"The procedure was unsuccessful." Given all the confusion and emotional roller coaster on which I had been these past few weeks, I was pretty much prepared for anything, but I was not prepared to hear the surgeon utter those words. On Thursday night, I was in the studio working on some arrangements, but anxious to get to the hospital in time to be with my sister. While there, I got a phone call with an update and recommendation that I not leave just yet. I was given estimates and such, so I had a little more time before heading out. I decided to chill with my aunt, who met me at the studio. She got on the keyboards, and I put on my earphones and jumped on the drums (just got this new set – it’s slick ). It reminded me so much of my mother – she on the organ and I on the drums as she instructed me where and how to break. (An aside: I still kick myself for forgetting (losing) her favorite guitar on the bus that day. I had all my books and back pack, and don’t know how I got off without it.)
On Friday morning, at about 5:00AM, after breaking night in a long late session, I made a quick stop at home and ended up eating breakfast. I packed a frozen Cran-Rasberry juice and several pieces of juicy Bazookas. If there is anything about my traveling habits it’s that I won’t be caught without some sort of grub with me. At any rate, I knew I’d be at the hospital for several hours, so I’d make a day of it, and the only way to do that was to bring several snacking goodies, a warm jacket, books, laptop, earphones to listen to my drumming CD, and my PDA for texting, IMing, and twittering, if necessary. Wow, what would I do without my PDA and electronic gadgets? I guess read and write more, but I would definitely miss my texting.
I then drove directly to the Ronald Reagan UCLA hospital to be with my sister. I had not been to UCLA in a number of years but the new hospital was absolutely stunning to me; state of the art. I felt as if I was walking into an art deco museum with its vast ceiling. I thought I might look up and see one of Michelangelo’s frescos. I was directed to the waiting area—and it was so huge I thought, “oh, a public library.” The patio areas looked like a national park… I may have even seen a deer run across the very manicured lawn.
My sister checked into the hospital to undergo a heart surgery. She was born with an irregular heartbeat that causes her to have frequent trachecardia episodes, which are rapid irregular heartbeats that may lead to a stroke or heart attack. While she has always had these episodes, they have increasingly grown more severe and frequent over the years. So as it was explained to me, this surgery was supposed to minimize, if not eliminate, these episodes. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as planned. After about 5 to 6 hours of waiting with delirious tiredness, I learned that the surgery was unsuccessful. I’m glad that they prefaced the news with “she’s awake and in recovery” because I would have just fallen face down had they come out and only said “procedure unsuccessful.” But I was still confused. When I heard that, I thought, “unsuccessful – what does that mean?” because usually when we hear of an unsuccessful heart surgery we think, “O my, the patient didn’t make it... the patient died on the operating table…” But I was assured that she was fine in the recovery room. They said it was unsuccessful because since they could not tell which part of the heart was being affected by these episodes, they did not want to continue burning tissues for fear of burning healthy heart tissues, and in effect doing more damage. So in hopes to pinpoint the section of the heart that is being adversely affected, the next plan is to take her off of medications to purposefully induce the episodes then do the procedure. Clearly the risks are heightened because the episodes may be even more severe and lead to a full attack.
While some have reservations about the risks associated with inducing episodes, I guess one could rationalize in favor of it by just doing a risk-reward trade-off analysis. She can choose against it, and live with episodes growing increasingly severe and frequent until eventually one of those episodes claims her life. On the other hand, she can choose for it, and stand a chance of eliminating the episodes all together, or inducing a fatal one sooner than later. I guess this choice is based on how one looks at life. How do you want your trip to your final destination to be: on the “express and non-stop” or on “cruise control with lay-overs?”
Finally, I entered her recovery room and she gave me a faint smile. I kissed her on the forehead and asked her how she was feeling? She was in a bit of pain coming out of anesthesia and admitted to being a little disappointed. Considering the very worse scenario that could have resulted, I was just relieved and thankful.
It seems like the heart takes us out one way or another. Go figure: Who knew that the matters of the heart could be so risky? Of course, I’m being tongue-in-cheek. But seriously, we put ourselves through so many stressful situations and never think about it. Our hearts can be so strong for certain things, yet so frail in ways that we least expect…still we take its beat for granted.