Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Crooked Coronaries and Butterfly Ballots

The CCU had moved to another part of the second floor. It also was remodeled. But one of my former coworkers informed me it was still the same. There were no new nurses working there and I trusted these girls. My mother had a right sided heart attack, which is not as major as left sided. She appeared stable as she directed me to her Efferdent in her apartment and other toiletries. The plan was in two days she would be transported to Presby Hospital in Pittsburgh for stent placement.
I opened the apartment door to wintergreen's overpowering odor. In the bathroom, I glimpsed the half full bottle of Tums. Imagining the agony she suffered all night, I sighed, "Oh, Mom."
A quick trip back to the hospital with her belongings. Kissed her good night. Home to my anxious waiting family, wanting news about their grandma. I told them cheerfully how lucky Grandma was and that they would see her soon, maybe Sunday.
Visiting hours for CCU were at ten am to ten thirty and I was there on the dot. I knew the girls would probably allow me more time if the unit was quiet, but didn't want to chance it. As the visit started, one of the nurses told us that it sounded like Mom had congestive heart failure and she was being life flighted to Pittsburgh. Mom thought it was great she would be in a helicopter, wondering if she would see her apartment building. Up to that point, the exciting news of the day, was there was no news on the election. The count for the presidential race was too close.
Dan, soon, at the hospital decided we should leave quickly so we would be there when the helicopter arrived. The nurses rushed around to pack Mom's belongings, make chart copies and other necessary arrangements.
Dan had his own business then, driving a red van with utility ladders on the roof. When we arrived at Cardiac Hill between Children's and Presby, he worried that the ladders should have come off. We weren't expecting the Pittsburgh trip for another two days. They were able to park the van and we entered the hospital, following signs to the cardiac suite. At the desk in a huge waiting room, we informed them we were there for Mary Jean Lewis. She hadn't arrived yet. We made better time than the helicopter, listening to the non election results on talk radio.
Settling into chairs facing the television, our wait began.
Soon Mom arrived, telling everyone that people die near their birthdays. One doctor asked her if she thought she was going to die. "No," she replied, "just people do, I've been reading in the paper. My birthday is next month." We kissed her, letting her know we would be waiting through the procedure.
"Who's watching the girls?" she always worried about me leaving them alone. Like I ever did when they were that young.
"David, of course," I replied. Then she worried about Dan and I missing work. I'm thinking please! you're under going a heart procedure and you think we wouldn't be here?
Dan and I sat and sat, watching the whole story in several different venues about hanging chads, confusing butterfly ballots, and everyone remarking on this history making event. The hour procedure stretched on and on to two, then three. Surreal,the word played around in my mind. At the three hour mark, Dan growled, "This shouldn't be taking so long."
Finally at four hours, the cardiologist came out to tell us Mom's arteries were extremely crooked accounting for the length of the procedure. They put two stents in.
We found out that the reason they thought she was in congested heart failure is she had scar tissue in her lungs making the crackly sound of CHF.
That was the fun two days of crooked coronary arteries and no decision on the 2000 presidential election.
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