Christmas gift of health inspires
Going to a hospital is never easy. We’ve all been there during our lifetime at least once when we were born. Last Friday, I accompanied my lifelong partner Ludek to Metro Health for left heart catheterization with possible intervention at the Metro Hospital in Wyoming.
I was actually the designated driver on this trip. We packed our bags, because we didn’t know if we were going to stay overnight depending on the outcome of the procedure. The sarcastic locals dub Metro as Hotel 6 since it sits directly on freeway M-6.
Cardiac catheterization is a procedure used to diagnose and treat cardiovascular conditions. The doctor inserts a long thin tube called a catheter in an artery or vein in the wrist, neck or groin and threads it through the bloods vessels to the heart.
It was a follow-up to the echo stress test that showed possible narrowing of the blood vessels, that in turn causes chest pains and difficulty breathing. Ludek had been complaining of breathing difficulties.
We got to the hospital at noon. We first went to the Metro Cafe because I was starving, but Ludek had to fast. The enormous cafeteria was full with staff and visitors. It boasted that everything was made from scratch. Actually the salad was delicious. They also had a Subway there.
Walking side by side with nurse Leann we passed the Coffee Bar and the hospital boutique on our way to Cath Lab. The staff hooked up Ludek to all the necessary equipment showing vitals in Bay 9.
After that it was mostly waiting. The procedure was delayed twice due to previous complications with other patients. While Ludek got some sleep, it was introspective time for me. Then finally Dr. Larry Diaz, cardiologist, entered to inform us what’s going to happen. Dr. Diaz was wearing a biker’s cap with word Venezuela on it, a shielded floral apron and he had a slight accent.
We introduced ourselves.
“I am Dr. Diaz and you?” he asked.
“I am Emma,” I said.
“My daughter’s name is Emma,” he said.
“Are you from Venezuela?” I asked boldly.
“Yes, born and raised there until 24,” he said. “A long time ago.”
We discussed the procedure with all the possible outcomes including bleeding and death.
“The positives outweigh the negatives,” he said.
I was far from being calm, but once you’re this far into it, you have no other choice then to stay. I wanted to run so bad. Once they hauled Ludek into the surgery room at 3:21 p.m., I left Bay 9 quickly.
I walked through the hallways around the Healing Garden atrium to the Metro Cafe to replenish fluids. It was really cold and dry in the entire building. I got some Peace Tea with Georgia peach flavor and stared into the Healing Garden at the art on the wall, the bare trees, and at the chairs and tables that had snow for cushions.
Luckily, I was there by myself with only a student working on his computer. The lunch buzz was gone. The bins designated for trash were marked “compost.” A chain link wall closed off the check-out registers from the other side of the Cafe.
I felt grateful to philanthropists Bill & Bea Idema who made the Healing Garden possible. The daylight was leaving us gradually under the dark clouds. I had pager #614 on me, so the cath lab staff could reach me anywhere in the building except for the Coffee Bar.
I passed a big waterfall sign with rolling water over the donor plaques with the inscription: Inspired by Philanthropy. The hospital was celebrating 25 years of philanthropy.
Restless, I changed location to the Reflection Seating area overlooking the atrium closer to the cath lab. I was exhausted over all the possibilities of what could happen. I didn’t want to stay there overnight.
“How could I ever consider being a doctor?” I asked myself. “I can’t even stand being here.”
Yes, at one point in my life, I actually wanted to be a doctor, specifically a cardiologist.
I got lost in my thoughts staring into the garden behind the glass wall. If it was summer, I would have been sitting there, but then I wouldn’t have been able to keep my lunch salad leftovers in the car.
I called our son Jake after seeing endless messages on the phone. It was comforting to speak to an outsider about something else than catheters and moderate sedation with opioid analgesic fentanyl.
“How is dad?” he asked.
“I don’t know yet,” I said. “He just went in.”
Jake, a chronic complainer, talked about the rotten healthcare system.
“Well, at least, it’s available to us,” I said. “Can you imagine in the Third World countries, you would just die.”
We talked about Christmas with Jake stirring my focus away from the tension of the moment. It helped. After the phone call, I pulled out the classic “The Night before Christmas” by Clement Moore out of my computer bag, and read it. I bought it for our grandkids. I started translating it into Czech for our Christmas Eve bilingual performance at Jake’s house. It did wonders for me. I forgot I was in a hospital with the husband having a serious heart procedure done.
A call from mom Ella in Florida put me back into the reality of the hospital on a Friday evening. The staff was rapidly deserting it. The labyrinth of hallways was growing Silent.
“Can you get me my medication from Big Rapids?” she asked. “Next time, when I go to Florida, I’ll take a U-Haul.”
“I got to go,” I said as the pager started vibrating and blinking red like crazy.
It was 5:06, when I re-entered Bay 9. Just in time for Ludek being hauled back in from the surgery room. He had a bloody wrist and some contraption on it. He was smiling and so was the nurse.
“He’s good to go,” jumped in Diaz giving us two thumbs up. “He can shovel snow now. He had no blockages, there was nothing to fix.
I gave him a big hug. The biggest hug that I could give.
“Thank you Dr. Diaz.”
Ludek had his arm all bandaged up, like it was broken.
We left the building around 7 p.m. Ludek said he saw stars from the sedation, but other than that he was feeling okay.
As I drove through the wintery night through the city with homes decorated for Christmas, I felt relieved with the outcome; no balloons, no stents to fix blockages in the arteries.
“The arteries feeding your heart are clear,” Dr. Diaz’s words resonated in my ears.
Ludek got the best Christmas gift. That is the gift of health.
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