The Great Time Goes By Hook Up
The Ping-Pong of Thoughts Toward the End of Life and The Alex and Ronni Show

A TGB READER STORY: Medical – In the Beginning and Near the End

By William Weatherstone

In 1941, I had my first operation - for tonsillitis. I could not enter school at that time unless they were removed.

In 2017, (near the end of my life now at 81 years old), I had open heart surgery to hopefully extend my life-span.

As a child, it was a horrendous experience to go through.

When my wife entered the nursing home in Blind River, Ontario, I moved there from Elliot Lake to be near her.

During the couple years that I was living in Blind River, I had a small apartment over a commercial store in the downtown strip. I would at times drive the 40 miles back to Elliot Lake for food supplies as well as visit with friends. Returning home, I would have to carry bags full up 15 stairs and down a long hall to the apartment. It would take three loads to empty the car.

During the transfer, I found that after each trip upstairs, I would have to sit down for a few minutes to regain my breath.

After my wife died, I moved back to Elliot Lake.

It was getting worse, the breathing and tiredness. Just walking from the car to the building entrance, I would have to stop twice to catch my breath again. From car to building was about a couple hundred feet.

My next medical was in a few days and when I got there, I explained to her what was happening and right away she started tests and made an appointment with a cardiologist in Sault Ste. Marie for more testing. It started with a complete stress test and then an angiogram.

That appointment was strange. They started with a nurse coming in with a shaving kit to clear out the crotch area, for going through the groin with a camera to fish its way to the heart exploring the damage.

Once on the table, the surgeon checked my wrist vein for size and took that route up through the arm artery and into the heart.

I was wide awake through the whole process and was waiting for them to start. After a while I was wheeled back to my bed area wondering why they did nothing. To my surprise it was done completely. It was so smooth and totally painless and hard to believe.

If going up through the groin, you would have to wait for four to six hours with weighted bags on the groin incision to close & heal, whereas the wrist job is about 45 minutes to an hour waiting time.

So far, this procedure was easier than my first tonsillitis operation.

The results were sclerosis of the aorta heart valve. (The opening was closing.)

For my next appointment, he sent me to a heart surgeon in Sudbury for a final interview. During this meeting, he explained all the procedures required. On his desk were models of the replacement aorta valves, a pig valve, a cow valve and then a metal mechanical valve.

A couple of days later. he gave me a call and said that he found a new type mechanical valve that he was going to use. I took the information as I would now be an old guinea pig to test these new devices.

The date was set and I blew into Sudbury the day before checking in to the motel right beside the hospital. I showered with antibiotic soap and was on the gurney by 6:00AM, rolled into the O.R. and promptly put down.

I had mention to the surgeon during our interview that if I woke up and had hoses or anything down my throat, I would panic and throw a real sh*t fit and would not take any responsibility for my actions. He simply responded with, “Tell it to the anesthesiologist, okay?”

Okay.

Just as I was going to be put down, a doctor of some sort looked at me looking as miserable as one can at six in the morning. I asked if he was the gas man. Yes. I told him about the waking up problem, then I was gone into the blackness of the afterlife – or so it seemed.

When it was over, I had two quick chokes to fight off and then all smoothed out. (I’m alive, I think.)

Nothing like my 1941 operation where my guts were throwing up all over the place and my first real pain experience like my throat being torn from my body, headache like never before and, finally, only being soothed with ice cream, the medicine of the gods.

This time, I was moved into ICU (without the ice cream) but still painless and wondering what would happen next?

Shortly (I think) afterword, my two buddies arrived after a 400 mile drive to see if I was still alive or not. I think they felt obligated somewhat because I was there for both of them when they had their bypass surgeries years ago.

After the visit, I was transferred to a semi-private room with one other patient. It was on the top floor and just under the helicopter roof pad.

We seemed to get along quite well, but in a few hours, he was being released, leaving me in privacy.

Not being geared for long stays in a bed, and with too much sleep, I became wide awake at 2:30AM. What does one do now? Fortunately, I had the bed beside the window, so became a star gazer.

All of a sudden, there was a great whirling sound. I looked up above and saw three great big bright floodlights coming down on me with this whirling, beating sound. I was mesmerized, just waiting any moment for Scotty to beam me up into the Enterprise or perhaps worse, could be the Klingons?

It wasn’t five or 10 minutes later that the paramedics brought their passenger from Timmins into the empty bed, letting me know that I was safe and not going to be beamed up anywhere. (Oh, darn.)

We got along fine especially since I knew his part of the country intimately.

His problem wasthat he'd had stents put in that failed and then had to be rushed back. For warranty, I assumed.

I was pushing to get out early, at least by Sunday, the fourth day. Unfortunately, my surgeon was off on Sunday but had planned for another heart surgeon to take out all the stitches and any attachments, such as the colostomy bag. Only a heart surgeon is allowed to do this.

During this process everything was going along fine while I still had the intravenous plunger in my left wrist. While everyone was shooting the crap, his assistant took out the intravenous attachment and was hanging onto my wrist thinking that he was holding the blood flow closed while it sealed itself.

While totally in conversation with the (gorgeous) nurses (to make an impression), I started to feel my wrist and up my arm getting extremely warm. I looked down and the artery was spewing blood out like a firehose, with no fire to go to.

There was blood all over the place. The assistant holding my wrist started to throw a fit and was totally caught off guard. The heart surgeon was Joe Cool. He came around the bed and promptly put a stop to the blood flow. All he said was, “Damn, need a clean shirt.”

Me, in the meantime had thoughts of having to stay over for a new blood supply. Not so. Joe Cool said I could still go home. Ha-ha, bravo, I’m on my way before they change their minds.

Comparing my first encounter with the hospitals, painfully removing my tonsils, with this new encounter, cracking my ribs open and throwing my heart out onto the workbench for a valve job - it was totally painless.

A great amount of progress has been made since 1941. Thank God.

THE END (Hopefully not)

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.
]



Comments

Great story! So sad people thought it was a good idea to take a kid's tonsils out. Medical science has always gotten some things wrong. Good to do your research. Glad he got home and is doing well. And hope the same for Ronni.

Fantastic true story. It's full of excitement and a good ending. Yes, may you have many more years with your new valve.

I enjoyed your story -- and your writing style. Medical advances have been astronamical since we were kids! I hope you enjoy your new heart part for many years to come. Thanks for sharing your story.

I loved the part where you were waiting for Scotty to beam you up. I can just visualize it.

I know more about heart surgery than I did before and I agree that modern medicine has made some marvelous improvements. Operating by camera visuals is one that still mystifies me. When that procedure was done to remove a couple of gall stones I had to swallow the camera. I didn't think I would be able to do that, but I did. Will miracles ever cease?

Good story of bad experiences written with a light touch and humor. Thanks for the informative story.

Your opening line caught my attention William, as I too had the same ordeal in "1941".
Same surgery, different country, and a very new doctor 'operating' in a old vacant dentist's office trying to make a name for himself in a small mountain town in Idaho.

In spite of our shared wretched experience, your talent for engaging narrative kept me reading until the very last line. I needed to read that you were still kickin' up a little dust in this world and loved learning old "Star Trek" fans are still around.

Thank you for posting your interesting personal tale.

William,

May the force continue to be with you.

Good, well-told story of you, medical sciences and advances in the last nearly 70 years, with humor and warmth.

The bloody gore at the end is particularly fitting on this day before Halloween. At least that's how I took it in as I'm not a particular fan of spurting blood, imagery.

Thank you for a fantastic, informative, engaging real story with humorous sides, William Weatherstone. Please write more; you have a definite talent!

Darn it, William - I hate it that I wasn't on duty the day(s) of your procedures ! You would have brightened all our days...forget the Klingon, you've got The Force with you.

Wha an interesting story well told with details that added to the story. Thank you for sharing!

Great story, William1 I really enjoyed your light hearted (pun intended) telling of what could be a dreadful tale of woe. I also had an unexpected and unscheduled open heart surgery last year. I have not have the heart (oops, another one!) to tell it yet. So glad yours had a glad ending.

Thank you for sharing your story with such good humour. I loved hearing it all, even the gory bit at the end. Bravo you and I hope you feel much better now.

I remember that tonsillectomy like it was today, despite being only 5 years old. There must have been 20 kids (all wearing PJ's) in what could only be described as a tonsil mill.
The last thing I recall is some guy putting a strainer over my face and the smell of what must have been ether.
I woke up some time later surrounded by kids my age in various states of terror. Amid all of the screaming, crying, and gagging I was given a giant bowl of ice cream which, amazingly, made everything better.
The next time I saw the inside of a hospital was some 60 years later. After life saving surgery, I left a few days later not missing tonsils, but a colon. Life, without both, continues.

Holy mackerel, what an experience! Thank you for writing it up.

I really liked the sound of Joe Cool!!

My elder brother had his tonsils taken out. I remember him getting lots of ice-cream. I had no idea that the operation was so brutally painful. Thankfully, the entire tonsils-out craze was over before my turn came around.

Excellent writing!

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