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post #230
bio: stu
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12/14/2008
21:26

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My Time in the Hospital: Operations
 Operations

[I'm talking a lot about my time in the hospital, which was a thoroughly unpleasant time, and lasted for an ungodly amount of time. It's very hard for me to strike right tone, since the last thing I want is to force out sympathy or for people to feel like I'm telling these stories because I want you to feel sorry for me. Please just be aware that when I tell some of these stories, some of them are very unpleasant--it's okay if you feel sorry for me, but that's not my primary goal. I might be incapable anymore of judging what's interesting or not, as this was all that I could think about for a couple of months, but I'm telling these stories because I think they're interesting, not because I want to elicit pity. I'm probably protesting too much, of course.]

Operations and procedures performed on me while in the hospital.

  • Daily blood draws.
  • Regular bedside chest x-rays
  • Regular bedside EKGs
  • Lumbar Puncture (better known as a "spinal tap")
  • Tube pounded (literally) in to my chest to drain toxic fluid that was building up around my lungs
  • Abscess puncture and draining, followed by daily packing and bandage replacement on my right buttock (they had to pack the space the abscess took up with foam so the space didn't refill with bacteria. This packing was, for awhile, the most painful regular process done to me)
  • TEE: Trans-esophagal echocardiogram. A process by which they half knocked me out, numbed my throat with a local anesthetic and then inserted sonogram equipment down my throat past my esophagus to take a sonogram of my heart. I was only partially unconscious during this process; they give you a fair amount of local anesthetic to ensure your gag reflex doesn't act up, and some general anesthetic to keep you from freaking out, but they like you to be partially conscious and able to respond to requests during this horrifying procedure.
  • Pericardial Window - Tube to drain toxic fluid that was building up in my pericardial sac, which is the area surrounding your heart.
  • Open Heart Surgery to remove bacterial vegetation that had built up on my right heart valve. Before they opened me up, there was a question as to whether they'd have to remove the valve itself and replace it with a pig's heart valve; luckily, they were able to remove all the bacteria without removing any of my heart. This was the big surgery, and the one that I'm still recovering from. It also left the biggest scars.
    After a couple of days, they removed all the tubes left in me from the surgery, including a pair of electrodes that had been left attached to my heart just in case I started having a heart attack: this series of electrodes would detect my irregular heart rhythm and deliver automatic shocks to keep me alive. It is not very comfortable to have electrodes physically removed from your heart.
  • Installation of a PICC line: PICC stands for peripherally installed central catheter, and it is essentially a long term intravenous line into a vein--a line is then run through the vein to your heart. This intravenous line can then be used for long term antibiotic therapy instead of needing new IVs every three days. The line is run into a locally anesthetized arm while you are conscious. It is uncomfortable, but not painful, at least by the standards I'd established by this point. The PICC line would have allowed me to receive antibiotic treatment in my own home, as well, if I'd ever been authorized to leave the hospital while I was still receiving IV fluids
  • Another TEE: A month after to make sure the surgery was effective in removing the vegetative mass






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