Stories from the Ablation. Part II: Recovery Room

When I woke up in the recovery room, I thought, “I’m not dead yet!” (Those of you who remember National Lampoon magazines circa 1973 with little pics of Mamie Eisenhower that popped up unexpectedly might get this obscure reference.)

Because of my titanium aortic valve, which is so loud and bothersome it allows me to self-monitor my heart rate, I could tell the heartbeat was stable. “Thump, thump, thump,” went the heart, nicely! None of that “Thumpity, thum thum thumpthumpthump thump.”

So far everything was successful.

I really feel much better when I am going thump, thump, thump in regular, sinus rhythm. Everyone does feel better under these circumstances, though you hopefully don’t have to think about it. Ever.

After the procedure and the catheter removal from the two incisions in the groin, it’s forbidden to move your trunk or legs around for 4 hours because blood clots that need to form near the incisions could jar loose and hit one’s brain, causing strokes. And I was a bit more at risk for this because my blood had been unexpectedly “too thick” during the last week (the wacko coumadin INR reading I had). Because of that one little complication, I was not given the great pain meds they have that send you into lah-lah-woo-woo-land that I got after my first ventricular ablation. “If you have a stroke, we want you to be awake.” Gee, that sounds pleasant.

Back in 2012, I learned the hard way I really need something strong during this 4 hour wait. The bottom of the tear of my original 1998 unrepaired aortic dissection ends down near my butt, and there I suffer a bit of pain and some discomfort all the time. I fidget a lot because of this. That helps. I notice it little.

When I don’t fidget to help with the discomfort, the pain levels soar. In 2012 I had a tortuous four hour experience after a failed angiogram at UCSF when I didn’t get enough pain meds. I vowed that would never happen again. And even though my pain medication on Friday wasn’t as strong as in January 2013 (first ablation), they were good enough pain killers to make the experience bearable. I must have asked for them about every ten minutes until I could roll around on the bed.

Because of a mixture of anaesthesia, I was also nauseated off and on. That was OK.

Once I’d figured out my basic situation I started thinking about other plans I’d made.

Since this worked, I can go ahead and make plans to get a new cat if I decide to! My last kitty, born in the 1990s, died in January at age 17½, and my apartment’s been lonely since I wanted to wait till after this ablation to move forward with the possibility of getting another feline friend. (In a month or so I must have surgery on a pinched nerve, but that will be much less dangerous.)

I kept drifting in and out of consciousness for a short while more, but then the two nurses at my station began to talk about the California drought and I immediately fully woke up.

“The economy is going to be ruined,” one of them said. She was a native of San Mateo County.

“[So and so] was up north and said she’d never seen anything like this. It could be a 20 year mega-drought!”

I’d been silent long enough! “A geologist friend of mine told me California used to regularly have 100 year droughts!” I am known for always looking at the bright side of the upcoming, impending, human extinction experience.

The nurse paid me no attention. “We just shouldn’t have been feeding the world,” she said. People instantly regress to horde mode during times like this. It’s our nature, in our dna.

I said, “Well, we shouldn’t have 40 million people living in such an arid state. And agriculture is ultimately an unsustainable activity!”

(I don’t like to use “sustainable” or “unsustainable” very frequently because they are so overused the words really mean nothing. But this was the recovery room and I was suffering propofol and other anaesthetic sickness, so give me a little slack.)

One of the nurses seemed to be getting irritated with me.

In my experience, irritation with me is nothing new. It doesn’t bother me. But in a hospital setting, one does need to weigh the potential reactions toward one’s actions, since these folks could just do you in if they decided to.

So I decided I’d say something less controversial.

But before I could, she looked at the monitor. “Your blood pressure is back up to normal now! And you’ve got color in your face.” She seemed surprised. Before the discussion of “the predicament,” It had still been hovering down quite low, which is usual in a post-surgery setting as one is returning to the, um, real world.

“It’s because you’re pressing all my buttons!” I told her.

Since I feared remaining too serious, I told them the best (fantasy) solution to the drought would be to raise a militia and go steal water from Oregon and Washington, like Southern California does from Colorado and Arizona. I don’t think that went over too well, but at least they quit looking at me like “we should let him die.” And before I left the recovery room they’d learned to appreciate me, and they let me try all three flavors of their sugar-free popsicles. Orange was the best.

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