Congestive Heart Failure and the Widow Maker

In mid September, I developed a cough. I wasn’t too concerned, as the weather was starting to change and coughing often came with that change. in a few days however, the cough went from something that happened in the morning and didn’t annoy me to one that wouldn’t let me sleep unless I was sitting up. I contacted my primary care physician and he sent me for an x-ray and prescribed some cough medicine (with a severe allergy to Codeine, I can’t use most over the counter drugs) the result was a bit of fluid. not necessarily in the lungs and no relief from the cough. the next week, CT exam. As he went over the results of the CT scan with me he asked me to contact my cardiologist, as there was a chance that I had Congestive Heart Failure and it would be up to the cardiologist to rule that out or in! 

You know something might be serious when you call your cardiologist and get told, “Can you make it here in about 20 minutes!” My cardiologist has a great arrangement, he is best at doing the actual intervention work needed for heart problems, one of his partners is best at treating diseases of the heart with medication. As I had undergone a very risky stent placement August 2nd, I knew I would most likely be seeing his partner. She examined me and caught my edema (swelling of tissues due to excess fluid and the heart’s inability to pump blood properly). She was straight forward with me and explained my problem fairly well. I had a rapid onset of congestive heart failure and I would need to take a diuretic for most likely the rest of my life! She also scheduled an echo cardiogram of my heart to better assess my problem.

The echo cardiogram revealed three mildly leaking valves and an EF (Ejection Fraction, output from the heart’s left ventricle normally 55% to 75%) of about 30%. By this time the diuretic had reduced my edema and I almost could sleep comfortably, but I started getting short of breath and having chest pains as I walked. When I described the pain to my cardiologist, she immediately said to take it easy and that she would review the data in my file with Dr. Ganem! I got a call that evening from Dr. Flores telling me that my appointment with her on October 25th was to be cancelled. In the morning I would get another call with more details about where I would be instead! 

October 19th, I got a call about 10:00 AM from the cardiologist’s office. I was told to go around noon on the 25th to Banner University Hospital for another cath procedure! I was also told to stop all my normal exercise activities until cleared by dr. Ganem or Dr. Flores! This alarmed me, but I did as I was told and waited impatiently for the 25th.

On arriving at the hospital on the 25th, I was informed that although the cathlab had been reserved for my procedure, they had no idea as to what procedure I was to have. This made the preparation a bit more difficult as the nurses didn’t know if my groin or wrist was going to be used for the procedure (my previous visit used both) so they prepared me for either one. About 10 minutes before I was to be heading into the lab, the doctor’s assistant came by to tell me the procedure and the contingency plan. I was going to get only local anesthesia for the procedure, but if they had to switch to plan B, I would be put under general anesthesia as fast as possible.

Suffice it to say, the procedure went well and I now have 9 stents around my heart! I learned the severity of the problem when during the next mornings rounds, I was informed that what had been over looked due to the severity of the blockage in my circumflex which was repaired in August, was the relatively poor flow in my LAD, which had narrowed considerably, but only when compared with the set of data they had on record from 2015 was this noticeable. I also was informed that my heart under stress tends to go into ventricular fibrillation and that meant I need to take it slow and steady for a good recovery.

I am able to walk a lot more these days, but no where near as far as I used to enjoy. It is very tough to not be active, but I made a promise to my wife, I would stay with her as long as I could, so for now I will take it easy. But when they put me into the cardiac rehab class, hooked up to the heart monitor, with nurses and doctors on hand, I plan to give them enough data to fix this problem once and for all!