Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Drug Eluting Stent Trial Checkup Story

In earlier stories I described the heart attack that got me into hospital and the Angiogram and Angioplasty procedures that fixed me up, and now, 9 months later, it's time for another Angiogram to see how things are going. Grrrrrrrr.

As I said in The Coronary Procedure Story, an Angiogram is one of the most unpleasant experiences I've ever had. It was scary and I really Really REALLY wasn't looking forward to having another one... especially as it wasn't something I actually needed. I was doing this basically just for the advancement of medical science, and, well, fuck medical science! What has it ever done for me? OK, lots of things probably, especially this particular stent thing I guess.

It IS amazing that they can shove stuff up your arm and fix a blocked artery. It is also excellent that the type of stent I agreed to have reduces the odds of having it block up again within the first year from 20% to 5%, in theory, and it is a new thing and they do need to test new things to see if they are working and, apparently, they don't have that many candidates who are eligible or willing for the trial and therefore any results they can get through the cooperation of the few who were would be extremely useful and blah blah blah. I just didn't want to go through it again, but I did.

I'd like to say I did it for altruistic reasons but really I just did it because:
A) It would be personally useful to find out if the thing isn't blocking up, and
B) I hate conflict and am too big a poof to tell the trial people I wasn't going to.

So at 7.15am (IN THE BLOODY MORNING!!!) I checked myself into hospital as requested and was led upstairs to the cardiac ward with a group of 4 other people who were also having various heart related procedures that day. One of them was a girl named Michelle, somewhere in her 20's, who has Downs Syndrome and who seemed to find me fascinating. Every time I noticed her she was staring at me, so I would smile and she would laugh, and I figured that wasn't a bad game to distract both of us from what we were going to be doing that day, so I did it some more.

The day was marred by two things. Firstly, as a good thing, the doctor said he would go in through my wrist and not my groin. That was great news but unfortunately, after about 10 minutes of unsuccessful and painful shoving and pulling it was decided that it wouldn't work. I was informed that after my earlier Angioplasty, that artery now had too much scar tissue to allow them to use it again. That's not very encouraging. Now I have fears of THAT blocking, causing my arm to die and drop off! They didn't seem too alarmed and everything they said indicated that this was fairly normal but at no stage did anyone actually say that my arm wouldn't die and drop off later. I guess I should have asked someone.

Now they shifted focus to my groin, gave me a quick shave and injected a local anaesthetic that made my right leg go hot. They also decided to give me some happy juice into my IV or whatever the needle thing in my left arm was called. It didn't exactly make me happy but I was fine. More blood thinners was also added to my system.

Last time I'd been in there I was looking at everything on the big bank of monitors above me but this time I just lay there and closed my eyes until it was over. After a while I was told, gratifyingly, that the stent was "as clear and shiny as the day we put it in". A success. Hurrah!!

Soon enough the doctors were finished and a collagen plug was inserted into the hole they'd made and I was wheeled back out to a holding bay, where a nurse disturbingly declared me to be "oozing". I was to hear this word a lot for the rest of the day.

It was about 11am when it was decided that I should have a heavy sandbag put on the groin to hold the plug in until I stopped oozing. At 2pm I hadn't, so a new plan was launched into action that involved haphazardly shaving more of my groin, half of my belly and a large portion of my upper leg around to my right buttock. A large length of bandage was rolled up and placed over the troublesome ooze and a 60cm length of non stretchy, very sticky, bandagey tape stuff about the width of toilet paper was stuck tight from my waist, across the groin and around the back of my leg to hold it tightly in place. An hour later I was still oozing.

When I asked why this was happening, especially as the other people I'd come in at the same time as had all gone home, including Michelle who had spend a good hour staring at me in bed before she left, even though I wasn't smiling back at her very much, I was informed that I must be "especially sensitive to the blood thinners". Great.

The tape was removed... actually, removed doesn't do the process justice. Ripped off would be more accurate, taking a good deal of hair with it and causing me to, alarmingly (judging by the shocked expression on the nurses face) scream in a blasphemous manner. Then the whole contraption was recreated with new materials and I was left to wait until I stopped this inconvenient oozing, which I did, thankfully, about another hour later, and I was allowed to leave. Mind you, I had to lie to do so!

The rules are that I wasn't allowed to leave alone. Someone had to collect me and had to stay with me overnight at home, I was told. No, I couldn't leave and phone my friend, Bronwen, to come and get me outside, she had to physically come to the ward and fetch me and she had to convince them that she would stay with me that night. By now it was about 4.30pm so I phoned Bron and she came and collected me and drove me home, which was nice of her. Then she went home, because I didn't actually want anyone around. I'd had enough of people for one day.

So that is my Drug Eluting Stent Trial Checkup Story. All good news. Yay!