“Have you been feeling any worse?”

So last week was another six month follow-up for my ongoing heart valve saga. I went in first thing in the morning, and the tech did another echo test of my heart – basically an ultrasound, with the wand and the gel and all, as well as a few EKG pads glued to my furry chest. They were going to get the results to my cardiologist, and she would compare them to the trans-esophageal echo that was done six months ago. (I didn’t even tell you about that, did I? For *that* one, they literally knocked me out, then stuffed an ultrasound wand down my throat and did a scan from the *inside*, where they could get more accurate measurements. Great fun!)

So I got cleaned up (that gel gets everywhere), headed out of the office, got breakfast, and came back a few hours later. I was led to an exam room, played twenty questions with an assistant about my medical history, and waited for the doc to show up. When she did, her first question – asked with an oddly knowing tone – was: “So, have you been feeling any worse recently? Any new symptoms?”

Well, shit, I thought, that’s no way to start an “Everything’s good, see you in six months!” conversation.

When I told her no, I’ve been feeling about the same – maybe a little more inclined to take a quick nap after work – she smiled and nodded her head. “Yep, that’s not a surprise,” she said, as she and her now-pregnant belly took a seat (it had been six months since we last met, after all). I must have shot her a “Oh, come on, you can’t be serious” look, because she then said something to the tune of “We’re going to need to talk about surgery.”

The exact words escape me, but that’s pretty much how it went down. No gentle chit-chat about results or how I’m feeling otherwise, just that, and then right into “we’re looking at more enlargement of your heart”, and “eventually that’s going to affect your heart’s performance” and  “it would be good to get it done sooner rather than later”, and “before things get worse and you suffer some permanent damage”. She suggested that due to my condition (relatively healthy) and my symptoms (relatively symptom-free) that a valve repair would be much more likely than a valve replace. This would mean an easier surgery on me, and a quicker recovery, both of which sounded fine to me.

But still, it meant surgery. On my heart. I’m not a Time Lord, so it’s not like I’ve got a spare one as a backup. Either surgery – repair or replace – means, quite literally, putting me on life support, pumping all the blood in my body out into a machine and then back in to me, then *stopping my heart* while they poke at it with sharp things. I would be lying if I said the whole concept didn’t bother me. At least repairs can be done without cracking open the whole chest, like would be done for a replace. There’s laproscopic procedures that can be done, like they did to take out my gall bladder – just a few small cuts to stick in tools.

I guess I took this news remarkably well, since the doc seemed a bit surprised at my lack of external response. I told her that it’s not like I didn’t expect that surgery was a possibility in my future… I just didn’t expect the future to get here so soon. And anyway, my dad’s had four pacemakers installed and had a few heart attacks, and he’s still kicking, so I should be fine.

So next week, on the 22nd, I have an appointment with a heart surgeon to discuss my situation, and I would assume when and where I might be having surgery. It’s not like I don’t have options – our hospital does them, as well as the UM hospital down the road, and then there’s the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, which is a bit more of a trek, but still the top place to go for heart surgery, from what I understand (with UM and my hospital being second and third, respectively). I honestly don’t know yet what sort of time frame is involved, but I’m hoping that however it goes, that I’ll be able to attend my Penguicon convention at the end of April. Meanwhile, I wait for the 22nd to arrive, so I can figure out where I go from here.


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