The Husband WAS out of town, unsupervised, for a few days prior to his illness. Did his immune system enter into a gluttonous daze after too much delicious San Francisco cuisine? Did it perhaps get drunk due to his close proximity to Napa Valley? What, exactly, caused the delirium? The doctors labeled it a Fluke, but it does kind of make you go hmm....

To better explain the exact heart issue, I need to provide you with a few visuals. Let me run to the kitchen for a minute to grab some supplies:

Go ahead and laugh. But this is exactly how the Husband's primary cardio doc explained the situation to us. You see, your heart isn't simply sitting inside your body, beating away, with no protection -- think about all of the friction that would result if your heart muscle continually pounded against other internal organs. God, in His infinite wisdom, created a fluid-filled sac called the pericardium for your heart to rest inside.

The Husband's amazing cardio doc explained that this sac is kind of like a piece of Saran Wrap coated in butter. The butter represents the fluid that lubricates the area, so that the heart - beating madly away - doesn't cause friction and, therefore, stress. (Oh, and don't be so name brand conscious ... I didn't have any Saran on hand, but Glad Clingwrap is the SAME thing!).

When the Husband's immune system got drunk became confused, fluid (the butter) built up in-between his pericardium (the saran wrap) and his heart (the orange), causing pressure and stress. It mimicked a heart attack. His heart muscle actually began to die. (For all of you Medical Types, his fluid levels were above 650 ... exactly what fluid levels I can't remember - as it was all a blur - but I'm sure you can put two and two together to guess. You are Medical Types, after all.)

They ran tests. And more tests. A famous doctor visiting from Johns Hopkins performed an angiogram, which is typically an Old Person Test. During the procedure, Amazing Cardio Doc and Famous Doctor discovered something: the Husband is deformed. (Shocking, I know.)

Behold a NORMAL human heart. Do you see the three arteries sticking straight up out of the aorta? Do you see how the left one sits alone, while the two on the right form a short Y shape? The Husband's heart doesn't have a Y. Instead it has three distinct arteries, with no Y in sight.

This created Quite a Scene in the OR. The team of doctors deemed the Husband an Interesting Case, Worthy of Med School Classroom Discussions. Not only was the Husband a good thirty years younger than most acute myopericarditis patients, he also has a Deformed Heart. Oh, they practically drooled when looking at the test results. They also informed us that the Husband's deformity likely saved his life.

We became Instant Rock Stars in the Cardio Unit. Hospital employees I'd never met knew me on sight, presumably because, while I don't exactly look like a spring chicken, I also don't look anywhere near sixty-plus years old. Also, since most cardiac patients are elderly, doctors and nurses in the cardio ward don't typically see Success Stories. The vast majority of their patients do not leave the hospital and, if they do leave, they typically return within the year. We provided the staff with an amazing Thanksgiving Week Story. They released the Husband late in the evening on Turkey Day, and oh, we felt so thankful. God is a Good God.

I do make light of this situation now. Sixteen months can provide lots of Perspective and Humor. You should know that the Husband couldn't work for almost two months after the hospital released him. For the first two weeks home, he slept almost 16 hours a day. He didn't truly return to 99% until the late spring. But he survived. And we thank God for that.

We also laugh a bit. Amazing Cardio Doc told us, so long ago in that hospital room, "I really think a year from now this is going to be one of those stories you tell others once you've had a few beers -- starting with, 'hey, remember that time I almost died?'" At the time, we looked at him like he'd recently escaped a mental hospital. Of course we didn't believe him... at the time.

But last night, after a couple of glasses of wine and some amazing conversation with Lizard and Terrapin, I caught myself saying... "hey, dear, remember that time you almost died?"

Time heals all. And makes most of it funny.


Special K said...

It does make for great stories. Mine start off kinda like "remember that one time at band camp"... except it's the same line as your hubs. Funny now, for sure. Not so much for me those 12 mths between August '04-'05. LOL!
But time changes everything....

Glad he's all good now.
And me too, of course. :)

Aunt LoLo said...

Oh, good HEAVENS. Definitely a great story...but I'm sure you would have been just as happy not to have it in your repertoire!

Shelley said...

Okay...so it is NOT funny that Daddy Tonginator almost bit the mop, but HOLY COW...the telling of that story was histerical!!!!
I am sure at the time it was very very scary... but quite funny in the re-tellling!
Thanks for the details~

Gerbil said...


WOW. That's quite a tale! The buttered saran wrap is a hilarious prop, btw.

Janet said...

WOW! I can't imagine that! I'm glad he's still around to tell the story....

discombobulated said...

So glad Husband beat it. Must have been so scary.
You could be a nusring school professor with the way you explained the illness and used the props.