Friday was the big day. PFO closure surgery at Cedars Sinai. My wife and I got to Cedars before 0500 in the morning. They told us to be there by 0600 but we did not want to risk being late given the fact that we had to travel south on the 405 freeway on a weekday. Upon our arrival we knew that this experience would be dramatically different than any other medical procedure either of us had ever had.
The staff working the front desk of the south tower that early Friday morning were as welcoming and accommodating as you would expect to find professional concierges in high end hotels. I signed in and upon their urging took a seat in the well appointed waiting room. We waited for about ten minutes until one of the ladies from the front desk called my name along with the name of another guest. As I rose to my feet she came to me instead of me going to the desk. I was assuming that I needed to fill out some of the requisite paperwork; instead she proceeded to walk my wife and I along with the other party to the elevators and all the way to our destination, the 6th floor.
My wait in the 6th floor lobby was not very long. The registration agent at the desk told me that they would probably be calling me back at about 0615; guess what time they called me back....0615. I cannot begin to describe how much I appreciate punctuality and respect for the patients time when in a hospital setting. Having that one thing to count on makes all the difference when one is facing stressful situations.
When they took me back to the prep area, the professionalism continued. This is a well-oiled machine that does not compromise. I will spare everyone all of the details of the prep work they performed with two exceptions: First, there are no clothes under that gown; and Second, the part of you they prepare for the Catheter to be inserted so they can get up to the heart is not in the "leg" like they say....think a bit higher...that's all I will say. If you want any deeper insights please just use the link to the right and email me.
The procedure was simply amazing. I was AWAKE the entire time. After a few minutes the nurses mildly sedated me to take the edge off but I never became less lucid. My thoughts might have been a bit slower but I was still able to be conversant with the surgical team as well as watch the four monitors that showed the surgery progressing. Dr. Kar showed me the Starflex device before he sent it up and into my heart. Simply amazing, and big. He exclaimed upon seeing my PFO on the screen that I had a "Huge" PFO. I replied back that size matters and the surgical team had a bit of a chuckle.
While they were testing atrial chamber pressure using did begin getting a migraine. Dr. Kar told me that this was a relatively common occurrence, that the bubbles traveling thru the PFO and into the brain can cause migraine. They were able to give me medicine intravenously that aborted the migraine as the aura faded. The only downside to me was not being able to see the end of the procedure. There was never a point during the procedure that I felt any discomfort. When Dr. Kar was injecting the contrast dye and anaesthetic into my leg, I felt the needle and the bit of pain from that but nothing else.
I must give a great deal of thanks to everyone who was in the room. All of the doctors and nurses who worked on me during the procedure were so professional, caring and accommodating. Of course I have already raved about Dr. Kar in my previous post. This time I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Broder as well. Dr. Broder was very friendly and took the time to make sure I understood what was going on. He also acted as my discharge doctor and helped me clear up an issue with my incompetent local pharmacy. Big thanks to Dr. Broder for that. I also met a Dr. Dublin (I hope the spelling is correct), he was in his words "low on the totem pole" with the team but I could tell that given time he will be an outstanding choice for this procedure. Dr. Dublin came into the pre-op room and spent some time with my wife and I explaining how things would go and then after the procedure he went out to the waiting room to tell her that everything went well and brought her back to see me.
They wheeled me back into an ICU / Cardiac Step-Down center where I got my own private room. I had to lie pretty much flat on my back for 6 hours before I was allowed to sit up. Then after a couple more hours a doctor came to remove the sutures from my "leg". They put on a compression bandage and that was it. The only pain was a bit of stinging when the doctor wiped alcohol on the sutures. I had a gaping hole in my leg and a foreign object in my heart, but I was feeling good and in no pain. How cool is that?
I camped out in the room until morning when they did an echocardiogram to make sure the device was in place and holding tight. Then Dr. Broder came in at 10:00 when he said he would, and released me. We headed for home, stopping off to get some real food outside the confines of the hospital.
It's been a couple of days now and I still feel fantastic. I am moving around like I always have. Today I took off the bandages and though the bruising looks bad, the actual incision is pretty minor and I don't think there will be much of a scar. I am on Plavix for three months and asprin for at least six. I am allowed to begin moderate exercise again within the next week or two. I will be allowed to resume BJJ after the three month mark. Sooner if they determine that scar tissue is growing over the device fast enough.
A big bit of thanks to everyone for your support and well wishes. This has been a very long three years of two strokes and three TIA's, heart problems and not having any answers. I am so happy that it seems all of that should be behind me now.