The phone buzzes with a notification. “Chest is open. She is on pump now. Everything progressing normally.” The Wife is undergoing open heart surgery. I sit in the waiting room alone, mercifully mask free because of this.
I remember the first time I heard open heart surgery used as a phrase. My grandfather had undergone a quintuple bypass back in the seventies. The surgeons had marveled at the complexity and his near-miraculous survival at the time.
The doctors and nurses now refer to these kinds of procedures as routine. “We do them all the time.” My heart doesn’t know this, refuses to accept that the opening of that beloved chest could be anything less than a near imminent death event. My all too active imagination can paint the scene in Technicolor for me, if I allow it.
I don’t allow it. I don’t want to see, to think of her that way. A piece of meat on the cutting table. Instead I will fill my head with classical music and meditate on the reunion we will have in a few short hours. No other outcome will be entertained no matter how many times those ravens of doubt perch over my mental doorways. I will see her again. We will embrace and she will chide me for being a silly sentimental old man.
That is the picture I will paint in my head instead of those other nightmares. Time enough for the nightmares afterwards.
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The cardiologist remarked that he had never heard of a fever-induced trip to the emergency room being used as a detection method for cardiological issues, but we had known about the heart valve deformity for years by that point. The fact that she would need surgery at some point in the future has been a known quantity since the day we started regularly going to the cardiologist, at least twenty years ago. It was her blue fingers that freaked me out that night. Her fingers had never been that color before.
She was diagnosed with an ESBL infection in addition to the heart valve blockage. They didn’t even know for certain that she had the infection, it was just on the plate that they used to culture bacterial growth, to try to see what was causing the fever. She got the special antibiotic drugs anyway, and the nurses had to gown up for the entire time she was at the hospital. Visitors and guests were expected to gown up as well. This earned her a private room later in her stay, so she wasn’t going to complain about the extra drugs she had to take.
I insisted that they run tests to determine if she was still infected with the antibiotic resistant strain of e-coli before they released her, and the tests came up negative. That was all I was worried about. I didn’t want her to be released only to have the fever recur and me have to take her back to the ER a second time. Her attending physician didn’t think it was the ESBL causing the fever anyway, she thought it was a allergic reaction to a Botox outpatient treatment done the day before. That is the most likely culprit in this little medical drama, the antagonist that triggered open heart surgery for the Wife.
She starts outpatient Cardiac Rehabilitation next week. Ah, I remember those days fondly:
The Wife has complained repeatedly that her renewed heart beats too fast. When she airs her complaints, I quietly thank her cardiologist for making sure her heart continued to beat regardless of pace. I would have missed her presence, her voice, if he hadn’t. It would have been difficult to find a reason to go on without her heart beating next to mine. Hopefully that predicament has been postponed for another twenty years. Here’s hoping we both make it to our fiftieth anniversary.
Friday July 30, 2021 – She got up and got her pills today all on her own. She’s been home for a week and relied upon me for everything until today. The Wife is coming back to herself. It is a good sign.