Inside the Terrordome: Cardiac Ablation

For 5 weeks, I have dealt with an Atria Flutter, a type of arrhythmic heart beat that’s not not quite as severe as Atrial Fibrillation. A Flutter is where the top part of your heart beats out of rhythm (usually faster) than the bottom part. There are a few causes for Atria Flutter but from what I’ve read, people that have had Heart Valve Replacement Surgery will more than likely have to deal with it. In my case, my heart beat was not only louder than normal, it was beating in the 115-135 Beats Per Minute (BPM) range, easily 25 BPM faster than normal. 

On July 9th, I had an EKG that confirmed the Atria Flutter; on the 11th, I had a Heart Echo, to check the heart’s structure (an Echo uses a combination of Sonar, sound waves, and 3D imaging to see the chambers and the valves of the heart). I was put on Metroprolol (a Beta Blocker) to essentially rein in the heart rate, and a date of August 29th was set for a follow-up Cardiologist appointment.

On the 25th, I had a 2nd EKG done, during a check up. The Cardiology Department at University of Louisville Hospital, in conjunction with Jewish Hospital, moved by August appointment up to July 31st, so that they could perform an Ablation on my heart  much sooner.

The Procedure

Some info on Ablations and the particular type that I had: LINK

So, I had to go to Jewish Hospital’s Outpatient Center for this procedure; arrival time was set at 5:30 AM. Despite being soaked by a pop-up thunderstorm, I got there around 5:35. I went through the Registration process (verifying my identity, if I had a Living Will, if I understood the procedure(s), etc.) then went to the Pre-Op Area. A nurse started having me get into a hospital gown, putting my clothes and belongings into plastic bags. Then she shaved parts of my chest, back, shoulders, neck, and groin, where different tubes, wires, and needles would get inserted. She also inserted 2 IVs – one in my right hand, the other in my left hand. While that was going on, the Anesthesiologist, Dr. Bhaka, came in to talk to me, to get my results from my Echo and EKGs, and to start her work. I had to have a 3rd EKG because UofL Hospital somehow lost my charts; with the fiasco with my Warfarin refills a few weeks ago, this didn’t surprise me.

After areas were shaved (including parts of the Nether Regions; that was highly awkward!), IVs were inserted, and EKGs taken, Dr. Bhaka gave me some painkillers and a mild sedative, and nurses wheeled me to the room were the Ablation would happen.

I wish I could have seen more of that room because it looked very interesting! There was the table where I would end up, with different lights above it. There also was, in my best guess, a 6′ x 3′ monitor that could display nearly every vital sign about me. Instead of having me stand up and get on the table, the stretcher/bed I was on simply inflated and the nurses just pushed me over. We had a chuckle about my reaction to the easy Transportation, as they hooked me up to the big monitor and other monitoring devices.

Dr. Gupitanon (sp.?), the Specialist performing the Ablation, then arrived. He glanced at some of the readings, talked to me for a few minutes, then went and got prepped. That was the last time that I saw him. Dr. Bhaka gave me a sedative through my right hand IV. I remember saying “This will feel cold in your arm”; I was OUT, less than 15 seconds later.

I went under some time between 7:15 and 7:30. I woke up in the recovery room some time between 10:30 and 10:45. I was groggy but not in too much pain, at the time. I had to lay in bed for 6 hours (counting the procedure), to let everything heal. I had a lunch of a sandwich, chips, and – about an hour later – some fresh fruit pieces, a small bowl of vegetable soup, and Angel Food Cake and ice cream. The grogginess slowly wore off but there was a lot of soreness in my groin, where that catheter went in. My throat also was sore and my voice was gone; I didn’t know it at the time, but a side effect of a Trans Esophageal Echo are bruised vocal chords and a sore throat. At 2:30, the attending nurse let me sit in a chair, where I remained (and had the fruit portion of lunch) until about 4:00, when my sister came by. They discharged me “into her care” and we went back to my apartment for a while, where my older brother joined us, and hung out for an hour or so.

It’s now the early afternoon of August 1st. The grogginess is lingering but it’s not too bad. The catheter insertion site is a nice mix of red, blue, and purple bruising, and it has a fresh new gauze pad on it. The right wrist has less purple but it’s red-and-blue bruised. The throat has stopped hurting but the voice is still raspy, while the midsection is strangely sore. I don’t think anyone gut-punched me while I was sedated.

The best thing is the heart. My readings after the Ablation were 82-90 BPM, over 30 BPM slower! It is also beating much quieter, to the point that my sister had to strain to hear it, instead of hearing it across the room. A major success!

A big thank you to Jewish Hospital for fixing the Atria Flutter. I am off from work until Friday morning, and am on some weight and activity restrictions, so I’m probably just going to chill at home for both days. This might give me time to catch up on playing “Prey”? 😉

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