Wandering Thoughts

April 24, 2008

An Angiogram

Filed under: Aortic Valves,Reactive Arthritis — terence @ 12:51 pm
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Monday was angiogram day. That mean having a hole snipped into an artery in my groin. Through that hole a tiny wire and catheter were poked up into my heart. From the catheter radioactive liquid was squirted. And from that liquid an image of my heart was picked up by x-ray(?) and shown on a TV.

From what he saw the cardiologist determined that I don’t have coronary problems to accompany my aortic ones. Hooray! What he did find though was that my aorta has been stretched. So that might have to be replaced with the valve too. Not so hooray.

Anyhow, I’m one step closer to surgery and you’re wondering just what it’s like to have your heart squirted with radioactive stuff.

Well…the actual squirting was odd, but not that bad . First I felt a warmth in my chest a bit like that caused by a shot of whiskey. Traveling at the remarkable speed of my blood, the heat then raced to my head and my feet. It happened in a moment. Your blood really, really doesn’t mess about in its trip around your body.

I’d be lying if I said that the angiogram as a whole wasn’t a little unpleasant. But it was bearable. Easily bearable.

It was my first time in an operating theatre too – and that was kind of surreal. In the background they played reggae music (I’m not really a fan of Wellington reggae but it did help me relax). And at one point I swear that both the nurse and cardiologist were humming and swaying too it. I half expected them to break out into song. And for a moment, I was lying there on the edge of the musical of my heart problems. “His heat is bad, it’s very sad…”

Musical or not, the cardiologist, nurses and assorted medical personal were all professional, friendly and kind. It really helped.

As I left the theatre, two other people were queued up behind be waiting for similar procedures. For a whole morning, at least one day a week, the doctors and nurses in that unit perform angiograms and similar operations. One after the other. I can’t imagine how stressful this must be. I’m in awe of people who do this for a living.

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April 1, 2008

Valve-broken

Filed under: Aortic Valves,Reactive Arthritis — terence @ 12:52 pm
Tags: ,

It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote a post on how good it was to be largely free of the symptoms of Reactive Arthritis. I spoke to soon, I guess. Some time over the last few years, inflammation has damaged the aortic valve from my heart. It is now leaking, causing my heart to stretch. And I need the valve replaced before my heart itself is damaged. Valve replacement is open heart surgery but the risk of serious complications is small. If things go ok I can expect a 1-3 month recuperation period and a more or less normal life afterwards. If I stay within the public system I can expect to wait between 6 and 9 months for surgery.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious, or disappointed – the need for surgery has derailed what were looking to be exciting plans for the year. But, of course, things could be worse.

Anyhow, I intend to write more here about events as they unfold. I do get the odd person coming through to this site who has Reactive Arthritis, so maybe my experiences might be useful. You can reciprocate too. Any experiences of open heart surgery (doesn’t have to be stemming from arthritis, or even valve replacement) are much appreciated in the comments box below.

[Update: If you do read this and have Reactive Arthritis – don’t worry. Heart problems are a very, very rare complication of Reactive Arthritis. A rheumatologist friend of mine described my situation as a ‘textbook complication that you only ever see in textbooks’. So the odds of you encountering similar problems to me are small.]

Oh – and I think there may be a couple of people from work and the immediate surrounds who read this blog. My need for surgery isn’t a secret, but it isn’t public knowledge yet either (partially because I can’t really figure a way of telling people…)

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