Pulling My Heartstrings

Roger Clark
February 2022

It was a routine appointment with my cardiologist, checking on a plain old heart stent. They rolled me into the hospital Cath Lab without a rush, where I was padded, prodded, sardined, and packaged upon the table. Then they very routinely shut my lights off.

It really is kind of boring. They just run a line from the wrist to the heart, take a few pics, and then insert a stent or two. Bada bing, bada boom, right?

 Well, not so fast. They took one look at the overhead screen, didn’t like what it showed, and shut down the procedure. I was in and out in ten minutes. I’ve had orders at the Golden Arches take longer, but then, I don’t usually go there for lunch with my cardiologist. 

There was a serious coronary blockage that stents wouldn’t alleviate, but surgery could. Immediately an ambulance was called, which shipped me and my insurance policy straight to Big City Hospital. I tried to get the paramedics to stop at the chicken place, but they said it didn’t have a drive-through.

 Within moments of arriving at Via Christi Hospital, which is Italian for “next to Denny’s”, I was ushered into a room called Cardiac ICU. I was reminded that medical intervention trumps personal dignity. They work hard to protect it, in medical centers like this one, and nothing disappears quicker. They just do, and it just does.

Personal comfort also disappears, in such an institution, because it’s, well, an institution. Just because you’re in a ten-thousand-dollar bed doesn’t mean you’re in for ten grand worth of luxury. The first clue might be all the machines connected to the patient with wires, tubes, tape, and restraints.

 Almost immediately we were met by the hospital chaplain, carrying a Bible in one hand, and power of attorney in the other. It was a sobering moment when my wife and I signed the living trust. Who knew, before the weekend was out, that I might be donating everything I’ve ever bought, borrowed, built, or stolen to science?

All other personal possessions, including my custom-made bowling ball, were spoken for. With that, the love of my life would get everything I’ve ever owned or coveted.

 The actual surgery was anti-climactic, at least to me. After all, I was just along for the ride. But I do remember being coaxed awake and recalling the sense of relief as the breathing tube was withdrawn.

My lovely wife was standing by the bedside, with her foot on my air hose. Okay, not really, but she did read aloud from my life insurance policy. It would leave her hundreds, after all, and she needs the one-dollar bills for origami.

 Little did I know the easy part was now behind me, and the rough row to hoe was straight ahead. Despite having a surgical team so good they had their own Facebook page, nobody told me I would be wired, plumbed, connected, and monitored for at least four more days. Within hours they had more data on me than the FBI did with Hunter’s missing laptop.

But it really did pay off, and the nursing staff worked their bonnets off, keeping me comfortable, healthy, responsive, and online. There were 196 reasons to appreciate those gals, which just happens to coincide with how many times they checked my blood pressure. 

 It’s been exactly three years since that fateful week, but Lewis Grizzard was right. Heart surgery will change your attitude about narcotics! I wake up every day thanking God I do, thanking Susan for being my wingman, and thanking Movin’ Out Magazine for another year of putting postage on my emails!