Monday, February 18, 2008

My First Surgery

In approximately 12 hours I will be entering into my first ever surgery. And, not wanting to be outdone by anyone else and needing to start things off right, this first surgery is of course heart surgery. A little less scary than it sounds, I promise.

In short, I have an extra valve in my heart, and they're going to close it. The little bit longer explanation is that this particular extra valve happens to be a Patent Ductus Arteriosus (I would so get fired for citing anything medical using Wikipedia at work, but what the heck, it's my blog, so I can do what I want), aka PDA, which is basically the little valve where you get oxygen when you're a fetus (your lungs aren't inflated yet) that closes (in most people) when you take your first breath and your lungs inflate. Mine didn't. It's not altogether uncommon, and usually they're only discovered if they're large enough to be audible (ie, the extra weird sound that comes when the blood is flowing somewhere it doesn't normally flow- the bigger the opening, the louder it is). Mine is somewhere between small and large, and it only became audible when I was 16, first heard by my wonderful family physician who had been my doctor practically since birth and had never heard such a noise in my heart.

Anyhow, tonight is my last night with a PDA and with a heart that sounds like a motorcycle is being started up in it, because tomorrow my cardiologist (yes, MY cardiologist, Dr. Robert Pass, he's basically the coolest doctor ever) will stick a little springy meshy wirey plug thing (great description, I know, but the link has some pictures and even a video of how it's done!) in through a catheter in my leg and snake it up through my vein and into the little extra valve and plug it up. How cool is that?? (Basically all of you out there who aren't in medicine and/or who don't work at my firm are like "Ho-Lee-Sheeet that sounds crazy" and then here I am totally wanting to take pictures and get in depth descriptions of the procedure in all its nitty gritty detail. This is why I love my job). No cutting, just a very very sore groinal area afterwards.

Some have asked why I'm having this done, and why now. There are several reasons, which I will provide in list format, because I'm a consultant. I like lists.
1) Basically, if they're audible, they're closed. It's how doctors deal with them, it's standard procedure, and particularly now it's more than 99% safe and effective with current devices. Mine just happens to have become audible as an adult rather than a child, so it's now rather than then
2) I live in New York and am a subway ride away from some of the best hospitals in the country. Why not do it while I'm here?
3) I'm under 25, which means that I can still be seen by a Pediatric doctor. Pediatric doctors are used to dealing with small things (in this case, hearts), and thus they have a much better ability to deal with small things. They also tend to be nicer; it takes a certain type of person to choose to work on a daily basis with children. Anyhow, my heart will comparatively be much larger (read: easier to deal with) for a pediatric doctor than an adult doctor, who would probably not be used to dealing with so small an opening
4) The device that is used (the springy meshy wirey plug thing- aka, Amplatzer) is great, there is a lot of data out now on its efficacy and safety, and particularly in experienced hands (my doctor does about 200 a year), it's an incredible device, and an all around great technology
5) Though I am perfectly fine and functioning now with my PDA, there is no long term data (I always like data) telling what would happen if I had this for my entire life. But what I do know is that as long as I have it there is a risk of it causing problems. Whereas, once it's closed, it's done, dealt with, over. For instance, when I'm pregnant and have double the blood flood to my heart. On top of morning sickness and pickle cravings, I would prefer not to have to worry about whether my heart is going to be ok and how it will affect my baby. Or, when I'm old. Though each time my heart beats the added stress placed on it by having this extra valve is miniscule, tiny, a fraction of a fraction of a percent, adding up all the fractional pieces of stress from all the beats from all the days from all the years, well... I just don't want to deal with that.

So, I am having it closed. Once and for all. And you had better bet that last week at work I had many of my coworkers listen to my heart to hear the cool sound that will no longer be there after tomorrow. It's kind of weird, but I've grown fond of that confused/shocked look that doctors inevitably have the first time they listen to my heart. Because it's not normal, it's not common. And I like keeping people guessing. It's also a pretty fun story to tell- you know, light party talk about my congenital heart defect. Needless to say, I think that this will make a nice chapter in my eventual book (read: memoirs).

I will close with another list. When Rob was sick with cancer (did I mention he's back in New York, cancer free, and awesome as can be? oh right, I should write a blog about that) I made a Top 10 list of reasons why cancer is cool. Now, I will make my own for heart surgery.

Top 10 Reasons Why Heart Surgery Is Cool:
1) I can tell people I've had heart surgery, which is cool
2) I have never been to the Bronx, and now I get to go
3) Drugs that make you happy. Really happy. Lots of them
4) A valid excuse to sit and watch Brothers and Sisters Season 1 for hours at a time
5) A valid excuse to sit and watch every movie in my Netflix queue for hours at a time
6) Now my job has even more practical applications, like how I can be a case study for expanded use of this product on the random rare person whose PDA suddenly becomes audible and they need to have it closed. Where is a better place to work when you have totally wacky surgical procedures than a healthcare consulting firm??
7) An entire week of no work. I love my job, but it's still pretty sweet
8) Now when someone scans me for metal, I'll beep, right over my heart. That'll confuse the. (this may be, and probably is, totally untrue, but I can dream, can't I?)
9) Free food. The rumor on the street is that when you have surgery, people make you food
10) Did I mention the drugs?

See you on the flip side. Sans motorcycle heart. Plus meshy wirey plugy thing.


Anonymous said...

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Elizabeth said...

Hey Liz,
Just wanted to let you know that my 3 year old niece just had the same surgery 1 week ago and is doing great. She was up and running in about 6 to 7 hours after surgery, we held her in the bed for that time. Once she was awake she wanted to get up and go. I pray the same response from the surgery for you. She was not in pain just a little tiered afterwards.
Good luck to you.
Liz F.

Liz Spangler said...

Thanks Liz! GLad to hear your niece is doing well! It's been just over 2 years now and I haven't had any problems!

Myla's mommy said...

this blog really helped with some of my worries. i just found out that my 9mth old daughter has to have the same thing done. they called today with the appointment, set for one month away. But the good thing about it is we went it to her specialist thinking that she was going to have to have open heart surgery, thankfully not though. i hope all is still well with you

Liz Spangler said...

@Myla's mommy- Glad it helped! I pray your daughter's procedure goes well and you and your family can have peace going into it! I'm still doing perfectly fine, 3 years later!

Wiggles said...

Can you please tell me what the name is for an extra
heart valve?
I just found out I have a extra main heart valve.
What does this mean?